Election 2000 Signals Shifts

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com

Election 2000 Signals Shifts

by Ari Armstrong, November 8, 2000

Gush or Bore? It seems most people care now only because they do not know. Perhaps some will rethink their psychological dependence on having a leader. Here in Colorado, elections weren't quite as dramatic, but they were more interesting.

As a libertarian, I'm happy with many aspects of the election. While I abstained from voting on the medical marijuana amendment because it is so poorly written, I'm happy it passed. Hopefully, nobody will be fool enough to put themselves on the government lists that the feds will probably use to bust pot smokers. (It IS still a federal crime to possess pot even for medicinal use, as California's Peter McWilliams could tell us had he not been murdered by federal drug warriors.)

The government will not be able to propagandize women who seek an abortion. That's good. What's amazing is that many of those who opposed waiting periods and government evasion of privacy when it comes to women seeking an abortion, voted for waiting periods and government registration of gun owners by supporting Amendment 22. And vice versa. If we can ever get civil libertarians of all stripes to expand their thinking and join a coalition, we'll be able to protect the freedoms of all citizens.

Amendment 22 passed with 70 percent of the vote. That's the proposal to expand Brady registration checks to "gun shows," defined as one or three persons. However, 21 counties in Colorado voted against the proposal, including Mesa County (Grand Junction). Where is Denver DA Bill Ritter now? Ritter, a supporter of 22, believes Denver can over-ride the state constitution at will because of "local control." So why did Ritter help ram Amendment 22 down the throats of counties that rejected it? Perhaps it's because Amendment 22 violates the Colorado Constitution -- Ritter seems to favor any policy that reduces human freedom and violates civil rights.

The Colorado Supreme Court made a mockery of the law in deciding to allow premature signatures collected by the anti-gun lobby group Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic, sponsor of Amendment 22. I guess it depends on what your definition of "corrupt," is.

Carla Crowder, the soap-opera writer turned reporter for the Rocky Mountain News, continues to be one of many media lap-dogs of the anti-gun lobby by referring to private sales of firearms as a "loophole" in the law. Granted, SAFE did a good job of framing the issue, but journalists who claim to be unbiased should adopt neutral language. Fortunately, many did, but there were notable exceptions. I'll say it again: freedom is NOT a loophole.

As predicted, the national anti-gun lobby has already announced it plans to pursue federal Brady expansion legislation. Colorado has served as a useful pawn in this move. In addition, Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic, the name of which likens gun ownership to a disease, the organization that "only wants to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children," has already announced plans to push for more laws that would disarm lawful adults and force adults to lock up their safety. Of course, mandatory gun storage laws are associated with a 9 percent increase in rape and robbery and a 5.6 percent increase in burglary (More Guns, Less Crime, page 199), but when disarming the citizenry becomes a moral crusade, public safety hardly matters.

Thankfully, the "dumb growth" initiative failed by a wide margin. Curiously, Adam Shrager of 9News reported that the 30 percent support for it is taken as a sign that the legislature should pass more political growth control next session. I'm still waiting for Shrager's report about how legislators are taking the 30 percent opposition to Amendment 22 as a clear indicator that the politicians need to repeal Brady registration checks on gun purchases.


The best idea I heard relative to the presidential election was offered as a joke on Conan O'Brian's late-night television show. A fake Bush suggested that he could be president of the "red" states (from the color-coding of the networks), while Gore could be president of the "blue" states. Genius.

What struck me about this presidential election is the depth of disdain with which voters held one candidate or the other. In many respects, this is healthy, because many voters hated either Gush or Bore for the right reasons. People hate Al Gore because he wants to ban the internal combustion engine, spend more taxes, and socialize greater portions of the economy. People hate George Bush because he's seen as a pawn of the religious right who will impose more social controls. In large numbers, people hate Bush or Gore because they're anti-freedom. Of course, such voters have myopic vision. And others hate the candidates for superficial reasons or because they will not sufficiantly increase the size of the federal government. Still, many of the indicators are positive, from the libertarian perspective.

Legislative Races

Today Republican apologist Mike Rosen was whining about how the Libertarian Party served as "spoiler" and cost the Republicans control of the state senate. But that's just scape-goating. The reality is that Bill Owens cost the Republicans control of the senate.

Every Democratic victory but one was by a margin wider than the Libertarian vote total. The reason for this is obvious: the Republicans have abandoned their base. Owens was the very first signer of Amendment 22 and he pushed hard for a wide array of disarmament laws. Owens also recently announced plans to increase the state budget. Maybe he forgot Republicans like to keep the money they earn. Because of Owens, the Republican Party of Colorado is widely perceived as having sold out, and Rs across the board will suffer the backlash. Owens is directly responsible for the large number of Libertarian candidates.

In the single race where the Democrat won by a margin slimmer than the Libertarian vote total, Jim Congrove lost to Sue Windels by 897 votes. Libertarian Bud Martin earned 1,517 votes. To have won, Congrove would have to have picked up 59 percent of the Libertarian votes, possible but by no means guaranteed. Some Libertarian votes come from Democrats and others come from those who otherwise would not have cast a vote. Given the highly negative campaign run by both sides, it's likely that many of the Libertarian votes would have been left uncast. (Of course, the media whined about Congrove's negative ads but didn't pay much notice to Windels' more vicious and deceptive mailers.)

Notably, Bill Owens signed a fund raising letter for Congrove and offered a photo and quote for one of Congrove's flyers. Owens' support hurt Congrove among some gun owners, who loathe Owens in large numbers. It's reasonable to assign partial responsibility for Congrove's loss to the Libertarian, but the lion's share of the blame lies with the Republicans.

Mike Feeley, engineer of the Democratic take-over of the senate, said Congrove lost because he's pro-gun, anti-union, and pro-life. Feeley is wrong on the first point. Other pro-gun legislators won by wide margins in similar areas. While Amendment 22 passed by 70 percent, it passed because voters perceived it as closing a "loophole" in the law, and loopholes are inherently unfair. Support for the measure was broad but shallow. In general, Coloradans don't want more laws which interfere with the rights of law-abiding gun owners, especially disarmament laws which more obviously give rapists and robbers the upper hand.

My Race

Yes, I ran for the state house against Democrat Ann Ragsdale. I ran as a Libertarian and earned 4.6 percent of the vote (in a three-way). Not bad, considering I spent no money on my campaign. I did spend a lot of time responding to surveys, preparing information for the press, and corresponding with voters.

This cycle, I learned the power of habit. People vote "R" or "D" almost as a religion. It's hard enough to consider voting for the other major party -- but to vote for a MINOR party is almost unthinkable to many. The majority of voters would vote the same way whether the candidates all spent nothing or if one candidate spent heavily. It will take a major cultural shift to elect a new party with regularity.

What was the value of my campaign, then? I got to share my ideas with hundreds of voters. The Republican talked about vouchers -- I talked about market education. The Democrat wants local politicians to control growth, the Republican wants state politicians to expand light rail. I pointed out that politicians are responsible for "dumb growth," through corporate welfare, tax discrimination, zoning laws, and politicized roadways. Neither member of the older parties dared to talk about the dangers of drug prohibition, yet I presented the voters with cogent reasons to oppose it. Did I change the world? Of course not. But I planted a few seeds, and we'll never harvest freedom until we sow the fields.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com