A month and a few short days ago, the University of Colorado Denver Political Science Department visited the fifth-annual Western Conservative Summit, an event that invites some of the nation’s most prominent conservative thinkers and, in some cases, rabid ideologues (I’m talking about you, Sarah Palin) to identify ardent threats to liberty in a conservative paradigm and communicate the civic and political value of adhering to the United States Constitution. The Western Conservative Summit purports to “uphold the spirit of 1776 and maps the way toward American renewal…”, and as the three day event progressed, it became clear many of the summit’s delegates and speakers (most notably Governor Bobby Jindal, Dr. Ben Carson, and former U.S. Representative Allen West) shared this misty-eyed assessment of the Western Conservative Summit’s potential to influence America’s political milieu. Unfortunately, as a natural cynic (particularly when contemplating anything in relation to politics), I initially found myself unable to freely empathize with this rosy viewpoint.
However, despite my innate political pessimism, the Western Conservative Summit afforded me a valuable opportunity to ascertain the personal backgrounds and electoral aspirations of nascent political contenders. Intermingled between the summit’s many speakers, the event’s sponsors welcomed a number of conservative candidates for both state and federal office. For example, shortly before a rousing opening speech from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (himself a 2016 GOP presidential prospect), Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez lambasted incumbent John Hickenlooper for his perceived absence of leadership. Beauprez identified Hickenlooper’s stance on Coloradoans’ Second Amendment rights and the state’s burgeoning oil and gas industry (particularly on fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline) as topics of serious concern, and emphasized that a Beauprez-led Colorado would fill the vacuum of leadership left by the Hickenlooper administration.
Additionally, U.S. Congressman Corey Gardner, currently representing Colorado’s 4th congressional district, interspersed his introductory remarks on Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) with his promise to defy federal mandates like Obamacare and the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Both Republican challengers to the Democrats’ stranglehold on Colorado’s political landscape were enthusiastically received; indeed, judging from the thunderous applause echoing inside the Bellco Theatre, attendees were perhaps more excited to see Beauprez and Gardner than the summit’s scheduled invitees.
Both Republican challengers to the Democrats’ stranglehold on Colorado’s political landscape were enthusiastically received; indeed, judging from the thunderous applause echoing inside the Bellco Theatre, attendees were perhaps more excited to see Beauprez and Gardner than the summit’s scheduled invitees.
While the Western Conservative Summit undeniably concentrated conservative Coloradoans’ optimism for their electoral prospects in 2014 and beyond, that political buoyancy conflicted somewhat with my expectations for the GOP’s success on November 4th, 2014. Following Barack Obama’s resounding victory here in 2008 (and convincing follow-up in 2012) coupled with the Democrats’ takeover of the Colorado House of Representatives in 2012, a Republican like myself had exceptionally little to be hopeful about politically in the Centennial State. A modest GOP comeback in the midterm elections of 2010 piqued my optimism, but its baffling inability to build upon that success in the following election year frustrated me significantly. In its fraught internal struggle to reinvent itself in the 21st century (specifically between the neoconservative, Tea Party, and religious conservative factions), the Republican Party has to some extent neglected its platform of individualism, opportunity, and fiscal responsibility in favor of a credo of discord, friction, and conflict. Unsurprisingly, this incongruity has oftentimes severely compromised the GOP’s ability to strike the correct note with registered Republicans, much less the political moderates in Colorado. However, my personal experience as the Western Conservative Summit indicated at least a short-term reversal of this trend. While the event admittedly featured only microcosm of the nation’s conservative population, for three days I witnessed an energized and largely united crowd of Colorado Republicans.
…for three days I witnessed an energized and largely united crowd of Colorado Republicans.
While I doubt the growing pains the Republican Party is experiencing during its reinvention are over in our state, the obvious enthusiasm I witnessed at the Western Conservative Summit rekindled a personal (but slightly latent) enthusiasm for being in the Grand Old Party. Moving forward, I sincerely hope the party of Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan can get it done here in Colorado.