Why do progressives win in Colorado but lose in Washington State?

This month’s American Prospect has an article about the defeat of anti-tax initiatives A60, A61, and Prop 101 by more than 68% in Colorado State and about the Colorado Progressive Coalition‘s role in that campaign.

The article also told of Democratic Governor Patrick’s win in Massachusetts and the defeat there of an anti-tax initiative.

Here in Washington state, the opposite happened. By nearly 2-to-1 ratios, the voters approved a horrible anti-tax initiative I-1053 and rejected a state income tax I-1098 on the top 1% of earners, leaving Washington with perhaps the most regressive tax system in the nation. In short, voters followed conservative framing and voted against their own economic self-interest.

In Robert Frank’s 2007 book Richistan, there was a chapter extolling the success of Colorado progressives (four well-to-do activists called “the four horsemen”, in particular) at beating back against conservatives several years ago. The governorship and both houses of the state legislature switched from GOP to Dem.

So I’m curious why progressives have been able to win in Colorado while progressives often lose here in Washington State, at least when it comes to initiatives. Is it due to top-down funding? (That probably played a big part.) Better organizing?  Stronger lefty media? More cooperation from Democrats?  Are Washington voters dumber or more conservative in outlook?

I’m also curious about whether and to what extent Coloradans were able to get cooperation from various advocacy and constituent groups: environmentalists, women’s rights groups, labor, and public workers, for example.

Voters don’t approve every Eyman initiative.  In fact, according to the Wikipedia article on Tim Eyman, more of his initiatives have failed than have succeeded. And Dems do control all three branches of government in Washington — though that hasn’t stopped them from sometimes acting like Republicans.

According to Andrew Villeneuve of Northwest Progressive Institute, a main reason voters approved anti-tax initiative I-1053 so overwhelmingly was that the opposition campaign started late and more or less gave up, knowing that polling showed it was going to win. Progressives shouldn’t have let it win by such a wide margin.

I contacted a couple of people in the Colorado progressive movement. One leader said, “I believe we have been successful because of our strong Coalition work as well as the funding that has supported these efforts over the years. You mention the four progressive fundraisers – we refer to them as the four horseman – they are less active recently, but they certainly provided funding and leadership over the years to build a strong progressive arm in Colorado.”

Another organizer said,

These are some loaded questions that I think are best answered in “The Blueprint: How Democrats Won Colorado.” It explains our communications structure, which we have expanded over the last two years. It is not perfect, but it has been working where we have the resources to focus our efforts.

BTW, those four horseman are now down to two. We are working to build a stronger grassroots funding source with the help of Fuse Washington- who is one of our ProgressNow affiliates. They have been very successful at building an extensive grassroots donor base. In other words, I don’t know that the 4 horseman is a requirement to be successful.

Progress Now is a nation-wide coalition of progressive groups, including Progress Now Colorado and Washington State’s own FUSE.

See also http://www.coprogressiveaction.org/about-cpa.

I’m reading The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care), which was written by a Republican congressman who wants to warn other Republicans about the threat from the Left.  I’ll write a summary when I’m finished.

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