NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Statehouse goes into lockdown; Gregoire trying to shut out protestors?

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.

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