Silencing the Minority by Taking Control
“Lord, knows they all just wanna have total control.
Wanna know what you think.
Wanna know what you do.
And they don’t think you know but I know that you do.”
From “Rich Men North of Richmond” by Oliver Anthony
Oliver Anthony’s song, “Rich Men North of Richmond,” went viral a few months ago because it hit a nerve in the country much like the war protest anthems of the late 1960s did. But instead of resonating with the youth culture, it struck home for those who understand what America was fighting against all throughout the last century – socialism, communism, fascism – dictatorial governments that have insatiable appetite to control everything. The state of Colorado is marching along this track of control with a full-on campaign to silence any opposition to Governor Polis’ agenda to fundamentally transform Colorado.
This article is the first in a series that will lay out the draconian measures the Democrat majority in the House used in the last legislative session to avoid and manage the debate on controversial issues including abortion, gun control, climate change, justice, land use, and property taxes. Republican representatives in the minority were silenced, chastised, and given lessons in word usage. The people, too, were fair game for those pushing bigger government control over every area of our lives.
Lost Opportunity for Discourse
On March 25th, during a rare Saturday call of the House, the majority leadership in the House pulled out a rule that no one seems to recall when the last time it was used. Rule 14, if passed by a simple majority of the members, can limit debate to no less than one hour. At 6 PM that evening, after listening to the minority expose issue after issue with the bill (SB23-170 Extreme Risk Protection Order Petitions) brought by the majority to expand the list of those who could petition the court to remove your guns, Rule 14 was pulled out to stop debate. Not wanting to hear the arguments against SB23-168 Gun Violence Victims Access to Judicial System either, all but one Democrat voted to limit any conversation on the bill to one hour. Despite their habit being not to engage in debate with the minority, the Democrats proceeded to speak for most of the allotted time.
Near the end of the debate in the House for SB23-170, just before it was cut short by Rule 14, Representative Luck summed up the minority’s frustration over being shut out of the lawmaking process by stating, “We could and should have had an opportunity to go through all of these different sections, and yet, we weren’t able to unfortunately. We weren’t able to have that conversation which is unfortunate because while some might see the conversation as time wasting, as interrupting of schedules, some of us believe that we were engaging in principled dialogue, in discourse. The thing that we are supposed to be doing – vetting policy.”
During the 2022 legislative session, Representative Luck was one of the minority members who led the charge against the most extreme abortion bills in the country, HB22-1279 Reproductive Health Equity Act, which made abortion a fundamental right in Colorado. The debate on that bill lasted for twenty-four hours. As that debate winded down, some in attendance have suggested that the discourse was having an impact on of the hearts and minds of a few of the proponents.
Could it be that the majority was concerned the rhetoric presented might break through their armor or was it just about ramming through all the bills that fuel their agenda to transform Colorado?
A Pastor’s Response
After the invoking of Rule 14 for the first time of the session, Representative Bottoms – who also serves as a pastor of a church in Colorado Springs – asks for a time of personal privilege to respond to the situation. It’s Sunday morning and he should be in his church preaching, but instead he’s laying out truth to the members of the House. These words are taken from his speech:
This is an aggressive, immoral attack on the rights and freedoms of all citizens of Colorado, Democrat & Republicans. This is extremely disappointing but this is what liberalism is. This is how liberalism deals with opposition. This is how liberal leadership handles conflict. This is fascism in every sense of the word. Webster’s dictionary of the word fascism: political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race – which we see done often here – above the individual and that stands for a centralized, autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader. Severe economic and social regimentation – that’s what we see every day in this chamber – and forcible suppression of opposition – that’s what Rule 14 is accomplishing.
Let me read this again. Forcible suppression of opposition. You don’t like what you hear so you shut down the debate and the discussion. Every single part of this definition is being realized right now, today, on this floor by this craziness of using Rule 14 completely out of context and out of the reason it was designed and developed.
All the majority party had to do was to sit and listen. Didn’t have to say anything. Didn’t have to agree. Didn’t have to do anything. All that the majority party had to do was sit and listen until the minority party – a very small minority – ran out of steam. That’s all the majority party has to do. You’re still going to get your bills, you’re still going to get every single thing done that you want done because you’re the super majority.
All you had to do was listen. You had to listen to our Republican issues. Things like God being in control of life, murdering babies, second amendment freedoms, liberty, economic equality, pursuit of happiness, not killing drug addicts, not attacking people because their skin color isn’t the same as yours, not attacking people because they have a moral compass and direction. All you had to do was sit and listen. But you can’t do that because listening to God, truth, righteousness, and freedom actually hurts the souls of those who are not in favor of those mentalities.
The Speaker’s Lament
The next day, Speaker McCluskie apologizes for allowing Representative Bottoms to have a moment of personal privilege. Here are some of her comments:
The remarks from the representative from El Paso County yesterday morning were an abuse of that privilege. They were inappropriate and unbecoming of this institution under any circumstance. We do not call members fascist. We do not comment what is in one another’s souls. We do not use religion to condemn one another. And we do not call others ungodly.
I want to express my sorrow for the pain caused yesterday to the members of this body, to our public, and to our staff. For the Democrats, the Republicans, and everyone who works here. I now fear for the safety of our members and I despair for the damage inflicted on this institution. In my respect for our rules, our first amendment rights, in a moment of allowing space for personal privilege, I failed to recognize that hate is still hate, and hate never belongs in this chamber. I regret allowing the representative from El Paso County to abuse the moment of privilege and I apologize to the members of this body for not gaveling down remarks that were so clearly disrespectful of this institution and the lawmakers who serve here.
Notice that Pastor Bottoms’ comments were called hateful and the Speaker fears for the members’ safety. Clearly expressed through this exchange is the belief that when you express a viewpoint different from their own, especially when that viewpoint speaks about their control tactics in harsh terms, you are putting them in danger.
The Speaker went on to say that, “House Rule 14 is not a weapon; it is not a threat to democracy.” The rule was used to stop the opposition from speaking truth into error. If you don’t call that a weapon, what would you call it? We are not a democracy. We are a Republic! Silencing my representative and keeping him from representing my voice in the lawmaking process is a threat to the Republic.
“Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error.” Thomas Jefferson