What the political upheaval in Colorado and the West means for the US 2023

Kevin Priola was a Republican prior to his eligibility to vote.

At age 17, inspired by Ronald Reagan, he preregistered with the Republican Party. A real act of faith in this liberal bastion, he joined the College Republicans at the University of Colorado in Boulder and was elected to the legislature in 2008, where he has remained ever since.

Colorado and West’s political transition and the US

Priola began to view the Republican Party as more dictatorial than conservative, and he converted to the Democratic Party in August of last year.

“I couldn’t tolerate it,” Priola said of his former political party, “and link myself with that political style and brand.”

He is not alone.

In the last two decades, the number of registered Republicans in Colorado has plummeted to less than a quarter, as the once solidly red state has become a distinct shade of blue.

The transition is part of a greater political movement throughout the Western United States: down the Pacific Coast, through the deserts of Nevada and Arizona, and into the Rocky Mountain states of Colorado and New Mexico. Formerly a Republican bastion, the region is now a Democratic stronghold. This, in turn, has changed national presidential politics.

With a substantial portion of the West — California, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington — presumably wrapped up, Democrats are free to concentrate more on the perennial battlegrounds of the Midwest and enter once-solidly Republican states like Georgia.

What the changes in Colorado and the West mean for the rest of the US

In the next months, I will go to many of these western states to investigate the dynamics that reshaped the political map.

The alterations did not occur naturally, like the snow that blankets the Rockies in winter or the runoff that causes Colorado’s frigid rivers to surge in the spring. It required money, strategy, demographic shifts, and, last but not least, a strong shift to the right by Republicans.

The series, titled “The New West,” opens with Colorado because no other state in the area has shifted its party hue as dramatically over the past decade. From a Western swing state to a Democratic stronghold, according to pollster Floyd Ciruli, who has conducted opinion surveys in Colorado for more than four decades.

In 2004, Democrats effectively lost up and wrote off Colorado; since then, Republicans have won every presidential election there. In 2020, Joseph Biden defeated President Donald Trump by 13 points, the highest Democratic victory in this state in almost half a century.

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