Today, we at NPI cel­e­brate a mile­stone like no oth­er in our his­to­ry to date: the ten year anniver­sary of the found­ing of Per­ma­nent Defense, NPI’s old­est project.

Ten Years of Permanent DefenseFor a decade, Per­ma­nent Defense has stood as a bul­wark against Tim Eyman’s ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry, respond­ing to anti-gov­ern­ment pro­pa­gan­da, refram­ing the debate around tax­es, push­ing for direct democ­ra­cy reform, and help­ing mobi­lize cam­paigns against harm­ful right wing bal­lot mea­sures. At times, the work has seemed thank­less and tiring.

But it has been worth it.

Before Per­ma­nent Defense was found­ed, Tim Eyman was get­ting an ini­tia­tive past the vot­ers every sin­gle year. Most of those ini­tia­tives (I‑695, I‑722, I‑747) were lat­er declared to be uncon­sti­tu­tion­al by the courts.

Sad­ly, those rul­ings unfor­tu­nate­ly did­n’t put Eyman’s ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry out of busi­ness. He seemed unstop­pable. Even strate­gists who had worked against Eyman came to think of his duplic­i­tous ini­tia­tives as unbeatable.

How­ev­er, I nev­er saw it that way.

If that had been my mind­set, I would have stayed a pas­sivist… some­one who sits and watch­es from the side­lines. Instead, I became an activist. After an eye-open­ing con­ver­sa­tion with two friends, I real­ized I had to do some­thing. I found­ed Per­ma­nent Defense because it was evi­dent to me that Tim Eyman need­ed oppo­si­tion that was as deter­mined to pro­tect Wash­ing­ton as he was to wreck it.

I believe that deter­mi­na­tion counts for a lot. What the mind can con­ceive and believe, it can achieve. I con­sid­er myself extreme­ly for­tu­nate to be able to work with peo­ple who share that can-do spir­it: Rick, Kath­leen, Ken, Patrick, Steve, Eve, Grace, Gael, Ralph, Rob, Steve, and Robert, plus NPI’s dozens of alumni.

And our thou­sands of donors and sup­port­ers — you know who you are!

Since Per­ma­nent Defense start­ed pro­vid­ing Tim Eyman with much-need­ed oppo­si­tion back in 2002, Eyman has had no con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries. Think about that for a moment. For sev­er­al years run­ning, Eyman had been enjoy­ing suc­cess at the bal­lot. Even after he admit­ted pock­et­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars of his own sup­port­ers’ mon­ey, he still man­aged to qual­i­fy I‑776 (which was sup­posed to kill Sound Tran­sit’s Cen­tral Link light rail), and it passed nar­row­ly, despite our efforts to defeat it. But that was the end of Eyman’s win­ning streak.

Per­haps the most impor­tant thing we’ve accom­plished these past ten years is to prove that Tim Eyman can be stopped. We believe that an over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans want gov­ern­ment to be made bet­ter and more effec­tive at every level…state, coun­ty, city, port, school dis­trict.… not bro­ken. When we help Wash­ing­to­ni­ans under­stand the cost and con­se­quences of a right wing ini­tia­tive, most will vote no. But that takes work. And no one is going to do that work for us. Those of us who care about Wash­ing­ton’s future have to do it.

Of course, Eyman has not ceased to be a threat, even after his win­ning streak was bro­ken. He has kept his ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry going.

But we have kept Per­ma­nent Defense going, too. Per­ma­nent Defense tru­ly is a per­ma­nent defense. It’s also Wash­ing­ton’s first line of defense against Tim Eyman’s ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry, pro­vid­ing the only active, vis­i­ble oppo­si­tion to Eyman year-round. Per­ma­nent Defense does­n’t have an off-sea­son; it’s not a campaign.

Per­ma­nent Defense has opposed each and every one of the ini­tia­tives Tim Eyman has spon­sored since its found­ing, includ­ing I‑776, I‑267, I‑807, I‑684, I‑892, I‑900, I‑917, I‑960, I‑985, I‑1033, I‑1053, and I‑1125. (That’s a pret­ty long list!)

Per­ma­nent Defense also opposed Ref­er­en­dum 65, Eyman’s unsuc­cess­ful attempt to force a vote on the law that banned dis­crim­i­na­tion on the basis of sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion, and has fought sev­er­al oth­er destruc­tive right wing ini­tia­tives not spon­sored by Eyman, includ­ing I‑920, I‑933, I‑1082, I‑1100, I‑1105, and I‑1107.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Tim Eyman only needs to be suc­cess­ful every once in a while to remain rel­e­vant. In recent years, his ini­tia­tives have shift­ed more towards under­min­ing our plan of gov­ern­ment and attack­ing our com­mon wealth at its foun­da­tions. In oth­er words, Eyman’s ini­tia­tives have become more dan­ger­ous — the harm they cause can’t be sum­ma­rized on a price tag.

That makes our task hard­er, but not any less impor­tant. Wash­ing­ton is a present­ly at a cross­roads. For years, elect­ed lead­ers at every lev­el of gov­ern­ment have man­aged to spare many of our vital pub­lic ser­vices from evis­cer­a­tion by tap­ping reserves, rais­ing fares and fees, rolling back hours, impos­ing fur­lough days, freez­ing pub­lic work­ers’ pay, and employ­ing account­ing tricks.

But the days when we could back­fill our way out of a bud­get hole are at an end. Now we must decide what kind of state we want to live in.

Do we want to live in a state that abides by its Con­sti­tu­tion, which requires that our Leg­is­la­ture oper­ate demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly? Do we want to live in a state that pro­vides a safe­ty net for its most vul­ner­a­ble citizens?

Do we want to live in a state that cares for its youth, pro­vid­ing them with a good edu­ca­tion — includ­ing a col­lege education?

Do we want to live in a state that pro­tects its forests, farm­lands, water­sheds, estu­ar­ies, rivers, lakes, and coast for future gen­er­a­tions to enjoy? Do we want to live in a state that sup­ports and encour­ages peo­ple to start busi­ness­es here?

If the answer to those ques­tions is yes, then we have to take a stand. We can’t slash and burn our way to pros­per­i­ty. Fur­ther aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures — Tim Eyman’s pre­scrip­tion for Wash­ing­ton — will only weak­en our state, not strength­en it.

As Per­ma­nent Defense begins its eleventh year, we reded­i­cate our­selves to our mis­sion: build­ing a strong first line of defense against threats to Wash­ing­ton’s com­mon wealth. In our sec­ond decade, we will work to ensure that Tim Eyman’s I‑1053 is over­turned, and orga­nize ear­ly to build oppo­si­tion against any copy­cat mea­sures that Eyman tries to get past the vot­ers. We will improve our cit­i­zen intel­li­gence net­work so we can bet­ter track right wing sig­na­ture dri­ves. And we will step up our efforts to research and doc­u­ment the harm that has been caused by the pas­sage and imple­men­ta­tion of right wing ini­tia­tives dur­ing the 2000s.

Here’s to anoth­er decade of pro­tect­ing Washington!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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