Bernie Sanders speaking at Hec Ed
Bernie Sanders speaks at the University of Washington's Hec Edmundson Pavilion (Photo: Dominic Barrera/NPI)

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.

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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3 replies on “This is the best line of attack Susan Hutchison could come up with to use against Bernie?”

  1. Thanks for this. I was at the Hec-Ed last night; our group includ­ed my 78-yr old moth­er & 3 60’s some­thing Green par­ty activists, & we were enjoy­ing the com­pa­ny of peo­ple in their ’20’s /col­lege-aged peo­ple. All hav­ing a good time. The place was lit­er­al­ly packed to the rafters w/the over­flow sit­ting in the aisles & stand­ing on the floor. It’s amaz­ing & a very good sign that when Repub­li­cans man­u­fac­ture wedge issues & appeal to angry dividers, Bernie appeals to such broad age, gen­der & racial demographic. 

    I watched cov­er­age of the event lat­er on King 5 & was VERY dis­ap­point­ed that they some­how saw fit to solic­it a state­ment from the Repub­li­can par­ty HQ here! WHY?? And all hey could come up with in response was name-call­ing (the “S” word). Besides rethink­ing my gen­er­al loy­al­ty to the sta­tion for news cov­er­age (to be hoped that the mass medi­a’s con­tin­ued mar­gin­al­iza­tion of Bernie’s cam­paign will come back to bite them), they should be ashamed of them­selves, call­ing them­selves a news orga­ni­za­tion & some­how “over­look­ing” the fact that the demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ist coun­tries of West­ern Europe are thriv­ing (any­one here heard of Vol­vo & IKEA) with the health­i­est & hap­pi­est self-rat­ed pop­u­laces. Plain­ly, we in Amer­i­ca have allowed a cor­po­rate takeover of pol­i­tics & things are ter­ri­bly out of bal­ance. The time has come to cor­rect it.

  2. I think some­one should tell Susan Hutchi­son about Wash­ing­ton State’s proud his­to­ry of its Com­mu­nist Par­ty, in case she was­n’t aware it ever existed.

    That said, after [8] years of hear­ing from the GOP how Oba­ma’s a “Secret Mus­lim Kenyan Social­ist” and 16 years of “Mus­lims are com­ing to get us!” and gen­er­a­tions under the failed war on drugs, the Dix­iecrats and those card­board cutout “Con­ser­v­a­tives” who are always [wor­ship­ping] the skull of Ronald Rea­gan bet­ter get ready for a rude awakening. 

    Time to bury these fools with our votes like an avalanche after the earthquake!

  3. I remem­ber Susan blew a com­mand­ing lead for coun­ty exec­u­tive about 6 years ago when her hid­den agen­da was uncov­ered. Good Post, Andrew!

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