Election 2022

Jared Polis' Success Shows That Democrats Can Win Without Embracing Big Government

Jared Polis cruised to reelection this Tuesday on a platform that included reducing the state's income tax and giving "more freedom" to Coloradans.


Colorado has resoundingly voted to reelect Governor Jared Polis—a Democrat with strong libertarian leanings and a proven track record in supporting issues from school choice to eliminating the state's income tax.

Jared Polis—once called "the most libertarian governor in America" by Reason's Nick Gillespie—was reelected by Colorado voters by a wide margin, maintaining a 16-point lead on his Republican opponent as of Thursday morning. Polis' decisive victory indicates the broad popularity of Polis' left-libertarian leanings, in a time when many Democrats are increasingly calling for increased state power to solve political problems. Polis' embrace of policies that seeks to give "more freedom" to Coloradans shows that a turn away from authoritarianism may be a bankable strategy among the left.

Jared Polis was first elected Colorado Governor in 2018, after serving five terms representing Colorado's 2nd district in Congress, where he was the only Democratic member of the Liberty Caucus. Since 2018, Polis has remained highly popular in Colorado, with polices like universal kindergarten and early loosening of COVID-19 restrictions receiving particular support among constituents. Polis has also voiced strong support for lessening or entirely removing the state's income tax, telling one audience in 2021 that the Colorado state income tax "should be zero."

While Colorado was once considered a solid swing state, Polis' continued success as governor, as well as the state's other electoral outcomes, have entrenched the state's Democratic leanings. However, Polis' popularity shows that Democrats can receive solid victories without relying on the increasing technocratic impulses of the party as a whole. While other Democrats—and increasingly Republicans as well—turn to government to solve problems, Polis has found success by wanting to reduce government power.

"The fact is we did something simple," Polis said during his victory speech on Tuesday night. "We focused on issues that really affect people's lives and we delivered real results. We focused on lowering costs and more freedom. We led with rational data-driven COVID policies that supported personal freedom and responsibility and resulted in Colorado having the ninth-lowest COVID death rate in the entire nation."

Polis stands out from many other Democratic politicians—but it's a strategy that's only made him more popular. While other Democratic governors were enacting strict COVID-19 regulations, Polis lifted mask mandates. While other Democrats scoffed at school choice, Polis, the founded of two charter schools, praised polices that increase educational choice. While other Democrats called for wealth taxes, Polis called on an end to Colorado's income tax.

"I respect freedom," Polis told Reason in July 2022. "It's great because you're free to be the way you want. That's the way it should be."

While the Democratic party—not to mention American politics as a whole—is trending towards embracing government control, Jared Polis offers a rare story of a politician that wants to reduce state power. His success offers evidence that an alternative approach, one where Democrats embrace rather than attack personal liberty, can be a wildly successful strategy.