Fellow activists who are at the Capitol in Olympia are telling NPI that General Administration has just put the statehouse — the people’s house — under lockdown, preventing anyone without a government-issued identification card from entering.
The lockdown has evidently been instigated so that Governor Gregoire and lawmakers can go about dismantling the people’s government in the people’s house with no people around. We don’t know on whose orders the General Administration is acting, but we suspect it’s Chris Gregoire’s office.
Gregoire has been the target of protests objecting to the cuts in services that she and lawmakers are proposing. Frustrated workers have been loudly telling state leaders for days to pursue a balanced approach to the budget crisis… to no avail.
Yesterday, many protesters decided to spend the night inside of the Legislative Building to make it clear they’re sick of being ignored. (The State Patrol considered arresting them, but decided against it). And today, a group of protesters tried to arrange a meeting with Gregoire. Sadly, they were rebuffed and forcibly escorted out of the governor’s office. The doors to the office were subsequently shut.
I can report that representatives of one of the SEIU locals are meeting with the governor as I write this (that’s what NPI has been told, anyway). No doubt they are telling Gregoire we can’t afford the cuts she is proposing, and no doubt Gregoire is throwing back the tired old canard that she doesn’t have any other choice.
Gregoire is wrong. There is always a choice.
What is more important? Protecting vital public services that we all rely and depend on, or simply making expenditures match existing revenues?
Obviously, it’s the former. But Gregoire and lawmakers seem to care only about the latter. If only they were determined to protect public services instead of trying to come up with a balanced budget, we might actually be seeing some creative responses to this budget crisis. Some progressive responses.
And when I say that, I don’t mean they should be looking at doing a lot of deficit spending. What I mean is that their mindset is wrong. Their priorities are out of whack. They’ve accepted the metaphorical jail that Tim Eyman, BP, ConocoPhillips, Shell, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo concocted and tricked voters into building (Initiative 1053). They act as if the 2010 midterms are the only election our state has ever had, or at least the only election that matters.
The reality is, voters contradict themselves in every election. It’s been happening for years. In 1999, while approving Tim Eyman’s I‑695, the voters of Snohomish County were reelecting Democrat Bob Drewel, who had campaigned vigorously against I‑695 and warned of the consequences. That’s just one example.
And last November, despite approving I‑1053 and I‑1107 (the initiative to roll back a temporary increase in soda taxes), voters loudly said no to three deregulation schemes proposed by the right wing: I‑1100, I‑1105, and I‑1082.
It is a mistake for the governor and lawmakers to conclude that voters want an all-cuts budget. People voted for I‑1053 and I‑1107 (and against I‑1098 and R‑52) because no serious attempt was made to explain the consequences to them. It’s completely unrealistic to expect that folks are going to vote responsibly when they’re in self-preservation mode. And that’s where people are.
What Gregoire should be doing is trying to help Washingtonians shake off the bunker mentality and understand we’re all in this together. She should be leading. As the state’s chief executive, it is her responsibility to show responsibility. But she is not. Instead, she has decided to enter Washington State in the Race to the Bottom™ (an event proudly cosponsored by the
Association of Washington Business League of Greedy Corporations).
She should not be surprised that working families have lost confidence in her.
Gregoire has unwittingly become a symbol of our state’s broken political establishment, which has been slowly running Washington into the ground by failing to solve countless structural dilemmas. The Great Recession has only exacerbated the mess by turning what were chronic problems into acute ones.
To be fair to Gregoire, many of our current challenges precede her. But she is in charge now, and she has no idea how to solve them, let alone alleviate or mitigate them. Joel Connelly asserted last week that her administration is out of gas. And it is. Gregoire has turned herself into a lame duck — not by waiting to announce whether she’ll seek a third term (she has no hope of winning one) — but by refusing to lead courageously and unconventionally.
Actions speak louder than words. When words are not backed up with action, they become meaningless. All of Gregoire’s talk about upholding real Washington values is just that — talk. We are sympathetic to the predicament she’s in, but we are not sympathetic to her acceptance of that predicament.
A real Democrat and a true progressive would say to herself…
You know, gutting vital public services at a time when people need those services goes against everything I believe in and makes no practical sense. Why should I surrender to Tim Eyman and his allies? Why should I let corporate lobbyists dictate my options? Forget it! I answer to the people of this state, not to them. I’m not going to let some unconstitutional initiative prevent me from acting to protect Washington’s common wealth. Our recovery depends on our common wealth. We can’t jeopardize that. I owe it to my constituents to show them that they erred in approving I‑1053. And I owe it to myself to stand up for my values.
People respond to strong, principled leadership. They respect it. It is the mark of authenticity. And authenticity matters in politics.
It matters more than just about anything else.
Perhaps Gregoire and her team are unable to appreciate this because they’ve been part of the system for so long. They are trapped in more ways than one.
While they figure out the best way to impose brutal cuts (and there is no best way), Washingtonians’ livelihoods are slipping away.
Democrats cannot hope to hold the governor’s mansion in 2012 by nominating somebody who holds a state-level office. Even the Democratic electorate is fed up and ready for change. The patience of the party faithful is wearing thin.
The party’s obvious choice to succeed Gregoire is Jay Inslee, who has represented the 1st Congressional District for more than ten years now.
If Inslee is smart, he will run against the system and against the establishment, and lay out a concrete plan for bringing about change.
New people and new ideas are desperately needed in the statehouse. Inslee has to show how he’s going to deliver change. He can’t just talk about it. He has to be specific and simple at the same time. It won’t be easy.
But he has an excellent track record as a member of Congress… a track record that will inspire the Democratic base to work energetically on his behalf.
His opposition will be tough. Rob McKenna has been preparing to run for governor for a long time, and, like Tim Eyman, he is a master of media manipulation in addition to being a well-spoken salesman. McKenna is much more amicable than Dino Rossi, the Republicans’ most recent standard-bearer. His name recognition and likability will make him hard to beat.
But if anyone can effectively take McKenna on, it’s Jay Inslee.
Inslee would be wise to make his intentions known soon — regardless of whether Gregoire graciously sets the stage for his announcement — so that he can give progressive activists something positive and productive to work for.
What’s being done in the people’s name on the shores of Capitol Lake these days is sapping morale and momentum. This isn’t Wisconsin, where the people with the chainsaws are Republicans. This is Washington, where Democrats have clung to power, yet failed to practice what they preach.