Tuesday, November 01, 2005

CO: Analysis of Election 2006; A Modern Punic War.

Let us tell you a story from 22 centuries ago...

During this time Rome was still building its commonwealth, but it only ruled over the Italian peninsula. Eventually a war broke out over control of Sicily. Rome fought Carthage (at that time another great power) for years during the 1st Punic War. Rome didn't utterly defeat Carthage, but they did win the war, and they imposed humiliating terms.

During that time a young Carthaginian, Hannibal, watched as his father, a general for Carthage, was forced to surrender to Rome when he had never lost a battle. Hannibal swore a blood oath to his father, that he would humiliate Rome one day for what Rome had done to Carthage.

Hannibal eventually concurred modern day Spain for Carthage, went to war against Rome, beat the Romans in every battle that he fought in Italy, decimating an entire generation of Roman men. Eventually Scipio the younger arose to face Hannibal, defeating him in Africa (after Hannibal left half his troops in Italy). Even in death Hannibal defied Rome, he committed suicide rather than be taken prisoner.

How the hell does this relate to modern day Colorado; well we think that the different factions in the huge political war that is swelling up in Colorado are not that much unlike the factions and actors in the 2nd Punic War.

Setting the Stage:

After Hannibal crossed the Alps with his army and battle elephants, he defeated Rome several times. At that time Rome was governed by two Consuls. Imagine that the United States had two presidents, each with a separate army, that's about how the Roman system worked. Several times a consul would come up with his army and face Hannibal. Even though he had less troops and was on enemy ground, Hannibal won time and time again, mainly because of his tactical superiority. Hannibal had a professional army, unlike Rome's citizen soldiers. He also was a military genius, unlike the politicians who commanded Rome's military might.

Eventually Rome formed an army of over 80,000 men. As they approached the plains of Cannae, where Hannibal set up with his force of about a fourth of that, Hannibal hatched a battle plan that would strike fear into the heart of Rome for a half a millennium. The Romans surged ahead in a simple attack. Hannibal spread his troops around and encircled the larger force, by the end of the day Rome had lost a generation.

In 2004 the Colorado GOP had its Cannae. The GOP has a demographic advantage in Colorado. But their superior numbers cannot make up for that fact that the Democrats have proven time and time again that they have a tactical superiority. Simply put, the Democrats are better at politics than the Republicans. In 2004 the GOP lost control of the State Senate, State House, the Third Congressional Seat and one of the State's Senate Seats. Today's election is a battle in this war. To understand the importance of the passage of failure of Referendums C and D you have to understand the different players in this battle and what motivates them.

The Players:

We have divided the field into five factions:

The Hoi Polloi is the largest single faction but the weakest. They are simply the multitude. No one side can win without them, but they are fickle and schizophrenic.

We divide the Democrats into two factions:

The McGovernite wing of the party believes that the Democrats can win in Colorado by simply being liberal. They see the defeat of Referendum C and D as a win because they can then go directly after TABOR, since, by their logic, the Democrats rode the state's fiscal woes all the way to victory in 2004. If C and D win that theory will be vindicated, they feel, and that additional victory will add momentum to the 2006 election. Two examples of this line of thought are available here. Colorado Luis believes that the Democrats should abandon working with the GOP, get rid of TABOR and institute a progressive state income tax. The Wash Park Prophet has put forward a plan that really fleshes out some of the goals of the McGovernite wing of the party.

The Hannibal Democrats understand that they are too strong for the GOP to defeat, like the historical Hannibal, and that they are not strong enough to defeat the GOP and build a lasting majority. They are outnumbered, they can win but they cannot concur. For these Democrats the amazingly close Referendum C and D election is a example of how they must tread lightly in Colorado. They were surprised that the hoi polloi, after putting them in power, wouldn't want them to fix the fiscal mess that got them there (this contradiction troubles them). Hickenlooper, Joan Fitz-Gerald and others who either haven't announced for Governor or who have ruled it out are in this camp. They are trying to read the hoi polloi, they figure that after the Referendum C and D election they will be able to evaluate the battleground for the 2006 elections.

The GOP is also divided, but unlike the Democrats. While the Democrats are divided in their beliefs as to how strong they are, they are united in where to go and how to get there. The GOP is like Rome, they have two consuls and two different armies.

The two consuls are the President of the Independence Institute, currently Jon Caldara and the nominal leader of the state GOP, currently Governor Owens.

Caldara and his allies are best defined by this piece by Mike Rosen.

Owens and his allies agree with the McGovernite Democrats, they think that the GOP lost power in 2004 because of the fiscal crisis. Here is a quote from The Economist that outlines the beliefs of Owens and his faction:

The difficulty is that you can squeeze only so much before services are cut beyond what most people- even in libertarian-inclined Colorado -consider sensible. A no vote in November would force Mr. Owens into the kind of budget surgery that makes governors deeply unpopular. For the moment he affects not to worry: "I'm not running for president," he says; "The backlash won't be against me, but against my party."

As you can see the Owens faction and the McGovernites believe that the fiscal crisis issue is what moves the hoi polloi. The Hannibals and the Caldara faction do not.

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