It is a travesty that most Americans are unaware of the despicable machinations Republicans resort to in their drive to advance their special interests’ agendas in the states, and their ignorance and lack of interest is playing a major role in democracy’s demise. The GOP are giving the nation an indication of how far they will go to subvert democracy to protect the real powers behind the conservative movement; the National Rifle Association, the Koch brothers, and the American Legislative Exchange Council. On Tuesday two democratic state legislators in Colorado were recalled in a confluence of lies, voter suppression, and fear-mongering because they supported background checks for gun purchases and renewable energy standards the NRA, Koch brothers, and ALEC would not let go unpunished.
The two Democrats, State Senate President John Morse and state Senator Angela Giron were recalled after voting for Colorado’s new gun law that imposed universal background checks on gun purchases and limited magazines to 15 rounds. They also voted for renewable energy measures that contributed to the effort to unseat them and elicited an influx of money from the Kochs and their Super PAC Americans for Prosperity. Although the lion’s share of publicity for the recall surrounded background checks, an underlying source of discontent was the Koch brothers’ opposition to Colorado’s stronger renewable energy standards. It is noteworthy that in northern Colorado Republicans are working toward seceding to form their own state, and one of the effort’s main proponents, a recipient of Koch donations, said “the whole purpose of doing this is to preserve and protect the energy sector that we feel is very much under assault.”
However, the face of the recall was NRA-supported opposition to background checks that incited them to spend heavily in the recalls they won, and evidenced by their quickly released statement celebrating its victory. The NRA statement read, “A historic grassroots effort by voters in Colorado’s has resulted in the recall of Colorado Senate President John Morse. The people of Colorado Springs sent a clear message to the Senate leader that his primary job was to defend their rights and freedoms and that he is ultimately accountable his constituents, and not to the dollars or social engineering agendas of anti-gun activists.” It is typical rhetoric from the NRA that conflates background checks for gun purchases with “social engineering,” and that voting for them robbed Coloradans’ rights and freedoms.
The president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Dan Gross, said the recall effort in Colorado was an anomaly, but that the real NRA goal was making gun safety activists nationwide aware of the risk they take in supporting commonsense laws such as background checks for gun purchases. Another political consultant supporting gun safety measures said “The unfortunate reality of the Colorado experience is that the NRA bullying tactics can still work,” and that “gun-control proponents should be sensitive to the power of the NRA and its ability to target districts.” After two of the nation’s worst mass shootings, there is evidence there was deep public support for background checks, but according to DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz; voter’s voices were not heard and she strongly asserted that voter suppression tactics contributed heavily to the low voter turnout.
Wasserman-Schultz said that “The recall elections in Colorado were defined by the vast array of obstacles that special interests threw in the way of voters for the purpose of reversing the will of the legislature and the people. This was voter suppression, pure and simple. Colorado voters are used to casting their ballots by mail, but because of lawsuits filed by opponents of common sense gun reform, voters were not mailed their ballots in this election. Tuesday’s low turnout was a result of efforts by the NRA, the Koch brothers and other right wing groups who know that when more people vote, Democrats win.” Although, as potential Republican gubernatorial candidate and former Rep. Tom Tancredo said, the recall effort was really “a shot across the bow” to warn other legislators that opposing the NRA and Koch brothers has consequences that should alert Democrats their primary goal should be registering voters and engaging in aggressive information campaigns. Even though the NRA and Koch brothers won the recall effort, Democrats still control the Colorado legislature and Governor’s office, and the gun safety and renewable energy measures that passed by popular vote remain intact; at least until the 2014 midterm elections.
Regardless the Colorado recall effort did not tilt the balance of power to Republicans or repeal gun safety or renewable energy measures, it is a warning to Democrats that the NRA, Koch brothers, and ALEC still wield inordinate power over the electoral process in the states; even a Democratic-controlled state like Colorado. ALEC has been a fierce advocate for voter suppression tactics, and restricting mail-in votes is an important aspect of keeping voter turnout low. The Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz said typically about 90% of votes are cast by mail, but NRA, Koch brothers, and other right wing groups’ lawsuits prevented voters from sending in their ballots.
The real danger to America’s democracy is that now that the NRA, Koch brothers, and ALEC have a recipe for success, they are certain to repeat them in next year’s midterm elections. Whether it is fear-mongering by the NRA that Democrats are coming for Americans’ guns, or the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity PAC disseminating lies and misinformation about the dangers of renewable energy, with ALEC voter suppression laws in place in Republican states the time for voter registration drives and aggressive information campaigns is now; not a month before the 2014 elections.
ALEC has been busy passing voter suppression laws in Republican-controlled states and the NRA has an active fear-mongering crusade in place since the Newtown school massacre, and with unlimited and hidden campaign cash in hand the Koch brothers will spare no expense to repeat the events in Colorado in every congressional district in America. Unfortunately, with over a year to achieve their goal and Democrats snake bit about challenging the NRA, without a herculean effort to get out the vote, it will be more than just two state Democrats who will be recalled and defeated in 2014.