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, November 3, 2009

Collapse of Tim Eyman's Initiative 1033 proves that teabaggers are just a fringe

"Let’s make Initiative 1033’s vote in November the ultimate tea party."

- Tim Eyman, April 15th, 2009

Tim Eyman's most destructive initiative yet has met a fitting fate.

Voters across Washington State - from Clallam County to Asotin County - are overwhelmingly rejecting the Mukilteo watch salesman's latest scam by a collective total of 55% to 45% as of this hour, a margin that will likely only become more impressive in the coming days as additional ballots are counted.

The defeat of Initiative 1033 is more than just a landmark victory; it's unprecedented. Tim Eyman has never been beaten at the ballot in an odd numbered year. He's never been defeated at the ballot consecutively. He's never lost when he's qualified an initiative that purported to lower people's taxes.

And that's because, for the first part of this decade, he was able to seize power in a vacuum. Without determined, year-round opposition (like the kind Permanent Defense provides) he seized control of the debate and dominated the discourse. Back then, few elected leaders were willing to stand up to him. (The exceptions? Mark Sidran, Ron Sims, Dwight Pelz, and Adam Kline, to name a few).

Even fewer in the traiditonal media challenged Eyman. Newspaper editors repeatedly reprinted his recycled ramblings on their op-ed pages. Television reporters showed up with their cameras to film him in costume. Radio hosts allowed him to speak uninterrupted at length on their shows without rebuttal, or without an opponent who could effectively reframe and refocus the discussion.

Several times, Eyman was able to convince a gullible public to buy into his ideas. But his successes came at a price. As the years went by and Eyman kept bad ideas rolling out of his initiative factory, more and more Washingtonians began to sense that perhaps this was a man who didn't have the public interest at heart.

In other words, Eyman himself has become toxic over time.

Of Eyman's last three successful measures, that qualified for the ballot and then passed, only one made it across the finish line comfortably. The other two, Initiatives 776 and 960, squeaked through rather narrowly.

Now Eyman has been beaten decisively - on the ballot - two years running. And his Failure Chart has a new entry: Initiative 1033.

Eyman has repeatedly said in the past that his measures are not about him. But in actuality, they are. His measures don't help people and they don't improve our quality of life. Rather, they aim to forestall investments, interfere with our democratic traditions, and cause trouble for elected officials. They are promoted with all the mischevious glee of a class clown who has no interest in learning.

Eyman keeps running initiatives because he likes attention. He gets paid handsomely by Michael Dunmire to seek people's attention.

And he's become so skilled at media manipulation that he arrogantly believes he doesn't need to do any real work to sell his horrible ideas. He has always expected them to sell themselves after qualifying for the ballot. That's why, every year since the summer of 2003, he has spent six months asking his remaining followers to donate to his personal compensation fund.

Earlier this year, Eyman figured he could latch on to the Fox Noise-sponsored teabagger "movement" as a source for funds and signatures. He showed up at "tea party" events on April 15th to deliver anti-government tirades to a motley crowd of extreme libertarians and conservatives who are against things. (I say things because it's not always clear what they're against). And he later boasted that the "tea parties" provided huge momentum for his initiative.

Eyman wrongly believes that he speaks for the people of Washington State. Or he pretends to, anyway. It's evident in the way he talks. When he introduces an initiative, he claims it will be "wildly popular" even before he starts a signature drive. After he qualifies a measure, he boldly predicts its passage, and then proceeds to start whining when business executives and labor unions donate heavily to defeat him. He sneers that big money can't stop him from winning but then turns around and claims that he lost because he was outspent.

That's how Eyman operates. He's shifty, dishonest, and ego-centric. Just as he is unconcerned with the consequences of his initiatives, he has been unconcerned with the consequences of his unethical and immoral behavior.

Now he is reaping what he has sown. Finally.

Eyman has managed to stretch fifteen minutes of fame into a decade of fame. But he is no longer the force he once was. People across Washington are sick and tired of his unchecked swagger and his me-first initiatives.

Anyone who phonebanked against Initiative 1033 knows this. Many people wouldn't let us get any further than "This is Tim Eyman's latest initiative." They didn't want to hear the arguments against. All they cared about was that Eyman was behind it. That was enough for them to be adamantly opposed.

Nothing felt more heartening in recent weeks then witnessing fatigued activists summon the strength to help make the NO on I-1033 field effort one of the most successful in the history of Washington ballot measures.

The coalition and its field staff (especially Mindie and Sierra) deserve kudos for pulling so many together so late in the campaign.

We proved something amazing: that even though we didn't get going until really late, we had the endurance and the tenacity to overcome all of our disadvantages.

This victory belongs to an incredible number of people. It is a privilege to have met so many fellow Washingtonians during this campaign who share the same passion for keeping our state a great place to live, work, and play.

This victory does not mean an end to Tim Eyman. He and his teabagger friends are just a fringe, but they are a dangerous and loud fringe. So long as Michael Dunmire is able and willing to underwrite Eyman's signature drives, he will be able to buy his way onto the ballot. But he won't be unopposed. We are committed to maintaing a permanent defense against him until he is out of business for good.


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