Ronald Reagan once told an interviewer that he had a dream where he looked out the White House window and saw a mushroom cloud. "Détente," he would say, "is a one-way street for the Russians."
The concept of unilateral disarmament is familiar to many who study nuclear weaponry, but it's also relevant in the discussion of modern-day politics. A report out this month by the non-partisan National Institute on Money in State Politics shows campaigns for state legislatures raised more than $1 billion in the 2008 election cycle.
The group said that was 9 percent more than was raised in 2006 and a whopping 26 percent more than in 2004, the last comparable cycle.
That's just money to the candidates themselves. What we've seen in Colorado is that while individual campaigns have increased their coffers, the real money has been off-the-radar, underground, spent through a variety of organizations nestled within the federal tax codes so as to avoid the prying eyes of reporters and the general public.
No one political party is going to bemoan the amount of cash being spent on elections today and voluntarily agree to turn off the spigot.
We've been asked often recently about how the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, factors into our story. The justices ruled earlier this year that limitations on corporations and unions were violations of their freedom to speak.
To presume a significant change is to presume that since campaign finance reform went into effect, those same corporations and unions have been sitting out election cycles, hands firmly clenched around their wallets waiting for the judicial system to allow them to spend. Both empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise.
What has happened in Colorado and is already being replicated nationwide is that the overflowing amount of money in politics will simply be driven further into what we've labeled as "shadow parties," entities that have in effect taken over the role of the once-traditional political party. They run their own campaigns with their own messages and their own financing and voters can rarely find any information about who they are.
These outside groups have been so successful, their model so cutting-edge, it is one of Colorado's most successful exports.
If the blueprint is about anything, it is about a lasting, sustainable infrastructure, a levee that should withstand, is designed to withstand the natural highs and lows of the political world. Skeptics who say all that's happened in Colorado is the regular cyclical nature of elections and now that the winds of change are blowing in the Republicans favor are missing the picture many consultants in both national parties seem to understand.
"The infrastructure the Democrats manufactured in Colorado helps them to maximize their electoral gains in favorable political environments and minimize their losses in negative environments," said Republican National Committee Western Regional Political Director Alan Philp.
When we started this week, we couldn't promise to make infrastructure sexy or salacious, but hoped to explain its vitality to the modern-day political system that's running smoothly in Colorado and being replicated in dozens of states nationwide. We wrote about bridge-building, about community organizing and about voter registration.
Maybe the best analogy to understand what happened here and what will happen in other states comes from the building where many of the progressive non-profits in Colorado do business. It's called the Alliance Center and it's a renovated warehouse that's received all sorts of accolades for becoming environmentally friendly.
Visitors to the lobby of the redbrick building are greeted with an Ethiopian proverb. "When spiderwebs unite," it reads, "they can tie up a lion."
That's the blueprint for the Democrats success in Colorado. And it's why Republicans everywhere should care.
Thanks so much for giving us some of your time this week.