Littwin: Stapleton is mad as hell, and he doesn’t think you should take it any more

CSU Pueblo hosted a debate between the candidates for governor of Colorado, Democrat Jared Polis (left) and Republican Walker Stapleton, on October 9. (Photos by Evan Semón for The Colorado Independent)

PUEBLO — Walker Stapleton is mad as hell and not just because he’s losing in the polls to Jared Polis. He’s mad — red-faced mad, sweaty-brow mad, yelling-into-the-mic mad — because Coloradans seem not to understand how dangerous the “radical and extreme” Polis would be as governor.

And it’s not because Stapleton doesn’t keep telling them. In fact, it’s pretty much the only thing he keeps telling them. By one journalist’s count in the Monday night debate in Pueblo, Stapleton used “radical” 13 times to describe Polis, and if that’s not a drinking game for the rest of the debate season, then I don’t know Colorado.

I went down to Pueblo for the debate, the third debate in four days. It drew only about 250 people, many of whom, by the way, didn’t seem angry at all. It was a pretty quiet hall for the debate on the campus of CSU-Pueblo. Hardly any students attended. I didn’t see any protesters of any stripe inside or outside the building. There was a mariachi band, however. The musicians did not seem particularly steamed either.

But Stapleton, in warning of the dangers of a man who actually, like most Democrats in Congress, voted 94 percent of the time with Nancy Pelosi, is so serious about warning Coloradans that he compared himself to a latter-day Paul Revere, if only Revere had shouted “the self-funding radical socialists are coming.”

But, folks, I’m here to tell you — actually Stapleton is there to tell you wherever he goes — not only is Polis filling your head with “empty promises,” not only would Polis bankrupt the state, his policies would — and I’m not making this up — kill people. At some point I wasn’t sure if this was a political debate or a Colorado trip through “Night of the Living Dead.”

See if you can understand this point. Polis wants us to move toward universal health care, which is more or less what most Democrats, radical or otherwise, say these days. He’s not calling for immediate universal health care, because it’s a losing proposition. But he does want to expand Medicaid and wants to look into a multi-state health care initiative and is looking for a way for Coloradans to buy drugs more cheaply, say from Canada.

This, Stapleton said, would kill Coloradans. Let me quote him. Here’s a warning from me: You probably should turn down the volume while you read this.

He starts, of course, with calling Polis’ plan “radical and extreme” and “an empty government promise.” And then he really gets going:

“I would love to offer universal health care. How are we going to pay for it, Congressman? Please explain how we’re going to pay for it. There’s no way to pay for it … This is not compassionate. It is cruel. It is an empty government promise that will be taken out on Coloradans who can least afford it, who will wait longer for less quality care. And if they have a critical … life-threatening illness, they won’t be able to get drugs to save their lives and they will end up dying.”

He says that’s not the future he wants for Colorado, and I think we can all agree we don’t people dropping dead while waiting in line to see a doctor or a pharmacist. And even if the plan could work, Stapleton says, the state would go bankrupt.

For Polis, the game plan is simple,  to walk though his policy ideas, many of them mainstream liberal ideas, while trying not to seem radical or unhinged or firing back too hard at Stapleton,  knowing that Stapleton’s anger seems less like real anger and more like an act. Stapleton has had to do something to shake up the race, which is in danger of being swamped by the expected midterm blue wave. Meanwhile,  most of the major issues — health care, immigration, kids not being locked in cages — seem to favor Democrats.

The debate could be summed up in just two lines.

Polis: ”The time for name-calling is passed.”

Stapleton: “If you will tell these people how you will pay for it, I’ll stop calling you a radical.”

Polis is not a radical. He’s a progressive, although you rarely hear him mention that since the primary season. As he told me the other day, he doesn’t have to say he’s progressive much, because Stapleton says it for him every day.

And, at each debate turn, Polis will hit back against the extremism charge by charging toward the middle — saying that if supporting the opportunity for five-day school week seem extreme, count him in. And then he’ll note -as he does in every debate – that Oklahoma has all-day kindergarten and asks whether you’d call Oklahoma radical.

And occasionally, Polis would sort of hit back, as he did at the debate. “Walker is such a Debbie Downer. It’s like, no, we can’t do this. Here’s why we can’t do that. My motto when I first ran is dream, dare, do …”

Of course, you can translate “dream, dare, do” to “spend, spend, spend.” Unfortunately in Colorado, we have that TABOR thing, which puts huge limitations on both dreaming and spending.

But the one thing you have to concede about this race is that since the candidates disagree on nearly every topic, it should be easy to figure out which one to support. The real challenge, apparently, is to be able to cast your vote without dying on the way to mailbox.


  1. The more I see and hear Walker “not a racist” Stapelton….the more I believe he is on the trumpian level of moronism…not magamoron level, but close…if it is an act, it is poorly acted, but if it is not an act, then he really is a moron…of trumpian proportions…

  2. Apparently, someone on Stumbleton’s team convinced him to pull a “Kavanaugh” and just go nuts. The only problem is, there aren’t just 11 cynical Republican men waiting for Trump’s thumbs up voting in this election. Instead, there are a couple of million Democrats and Independents (with probably 10% of Republicans too) that will vote for their and their families’ best interests, which Jared Polis represents.

  3. Fortunately for Polis, his policy stances are supported by the majority of Colorado’s residents, not to mention America’s. As Mike pointed out, he doesn’t have to do a lot of self promotion on these stances because Walkkker keeps them in the forefront by spouting off about them being “radical”.

    Walkkker is making the same tactical error that we’re seeing so many Republicans make in the age of Chump. That error being the misconception that they and their policies represent the majority of Americans.

    Thus, it’s come to pass that it’s the Republican Radical Minority who represent the folks who have taken over the plane…while the majority of passengers now plan their charge of the cockpit in the attempt to save the ship…not the other way around.

    Walkkker, like Trump, can play the willful ignorance game and pretend that they are the face of America, and the opposition are the “radicals”, but no one’s buying the con outside of the Fox Bubble. This time when the majority speaks, the electoral college won’t be able to silence them.

    Not going to be a good election night for the folks who’ve been under the wrongful impression for two years that this is Trump’s America.

    Time for the wake up call.

  4. Stapleton says
    “I would love to offer universal health care.”
    “As Governor, I will fight for the right of all Coloradans to have access to high-quality education.”
    “Our transportation gridlock amounts to a hidden tax on all Coloradans, and fixing this issue is of the utmost importance, not only to our overall quality of life, but also to our state economy as a whole.”

    Maybe we have this all wrong — Stapleton wants to do the right things, but can’t figure out any way to do these good things.

    On health care, he promises “I will work with the Legislature and evaluate the models other states have implemented to bring about necessary reforms.”
    On education, “Pay Teachers More, Save Parents Money, and Provide More Opportunities for Kids” — apparently, we can do that by not spending so much on administrators.
    His transportation plan appears to be telling CDOT to find money in their budget and bonding to pay for improvements now.

    Gee, why didn’t anyone else think of such groundbreaking solutions? /s

  5. Walker and the repubs sell one thing and one thing only – fear. Be afraid of government taking your money, be afraid of government telling you what to do, be afraid of dark-skinned folks, be afraid of strong women who have rights and are protected by laws from your grubby paws, be afraid of Muslims making Sharia law the law of the land (one of the stupidest ideas yet), be afraid of liberals who will take away your freedom to hate and discriminate and impose your old ways on a new generation.

    All repubs do is sell fear. So that the rubes are distracted and do not see the massive theft and tax avoidance that the wealthy are pulling off as they make you cower in FEAR. While they steal us blind and plunder our national treasures.

    repubs are bad for our democracy and way of life.

  6. Byron is correct. It’s the Lizard Brain that Repugs go for. Fear is the strongest, most basic reaction of those looking for simple answers to complex questions. But Trump has accelerated the exodus from the Republican Party by those that are repulsed by such primeval tactics. Unaffiliated voters may very well decide this election, and will one day coalesce and form a new, successor to the GOP. And the 25% that are hard-core Trumpians will crawl back under their rocks.

  7. It is that fear that Republicans play on constantly that keep us from having nice things, like affordable and fair health care, a living wage, a decent education, freedom from preexisting conditions, a secure retirement, etc. etc. The irony is the only thing people who vote Republican should fear is their own damn party, because its full of freaking soulless swindlers.

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