This weekend, presidential politics are taking center stage in the Pacific Northwest, thanks to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ visit to Seattle and Portland. Sanders is getting a lot of attention and coverage from our local mass media — more so than other presidential candidates have received on the occasions of their visits.
And there’s a good reason why: unlike the other 2016 hopefuls who have swung through the Pacific Northwest, Sanders didn’t come merely to make an ATM withdrawal at the home of a wealthy businessperson or celebrity. He’s been holding accessible, public events that don’t cost anything to attend, along with low-cost fundraisers that are affordable to grassroots supporters.
When a presidential candidate visits a state, it is common for the major political parties of that state to issue press releases commenting on the visit. The party the candidate belongs to usually rolls out the welcome mat, while the other party registers its disapproval. Such was the case with Bernie Sanders yesterday.
The Washington State Democratic Party had this to say about Bernie’s visit:
“Welcome, Senator Bernie Sanders, to Seattle and the great state of Washington,” said State Democratic Party Chair Jaxon Ravens. “Bernie Sanders is a strong voice for our progressive values. He speaks for many Washington Democrats who want a government that’s geared toward the priorities and values of the middle class, not the most powerful special interests. We have a lot of great candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination, and we look forward to all of the candidates coming out to campaign for Washington Democrats’ support.”
The Washington State Republican Party had this to say:
“It’s no surprise that the State Democratic Party welcomes Socialist Bernie Sanders,” said Washington State Republican Party Chair Susan Hutchison. “Nowadays, there is little difference between Democrats and Socialists. Whether it’s Kshama Sawant, Bernie Sanders, Jay Inslee, or Hillary Clinton, the Democrats only offer failed old policies. In Seattle, the Democrats and Socialists are working together to promote their far left extremist agenda. But throughout our state, people are increasingly attracted to the Republican alternative of growth and opportunity.”
Wow. This was the best that Susan Hutchison and her staff could come up with?
It was good for a laugh, if nothing else.
Take a moment to appreciate the irony of Susan Hutchison’s statement. The party that has endorsed Tim Eyman’s destructive, hostage-taking Initiative 1366 — which would cut state sales tax revenue by $8 billion over six years if the Legislature doesn’t pass an amendment sabotaging majority rule in our state for all time by next April — that party is calling the Washington State Democrats extreme.
(To be fair, there are distinguished leaders within the Republican Party who oppose I‑1366, and are helping with the campaign against it. We’re incredibly grateful to those Republican leaders for sticking their necks out and taking a moral, principled stand against an awful initiative. But the central committee of the Washington State Republican Party, who chose Susan Hutchison to be party chair and who Hutchison is accountable to, has enthusiastically endorsed Eyman’s I‑1366.)
The policy directions that Washington State Democrats are working to enact into law, whether at the municipal level in cities like Seattle, Redmond, Federal Way, and Everett, or at the state level, are neither failed nor old — though they are rooted in the progressive values and principles that our state was founded on, and that have guided past leaders of our state from both parties during times of progress.
For example: A $15 minimum wage is a new idea, and Seattle was the first big city in the country to enact one, following in the footsteps of its smaller neighbor SeaTac, which did so by voter-approved initiative. (Tim Eyman, by the way, tried to qualify an initiative last year to overturn the $15 Seattle and SeaTac minimum wages, but couldn’t interest enough right wing donors in funding a campaign.)
It used to be that progressives could be found in both parties. But the Republican Party has sadly morphed into a reactionary party that several decades-long Republicans have told me they simply don’t recognize anymore. That could explain why Republicans have such an awful track record in recent statewide elections.
Keep in mind, it’s been over twenty years since Republicans won a campaign for U.S. Senate in Washington State. It has been over thirty years since they won a campaign for governor or president in Washington State. And it has been seven years since Republicans won a campaign for any executive department position other than Secretary of State. That’s the lone statewide office they currently hold.
Now, Republicans have done well competing at the legislative level in recent cycles, particularly in 2010 and 2014, when they had favorable national headwinds. But that can be attributed in part to their dearth of success at the statewide level. It’s left them with little choice other than to focus resources on House and Senate races.
The closing line of Susan Hutchison’s weak attack on Bernie and the Democrats proclaims that “people are increasingly attracted to the Republican alternative of growth and opportunity.” Wow, that’s weak tea. What does that even mean?
Republicans drove our national economy into a ditch the last time they were in charge, dragging our regional economy along with it. They’d like us to forget all about the Dubya years, but that’s not going to happen.
Ask one of the 2016 Republican candidates about the Bush error, and if they don’t dodge, they’re likely to say something that boils down to Bush failed conservatism. Because, in their minds, conservativsm can’t fail — it can only be failed.
As a progressive, I believe in opportunity, but I know that Republican policies only create opportunities for the rich to become richer. That’s the last thing I want.
Growth is an overused buzzword that can mean different things to different people. With respect to economic growth, we’ve certainly seen a rise in worker productivity and output in this state and this country for a long time now, but wages haven’t been keeping up. Most of the gains have have gone to the already wealthy. Meanwhile, our environment has suffered as our world has become more polluted.
What people in Washington and elsewhere really want is not growth, but broad prosperity. And that’s what Bernie Sanders is running on.
Last night, Bernie outlined his vision for the country. One of the planks he talked extensively about was making college free. Not merely cutting tuition — something local Republicans have been patting themselves on the back for pushing for — but doing away with it altogether. Bernie believes everyone willing to take school seriously and study hard should be able to go to college for free. So do we.
He also advocated for a minimum amount of paid family leave, paid sick leave, and paid vacation leave. Those are policies based on real family values.
Parents who welcome a child into the world shouldn’t have to go back to work two days later. They should be able to spend the first crucial weeks of that child’s life with that child, learning what’s it like to be parents.
Paid vacation leave, meanwhile, allows all of us to take much needed breaks from work and recharge mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
And paid sick leave is crucial to ensuring safe and humane workplaces. A person who gets sick shouldn’t feel obliged to show up for work because not doing so would mean forfeiting pay. Paid sick leave would help cut down recovery times from illness and reduce the risk of spreading disease to others.
Bernie also spoke passionately about addressing the systemic problems facing our country. He favors getting big money out of elections, taking meaningful and immediate action to address the climate crisis, and addressing income inequality through reforms to our tax code and a higher minimum wage.
Twelve thousand people crowded into Hec Edmundson Pavilion last night to hear Bernie Sanders speak. Another three thousand people tried to get inside but couldn’t because the arena reached capacity. That’s a total of around fifteen thousand people. There was a huge media presence as well.
To put the crowd size in perspective: More people came in-person from around this region to hear Bernie Sanders speak last night than like the Washington State Republican Party’s Facebook page worldwide. (The page has around 9,000 likes).
What does that say about the state of the Republican Party in Washington?
Bernie Sanders is running a people-powered campaign that puts the people’s concerns first. What the Republican Party should be afraid of — not gleeful about — is a Democratic Party that embraces Bernie’s sensible ideas for this country.
The Washington State Republican Party has big problems, and sneering at Bernie Sanders and the Democrats won’t solve those problems.
We are one and a quarter years away from the 2016 presidential election, and Republicans still have no candidate to run against Patty Murray for U.S. Senate. Their only announced candidate for governor, meanwhile, is Port Commissioner Bill Bryant, whose campaign got off to a rocky start and hasn’t clicked with the base.
Republicans do have plenty of candidates for President… in fact, they arguably have too many. Unfortunately for Washington Republicans, there’s no one in their field who is likely to be attractive to the majority of Washington voters.
The odds are very good that the Republican Party will wind up choosing a nominee who will be a drag on the rest of the ticket in Washington. Consider the pathetic spectacle that passed for a presidential debate the other night on the Fox Noise Channel. I don’t see how any of the people on that stage can win in Washington.
Making matters worse for Republicans, there’s the possibility that Donald Trump could run as an independent, siphoning votes away from whoever becomes the Republican nominee in states all across the country.
Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has said he won’t run as an independent if he doesn’t win the nomination — because he’s a team player, not a spoiler.
Unlike many of the Republicans, Bernie’s not running because he wants to improve his chances of scoring a television gig or a book deal. For him, it’s not about notoriety. He decided to run to ensure that there is at least one candidate in the Democratic field championing a bold, progressive vision for America.
And people have responded. Sanders, who’s not afraid to call himself a socialist, is consistently drawing the biggest crowds of any presidential candidate from either party, and not just in blue states. He’s not just appealing to progressive activists. He’s appealing to all of the people who have been marginalized and disenfranchised by conventional, money-dominated politics. Whether or not he becomes the nominee, his candidacy is good for this country and good for the Democratic Party. That’s not something Republicans can take any comfort in.