The 2014 Colorado Senate race between incumbent Democrat Mark Udall and Republican challenger Cory Gardner presented a rare challenge for a Denver Post editorial board that has long made an art form of timid, anchorless, empty-headed centrism. Neither candidate offered the board an easy opportunity to do all of the things it does by default: curry favor with incumbents and frontrunners, fetishize bipartisanship for its own sake and issue tongue-clucking admonishments to the extremes on Both Sides, and attempt to buttress their fair-and-balanced bona fides among movement conservatives who couldn’t be less appeased. Confronted with a tight race between two unremarkable avatars of their respective parties’ mainstreams, for once the Post had a real choice to make.
When it chose Gardner, the board faced a second, far greater challenge: how to string some words together into a passably coherent argument for a vote that would help return control of the Senate to the Republican Party and a conservative agenda to which the paper was nominally largely opposed.
The resulting endorsement was roundly, deservedly ridiculed at the time—“baffling,” “asinine,” “genuinely bizarre,” “the most singularly box-of-rocks dumb rationale I ever read in my life”—but it’s only in light of this year’s healthcare saga that its awe-inspiring daftness can be fully appreciated. As the Senate under a unified Republican federal government hurries to pass—without a single hearing or committee vote, by what will likely be a razor-thin majority—legislation that will impoverish, immiserate, bankrupt, sicken and/or kill tens of millions of Americans, it’s worth revisiting, piece by piece, an artifact of the media’s credulous worship of process and propriety and consensus politics that helped get us here in the first place.