Colorado Republicans rejected several freak-show candidates – but still have an outright seditionist in their ranks

A common response to the Colorado primary election results this week was to remark that Republican voters rejected the election conspiracists, returned the party to the mainstream, signaled support for the establishment over the fringe.

It’s true that in several high-profile races the most reality-challenged, “team crazy” candidates got beat bad. That’s a relief.

But now we’re supposed to equate those losses to some realignment in the Colorado Republican Party with basic principles of democracy and constitutional order? As former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann might say, “Are you out of your effing mind?”

One candidate said to represent the party’s late preference for “sanity” is Heidi Ganahl, a University of Colorado regent who beat Greg Lopez in the Republican primary for governor. Lopez amplified election conspiracy theories, notably by saying former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election and through vocal support of Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, an over-the-top election denier who is under felony indictment for her role in an election security breach in her own office.

But Ganahl hardly scores much better. From the moment she announced her candidacy in September, Ganahl steadfastly avoided answering whether she believed the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. At the same time, she described Colorado-based U.S. Election Integrity Plan, which promotes baseless conspiracies, as “doing great things.” Earlier this month, she could finally bring herself to say, “I don’t believe there was enough fraud that would have flipped the election.” The approval this earned her was utterly undeserved — she still claims there was fraud, even though it was all but nonexistent, and she continued to promote the idea the election had “issues” that would justify doubts about the security of U.S. elections.

Next to Lopez, Ganahl might appear mainstream. Next to the history of American democratic norms, she’s a subversive extremist.

A bigger obstacle to any claim that Colorado Republicans were chastened by the last two years of nuttery in their ranks is the triumph of Rep. Lauren Boebert.

A similar dynamic was at play in the Republican contest between two U.S. Senate candidates, state Rep. Ron Hanks and construction executive Joe O’Dea. Hanks is a no-nuance election denier who crossed police lines at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection. It’s not hard to run to his left, as did O’Dea, who won the primary. He was lauded for clearing the low bar of accepting Joe Biden’s presidency. But he also said he would support a possible Trump presidential candidacy in 2024. As the recent House hearings on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol have demonstrated, Trump knew that he lost the 2020 election but conspired to pursue illegal and violence-prone efforts to overturn the results. He committed one of the greatest crimes in the history of the country, but O’Dea would put him back in the country’s most powerful office.

Next to Hanks, O’Dea might appear reasonable. Next to the restraints against America’s slide toward autocracy, he’s an enemy of democracy.

A bigger obstacle to any claim that Colorado Republicans were chastened by the last two years of nuttery in their ranks is the triumph of Rep. Lauren Boebert, the face of the party, the state’s most influential election denier, and an outright seditionist. She helped inspire the insurrection and maintains a cultish devotion to Trump. She trounced her primary opponent Tuesday.

There are few figures in the country who approach Boebert’s political looniness. She is the fringe’s fringe. Colorado Republicans did that.

Unlike Ganahl and O’Dea, who are running for offices elected by a statewide electorate, Boebert faced voters only in her district, which is conservative. But it’s hard to imagine Boebert losing a primary in either of Colorado’s other two conservative districts, or just about any conservative district in the country, because, as is demonstrated in her fundraising success, social media popularity and numerous TV appearances, she skillfully embodies a post-Trump Republican style of provocation, insults, cruelty and truth-aversion that has proved so appealing to the party’s OAN-poisoned base. A majority of Republicans still falsely believe the 2020 election was stolen. That does not exclude Colorado Republicans.

The primary election spelled defeat for some of Colorado’s Trumpiest, freak-show candidates. Sure, let’s celebrate that.

The election did not, however, mark a return of the party to sanity. As long as its members support the coup-attempt leader Trump, hedge on election denial, and embrace democracy-hating seditionists, the party will remain unqualified for a status of good standing.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

NOW WATCH: 'The court doesn't care': CNN legal analyst delivers chilling implications of latest SCOTUS cases'

‘The court doesn’t care’ and it’s illegitimacy is accelerating

Trump is a domestic enemy. Treat him like one.

The hearings of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection have already provided conclusive evidence that the effort to overturn the 2020 election was a conspiracy directed by a corrupt sitting president who knew the effort was based on lies and encouraged violence in pursuit of power.

The damning testimony before the committee and the persuasiveness of its case has been widely analyzed. But a frank discussion of accountability for the insurrection has been muted.

There is a reason for this. The gravity of the crime exceeds any an American president has ever been suspected of committing, and the scale of culpability is greater than many citizens are comfortable contemplating.

Another reason, one that puts the country in peril, is that too many Americans continue to support the perpetrators.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, the Democratic chairman of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, set the tone for the hearings a week ago in his opening statement.

“It was domestic enemies of the Constitution who stormed the Capitol and occupied the Capitol who sought to thwart the will of the people to stop the transfer of power,” he said. Later he said, “Ultimately, Donald Trump — the president of the United States — spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down the Capitol and subvert American democracy … January 6th was the culmination of an attempted coup. … Violence was no accident. It represented Trump’s last stand, most desperate chance to halt the transfer of power.”

Thompson’s use of the phrase “domestic enemies” was deliberate. He noted the Civil War-era adoption of language regarding “all enemies — foreign and domestic” in the federal oath to account for the South’s rebellion.

In other words, the crimes committed by Trump and his co-conspirators are categorically akin to war-waging against the United States.

What is the appropriate punishment? If Trump and those who joined him in this violent attempted coup — including lawyers John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, and seditionist members of Congress such as Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Andy Biggs of Arizona, other senior officials such as Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, as well as the hundreds of extremists who stormed the Capitol — are enemies of America, what’s to be done with them?

The answer comes to mind more readily than it’s given voice. We know the essence of the appropriate punishment for the crime. We don’t know yet how to engage it.

Plenty has been said about specific federal laws Trump likely violated. These were suggested by the committee in March when it asked a U.S. district court in California to compel Eastman to turn over documents. It argued that Eastman’s attorney-client privilege defense was invalidated because his relationship with Trump involved the likely commission of two federal crimes: obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Judge David O. Carter agreed.

“Dr. Eastman and President Trump launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history,” Carter wrote. “Their campaign was not confined to the ivory tower — it was a coup in search of a legal theory.”

These specific alleged criminal violations are an inherent theme of the committee’s recent public hearings. It’s as if the panel is “laying out a road map for Attorney General Merrick B. Garland” to initiate criminal prosecutions, as The New York Times put it.

The depth of catastrophe that awaits the country if Trump and the Republicans are rewarded for the insurrection cannot be overstated.

Yet a case involving mere criminal codes and a jury of peers, as necessary as it is, would fail to account for the enormity of Trump’s betrayal of America, because a crime on the scale of a violent attempted coup by the country’s own president eludes the ability of any court to fully address. Only a tide of public scorn, a thorough condemnation by the citizenry, the eternal reprobation of history might match these misdeeds.

And such contempt must also target the Republican Party, which as an organization has been indispensable in propping up its criminal figurehead and clearing space for his treachery. Trump and his abettors should face the kind of society-dispensed justice reserved through the ages for a nation’s most hated scoundrels.

But that’s not happening.

Garland, to the exasperation of many democracy-approving Americans, appears ambivalent about prosecuting Trump and other high-level seditionists. It’s not hard to find people rehearsing the usual arguments against prosecuting a former president — the national trauma would be too great, it would be labeled politically motivated, it could trigger a partisan tit-for-tat — even though failure to punish Trump would prove that individuals who are in a position to inflict the most damage are the most immune to accountability.

In fact, the culprits are not only getting away with grave crimes. They’re thriving. Trump is preparing to become president again. Election deniers are the topline GOP candidates for the highest offices in Colorado and elswehere. Republicans in November have a good shot at taking back the majority in the U.S. Senate and are almost assured of regaining a majority in the U.S. House. When that happens, seditionist lawmakers will assume even higher positions of power — one of the most dispiriting examples being Jordan, a virulent Trump sycophant who is in line to be the next chairman of the Judiciary Committee and is already salivating over the retaliatory investigations he plans to launch.

The depth of catastrophe that awaits the country if Trump and the Republicans are rewarded for the insurrection cannot be overstated.

That Americans must even now tolerate the presence of seditionists in elective office demonstrates that Jan. 6 was not a crisis averted but only a spectacular expression of a crisis underway.

That Americans must watch as a free Trump prepares a second run at the presidency reveals that the justice system, so dependent on the good faith willingness of public officials to uphold the law, is outmatched by unbounded deceit and corruption.

That Americans in vast numbers continue to support Trump signals that the country established by the U.S. Constitution is already mutating into a dark new form that the Founders wouldn’t recognize.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Here's what the Jan. 6 hearings will really reveal

There was some fear when the Jan. 6 committee convened that it would amount to little more than a partisan tool that could easily be discredited. That’s not how it turned out.

The nine members of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, as the House panel is formally known, have been working for almost a year. In that time the committee has developed evidence of a “coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power.”

And it has established beyond doubt that the former president and many high-ranking Republicans are implicated in the effort’s criminality.

This is all sure to be made clear when the committee tonight presents the first of several public hearings. The committee’s work and the public reckoning it prompts is essential if Americans want to maintain democracy and restore constitutional norms.

That, however, is not what many Americans want, which is a sign that no matter what truths the committee reveals, the threat to democracy is as great today as it ever was.

Consider some of what we now know because of the committee’s work:

  • Then President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, exchanged scores of texts with Trump loyalists on Jan. 6 that show even some of the former president’s staunchest supporters, including his own son, pleaded for Trump to stop the violence.
  • Ginni Thomas, the influential wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, implored Meadows in a series of text exchanges in the weeks after the November 2020 election to overturn the results.
  • Trump during the insurrection upon hearing that rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” reacted by saying that maybe the vice president should be hanged.
  • Trump and his lawyer John Eastman, who at the time was a University of Colorado Boulder visiting scholar, developed in the weeks after the election a multitiered and far-reaching scheme to overturn the results. The Jan. 6 committee asked a court to force Eastman to release documents, and in an extraordinary March ruling in favor of the committee, federal Judge David Carter wrote that it was “more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct” the certification of President Joe Biden’s win — in other words, that the president committed a crime. This week the judge ordered Eastman to release more documents to the committee, including an email that the judge characterized as evidence of a likely crime. “Dr. Eastman’s actions in these few weeks indicate that his and President Trump’s pressure campaign to stop the electoral count did not end with Vice President Pence — it targeted every tier of federal and state elected officials,” wrote Carter in one particularly hair-raising passage. Eastman previously had been revealed to have written a six-step plan, known as the “coup memo,” to overturn election results.
  • Several far-right members of Congress were involved in the “beginning stages” of discussions with the White House that led to Trump’s “big lie” effort to reverse election results. Those lawmakers included Colorado’s own Rep. Lauren Boebert as well as Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, according to testimony provided to the committee by Cassidy Hutchinson, a former assistant to Meadows.
  • White House records turned over to the committee show a gap of more than seven hours during the insurrection in Trump’s phone logs, which could be an indication of a cover-up.
  • On Wednesday, a committee aide said the public hearing will include previously unseen information that ties the violent attack on the Capitol directly to Trump.

The hearing is scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern times and will feature at least two witnesses: U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, the first law enforcement officer injured by rioters on Jan. 6, and documentary filmmaker Nick Quested, who captured extensive footage from the insurrection. It will be carried live by the major networks, except for Fox News. The second hearing will be at 10 a.m. Eastern on Monday, June 13, and a third hearing would be 10 a.m. Eastern on June 15.

The basic points of the democracy-erasing, power-at-all-costs conduct of Trump and his cabal of crooks have long been plain to anyone who cared to look. And at what cost? Practically none.

According to Democratic committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the hearings will allow the panel to share “evidence of the chilling inside plan to overturn the 2020 election and block the constitutional transfer of power.”

It is shocking that such a plan existed, and it is critical that those who were involved are held to account.

But what is even more chilling than Trump’s plan to overturn the election is how little it seems to matter to so many Republicans.

The truth is that while the committee has uncovered numerous details that in any other era would each have constituted an unthinkable revelation and will doubtless in the coming weeks bring out further evidence of massive corruption, the basic points of the democracy-erasing, power-at-all-costs conduct of Trump and his cabal of crooks have long been plain to anyone who cared to look.

And at what cost? Practically none.

Trump remains the undisputed leader — cult leader by some measures — of the Republican Party and the favorite to win the next GOP presidential nomination. The vast majority of Republican voters still believe the 2020 election was stolen. The potential for more far-right violence due to the spread of misinformation around upcoming elections is high.

A democracy functions only when citizens are willing to accept reality and work from a core set of basic facts, despite differences of political opinion. The hope regarding the Jan. 6 committee was that with the factual evidence it produced Americans collectively could see the extreme danger Trump posed to democracy and constitutional order.

The public hearings will surely bolster the assertion that Trump is a dangerous man who attempted a coup. But their primary outcome might be to demonstrate that an alarming number of Americans, like the former president, are more interested in the attainment of power than the maintenance of democracy.

Editor’s note: This commentary was updated at 10:42 a.m., June 9, 2022, to include an updated schedule of hearing times.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Lauren Boebert is responsible for causing personal harm to multiple people

Many public officials are guilty of bad behavior. But few can as readily be held responsible for harassment, personal threats and violence as Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado.

What’s worse, ghastly conduct represents the totality of her public service. Her legislative record is a dismal exhibition of performative gestures that offer no real benefit to Coloradans and serve mainly to complement her TV segments and social media showboating.

And if she were just an entertainer who happened to possess a congressional pin, her constituents might be content to wait out her place-holding stint as the representative from the 3rd Congressional District until a true public servant were ready to succeed her.

But she is more than a mere circus act. She is responsible for causing personal harm to multiple people.

The latest example involves Nina Jankowicz, a disinformation expert whom the Department of Homeland Security assigned to lead its new Disinformation Governance Board. The board was meant to ensure the delivery to Americans of reliable information about homeland security, until disinformation about the board itself and vile abuse directed at Jankowicz prompted the department in May to abandon the project.

Boebert, with a trademark style of dishonesty and provocation, helped lead an anti-board mob and inspire personal threats against Jankowicz. In an interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” Jankowicz described the outcome of vitriolic rhetoric from members of Congress, such as doxxing, sexually abusive language, body-shaming, allegations of pedophilia, and violent threats.

“They’re encouraging this sort of abuse from the people who listen to them and follow them,” Jankowicz said. “One person said, ‘This is a hill to die on. Get ready. We will not tolerate this.’ And this to me seems to have come directly from a tweet that Rep. Lauren Boebert sent out saying that this was Stalinist or Mao-level and this was a hill to die on — so, directly echoing her language in the threat.”

Worst of all, in light of the routine slaughter of school children in America, is Boebert's pathological promotion of firearms.

A white supremacist last month who gunned down Black shoppers in a Buffalo grocery store was motivated by the “great replacement” theory, which falsely holds that white Americans are intentionally being replaced by non-white populations. The racist Fox News host Tucker Carlson is the most visible promoter of this erroneous narrative, but Boebert is arguably its most influential proponent in Colorado.

“This is why the Southern Border is wide open,” she tweeted in September. “They want to replace the unvaccinated with foreign workers at a lower price. Get ready, they will replace you if you won’t comply.”

The “great replacement” falsehood was behind other acts of violence, including mass shootings in El Paso and Christchurch, New Zealand.

Bigotry is baked into Boebert’s character. In November, she was caught in a video suggesting that if Democratic Rep. Ilhah Omar were wearing a backpack she would suspect the Minnesota lawmaker, who is Muslim, of being a suicide bomber. The comments were “hateful and dangerous,” as Omar herself described them, and, as was depressingly predictable, death threats against Omar followed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi characterized Boebert as making “repeated, ongoing and targeted Islamophobic comments and actions against another Member of Congress.”

Boebert shared blame for the danger that befell elected officials in her own party during the Jan. 6 insurrection, when members of Congress fled for their lives. In the lead-up to the event, her office reportedly was in communication with organizers of the protests that led to the attack on the U.S. Capitol, during which rioters angry at the then-vice president chanted “Hang Mike Pence” — a call for an execution of which former President Donald Trump approved.

Boebert helped foment mob grievances by promoting falsehoods about the election and, on the morning of Jan. 6, tweeting, “Today is 1776,” which was understood by her followers as a call to arms.

Worst of all, in light of the routine slaughter of school children in America, is Boebert’s pathological promotion of firearms. Other crises in America might directly affect more individuals. Not a single human in the world can escape the adverse effects of climate change. The erosion of democracy threatens constitutional order. The elimination of abortion rights would be a staggering reversal of progress. But the proliferation of gun violence — in that it manifests so grotesquely in mass murder, and because conservative political obstruction so clearly precludes obviously effective gun safety measures — most starkly portends a cratering of national stability, and few figures in the country embody its blood-drenched gun culture with more diabolical gusto than Boebert.

Boebert might have mostly forsaken her constituents in Colorado, but she has amassed a fanbase that extends way beyond the state’s borders. She could use her platform to help improve people’s lives, promote the interests of vulnerable Americans, heal the divisions that jeopardize the country’s future.

But she does the opposite. She degrades and attacks people, particularly those who are vulnerable. She thrives in and exploits divisions and leaves them deeper.

There’s a word for this sort of person. She is a menace.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

What I learned from watching more than 500 Jan. 6 videos

I recently watched hundreds of videos from the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Many of the stark moments from the attack on the U.S. Capitol are well-known — the battle at the west terrace tunnel, the shooting of rioter Ashli Babbitt, the desecration of the Senate chamber.

But nothing provides the kind of granular and exhaustive understanding of that day like a mass of videos taken by rioters themselves as they converse with one another, chant together, coalesce as a mob, commit violence, and take stock of what they accomplished. Here’s the top takeaway: The insurrection represented a greater threat to America than casual observers think.

ProPublica published a collection of videos posted to the social media site Parler by people who were present at the Jan. 6 attack. The videos cover almost six hours, from the early afternoon when President Donald Trump delivered an incendiary speech at The Ellipse to the evening as law enforcement finally cleared the Capitol grounds of attackers. The collection includes more than 500 videos.

I watched every one. Here’s what I learned.

Rioters attacked the Capitol because they believed that’s what Trump wanted them to do. This is indisputable. Trump, who had been claiming without evidence that the 2020 election had been stolen from him, during his speech exhorted followers to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell.”

One man posted a video of himself coming from Trump’s speech on his way to the Capitol, and he says, “Maybe we’ll break down the doors,” shortly before the mob did just that. “We were invited here,” a person screams at police. “We were invited by the president of the United States!” Another person made a video shortly after 2 p.m. as the mob swarmed the east side of the Capitol. “They’re ready to really stand up and do a revolutionary war,” he observes. “Hey, Trump asked for wild. He got it.”

Revolutionary war — that’s the spirit in which the insurrectionists took action on Jan. 6. Rep. Lauren Boebert that morning tweeted “Today is 1776.” What becomes clear in scores of videos from the attack is that the memory of the American Revolution animated the whole violent episode. Crowds chanted “1776.” The conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, armed with a bullhorn, led his own “1776” chant. Some of the first rioters to break into the Capitol shouted, “1776, motherf***ers.” Throughout the afternoon, attackers purported to fight as if in the manner of a colonial citizen militia.

The hundreds of videos prove that violence did not just occur sporadically as an extreme expression of the crowd's displeasure but rather dominated the mob's collective energy.

The presence of contemporary militia elements was conspicuous at the Capitol. It is now well-known that organized factions of the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and other militia groups were active on Jan. 6. The videos demonstrate that their participation in the attack could not have been missed by anyone who was there. The Three Percenters, to which Boebert has ties, were especially visible. Members wore insignia on their clothes. They flew identifying flags. The Southern Poverty Law Center says the Three Percenters is “an extremist movement that claims to be ready to carry out armed resistance to perceived tyranny.” They don’t have to just claim it. They did it on Jan. 6.

An underappreciated aspect of the attack is that it was undergirded by strains of religion. This is plain in the Parler videos. Group prayers and singing in the midst of tumult were a frequent occurrence throughout the afternoon. The “An Appeal to Heaven” flag, which carries both revolutionary and religious meaning, was carried prominently amid the rioters.

But the primary feature of Jan. 6 to which the videos attest is violence. The event was brutal, and no amount of spin and obfuscation will alter that truth. The Republican National Committee last week officially cast the insurrection as “legitimate political discourse,” a characterization that even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected. The hundreds of videos prove that violence did not just occur sporadically as an extreme expression of the crowd’s displeasure but rather dominated the mob’s collective energy.

The videos provide numerous examples of handtohand combat, which occurred throughout the afternoon at multiple locations around the Capitol complex. “Where are the f***ing traitors,” someone yells upon entering the Capitol. “Drag them out by their f***ing hair.” A person making a speech outside the Capitol called for Vice President Mike Pence to be hanged and executed by firing squad.

The full weight of the crime that occurred on Jan. 6 is hard for Americans to measure because it is hard to imagine it could have occurred in America, where constitutional order and the tradition of peaceful presidential transitions were taken for granted.

The insurrection broke that tradition in a spasm of violence. Constitutional order for an afternoon collapsed. The government survived, but it’s still under threat. The threat is greater now than ever, because so many Republicans have rationalized the insurrection, lauded the perpetrators, perpetuated the “big lie,” and escaped accountability.

If there is another Jan. 6, as many experts believe is possible, the attackers will have already had their practice run.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Could the 14th Amendment block Lauren Boebert from the ballot?

Is Rep. Lauren Boebert eligible to run for reelection this year?

According to the 14th Amendment, the answer might be “no.” And, because Boebert herself is unlikely to acknowledge her own potential disqualification, it would be left to other authorities, such as the Colorado secretary of state or voters in the representative’s district, to seek enforcement of the Constitution’s anti-insurrectionist provision.

Far from being some frivolous legal abstraction, this principle already anchors a challenge to the candidacy of Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina. A group of voters in Cawthorn’s district last month filed a challenge to his candidacy with the North Carolina State Board of Elections. The case frames Cawthorn’s activities around the Jan. 6 insurrection as a violation of the 14th Amendment’s disqualification clause.

If the clause could apply to Cawthorn, it could also apply to Boebert.

There can be little doubt that what occurred on Jan. 6, 2021 — when former President Donald Trump inspired a violent mob of supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol and halt the constitutional process of Electoral College ballot-counting — was an insurrection. A majority in the U.S. House voted to impeach Trump for “incitement of insurrection.” Trump’s own lawyer during the impeachment trial in the Senate said “everyone agrees” there was a “violent insurrection” at the Capitol.

The North Carolina voters assert that they have reasonable suspicion that the election denier Cawthorn was involved in planning the attack on the Capitol or related events in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 “with the advance knowledge that it was substantially likely to lead to the attack.”

The House committee that’s investigating Jan. 6 reportedly sought phone records from Cawthorn. The voters note that two days before the attack, he promoted the Jan. 6 Trump demonstration by tweeting, “January 6th is fast approaching, the future of this Republic hinges on the actions of a solitary few … It’s time to fight.” He has expressed support for insurrectionists, calling them “political prisoners.” The voters’ challenge cites many examples of Cawthorn’s behavior that demonstrate he engaged in insurrection or aided the Jan. 6 attack after he had sworn an oath to support the Constitution.

All this appears to match the criteria for disqualification spelled out in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, adopted after the Civil War. It says, “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress … who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Now consider Boebert’s insurrection-related activities, which are substantially similar to Cawthorn’s.

Boebert was one of the House’s most vocal proponents of Trump’s “big lie” that the 2020 election was fraudulent. Rolling Stone reported that Boebert’s office was in communication with organizers of the Jan. 6 events that led to the insurrection. At least two Democratic members of Congress have said they saw Boebert giving a tour of the Capitol to a “large” group on a day shortly before the insurrection, the kind of activity one lawmaker termed “reconnaissance.” She had been scheduled to speak at Trump’s Jan. 6 rally, and though she didn’t end up taking the stage, she attended the event. On the morning of Jan. 6, Boebert tweeted, “Today is 1776,” widely understood by insurrectionists to signal a war of rebellion, and “1776” was repeatedly chanted by members of the mob as they committed insurrection.

During a House floor speech Boebert gave, arguing for the rejection of electoral votes from Arizona at the very moment the mob was breaching the Capitol, Boebert said of the insurrectionists, “I have constituents outside this building right now.” After lawmakers for their safety had been locked in the House, Boebert broadcast to the world that Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been moved from the chambers in a tweet that Rep. Eric Swalwell said demonstrated she was “more closely aligned with the terrorists than the patriots.” Boebert since the attack has sought better treatment for Jan. 6 rioters.

If Cawthorn could be disqualified from serving in Congress, Boebert could, too.

A test of her eligibility might be close at hand.

Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech For People, a national nonprofit group that is representing the North Carolina voters, said in an interview with Newsline, “We are certainly planning to file additional candidate challenges to other members of Congress or elected officials who were involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection.”

He declined this week to specify Boebert as one of those targets, but he said, “Rep. Boebert certainly attracted our attention.”

In Colorado, a challenge to Boebert’s candidacy would be made through state court. Voters in the 3rd Congressional District could bring such a challenge, and Fein said, “We’ve received an outpouring of interest from people who live in Colorado and are interested to find out how Section 3 of the 14th Amendment applies to Rep. Boebert.”

He noted, however, that Secretary of State Jena Griswold herself could act to enforce the Constitution.

“Our view is that the Colorado secretary of state should uphold Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, just as she might if someone filed paperwork to run for Congress who was underage or not a U.S. citizen,” Fein said.

Whether Boebert can be shown to have engaged in or aided the insurrection within the scope of the 14th Amendment, she indisputably committed sedition, and so far she has paid no cost for that behavior. A constitutional challenge to her candidacy and the legal proceedings that would ensue could at the very least force onto the public record facts about Boebert’s insurrection-related activities that remain hidden, and compel her to answer for her role in the attack.

Such transparency is essential, especially if Boebert remains on the ballot.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

IN OTHER NEWS: Mike Pence killed his political future after four years of 'cozying up' to Trump

Mike Pence killed his political future after four years of 'cozying up' to Trump

Gun-toting GOP extremists fail to grasp how pathetic they look

It’s not hard to find photos of each one of the three Republicans in Colorado’s congressional delegation posing with guns.

The images aren’t just out there on the internet — the members want you to see them. They released them as part of campaigns or policy statements. The discouraging implication is that they assume such posturing will resonate with a substantial portion of their base.

They’re hardly alone. Many conservatives suffer from a compulsion to be photographed shooting, brandishing or fondling firearms. It’s looney. But it also contributes, in ways that don’t get enough attention, to the epidemic of gun violence in America.

On Monday, five people were killed as a result of the latest paroxysm of gun violence in Colorado, a state where bullets have claimed so many lives it occupies a special place of shame in the national gun debate. A man went on a killing spree that started at Sol Tribe Custom Tattoo and Body Piercing in Denver and ended at the Belmar shopping district in Lakewood.

In a healthy society, such a heinous act of violence would be extraordinary. But our society is sick, and such violence is routine. The Monday shooting in Denver might have been the worst single act of gun violence in America that day, but it was nowhere near the only one — there were victims in more than 20 other cities. During a single week in November, nine high school students were shot in two incidents in Aurora. In March, a gunman killed 10 people in a Boulder grocery store.

There have been more than 20,000 non-suicide gun deaths throughout the country in 2021, according to the Gun Violence Archive. That’s the most in at least seven years.

A major incident of gun violence is often accompanied, along with thoughts-and-prayers pablum, by calls for new laws. While legislative reform will be central to any anti-gun violence solution — including repeal of the Second Amendment, which in modern times does much more harm than good — we must also recognize how gun glorification on the right whets the country’s appetite for slaughter.

Earlier this month, Rep. Lauren Boebert posted a Christmas-themed photo of herself with her four boys, who were brandishing assault weapons. The youngest is 8. Fetishization of guns is the main theme of Boebert’s political persona (not unrelated to sedition being the main theme of her political identity).

Boebert might take Second Amendment zeal to buffoonish extremes, but she typifies the childish proclivity of conservatives who are desperate for people to see them shooting things. The climax of a campaign ad that Rep. Ken Buck released last year, when he still doubled as the chairman of the Colorado GOP, shows the congressman firing a semi-automatic rifle at a target. Constituents can find pictures on Rep. Doug Lamborn’s official government website of the lawmaker squeezing off rounds at the Magnum Shooting Center in Colorado Springs. The election-denying state Rep. Ron Hanks launched his U.S. Senate campaign in October with a video of him firing a rifle at a fake voting machine, which explodes.

Around the country there is no shortage of elected gun nuts gun-nutting for the camera. Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and many others have demonstrated an inability to resist the urge to strut with weapons.

What these extremists fail to grasp is how weak such posing makes them appear. People who are confident in their strength don’t need to peacock. An elected official posing with a weapon is a micro version of a military parade — if you’re tempted to be impressed when a member of Congress showboats with a firearm, just think of Kim Jong-Un.

But as silly as these leaders make themselves look, the message they send is dangerous. When elected officials extol instruments of death, they reinforce strains of violence in the country’s political culture and encourage lethal aggression. It’s easy for most Americans when they see gun cosplay from their leaders to laugh it off as the antics of children. But disturbed and aggrieved viewers will derive inspiration from such displays, with bloodshed too readily the result. It’s still unclear what motivated the shooter on Monday, but initial indications are that he espoused far-right political hatred, and it’s reasonable to suppose that right-wing celebration of firearms helped clear space for his murderous rampage.

If you feel you need it for personal protection, go ahead and carry a gun. If spraying bullets into a target makes you feel tough, no one’s stopping you. But if you prefer to live in a safe community, and want to appear strong — not playground strong, but actually strong — leave the camera at home.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

The violent fantasies of conservatives have reached terrifying new heights

Last week, a conservative Colorado podcaster said Gov. Jared Polis should be hanged. He was not discreet about the matter. He felt no need to employ suggestive language. He named Polis, called him a traitor, and said he should go to the gallows.

Joe Oltmann, the perpetrator of this outrage, in many respects is a caricature of the unhinged right. For him there is no conspiracy too bonkers to believe, no lie too bald-faced to tell, no threat too cowardly to make.

And yet, he is no fringe figure. He is well-connected to the Colorado GOP. The state party’s current chairperson last year served as president of an activist group Oltmann founded, FEC United. George Brauchler, former district attorney in Arapahoe County and former Republican candidate for attorney general, calls Oltmann a friend. Oltmann was in the Willard Hotel “war room” with Trump allies on Jan. 6. For a civilian, Oltmann wields substantial influence among Colorado Republicans.

But what’s more alarming is that while the violent fantasies he voiced were unusually explicit, he is not alone in suggesting violence as a legitimate response to political conflict. In fact, an escalation of allusions to violence among Colorado conservative figures has reached the point of emergency.

If the pattern continues, violence is inevitable. The system is blinking red.

John Tiegen, a former Marine from Colorado Springs who founded the United American Defense Force, a militia wing of FEC United, recently said during a discussion about political discord in the country, “I see a war coming.”

Shawn Smith, an election denier from Colorado Springs who works with a conspiracy group endorsed by leading GOP governor candidate Heidi Ganahl, recently made this chilling pronouncement during a video call with colleagues: “I have no desire whatsoever for violence, but I promise you that people in the country are not going to go down … There’s not going to be a tyrannical regime that stays in power. Only they’ll recognize their limits under the law and this will be walked back or it’s going to get very dangerous. And it’s going to be dangerous all around. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but if they think this is going to end somehow in surrender from the people, they’re all wrong about that.”

Violent threats against Jena Griswold, the Democratic secretary of state, have become so frequent and disturbing that her office is seeking funds specifically to “address election-related security concerns.” Griswold repeatedly receives threats such as, “The punishment for treason is death,” reports The Colorado Sun.

Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Silt, a gun zealot who makes a performance of toting firearms everywhere she goes, has caused fellow lawmakers to fear for their physical safety from the moment she arrived in Washington, D.C.

“House members — in both parties — are saying they’re scared of this member. Not politically, literally scared for their safety,” Benjy Sarlin of NBC News tweeted about Boebert in January. Boebert caused an uproar last month when she suggested a colleague, Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim, could be a suicide bomber and referred to her as the “jihad squad.” Besides being clownishly bigoted, the remarks jeopardize the physical well-being of Omar and her team. The Minnesota Democrat has received death threats, “too many to count,” due to remarks like Boebert’s.

“Words matter, and words can cause violence,” Omar said on CNN. “And she knows that the language that she’s using, the audience that she’s using it for, is going to incite violence against myself and my community.”

As if in an act of self-parody, Boebert on Tuesday tweeted a photo of herself posing with her four young boys, who are wielding assault weapons in front of a Christmas tree. What kind of person, what kind of mother, celebrates their own children brandishing weapons of war?

What’s terrifying is that this all aligns with a general escalation of violent rhetoric on the American right, such as when former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon advocated beheadings for Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI director Christopher Wray, and when OAN’s Pearson Sharp called for the execution of “tens of thousands” of Americans whom he claimed stole the election from Trump, and when Rep. Mo Brooks called on conservatives to “fight” as if they were in the Revolutionary War, and when Rep. Paul Gosar tweeted an animated video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and when Trump supporters express impatience about when they “get to use the guns,” and when local elected officials talk openly about the necessity of bloodshed to protect freedom, as Scott Thompson, the vice mayor of Oroville, California, did.

A recent poll found that 30% of Republicans agree that “true American patriots might have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

Experts say violent rhetoric can lead to violent action. But we don’t need experts to remind us of that — the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection illustrated the danger all too well.

More such attacks against people and institutions are virtually guaranteed if violent rhetoric continues to be condoned. Most of the people whose voice matters in this respect have utterly failed to meaningfully speak out against threats of violence. They include Colorado GOP officials, Republican Reps. Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn, and other Colorado elected Republicans in state and local office.

Their influence could make a difference. A strong, unified message from them could prevent a tragedy. Denouncing political violence should never come with a political cost. And if it does, bloodshed is closer at hand than Coloradans realize.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

'You are just a hateful bigot': Lauren Boebert faces yet another backlash

There is no more traditional value than love, but it is the one in which conservatives often seem least interested. When it comes to transgender people, for example, they are quick to sideline love for hate.

Eli Bremer, GOP frontrunner in Colorado challenging Sen. Michael Bennet in 2022, has made transphobia the centerpiece of his campaign.

“Women have rightfully fought for their rights for, quite frankly now, centuries. If you think about it, in the history of mankind women have been subjugated to men," Bremer mused during a September appearance on Peter Boyles' KNUS show. Women recently have achieved equality, Bremer explained, but it's all been threatened, especially by the Biden administration's anti-discrimination transgender policies.

“We literally now have men taking away things from women, and it's actually the progressives and the Democrats who support men destroying what women have rightfully built, and it's like 'The Twilight Zone,'" Bremer said. “Liberals are now quite literally allowing biological men to take things away from women, which is abhorrent."

Bremer, a former Olympic pentathlete, is not merely concerned with trans women supposedly having an unfair competitive advantage over cisgender women in sports. His bias runs deeper.

“Today, Biden and progressives are changing the definition of 'woman' to a point where we risk having a legal definition that is unsustainable nor understandable," he writes on his campaign site. He rejects the use of gender pronouns that don't match assigned sex at birth. He also has a disturbing habit of grouping his attacks on trans athletes with discussions about convicted serial sex offender and former Olympic doctor Larry Nassar.

Bremer's prejudice aligns with an alarming rise in transphobia on the Colorado right.

A year ago, the political committee Take Back Colorado bought Facebook ads that misgendered state Rep. Brianna Titone, the first openly trans lawmaker in Colorado, and falsely accused her of “sexualizing children." Take Back Colorado, which works to elect Republicans, is registered to Joe Neville, brother of Rep. Patrick Neville, who was then the House minority leader. The lawmaker Neville told The Denver Post that the ads showed “the facts." In another vile attack, Republican state Rep. Stephen Humphrey voiced a robocall around the same time on behalf of Colorado Family Values Victory Fund. Titone is “a transsexual state representative who wants to force a radical sexual agenda on every Coloradan," the call said, according to CPR.

Last week Rep. Lauren Boebert of the 3rd Congressional District showed she would not be outdone among Colorado trans haters. “'Admiral' Rachel Levine," Boebert sneered on Twitter after Levine, a trans woman who is the U.S. assistant secretary for health, was sworn in last week as an admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, becoming the organization's first female four-star admiral. “Because Democrats would rather hire a man for a job than a real, qualified woman." Breathtaking transphobia.

Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia noted Levine's extraordinary credentials and wrote to Boebert, “You are just a hateful bigot."

Many transphobes purport to have science on their side — “There are TWO genders: MALE & FEMALE … Trust The Science!" said a sign that delirious-with-hate Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia hung outside her office directly across the hall from the office of Rep. Marie Newman of Illinois, who has a trans daughter — but they are dangerously uninformed.

Transgender people have populated societies of every kind throughout human history. “Empirical evidence has demonstrated that trans and non-binary gender identities are normal variations of human identity and expression," the head of the American Medical Association wrote in April. Biological factors “such as genetic influences and prenatal hormone levels" are thought to contribute to trans identity, according to the American Psychological Association. Transgender science is still emerging, but five years ago, a Scientific American article that weighed recent research concluded that it “points strongly toward a biological basis" for trans identity.

When you trust the science — true science, not science twisted by hate — it's clear that transphobia comes from a lack of knowledge and an abundance of bias. And the results are tragic. The largest survey on the experience of transgender people in the United States found that 40% of the respondents had attempted suicide. A quarter of trans kids had been physically attacked in school. Trans Americans experienced disadvantages throughout various aspects of society, including employment, health care, criminal justice and housing.

In 1992, Colorado voters adopted Amendment 2, which prohibited state and local governments from enacting protections for gay, lesbian and bisexual people. The shameful measure earned Colorado a new moniker, the “hate state."

The Supreme Court struck down the amendment, saying it violated the Constitution's equal protection clause. And the state in many ways has since evolved as a welcoming place for all. Jared Polis is the country's first openly gay governor.

But some Colorado Republicans, like Eli Bremer, reject this spirit of love and equality. Their unabashed transphobia signals their preference for hate to be central to the state's identity.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Lauren Boebert unwittingly reveals her vapid essence as she pushes out videos that are as toxic as they are awkward

The first person to represent Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, starting with the district's inception in the 1914 election, was a Democrat from Pueblo named Edward Keating.

He was the son of immigrants. He moved to Colorado from a Kansas farm with his widowed mother, and he left school at 14 to contribute to their livelihood. He became, at 23, the youngest person ever elected to the office of Denver city auditor. Keating later was known to Coloradans mainly as a journalist. He worked his way up from proofreader, and for five years before constituents sent him to Washington he was the editor of the Rocky Mountain News.

Keating is remembered as a lawmaker primarily for two things — his groundbreaking advocacy for labor protections, particularly his sponsorship of the first federal child-labor law, and for casting 1 of 50 House votes on April 6, 1917, against entering World War I.

Those were different times.

Rep. Lauren Boebert is the 15th person to represent Colorado's 3rd District in Congress. Don't bother looking for achievement or principled public service in the seat today.

The first-term Republican's approach to leadership has been to completely dispense with substance and replace it entirely with style. And the style she favors is all calculation and provocation, contrivance and performance. Superficialities are total in the execution of her duties. She doesn't bother with “issues." Her priorities are pretty straightforward: reflexive promotion of “freedom," zeal for guns and fealty to former President Donald Trump.

Boebert is never more in her element than when drawing attention to herself or creating a spectacle. Her entrance onto the national stage was a combative exchange in 2019 with then-presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke. There was the time she noisily unfurled a space blanket during President Joe Biden's State of the Union address. And when she threw a mask at a House staffer and defied COVID-19 safety measures. And when she tried to walk through a House metal detector, possibly armed, and refused to relinquish her bag to Capitol Police less than a week after the Jan. 6 insurrection. She thrives on polarizing attention.

Boebert's specialty is video appearances. She established something of a template with a fundraising video she released in January, her first month in office. The spot, produced with a tone similar to that found in prescription drug ads, delivers the message that Democrats are horrible, Washington, D.C., is irredeemably dangerous, and if you mess with her she will shoot you with her Glock.

Her most revealing videos, however, the ones that unwittingly expose everything that's corrosive about her style, are those she films herself. It's here that her style is distilled to its vapid essence. Everything about her delivery is unnatural. Every inflection is phony. Every utterance hits a false note. Every clip gives the impression of a reality star in an audition tape.

If that were the only problem, it would warrant little concern, but the videos, like everything she does in her public life, seek to foment extreme grievance among her conservative followers, persuade supporters that Democrats are the country's enemy, and prepare the ground for Trump's return to power. They are as toxic as they are awkward.

A comparison with more estimable peers is instructive. Watch Boebert's arch nemesis Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or Colorado's Rep. Diana DeGette, or Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. You might dislike the politics of one or all of these elected leaders, but they're able to speak in such a manner that leaves little doubt about the substance and understanding behind their words.

Boebert's political themes ... exhibit the quality of being acquired.

In contrast, Boebert's political themes — the election was stolen, liberals are trying to destroy America, fanatical devotion to the Constitution, opposition to immigration, disdain for big government — exhibit the quality of being acquired. The right-wing talking points do not ring true in her telling. They sound derivative, rehearsed. Boebert has a tell. When she performs for the camera, and she starts to resemble a nobody reciting lines for a screen test, she looks up and to her left. She does this a lot.

This is not to say she lacks conviction. Quite the contrary — that she is bereft of original ideas makes her all the more unyielding in her fidelity to others' ideas, because without them she has little within on which to fall back. She clings to them like a life raft lest she drown. Her relationship to them is tenacious, but it is not deep. There is one political characteristic that seems authentically Boebert's own, and that is an affinity for fascism.

Boebert's political emptiness is not merely distasteful. It translates into a failure to deliver for her constituents. So far she has sponsored 21 bills in the House. None has earned any bipartisan support. Most barely had partisan support. None has succeeded. Most are solely posturing — her latest bill sought to impeach Biden for high crimes and misdemeanors.

President Woodrow Wilson might have been expected to turn his back on Keating after the congressman's anti-war vote, but Wilson endorsed Keating for reelection, citing his “splendid" progressive record.

It wasn't enough to preserve Keating's prospects, and he lost the 1918 election to a Republican from Canon City, Guy U. Hardy, who represented the 3rd District for seven terms. While in the House Hardy compiled what became a standard account of the institution of Congress and the duties of its elected officers.

When Hardy died in 1947, members eulogized him on the House floor. “Guy Hardy was a Christian gentleman whom everybody on both sides of the aisle literally loved," said Rep. John E. Rankin of Mississippi. Rankin was a Democrat.

Those were different times.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Anger is the only reasonable response to COVID obstructionists

We were willing to debate the efficacy of masks.

We agreed there should be balance between lockdown measures and economic interests.

We patiently accumulated evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.

We kept our cool through every quack remedy and grifter treatment.

We offered guidance to the confused and correctives to the misinformed.

We forbore ignorant assertions that the coronavirus was a hoax, bratty defiance of public health orders, puerile abuse of “freedom," looney vaccine conspiracies.

We did this all with fear, as we watched wave after wave of infections disrupt our lives and kill members of our families.

But now, as we suffer through a second summer of illness and death, we find ourselves confronted with a category of people whose behavior is despicable — the COVID obstructionists, the ones who not only refuse to protect themselves but actively prevent others from doing so.

There's no point trying to understand them, no reasoning with them. They deserve no patience, no forbearance. The only reasonable response to these miscreants is anger. White hot anger.

Last weekend, Jefferson County Public Health staff were forced to close a mobile vaccination clinic after medical professionals were harassed and threatened. At one clinic someone threw some kind of liquid at a nurse. Passengers in cars threw garbage at the staff.

“It's the epitome of selfishness and I am angry today," Dawn Comstock, the agency's executive director told The Denver Post.

Comstock speaks for all of us who have tried to do our part for the wellbeing of the community. We trusted the science. We recognized the obligation we have to our friends and neighbors. We accepted the inconvenience of mask-wearing and the negligible risks of vaccinations. We did this in service to the greater good. And in return, COVID deniers, pandemic conspiracists and vaccine obstructionists are literally killing us with their stupidity and selfishness. They are inflicting illness on our loved ones, and now we are angry.

What Comstock's medical staff experienced is only one instance of a vile pattern of behavior in America. Blame starts with certain leaders.

From the very beginning of the pandemic some elected officials downplayed the danger. Former President Donald Trump assured Americans that the virus would magically disappear. He also promoted pea-brained treatments and made a show of not wearing a mask.

Colorado has long had its own COVID deniers, like Republican state Rep. Patrick Neville, who sued the governor over mask mandates, and various sheriffs who refused to enforce mask rules, and Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, who defied a public health order when she kept her Rifle restaurant open for sit-down service in May 2020.

Such tantrums set the tone for what was to come.

The emergence of vaccines held the promise of a return to normal life. But protection depended on community-wide participation, and too many Americans by the time the first vaccines were administered in December had been persuaded that the vaccines were unsafe or some nefarious form of government control. That meant that even with this pandemic-ending miracle of medical science at hand, some of our leaders and neighbors decided they would rather show off their imbecility than help eradicate the virus. Anti-vaccine parents were so threatening toward members of a school board in Grand Junction that board members had to have police escorts to their cars after a recent meeting. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis moved to block Florida schools from issuing mask mandates. Fox News host Tucker Carlson encouraged viewers to harass people wearing masks and call police on parents of mask-wearing kids. Eleven states have prohibited mask mandates. And there are innumerable individual acts of obstruction of the sort witnessed in Jefferson County last weekend.

To what end? The country is gripped by a fourth wave of infections, and hospitals in many parts of the country, including Colorado, are approaching or exceeding capacity as unvaccinated patients pour in.

In the beginning of the pandemic, it was easier to tolerate ignorance and stubbornness. Not anymore, not with nearly 700,000 or more dead and the highly-contagious delta variant tearing through the population. Now we want severity. We want mask requirements. We want vaccine mandates. We want crisis standards of care that prioritize vaccinated patients.

We will grieve for the unvaccinated who don't make it, but there's only so much room in our hearts, because we're grieving the loss of our own loved ones who did not have to die. They could still be with us, and we are angry that they're not.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

The far-right insanity in Colorado is a symptom of something much deeper -- Americans should be on red alert

The clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Tina Peters, appears to have engaged in direct, potentially illegal, activities that threatened election integrity in her jurisdiction. The irony of the case is infinite — she is a far-right adherent of the big-lie movement that claims former President Donald Trump won the November election and purports to be safeguarding election integrity.

This article was originally published at Colorado Newsline

After images of passwords from the Mesa County election system were posted online by QAnon ringleader Ron Watkins, Secretary of State Jena Griswold launched an investigation into what she called a “serious breach" of election security. Griswold said the investigation has found that Peters was involved in surreptitiously copying information from election system hard drives, which was delivered to election conspiracists. Griswold assigned her own supervisor to oversee Mesa County elections, since Peters appears unfit for that responsibility. The local district attorney is pursuing possible related criminal charges, and the FBI is conducting an investigation.

Peters' response was to ignore Griswold and head out of state. She turned up in South Dakota, where she was a top-billed, if incoherent, attraction during last week's election conspiracy event “Cyber Symposium," a festival of lies hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. Now she is “holed up," evidently on the run, in a “safe house" under Lindell's protection, according to Vice.

Peters might seem an exceptional case of the damage that election truthers are doing to democracy. But she didn't act alone, and Coloradans should treat her as a red alert.

What led to the Mesa County breach was a determined and organized effort to discredit election results in Colorado. Similar activity is taking place in other states, like Arizona, where Republicans tend to have more influence than they do in Colorado. But the spirit of the attacks, and the threat they pose, is the same.

One of the main vectors of election disinformation in Colorado is Sherronna Bishop. Bishop served as campaign manager for Rep. Lauren Boebert, herself a prolific peddler of election lies. Bishop, who styles herself as “America's Mom," is an energetic and versatile activist who can recite talking points on gun rights absolutism, COVID denial and a take-your-pick roster of far-right insanity. Her latest project is to erase confidence in Colorado elections.

Bishop accompanied Peters to the Lindell event and also spoke from the stage. “In Colorado, we are a red state," she told the gathering, though by any conceivable objective measure the state is solidly blue. “We know we are. And there are amazing people who are out there, they are verifying this, they are going door-to-door, they're doing the work to prove that our elections were stolen." No credible evidence exists that suggests the November election in Colorado or the United States was compromised or fraudulent.

Also at the gathering with Bishop and Peters was Shawn Smith, a retired Air Force colonel. Voters might not be familiar with Smith, but state elections officials sure are. His professional stature and technical experience in the military lend a patina of plausibility to his disquisitions about how Colorado's voting systems, especially Dominion machines, can't be trusted.

Smith and Bishop work with the Colorado Chapter of the U.S. Election Integrity Plan, which has outposts in other states, such as Arizona and Georgia. After the November election, the group issued a statement calling on Colorado officials not to certify results. “As far as we are concerned, every race and ballot measure in every district in the state is suspect," it said.

In April, the Republican Study Committee of Colorado, a conservative association of legislators, met to discuss election integrity. The first presentation was delivered by John Eastman, the University of Colorado Boulder visiting professor who is infamous for speaking at the Trump rally on Jan. 6 that preceded the insurrection (“We know there was fraud … We know that dead people voted," Eastman said at the rally).

Also on the agenda was USEIP. “We're focused on restoring the Republic," said USEIP's Ashe Epp during her presentation. She said USEIP is the only organization in Colorado wholly focused on election integrity and had swiftly grown since November to 283 activists. “We have ground game, with people ready to start on the voter verification, ready to start on a number of initiatives in 16 counties across the state, including the 12 largest."

As part of that ground game, the group has dispatched volunteers to counties around the state to importune voters at their doors. The volunteers are “using public voter lists to identify precincts from which they believe ballots were fraudulently cast and asking residents to confirm their addresses, whether they participated in the 2020 election, and if so how they cast their vote," according to the Colorado Times Recorder.

It's unclear exactly which counties have seen this kind of activity — which voters in no way are obliged to entertain — but reports indicate they include at least El Paso, Larimer, Weld and Mesa. And, as we now know, it's in Mesa that the election-fraud activists scored their biggest prize yet, a county clerk allegedly willing to subvert election security on behalf of a movement that purports to protect election security.

Coloradans can take comfort in at least one outcome of these efforts — so far they have been rebuffed by other Republican county clerks (there are a total of 38 in the state's 64 counties). In Elbert County, for example, County Clerk Dallas Schroeder said that after November he started fielding questions about election integrity from citizens. One of the people who challenged him on the vote was Shawn Smith, with whom he spoke about three times in the spring, he said.

“I decided the best way to put any concerns to bed was to go ahead and do a recount," Schroeder said.

The hand recount in Elbert County is believed to be the only one to have been conducted in the state. It took place in May and examined all 19,131 ballots in the county's presidential election. In a race that saw Trump beat President Joe Biden by 50 percentage points in Elbert, the recount found only three discrepancies, all due to human error, not the county's Dominion machines. “It showed that here in Elbert County we didn't have any issues with our system," Schroeder said.

Public servants like Schroeder are the bulwark between actual election integrity, as America for so long has enjoyed, and the enemies of democracy, who in Colorado and across the country would rather dismantle reliable voting systems than lose elections.

Never in the country's history have authoritarians so brazenly and systematically attempted to subvert the people's will. Institutional defenses remain largely intact. But USEIP's disinformation campaign is as much about creating doubt about future elections as it is about overturning the last one. And the big-lie movement in Colorado has sympathizers in the Legislature and the highest ranks of the state GOP.

How long democracy's defenses can hold remains to be seen.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.