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Opinion: Did Ken Buck resign early just to make things harder for Lauren Boebert?

Colorado’s enigmatic representative, Ken Buck, has again defied expectations, announcing his early retirement from Congress with a parting shot on CNN — “I think this place is dysfunctional … instead of having decorum, instead of operating in a professional manner, this place has just devolved into this bickering and nonsense and not really doing the job for the American people.”

Buck’s early departure at first blush seems carefully calculated to keep Lauren Boebert from becoming his successor in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District on the eastern plains. She landed in the district as a carpetbagger after almost losing to a Democrat in Colorado’s 3rd District on the Western Slope two years ago.

The evidence of such motive would be Buck’s criticism of election deniers — of which Boebert is most assuredly one — and this tweet after the 2022 State of the Union calling Boebert a “joker” after she heckled President Joe Biden:

Whether this truly is a blow to Boebert depends on what voters in CD4 make of the confusing ballots they will receive on June 25 for both the Republican primary and a general special election. Boebert has said she won’t seek the nomination of the CD4 Republican Central Committee to appear on the ballot for the special election, but she is still in the running for the primary. Who the Republican Central Committee selects will likely get a bump in the primary as his or her name will appear alone with a Democrat for the special election. Would voters be predisposed to vote for the same Republican candidate on both for the sake of continuity? Maybe. In a way it’s almost like having a Central Committee endorsement get sent out with the primary ballots.

So, did Buck leave just to make things harder for Boebert? Far more likely is that this is one of Buck’s classic moves of “protest.” Much like when he supported the first ouster of a sitting speaker of the House, Buck’s decision to resign early is purely a wrench in the gears of a system he has railed against since first taking office and writing a tell-all book “Drain the Swamp,” exposing the dirty side of perpetual fundraising and glad-handing by representatives.

Buck’s protest votes often come with high-minded words but, ironically, sometimes work in the opposite direction he intends.

When he voted to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, he said it was because McCarthy cut deals with Democrats that increased the unsustainable deficit in this country. That vote, however, helped put in power someone in cahoots with President Donald Trump, who was part of the scheme to keep Trump in office after he lost the 2020 election. Buck had previously said he would not support an election denier for the role … but here we are, several months into Speaker Mike Johnson’s rule.

Buck voted against the impeachments of Trump — even as he condemned Jan. 6 and called for justice against the Capitol’s attackers — because “This botched impeachment only fans the flames of an already out of control fire. Furthermore, we must open an investigation and hold congressional hearings to determine culpability.”

But where was Buck during the hearings run by Rep. Liz Cheney? He said leadership didn’t want him on the committee. And sure, he opposed the vote to oust her from leadership within the House, but he testified against her diligent work on the Jan. 6 Committee during the Colorado trial to label Trump as an insurrectionist unqualified to be president.

“It didn’t seem to me that the process was set up in a way that would elicit the whole truth in those hearings,” Buck said in court, giving credence to Trump’s lawyers as they attempted to discredit the damning report.

Does Buck believe what’s in the report or doesn’t he?

He believes it. He released a video in early November when he announced he would not seek re-election to a sixth term, calling out Republicans who were attempting to undermine the convictions of Jan. 6 attackers.

“Republican leaders are lying to America, claiming that the 2020 election was stolen, describing January 6 as an unguided tour of the Capitol, and asserting that the ensuing prosecutions are a weaponization of our justice system … These insidious narratives breed widespread cynicism and erode Americans confidence in the rule of law,” he said in the video.

Confused yet?

Buck railed against the ridiculous attempt to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, calling it an abuse of procedural processes over policy, not impeachable offenses, but then turned around and introduced a resolution calling for Biden’s cabinet to remove him using the 25th Amendment based on the report by Special Counsel Robert Hur questioning Biden’s mental fitness.

So, how will the history books classify U.S. Rep. Ken Buck? Is he more like Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney, speaking truth to power as he fights back against Donald Trump’s big lie? Or is he more like Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell, blowing whichever way the winds of Trump’s fortunes seem to be faring with a shameless lack of principle and fortitude?

I do think Buck is trying to do the right thing. He’s vacillating between worlds where he is gravely concerned about the possibility of America’s collapse under $33 trillion of debt and where he fears America’s collapse under Trump’s ongoing assault on our republic, our democracy and our Constitution.

Wherever he lands after his resignation, I hope he’ll continue to use his voice to sound warning bells about the fiscal cliff America is rapidly rushing toward and the grave threat Trump’s brand of extremism poses to this country.

It’ll be easier to do both simultaneously while not worried about re-election.

Megan Schrader is the editor of The Denver Post opinion pages.

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