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Colorado’s Independent Political Tradition

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Colorado's Front Range (credit: CBS)

Colorado’s Front Range (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

I have always believed that we are lucky to live in Colorado, for many reasons. Beyond the great weather and beautiful outdoors, we are lucky to live in a state with such a rich tradition of interesting and dynamic political and civic issues.

For a public affairs program producer like me, it’s that tradition that not only keeps me employed, but it makes it very enjoyable to do my job.

The program I produce on Colorado Public Television, Colorado Inside Out, kicks off its 20th season on Friday night and the occasion has made me look back and truly appreciate the great political environment we enjoy in Colorado.

Much has been written about the current swing state status in Colorado, and how that status will garner our state a considerable amount of national attention. However, this status truly isn’t anything new. Colorado has consistently been one dominated by independent voters and independent politicians.

From Ben Nighthorse Campbell to Governor Roy Romer to Tom Tancredo, Colorado has a long and proud tradition of producing leaders that are not afraid to break the rules and rise to the national stage.

On paper, Colorado shouldn’t necessarily have this kind of influence in national politics, but it’s our independent streak that keeps this state, and our characters so influential.

That independent streak also helps to explain why our state is also a magnet for controversial ballot issues and amendments.

From the Taxpayers Bill of Rights to Amendment 2 to medical marijuana, Colorado voters have been unafraid to take a stand, whether it was constitutional or not. But again, the key to the proliferation of these issues isn’t just that our state constitution makes it very easy for citizens to bring amendments to voters. It’s the consistent inconsistency of Colorado voters that encourages citizens, organizations, corporations and even elected officials to promote ideas as ballot issues.

The byproduct of all of this independence can sometimes be aggravating for voters. Because we are a swing state and because we are fickle with our political favor, our state receives more than its fair share of political advertisements. And those political ads are usually nasty, repetitive, ugly and redundant. That can be annoying and even depressing to endure.

However, I believe Colorado voters should endure this pain with a strong sense of pride. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but I believe this kind of political attention is indeed the highest form of flattery.

Incessant political advertising, countless ballot issues, and an ever-growing list of influential political figures mean that our votes, our opinions, and our state matter. To be relevant and to matter is a privilege that too many of our fellow Americans never get to experience as fully as we do.

So as our program looks back on the last twenty years, I am confident the stories will be fun and plentiful. But I know it will all come down to the fact we are very lucky to be in a state whose independence will guarantee that the stories will continue for a very long time.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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