Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Jay Inslee on Lamont, the Blogosphere, and the Minimum Wage bill

A couple of weeks back, on August 9th, I had the opportunity to interview Jay Inslee briefly at a fund-raiser held on behalf of Rodney Tom.

Jay Inslee and Rodney TomI'm sure most of our readers don't need me to tell them that Jay is our state's 1st district representative. Rodney Tom, however, is a less well known fellow. He's running for the State Senate in Washington's 48th district, which is my neck of the woods.

I have an interview of him from that same event, which I will post tomorrow.

Jay is always good to talk to, and this was no exception. He let me grill him on what Lamont-vs-Lieberman means - recall, this interview happened the day after Lamont's victory in Connecticut - so I was naturally curious to hear Jay's take on it, from his perspective inside the beltway.

He also had some great comments on the blogosphere and the value of sites like NPI, Daily Kos, Atrios, etc., in the modern political dialogue, and a great sound-bite about the recent minimum wage bill.

Below is the transcript, or if you're a fan of audio clips, you can listen here. In the transcript, "JB" is me, "JI" is Representative Inslee.

JB: First question I have to ask, obviously yesterday was Tuesday, so, Lieberman vs. Lamont?

JI: I predicted that was going to be the result and I think it showed where the heart of the Party is right now. And I think that, you know, we clearly have a need that was well expressed in Connecticut to stand up to George Bush. It's just very clear that Connecticut Democrats didn't believe they had a candidate who was doing that.

It's a fundamental defining event of our time: whether we're going to be a check-and-balance to the President. And the incumbent wasn't cutting the mustard doing it. And the voters spoke. And it is a significant event. Incumbent senators do not get beat that much.

JB: No, not very [much].

JI: It's a very unique thing.

JB: Do you see any long-term change coming to the party establishment as a result of this?

JI: I've got to tell you, if you haven't figured out that the heart of the Democratic party demands people with backbone to stand up to George Bush - if you haven't figured that out already, it shouldn't take the loss of a Senate seat in a Democratic primary to show you that. That should be obvious [from] talking to Democrats. And people in the street.

And it's not just Democrats either; people demand restoration of Democracy in D.C. And I look at this not so much as either a Republican or a Democratic issue, but [as] restoration of our basic checks and balances system. And if you haven't understood why that's imperative, I don't know what it will take. Except a sledgehammer.

JB: Well, it's great to hear you say that. So, living in the 8th District, I don't get a lot of 1st District news these days, you know, since they moved the line past my house a few years back. So how's your campaign going?

JI: It's going well. I have an opponent, who has filed, so we're going to have a race. And, you know, [I'll] go pedal-to-the-metal just like I always do. But I'm helping a lot of candidates. I'm helping Darcy Burner, I've helped Peter Goldmark, I'm helping all the Democrats around the country. I'm helping a candidate in Iowa, I'm helping one in Virgina. So I'm helping people everywhere around the country that I can help out. This is a great year to be involved. This is the year to go to the barricades. I've been in politics now since 1988, and there's ten times more at stake this year than there has been in the past.

JB: So to what degree are you engaging the netroots [activists]? Like the Northwest Progressive [Institute], and DailyKos, and HorsesAss, and other blog sites like that?

JI: Well, you know, I'm an avid reader. You know, I try to contribute when there's a vacuum to fill. I don't feel a need to dominate the space, you know, because politicans have their own niche, and I think people ought to have access to the blogs not dominated by politicians.

But I'll contribute when I think there's sort of a vacuum. But they're very valuable to my thinking and to understand what people are thinking. And I read them every single day, and they're just a tremendous tool of democracy. It's been a great thing to develop because it's "distributed democracy." The more you have multiple centers of influence, the more democracy will work.

JB: Which blogs do you read constantly? Or regularly?

JI: DailyKos, I read HorsesAss, I read Atrios' Echaton every day, you know. I read Huffington Post, but I'll also read the New York Times, and the Washington Post, and the Seattle Times and the Seattle PI. So, you know, I'm not a - I'm an eclectic.

JB: It's been interesting to see the blogs doing better journalism than the [New York] Times lately.

JI: That has happened. And it certainly happened in the Iraq war, where the mainstream [traditional is a better word] press really did abdicate its responsibility to question the administration. And I think that's one reason people have turned to blogs. Because they recognize the [bloggers'] willingness to challenge some of those conventional truths.

JB: So when January comes around, and you get to help elect a new speaker of the House, what's the first piece of legislation that you want to put forth?

JI: Well my personal preference is to put up the new Apollo Energy Project, to passage, which is the project I'm working on to create a new energy economy for the country. I think if you look at all of the issues, that is the most fundamental for a variety of issues. It's a trifecta.

It deals with our national security issues, breaks our addiction to Middle Eastern oil, not be wrapped up in wars in the Middle East for oil, or associated with oil. It solves global warming, which is going to eat us alive if we don't act, and it creates new jobs in this country. So it's a trifecta. It just touches a lot of our concerns.

JB: Well and I'm glad you're working to get Peter Goldmark elected. He just knows that stuff inside and out.

JI: He's a plant geneticist who understands enzymes, and cellulosic ethanol... [laughs] He's on top of it.

JB: So what's Washington State's biggest problem right now that you, in the other Washington, can help do something about?

JI: Electing some more Democrats to the Congress from the State of Washington. That's our fundamental need right now, to move the country. What are our local issues, I mean, there's no secret that they're education, transportation, and helth care. Those are the biggest three. And we have a host of environmental challenges. So I'm not sure I can pick one, but to do something nationally we have to get some poeple elected who will change the country. And we have a good chance to do that.

JB: OK, so in your opinion, does the neoconservatives' pattern of action amount to class warfare against middle and lower-income Americans?

JI: This is in a sense class warfare, and they've been winning. Unfortnately. And as a result we're seeing a further stratification of society. You really could not design a more perfect window into the soul of the other side than the bill that passed last week.

JB: Which one was that?

JI: The effort to gut the minimum wage.

JB: Oh sure, yeah.

JI: Gut the ability to provide health care and education for Americans, because in the same day - in the same bill! - they gave people with estates of $100 million twenty million dollar tax relief, and cut waiters and waitresses, servers, minimum wage from $7.63 to $2.13. Now that is quite a feat of gluttony and greed, to do that in the same bill. To identify the venality and avarice of these people - to deny the people serving them food, cutting their wages five dollars an hour - while giving $20 million tax relief to certain estates.

That could only be designed in Hollywood to demonstrate how greedy these people are. So yeah. And that's a disrespect for work. These people disrespect work. And workers. And I was very angry on the floor - I gave a speech on the floor, I don't know if you knew about this - I called them out on it. I sort of called these Republicans out. I said if you want to come down to defend - I said I challenge anybody to come to the floor to defend cutting the minimum wage.

I challenge anybody to do that. Nobody would do it. They'll put it in a bill, but they were ashamed to do anything [on the floor] about it. Dave Reichert, with all due respect, voted to cut the minimum wage then claimed he didn't know it was in the bill.

JB: Yeah, what a surprise.

JI: Yeah, what a surprise. Well, I gave a speech on it. I guess he wasn't watching the floor.

JB: Well, Jay Inslee, thank you for talking with us.

JI: Thank you. I'll see you out on the dance floor.

JB: Absolutely!

Note: that last is a reference to the fact that I am part-owner in a ballroom dance studio in Redmond, where I keep threatening to make Jay and his wife take lessons!

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