Littwin: The old Hick is back, but in a brand new world

If you watched John Hickenlooper deliver his State of the State address, you didn’t have to look very hard for the Trump effect.

It was as obvious as, well, Hickenlooper himself.

In an alternative world, the one many of us expected to live in, Hickenlooper might not have made it to this year’s big speech. Hillary Clinton would be president and Hickenlooper would probably be in Washington preparing for a new job, maybe one needing a Senate confirmation hearing, in which case he’d have had the opportunity to introduce the Hickenlooper “giddy up” to a whole new audience.

It was comforting, in its way, to see Hick back in his familiar, if not always convincing, we’re not Democrats, we’re not Republicans, we’re Coloradans mode.

He made his career as the quirky guy who doesn’t go negative, who offers Colorado as a striking contrast to Washington dysfunction and division, who pretends, even after all these years, to being an accidental politician. It’s part act and it’s part Hickenlooper.

But it’s certainly far more Hickenlooper than the partisan attack dog he played during the 2016 campaign, in which each shot he took at Donald Trump seemed painfully forced. But give him credit, it worked, in its way. He wrote a book, got a lot of favorable press and made Clinton’s vice-presidential short list. I’ve even seen him mentioned as a 2020 presidential candidate on the theory that the Democrats will have to nominate someone.

The only thing that went wrong for Hickenlooper was that Clinton forgot to win. Let’s just say I doubt James Comey will be over for dinner any time soon.

But that wasn’t the only visible Trump effect. The people — or at least those in the Electoral College — sent Trump to the White House to either remake Washington or simply to wreak havoc. I’m thinking it’s more havoc than revolution, or maybe you missed the Trump news conference, but the point is the same. As Hickenlooper noted early in his speech, we just suffered through a terribly divisive campaign that leaves us with “a new administration and Congress seek(ing) a different relationship between the federal government and the states.”

“Different” would be an understatement. The relationship will be radically different, and even that’s probably an understatement. But the subtext was clear: Washington was moving in one direction and Colorado would keep going in another. History, Hickenlooper said, has its eye on Colorado.

And while history may be more agnostic about Colorado than Hickenlooper would have it — my guess is that California will get most of history’s attention here —you get the point. There will be a blue-state resistance to Trump, just as there was a red-state resistance to Obama. It will play out in Obamacare, where state Senate Republicans already want to eliminate the troubled Colorado health care exchange even as the GOP Congress attempts to eliminate the whole law. Meanwhile, Hickenlooper pointedly said in his speech that health care was a right and not a privilege. Watching the audience, it seemed like this very obvious concept was the most controversial idea in the room.

While most of Hickenlooper’s speech was about the things that are grounded in bipartisanship, if not in actual agreement —money for highways, money for rural broadband — it was also about things that have nothing to do with Washington, like a return of the hospital provider fee debate and the fact of our longstanding fiscal thicket. Yes, it’s a continuing embarrassment that Colorado can’t extricate itself from our fiscal straightjacket, but that’s a column for another day.

On this day, what’s clear is that Trump’s EPA will try to turn around rules on the environment that Colorado will and should resist. And that the new Interior Department will be ready to reconstitute policy on public lands, policies that Colorado also will and should resist. There’s more. Education, housing, a long list.

But mostly, there’s health care reform. In Washington, the fight is about repeal and replace. The problem for Republicans is at least twofold. One, they don’t have a replacement now. Two, they’ll never find one that allows them to keep the so-called good things about Obamacare without also needing to come up with a way to pay for them.

But let’s assume that Congress will just settle for repeal and delay and that the system, thus crippled, will collapse into itself and that both sides will blame the other. That would mean that in 2018, and no doubt in 2020, we’ll be voting on this all over again.

Meanwhile, what would happen in Colorado to the many thousands of people who could well lose their insurance? That’s not going to be an issue for this session. The Colorado Health Exchange is not immediately doomed. Obamacare may be doomed, but the dooming will take a while. But when Hickenlooper tried out the old saw about states being the laboratory of democracy, we’ll assume he means to set up shop in Colorado.

If Hickenlooper does have political ambitions extending beyond 2018 — when he’ll be term limited out of office — this is where he could stake his claim. In his speech, he said Washington was a threat to Colorado health care and that he “will fight for a replacement plan that protects the people who are covered now and doesn’t take us backward.”

What was funny is that in making his case, Hickenlooper said the last thing we want in Colorado is for Washington to tell us what to do about healthcare, which is sort of what Republicans have been saying about Obamacare for years. What Hickenlooper meant, of course, was the new Washington, the new president and the new reality. Giddy up.

Photo of Gov. John Hickenlooper by Allen Tian/The Colorado Independent




  1. Oh John…The trouble of being a Blue Dog is you don’t ever get all of the support from the Democratic Party…Bipartisanship is DEAD…DEAD…has been since the koch boys started buying up republicans…I think you may have missed the boat on that one Johnny boy…

  2. Clown car does burnout in parking lot of vacated “Hillary for President” headquarters.

    “Trump whose polls are cratering, whose not-likable-enough numbers are soaring, whose orange-haired popularity is only slightly higher than that of green-haired Ryan Lochte, whose PR team is probably right now putting together a sorry-if-I-caused-any-personal-pain statement. But, to Lochte’s credit, he has insulted only two nations. Trump is working on an entire planet.” – Mike Littwin August 2016“

    Mr. Littwin is an anachronism. In a period of just one year he’s gone from:

    “But I’ve always had a pretty good handle on politics. For one thing, it’s not that complicated.”

    To this:

    “I still have no idea how or why Trump was elected.”

    To this:

    “What the hell just happened?”

    How, you might ask, can a man who writes political commentary not be able to explain what has been called the greatest upset in the history of American politics? Has the handle gotten slippery or has politics now become too complicated for Mr. Littwin?

    Or, put another way, how could Mrs. Clinton lose to a man Mr. Littwin described as “a demagogue, a xenophobe, a misogynist, a bigot, a sexist, an authoritarian, a boor, a crypto-fascist and the least-prepared person ever to be nominated by a major party”?

    Could it be because Mr. Littwin lives in a bubble or could it be because voters felt President-elect Trump was a better choice or, as Mr. Littwin put it, “people reach out to a strong man when they feel there are no better options.”

    Did President-elect Trump win because Mrs. Clinton was such an inferior option? If so, how to explain that polls indicated 95 percent of very liberal Democrats approved of her?

    If Mr. Littwin is incapable of explaining the past how can he possibly explain the present or predict what might happen in the future?

    The answer is, of course, he can’t but at the Colorado Independent that doesn’t matter. The only thing that does matter is passing the Progressive Purity Test which requires that personal beliefs take a back seat to progressive politics.

    For example: the death penalty. Mr. Littwin is a long time opponent of the death penalty and since joining the Colorado Independent has written at least four columns confirming his opposition. So it was surprising that when Dylann Roof was sentenced to death all Mr. Littwin had so say was this:

    “Meanwhile, Dylann Roof was sentenced to death for the massacre at the Emanuel AME church, a terrible reminder of both the limits of justice and the limits of progress and of the many speeches Obama has made following too many gun deaths.”

    Is that all Mr. Littwin has to say about Dylann Roof’s death sentence? No outrage? No reaffirmation of his opposition to capital punishment? No equating the death penalty to torture? It seems like such a milquetoast response when compared to this over-the-top reaction after Nathan Dunlap received a temporary death penalty reprieve in 2013 :

    “But the most compelling arguments against the death penalty would include nearly everything else, starting with the fact that it’s nearly impossible to administer the punishment equitably. Convicted murderers are sentenced to die disproportionately according to race, gender, geography, the ability to hire a good lawyer, how they scored on an IQ test.”

    And you won’t see Mr. Littwin using Dylann Roof’s death sentence to express his opposition to the death penalty because, for Mr. Littwin, the optics are so bad.

    Am I accusing Mr. Littwin of being a hypocrite? No, he’s just—-what’s a nice way to say feckless—-timid.

    Very, very timid.

    “We live in Ta-Nehesi Coates’s America, characterized by the assumption that blacks are the eternal targets of lethal white oppression. Coates’s central thesis in Between the World and Me, his acclaimed phantasmagoria of racial victimology, is that America continuously aspires to the “shackling” and “destruction” of “black bodies.”” –

    “So this is how it ends — in a whimper wrapped in self-pity and recriminations. With President Obama on the defensive at his final press conference and Hillary Clinton’s last campaign event resembling a wake, the Democratic Party is limping off the stage and into the political winter.” – New York Post

    “While we scored many of the administration’s achievements with our highest rating, ‘Superior,’ President Obama’s tenure as a whole had shortcomings due to some notable missed opportunities and outright failures, such as the economic development of urban centers, gun violence and the foreclosure rate and bank closure rate in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. On these and other issues, we rated the Obama administration ‘Fair’ or ‘Poor,'” wrote Urban League President Marc H. Morial. – Washington Examiner

    “It would be one thing if Democrats had reason to hope or expect that they would be saved by demographics. Ever since the “emerging Democratic majority” thesis was first floated more than a decade ago, leading liberals have been convinced that their side is bound to prevail as the country becomes less white over time and minority groups eventually combine to form a left-leaning electoral majority. In such a situation, a politics based on racial, ethnic, gender, and other forms of identity might make sense as a mobilization strategy.

    But recent events and analysis have cast doubt on these hopes and expectations, raising the possibility that the electoral power of white Americans may well persist for a long time to come. In that case, the need for “normal” politics, which involves forming coalitions across racial, ethnic, and gender divides in the name of the common good, will continue indefinitely.” –

    “For BuzzFeed to publish totally unsubstantiated allegations against Donald Trump — while saying “there is serious reason to doubt the allegations” — turns the practice of journalism on its head.

    It is a perversion of what we do for a living to spew out material that may be nothing more than bogus rumors and disinformation, and to claim, as BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith does, that this is “how we see the role of reporters in 2017.”

    The president-elect and his team decided yesterday to tackle this head on, to take the fight to both BuzzFeed and CNN, to make the media the issue rather than defensively deflecting the questions. And they had a big fat target.” – Howard Kurtz

    November 08, 2016

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation
    Veterans Day – November 10, 2017

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