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More Proof the West Is A Heckuva Lot More Colorful Than Red vs. Blue

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From the Rocky Mountain West's Department of Shifting Politics comes dispatches out of Boise and Ft. Collins that show, once again, how fractured the old Republican coalition has become, and how many opportunities there are for Democrats - if they can shake off their Wall Street wing and embrace their populist roots.

Following news that extreme right-wing conservative Gov. Butch Otter (R-ID) is pushing a $200 million tax increase to improve his state's public infrastructure, the Idaho Statesman reports that the even more right-wing Idaho Values Alliance is attacking Otter in its latest statewide bulletin for "meekly surrender[ing]" on the issue. This is happening at the same time Idahoans for Tax Reform - part of Grover Norquist's corporate-funded anti-tax empire - is trumpeting a story on the front of its website about a group of Republicans filing a lawsuit to "force Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa to restrict Idaho's GOP primary elections to Republicans only." The Statesman's Kevin Richert says the group filing the lawsuit is ""not just trying to protect what they consider their constitutionally protected right to free assembly...They're trying to chase out the dreaded 'RINO' � the Republican In Name Only, the conservatives' snide term for office-holders they just don't consider Republican enough."

Meanwhile, the Ft. Collins Coloradoan reports that Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), one of the most conservative lawmakers in Congress, is joining with progressives to oppose the Army's plans to expand the 236,000-acre Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado. The most interesting part of the story is not Musgrave's sudden embrace of Democrats - a transparently political calculation clearly motivated by her fear of being tossed out of office in 2008 after narrowly surviving in 2006. What's important here is the prevalence of what I call Land Politics. Musgrave's stance puts her in a high-profile conflict with the Army - a split with the military that may make some base GOP voters uncomfortable, to say the least. Yet, to justify her position, Musgrave isn't citing moderation - she's citing her conservatism and an appeal to some of those same base GOP voters. The Coloradoan notes that her position stems from what she perceives as a "threat of eminent domain to seize ranchers' private property rights."

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David Sirota is a full-time political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He blogs for Working Assets and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. He is a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. His 2006 book, Hostile Takeover, was a New York Times bestseller, and is now out in paperback. He has been a guest on, among others, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR. His writing, which draws on his (more...)

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