Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Political Desk: Enter, Ranting

Let us start of off with a bit of rant, which involves absolutely nothing that I can vote on this primary, but does cast a long shadow over the election.

Washington State is lucky in that it is dominated by the Democratic party, which means it tends to avoid the worst effects of the Banana Republic of Texas, the Plunderocracy of Wisconsin, or the Mad Max Kingdom of Florida. In each of these states a Republican majority has proceeded to dramatically drive the wealth and well-being of the state off a cliff. In state after state, letting the GOP drive the car has resulted in spectacular headlines, baffling decisions, lousy economies, and general misery.

Washington? Not so much. We are gifted with a sense of moderation, and even our Republican (in general) are of the relatively sane version (though we have those who are completely creatures of ALEC, they are in the minority). Similarly, we seem to be cautiously progressive at best, our Dems wary of wholesale social engineering and government activism. Part of it, I think, is the fact that a lot of power is placed within our legislature as opposed to our executive, and that legislature is a part-time operation.

So this year, something changed. A couple Democrats flipped in the State Senate, led by Rodney Tom, a Medina-based Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-SURPRISE! So their switch of caucuses, plus the re-acquisition of a GOP Senator who had been previously banned from caucusing for reported abuses gave the GOP a "Majority Coalition" - meaning all the Reps and the two Dems who changed sides.

OK, the Republican party gets to drive the Senate for a while. And while there have not been the almost-daily embarrassments you get with in other GOP-held provinces, their tenure has not been particularly stellar. The budget, the prime raison d'etre of the body, was a pale, tepid thing, delivered in overtime, threatening to shut down the state government, failing to address the biggest problem in the state (education funding), failing on transportation and, most importantly, walking away from a sweet deal to build a new bridge over the Columbia at Portland. Oregon wanted it, the Feds were willing to underwrite the bulk of it, but the Senate just brought it to a halt. I suppose we will have to wait for a truck to hit it wrong and bring the entire structure down before they react.

So the Republican-dominated coalition have yet again gone out of their way to show that government doesn't work by getting in charge and proving it. To paraphrase Groucho - "Just what the fine-tuned machinery of government needs - five feet of sand." And in keeping with the GOP, the leader of this "Majority Coalition" seems to be totally unaware that people are unhappy with their performance.

But that's not the rant - that's just whining. The rant comes up for the Dems. Now, you'd think that given the palace coup and the lack of progress from the resulting coalition, the State Democratic party would be fired up for the election to retake the Senate. Put on a full-court press. Recruit some decent candidates and push the State GOP on a broad front.

Again, not so much. There are only three elections in the primary that have three candidates for them, and of the nine people vying for State Senate positions, only one of them "Prefers Democratic Party"(1). Really? There are no Dems east of the Cascades? Has the Democratic hierarchy been so burned by Rodney Tom's flip that they won't seek out conservative, pro-small-business Dems on the far side of the mountains? Are they so comfortable with the bulk of the population (and the parts of the state that are recovering nicely from the recession) that they can cast loose the eastern half of the state? For the supposedly more big-tented of the two parties, it is sad to see such a surrender of territory and viewpoints (and yeah, the Reps do this electoral calculus as well - running as GOP is a challenge in Seattle, at best).

But, given the near-miss with shutting down the entire pinball machine this session, the Dems should be out in force to regain, and, properly chastised, lead. And this oddly has an effect some other races (which I also am not voting for, but which are going to affect my life.)

More later on that,

(1) Yeah, we don't have recognized political parties in the election, but rather candidate-stated "Preferences". Its more than a little bit dumb, but that's a rant for another day.