Colorado was the focus of the political universe this week, as both presidential candidates were here for a debate along with national media stars, pollsters and an array of politicians. The debate was here for the same reason each candidate routinely visits us: We’re a swing state.
Colorado is up for grabs because people have moved here, from all over the world, for the past two decades. This is no longer a state populated mostly by the offspring of longtime Westerners rooted in rodeos, ranches and the socially conservative rural values.
Since 1990, Colorado’s Hispanic population has nearly doubled and the percentage of residents with college degrees has risen by nearly 10 percentage points to 36 percent.
“The Colorado model is to target ... the electorate of the ascendant — Hispanics, young voters, college graduates,” Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli told the Associated Press.
The story explains that Colorado politics are drifting leftward, but points out that our state “is not firmly in the Democrats’ column.”
Republicans should take no comfort in that. Democrats have dominated in recent elections for state and national offices. If the trend continues, it won’t be long before Colorado is a full-fledged blue state — as reliably Democratic as California or New York.
If it happens, Republicans will have only themselves to blame. As Ciruli explained, winning involves appealing to the hearts and minds of Hispanics and young educated voters.
Rather than seek support of ascendant populations, Republicans often push them away. Mostly, they work to alienate the largest and most important group: Hispanics.
The classic example is Republican opposition to carving out reasonable educational opportunities for young Hispanics who are in our country illegally through no fault of their own. They were brought here as infants or young children, and Republicans have impeded efforts to let them attend state colleges and universities for anything less than out-of-state tuition. How this helps Colorado is anyone’s guess.
As the late President Ronald Reagan explained, Hispanics are natural Republicans. The vast majority attend church, oppose abortion and cherish hard work. If Republicans won’t make common-sense efforts to bring Hispanics into their tent, they haven’t a prayer of support from other new populations.
If it weren’t for the Hispanic vote, which Republicans could have and should have seized, Colorado would not have helped elect President Barack Obama as president in 2008. If not for the Hispanic vote, as alienated by the GOP, Colorado would not be in play.
Politics of exclusion lead to political extinction. If Colorado becomes a blue state, Republicans should remember applauding those talk radio hosts who mocked Latinos while inciting immigration hysteria. They should recall taking pride in denying innocent young immigrants access to educations. If Republicans lose Colorado, they should look in the mirror.
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