As BONNIE GREER continues her look at each US state ahead of next years election she turns her attention to Colorado.
There was a time when Colorado was a place where cowboys reigned, a fairyland where you lived on the Saturday afternoons of your childhood. This was way back at a time when it was OK to dress up like a cowboy, and somebody else be an “Injun” and you could whoop and holler in the backyard. We called it “freedom”.
Adults welcomed those yells because it meant that kids were occupied and living in that place called Colorado which probably did not exist except on TV. If you were an urban kid, like me, you knew nothing about the real Colorado. It was on the moon; packed somewhere in your dreams; tucked away in a Halloween costume.
Then the urban riots came, in those days, and the cities died. It was possible, back then, to play in urban decay, serious rubble and vermin and all sorts of things.
The “Injuns” morphed into the police who tried to stop you from being a kid in the city and that is how you knew that Colorado was truly some sort of TV thing. Because no one came from there. If anyone did come from there, they were the ranchers, the staunch moustachioed gentlemen who drove the indigenous people off their own land and employed dispossessed Confederate soldiers to do their dirty work.
Because the legend of ‘the west’ was really an extension of the American South and its myth about itself, about the ‘Lost Cause’ and its rebellion against the federal government. So there it was: Colorado, containing most of the southern Rocky Mountains and the western edge of the Great Plains.
There has been human settlement in the region for 13,000 years. The state was named after the Colorado River, the name that the Spanish gave that body of water, Rio Colorado, after the ruddy silt the river carried from the mountains.
Colorado was always a place of contention, so playing in our childhood imaginary Colorado battlegrounds was apt.
There had been the Gold Rush; the Civil War; the battle over the land between indigenous and settler peoples. Yet the state always seemed big enough and wide enough to take it all.
This was confirmed by a folk singer named John Denver who released a song called Rocky Mountain High, an ode to every myth that anyone could have about the state being free and of itself.
Colorado changed through that song, from a place of cowboys and Indians and ranchers, to Aspen and the Sundance Festival and where you could go for what was clean and what was safe. In fact, Rocky Mountain High – Denver’s ode to his own youth – is now one of Colorado’s two state songs (the other is Where the Columbines Grow, which was adopted by the state in 1915).
Colorado, although its voting record is more Republican than Democrat, leans blue. That is, liberal.
In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton won 1,338,870 votes (48.16%) and Donald Trump, 1,202,484 (43%). Clinton got the nine electoral college votes. In the US Senate, the state is represented by a Democrat and a Republican. The Republican is Cory Gardner, who is up for re-election in 2020. Gardner is considered one of the most vulnerable members of the Senate, having only narrowly beaten the Democrat incumbent in 2014.
The big question is: Will Gardner cut ties with Trump in order to win re-election? And why this matters, is, of course, the fact that the Senate of the United States convicts and removes the president from office. Cory Gardner of Colorado, may have a tough call on both sides. If he breaks with Trump he could face a primary challenge from the Trump wing of his own party. If he does not, the voters of Colorado may show him the door.
Now that Trump is reported to be moving out of New York City and to the much friendlier Florida, it is increasingly clear that next year’s election will be both an internal and external battle, not only for the soul of the nation, but for the Republican Party as well.
Senator Gardner is caught within the net of the political genius of Nancy Pelosi.
The Democrat speaker of the House of Representatives understands that if Trump is to be impeached, it must be done quickly so that the whole thing does not intrude on the upcoming presidential election cycle, which starts informally around Thanksgiving – later this month.
Pelosi already has the votes, down partisan lines, for permission to continue the impeachment enquiry. When full impeachment begins, Democrat senators running for the presidential nomination – Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and others – have a duty to come off the campaign trail and sit in attendance in their chamber. They must sit quietly as prosecutors, Trump’s lawyers and the chief justice of the Supreme Court, weigh the case against the 45th president of the United States.
Leaving Cory Gardner to have to weigh this up: which way does he vote? Gardner has dodged the question as to whether it is appropriate for a sitting president to seek assistance from a foreign entity in order to help defeat his political opponents. Gardner joins his fellow Republicans Martha McSally of Arizona – a state Trump won – and Susan Collins of Maine – one he did not – as the senators most in danger of making the wrong decision.
The majority of the senators up for re-election are Republican. If impeachment continues on into the election season, Trump could be toast. And this could all depend on the likes of the sun-tanned senator from Colorado.
The House will be easy. Trump will be impeached and become the third president to have that big ‘I’ after his name. Then all eyes will turn to the Senate. Two thirds of its members – 67 senators – are needed to convict. There are 53 Republicans and 45 Democrats in the Senate. The people of Colorado wondering which way Gardner might go have been looking to his recent statement on the inquiry into Trump for clues. In it, he gave hints in both directions, saying “I joined my Senate colleagues in unanimously supporting the release of the whistleblower report, and I support the Senate intelligence committee’s on-going bipartisan review to gather all of the facts,” before adding: “Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment inquiry to appease the far-left isn’t something the majority of Americans support and will sharply divide the country.”
In these highly partisan times, being the Janus of the Senate will not do Gardner much good at all. “I’ve seen it rainin’ fire from the sky,” goes one of the lyrics of Rocky Mountain High.
Cory Gardner must hope that none of that fire from the sky, coming from both the electorate and Trump, is heading for him.