Mail-in ballots are already being cast, and we’re a little more than two weeks away from knowing who will emerge from Colorado’s Democratic gubernatorial primary as the nominee. For anyone to the left of, say, Zell Miller, it’s been an underwhelming campaign, defined by the specious efforts of three major candidates comfortably within the party’s centrist mainstream—U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy, and former state senator Mike Johnston—to rebrand themselves as the kind of bold left-progressive outsiders that the Democratic base increasingly favors.
Polis, who’s probably still the slight favorite to fend off a strong challenge from Kennedy, entered the race with a reputation as a crusader for environmental causes—somewhat undeservedly so, considering that his famous push to place a pair of anti-fracking initiatives on the 2014 ballot ended with his controversial decision to withdraw them in a last-minute agreement with Gov. John Hickenlooper. But Polis has made environmentalism a centerpiece of his primary campaign, highlighted by a plan to put Colorado on a path to generating 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2040. It’s a pleasantly ambitious-sounding goal, and it’s had all the right morons howling about its infeasibility.
Apply even the slightest bit of scrutiny, however, and “100 by 40” begins to look a lot like a microcosm for the primary as a whole: modest, conventional policy dressed up as progressive audacity, in a party whose voters are hungry for the latter but whose donors and power brokers still strongly prefer the former. And it’s fair to wonder whether what Polis isn’t saying about energy and the climate is a lot more important than what he is.