Sen. Cory Gardner sure picked a weird time to finally start his “no more dodging questions” policy after years of half-truths and evasions, but I’m for it. While Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in on Trump’s closest associates — the Nixon-tattooed-Roger Stone the most recently indicted — Gardner suddenly decided that now is the time to endorse Donald Trump for re-election in 2020.
Being one of the first high-profile Republicans in the nation to throw in with Trump may seem like a massive blunder, but consider: a Keating-OnSight poll released in late January shows that Gardner is stuck at a terrible 59 percent favorable rating among his fellow Republicans, compared to Trump’s 84 percent favorable rating from members of their own party. It, therefore, makes a checkers-not-chess kind of sense for Gardner to run toward the president, presumably hoping he can find a suitable pretext to ditch him later — but first he should have picked up the phone and asked not-governor Walker Stapleton how that strategy worked out for him.
Gardner told the Independent Journal Review that he’s endorsing Trump for reelection because “we’ve done some good things for Colorado.” Remember that Gardner was one of few Republicans who un-endorsed the president before re-endorsing him in the 2016 election, releasing a statement that read in part, “I cannot and will not support someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women.”
Let’s take a moment to review a short list of the “good things for Colorado” Gardner and Trump have done.
With Gardner’s help, Trump shot holes in the Affordable Care Act with no plan to replace it leaving hundreds of thousands of Coloradans at risk of losing health coverage and jacking up premiums on thousands more.
Trump canceled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, leaving 17,000 Coloradans who came here as children — some of whom are still children — with the daily risk of deportation. We’re talking about children ripped from their families, their lives, and the only nation they’ve ever called home. Gardner promised repeatedly to help pass legislation to protect DACA recipients. So far that promise has rung hollow.
Gardner led the charge to pass the largest handout to the Republican wealthy donor class in history, in the form of the 2017 Trump Tax Cuts which overwhelmingly benefitted big corporations and the ultra-wealthy at the expense of Colorado’s middle class. Coming immediately after failing to fully dismantle the ACA, Gardner told fellow Republican senators behind closed doors that “donors are furious. We haven’t kept our promise.” The Koch Brothers demanded a repeal of the ACA or a huge tax cut. Gardner did his best to deliver them both.
Gardner spent the last two years in charge of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the arm of the Republican National Committee responsible for keeping one of America’s least-beloved politicians, Mitch McConnell in power as Senate majority leader — ensuring the U.S. Senate remains an accountability-free-zone for Donald Trump. The amount of cash that the NRSC raised during the 2018 cycle was an astounding, record-breaking $149 million, paid by the very same corporations and preposterously wealthy individuals who cashed in on the Trump Tax Cuts.
One of Gardner’s few promises to Coloradans that I personally supported, reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), was stonewalled in 2018 by fellow Republicans — once again proving that even though Gardner had thrown-in with leadership 100 percent, he is completely unable to persuade his own to do anything useful.
Finally, there’s Brett Kavanaugh. He likes beer.
With regard to Trump, Gardner has refused to answer whether or not he’ll support bipartisan legislation to protect the Mueller investigation, dodging the question an agonizing four times in a row when asked point-blank by Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet The Press. With Mueller rapidly closing in on the international criminal enterprise also known as the Trump Organization/Campaign/Foundation/Administration, the walls are closing in on Cory Gardner too. Former Congressman Mike Coffman tried to have it both ways on Trump, too. The 20-point swing from 2016-2018 in Coffman’s former Congressional District Six, a microcosm of Colorado’s political landscape as a whole, shows that strategy is a loser.
Cory Gardner said he ran to “shake up the Senate.” Instead, it was a shakedown. Gardner knows he can’t win without his Republican base, so despite a temporary headline-grab pretending that he wasn’t with Trump on the wall for 10 minutes, he has now fallen in line behind the president — sealing his fate, and leaving him caught between a wall and (i’m very sorry for this one) a hairpiece.
At long last, Donald Trump finally became the kind of candidate that Cory Gardner can get behind.
Ian Silverii is the director of ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest progressive advocacy group. Silverii writes a bi-monthly column for The Denver Post, which is re-published here.