In a world where so many people don’t like being told what to do — and they have to be shown — state Sen. Kevin Priola this week illustrated the lethal problem facing Republicans they can’t overcome: its leaders.
Priola represents northern Aurora and the region north of there. He stunned the state on Monday by announcing he was defecting from the Colorado Republican Party.
His exodus comes after 32 years of party allegiance and serving 13 years under the GOP standard in the state House and Senate.
For the sake of the state and the nation, his fellow Republicans should use this political temblor to re-evaluate their party. Republicans must rethink their steady, indisputable march toward becoming a personality cult, oblivious to the critical danger their party-backed lies, disinformation and delusions present to all of us.
Priola was spot on in observing that there is just “too much at stake right now for Republicans to be in charge.”
He was talking about Republicans like Congressperson Lauren Boebert, state Sen. Ron Hanks, disgraced Secretary of State candidate Tina Peters and gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl. These people have consistently outright supported GOP extremists, election lies and distortions. Or, like Ganahl, they’ve coyly sidestepped their duty to vociferously call them out for what they are: corruption.
This once honorable party of less government and laissez-faire leadership has become a vessel for cruel and mindless extremism, needlessly cowering in fear of minorities attaining long overdue equity in the workplace, in communities and in government.
The party of past Colorado Republican icons like Tony Grampsas, John Love, Donetta Davidson, Al Meiklejohn, Norma Anderson and, recently, Cole Wist would not or do not permit their peers to shamelessly lie or stand silent about fraudulent election claims, or ignore the threat of climate change because of the peril they pose to our nation and democracy.
The warnings about Trump’s Big Lie about a “stolen election,” and those who perpetuate it — or stand silently as their fellow Republicans undermine election integrity — are not hyperbole.
The gravity of allowing lost or leering Republicans to perpetuate or look away from this duplicity cannot be overstated, especially as the mid-term election nears.
Priola made that clear.
“I cannot continue to be a part of a political party that is OK with a violent attempt to overturn a free and fair election and continues to peddle claims that the 2020 election was stolen,” Priola wrote.
Every Republican leader, voter and member should take up that mantle, drive this cancer from the party’s ranks and reclaim the GOP’s legitimacy and vital place at the political table.
It’s time for Republicans like Priola — and thousands like him standing in the shadows as the true silent majority — to step forward and push back against leaders embracing repugnant far-right extremism and not the views of a state that was founded on the principles of fairness, freedom, equity, collegiality and community — by Republicans.
Priola, who has made a political career of pressing against business regulations and for imposing strict anti-abortion laws, is no more a Democrat in Colorado than he is a member of the current Republican Party.
He’s a hero, however, in making clear he’s a leader willing to put his state and his country before his political party, especially when it really matters.
Priola is a hero for subjecting himself to cruel taunts, dangerous threats and mindless ridicule by those who just 24 hours ago claimed him as a friend and colleague, because of his principles.
Republicans like Priola must press for new leaders from among the ranks who will base their party’s platform on science, reality, honesty and the understanding that without a workable democracy, we will become a failed authoritarian state, where everybody loses.