For years, Colorado Democrats successfully blistered Colorado Republicans for focusing too heavily on divisive social issues in the Legislature. With Governor Hickenlooper calling for a special session on one of those social issues, at the cost of $23,500 per day, the shoe is now firmly on the other foot.
While many political observers have said there is no risk to Hickenlooper in calling a special session, we're not so sure. There is no emergency when it comes to civil unions, nor most importantly, will any jobs be created from passing it. Coloradans, no matter where they stand on civil unions, are unlikely to appreciate their government using limited tax revenue to argue for a few more days over a bill that most think has no chance of passing.
In fact, recent national polling shows less than 1% of respondents say the social issue is their top concern. Reports Gallup:
We know that values issues, like same-sex marriage, are low on an overall priority list for the average American. We just finished our May update wherein we ask Americans to name the most important problem facing the country. Two-thirds mentioned some aspect of the economy. Less than 1% specifically mentioned issues relating to gay rights or gay marriage. Even when we asked Americans in the same poll to tell us what worries them about the state of moral values in this country, very few mention gay issues.
From a big picture perspective, the economy rules. The direction of the economy in the next four months is going to have a much greater impact on the outcome of the election than Obama’s public announcement that he supports legalizing same-sex marriage. [Peak emphasis]
With news this morning that Speaker McNulty has assigned the civil unions bill to the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, the bill is likely to die immediately, thus avoiding a repeat of the procedural skirmish witnessed last week.
Since calling a special session appears to have done nothing for the bill, many Coloradans will likely wonder why Governor Hickenlooper is bothering wasting taxpayer money on it. With unemployment still perilously high in Colorado and gas prices over $4/gallon in parts of the state, a focus on social issues isn't likely where voters want to see their government put its energy and money.
Mitt Romney's campaign has also picked up this line, hitting back at the obsession with social issues by Democrats and the press in Colorado. We're betting most voters, regardless of their position on gay marriage or civil unions, are in agreement with Romney that the debate is merely a distraction from the economy, which voters continually cite as their top concern.
Closer to home, conservative advocacy group Compass Colorado is piling on this argument, blasting out robocalls hitting Hickenlooper for wasting taxpayer time and money on divisive social issues, rather than more essential economic development issues.
“Reasonable people can disagree over civil unions and same-sex marriage,” said Tyler Q. Houlton, president of Compass Colorado. “But all hardworking Colorado taxpayers agree that Governor Hickenlooper should put job creation ahead of his divisive social agenda.”
Houlton's argument about priorities is Hickenlooper and Democrats' fundamental problem. It's not that their position is out of whack with voters, it's that their focus is.