With less than a month to go before Election Day, Democrat Jared Polis holds a comfortable seven-point polling lead over GOP rival Walker Stapleton in the Colorado governor’s race, and with mounting evidence that a major Democratic wave election is in the making, Polis looks like a sure bet to be sworn in as Gov. John Hickenlooper’s successor in January. With the race situated as it is, the eight debates between the two candidates this month were never going to make for very compelling television or any late horse-race drama; Polis is in full risk-averse frontrunner mode, content to smile and dissemble his way through questioning while Stapleton flails at him with a series of increasingly desperate attacks.

But what the debates have offered is a snapshot of how some of the most prominent members of Colorado’s political press are choosing to wield their considerable influence on the course of public affairs — which issues they’re prioritizing, how they’re framing those issues, how they’re using their agenda-setting authority to help shape Colorado’s future, which voices and perspectives they’re elevating and which they aren’t.


Among the very first comments Donald Trump made about the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, almost a week after Hurricane Maria made devastated the island on September 20th, was a reference to the “billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.” Five days later, he responded to San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz’s pleas for aid by attacking Puerto Ricans for “want[ing] everything to be done for them.” When he finally visited the island on October 2nd, he remarked that it hadn’t faced “a real catastrophe like Katrina,” chided the island for “throw[ing] our budget a little out of whack,” and parroted a hoax circulating on right-wing blogs accusing local truck drivers of refusing to distribute relief supplies.

The death toll continues to climb as much of the island suffers without adequate food, water, power, and medical care, but Trump’s grotesque attacks on the victims continued on Thursday. Again raising the specter of “a financial crisis…largely of their own making” (an insidious lie—it’s a product of Wall Street greed and colonialist exploitation by the federal government), he warned that “[w]e cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders…in P.R. forever!”

As usual, Trump is merely putting his own high-decibel spin on the quieter horror that is mainstream Republican governance. On Wednesday the White House asked Congress to approve its first aid package to Puerto Rico—not an aid package at all, but a $4.9 billion bridge loan that will only burden the island with more debt. Conservatives have for weeks been openly plotting to exploit the devastation to enact privatization schemes and other right-wing reforms. House Speaker and prissy sociopath Paul Ryan on Thursday defended Trump’s latest comments by stressing the need for Puerto Rico—where over two million hungry people are being provided only 200,000 meals per day and getting sick is currently a virtual death sentence—to “begin to stand on its own two feet.”


Soon after announcing his candidacy, Donald Trump jumped out to an early lead in Republican presidential primary polling and never lost it. No matter how pollsters sorted respondents—registered Republicans, likely Republican voters, Republican leaners, whatever—Trump maintained a clear lead throughout the primary calendar and in the end won nearly twice the number of primary votes as his closest rival. The belief, widespread in elite conservative circles, that a split field helped his chances is unfounded; he consistently led in various head-to-head matchups with his GOP primary opponents. He won more closed primaries than any other candidate, and carried registered Republicans in every open primary he won. Nearly 90 percent of voters who identified as Republicans cast a ballot for Trump in the general election, the same number that had voted for John McCain in 2008 and barely fewer than had voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.

In seven months of governing, Donald Trump has not made a single appointment that a Republican president plucked at random from Congress could not conceivably have also made. His signature accomplishment to date has been the appointment to the Supreme Court of a far-right jurist beloved by the conservative establishment, the culmination of an obscene, antidemocratic, Republican plot to deprive the previous president of his constitutional power to fill the seat. His Education Secretary is a billionaire heiress who has devoted her adult life to the erosion of public education, a mainstream Republican goal for many decades. His Treasury Secretary is a former Goldman Sachs executive intent on dismantling what few consumer protections and checks on the financial industry’s power remain, another core GOP objective. His Attorney General is a lifelong Republican who personifies the GOP’s postwar realignment into a party sustained by racist law-and-order appeals to white voters concentrated in the South.

Donald Trump stands for the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich—the supreme principle around which Republican politics have been organized for even longer than they have championed white supremacy. Indeed, if anything separates him from the typical Republican politician, it is that he is especially Republican, a Republican’s Republican, in the degree to which his life has exemplified the party’s all-consuming drive to redistribute wealth upwards. He inherited millions from his father and used it to build a real-estate empire on the back of nearly $1 billion in public subsidies and tax breaks and untold millions in unpaid labor. In his latter days in the private sector, he used his celebrity to exploit and defraud vulnerable working people, and his election to the presidency was nothing if not the same fraud on a massive scale, a great victory for the wealthiest and most powerful won through a false prosperity-gospel swindling of crucial working-class voting blocs in the Rust Belt and elsewhere. In this he pulled off an only slightly more lurid version of the cons Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush had successfully run before him.


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.


All throughout 2017, as part of what he describes as a “personal challenge…to have visited and met people in every state in the US by the end of the year,” Mark Zuckerberg has taken to the half-trillion-dollar social-media platform he controls to share his awkwardly staged and cartoonishly one-dimensional attempts to interact with non-billionaires across the country. Here he is at a rodeo in Texas. Here he is on a shrimp boat in Louisiana. Here he is in Ohio, dropping in for dinner with a family he’d found by “ask[ing] his staff to find Democrats who voted for Donald Trump.” His excursion to Iowa over the weekend produced another pitch-perfect medley of sanitized clichés: cornfieldsfried food, a truck stop, a small-town ice cream parlor.

These canned photo ops and issue-specific listening tours are easily recognized as part of the grammar of political stagecraft, and in the wake of Donald Trump’s norm-shattering election to the presidency, they’ve unsurprisingly prompted widespread suspicion that Zuckerberg, the world’s fifth-richest man, is planning his own presidential run. There’s other evidence; last year he successfully pushed for a change in Facebook’s corporate structure allowing him to retain control if he were to take a “leave of absence…in connection with his serving in a government position or office,” and maybe most conspicuously of all, he made sure to announce in a Christmas Day Facebook post that he is no longer an atheist.

The implied, half-joking vision of a post-Trump world in which the presidency is contested among a small club of addled billionaires is in some ways appropriately bleak and cynical. But we’re still letting ourselves off the hook too easily. Zuckerberg probably has no interest in running for president; he and his corporate handlers have got something much worse in mind.