What is happening in Colorado is symptomatic of the situation nationwide.
Back when Sara Palin was the vice presidential candidate this writer delved into the subject of conservative populism. Palin, as Governor of Alaska was an excellent example of a conservative populist. But the appearance of that political phenomenon has received very little attention in the national political debate.
Conservative populism has been ignored, in large part because it is out of favor with establishment entities; the media, old guard Republican Party members, and of course, Democrats. It should also be noted that the Democrat Party has attempted to hold itself out as having a monopoly on populism for decades. The truth, which they have avoided, is that their Party no longer represents the interests of the common citizen although many Republicans do not do so, either.
This brings us to the matter of the Colorado Secession movement; something that is flying under the radar of most news entities. Firstly and for those not acquainted with what is happening, Colorado is not attempting to leave the union. Rather, a number of northern, largely rural counties are trying to leave Colorado and form a 51st state. Regardless of the legalities or possibilities of this happening, one has to examine the sentiment behind it; dissatisfaction with the actions of the state government and particularly Governor Hickenlooper, the former mayor of Denver. It also points out the differences between urban and rural Colorado; a phenomenon that exists nationwide and is illustrated in the county by county presidential voting maps from any of the last several elections. The vast majority of the national landmass is red, while the blue regions are clustered around large cities and especially the northeast.
The voting map shows the stark division between large city voters and those in the surrounding areas. It is starkly evident in Houston, Texas where the inner city is strongly blue, while one has only to go a short distance outside to see a sudden and marked change to red. The difference is largely because outside the city people are more self-reliant and less oriented toward government involvement in their affairs. They are the people that the political left despises; they live in “flyover country.” But these people are the same ones who elected Ted Cruz and Rand Paul to the US Senate. They are the ones seeking to depose Governor Hickenlooper next election. And, they are the ones who are looking to leave the rest of Colorado because they don’t agree with the policies that emanate from the big cities. They want to be governed by people who represent them and their personal views rather than what they disagree with.
The differences are also illustrated by their behavior in the face of adversity. When Hurricane Ike hit Houston the majority of the population was prepared. Those who had chain saws put them to work on the tree limbs that had been blown down and got together with their neighbors to deal with power outages and related issues. When government came in they generally weren’t much needed. The community already had matters under control. Contrast this with the chaos that erupted in the wake of “superstorm” Sandy when it hit the New York / New Jersey area. An unprepared and government dependant population ended up in much worse straits because they were unable and/or unwilling to take care of themselves.
But this division goes deeper. The central issue is not just representation; the role of government figures in it as well. The conservative populist, more than anything else, wants government to leave them alone; to not interfere in their daily life and their personal success. Big government advocates, in contrast, assert that success can only be achieved by government intervention in the individual affairs of each person. This is nonsensical and amounts to an authoritarian, top down, controlled society instead of a free society. It is Orwellian. It is the practical application of the slogan from 1984 “freedom is slavery.”
And so, the key issue behind the Colorado counties is that they find themselves being unrepresented and oppressed by a government that is intent on following the agenda of its members, rather than what is good for the average citizen; regardless of what works. Control of private firearms ownership has become one of those issues.
Conservatism, at bottom line is intent on conserving what works. It has no interest in big government solutions that do not pay off as promised and leave the average citizen worse off than before. But leaving citizens to take care of their own affairs in an environment of popular sovereignty and individual liberty does not grant government officials power over others. Thus, so many of those in government oppose true individual liberty on principle.
It is ironic that the slogan of the 1960’s “power to the people” has been used as a excuse to destroy individual liberty and to transfer power to elites who see the average person as a serf or potential slave to their personal entitlements. They aren’t from the government and here to help you; they are here to make you dependent on them, so that they have power over you, so that they can control you. The Coloradans seeking their own state understand this. They also understand that government power can be as much a threat to them as to law-breakers. They do not want to become government targets for carrying out their personal business as best suits them, while harming no one else. They do not want to be told how to live, what to eat, or what to believe.
The Colorado secession activists are a symptom of the same sentiment that is behind a state’s rights movement that has appeared in many areas. The states have found that Washington DC is no longer their friend, and that maybe it was only pretending to be in the past. Everything that comes out of DC has strings attached, and the strings may be easily used to turn the states into puppets dancing at the whim of the federal bureaucracy. This was never intended at the time of the founding. The states were to be independent entities with the national government acting as a single voice where needed in matters such as foreign affairs. And the ultimate power was to reside on Main Street; not on Pennsylvania Avenue.
We can only hope that the majority of citizens of Colorado regain their sanity and restore a responsible and responsive government, making the secession activism unnecessary.