NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Sunday, November 8th, 2015

RE: Some campaign tactics to rethink

This morn­ing, The Spokesman-Review’s Olympia cor­re­spon­dent and polit­i­cal colum­nist Jim Cam­den filed a “Sun­day Spin” col­umn com­ment­ing on the unsuc­cess­ful NO on I‑1366 cam­paign that we were a part of, sug­gest­ing that the coali­tion relied on old tac­tics that have not worked in the past. He writes:

Oppo­nents of Tim Eyman’s reg­u­lar bal­lot mea­sures for tax con­trols went to their stan­dard play­book of denounc­ing the super­ma­jor­i­ty for tax increas­es plan, then fil­ing a law­suit to keep it off the bal­lot (which his­to­ry showed was doomed to fai [sic], and it did), then exco­ri­at­ing it as unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic and uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, trash­ing Eyman and point­ing to polls that showed the ini­tia­tive was trailing.

“Stan­dard play­book”? I know sports metaphors are pop­u­lar with jour­nal­ists and pun­dits, but let’s face it: Pol­i­tics is not a game. If I‑1366 isn’t stopped, it will have grave ram­i­fi­ca­tions for the future of our state.

Denounc­ing a bad idea is inher­ent­ly what a NO cam­paign does, so I’m not sure why that’s includ­ed in the list of “tac­tics”. With respect to the law­suit, the legal chal­lenge to I‑1366 was a scope chal­lenge that even defen­dant Kim Wyman acknowl­edged was prop­er­ly brought, unlike past chal­lenges. We did not get an injunc­tion block­ing I‑1366 from the bal­lot, but that does­n’t mean the chal­lenge was­n’t worth it. We did win a rul­ing in King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court that 1366 was beyond the scope.

As for exco­ri­at­ing I‑1366 as unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic and uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, this year was the first time an effort was made to empha­size that argu­ment with voters.

In 2007, when Eyman’s I‑960 was on the bal­lot, the oppo­si­tion cam­paign por­trayed I‑960 as a mea­sure that would “tie Wash­ing­ton up in red tape”, as can be seen from watch­ing the tele­vi­sion spot that the cam­paign aired back then.

The TV spot did not assert that I‑960 was unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic or uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. It did not explain how requir­ing a two-thirds vote would trans­fer pow­er from the major­i­ty to a sub­ma­jor­i­ty. Nei­ther did the con voter’s pam­phlet state­ment.

In 2010 and 2012, when Eyman’s I‑1053 and I‑1185 were on the bal­lot, Wash­ing­ton pro­gres­sives failed to orga­nize strong oppo­si­tion cam­paigns, and the results were absolute­ly dis­as­trous. We did­n’t win a sin­gle county.

Very lit­tle mon­ey was spent against I‑1185 (less than $100,000) and near­ly all of the larg­er sum spent against I‑1053 was spent too late to make a difference.

This year, in the cam­paign against I‑1366, Wash­ing­ton pro­gres­sives final­ly ran a dis­ci­plined cam­paign explain­ing that Tim Eyman wants to sab­o­tage the plan of gov­ern­ment our founders gave us. That effort has been yield­ing results. A much larg­er per­cent­age of the elec­torate is oppos­ing I‑1366 than opposed I‑1053 or I‑1185… in a year when far few­er pro­gres­sive vot­ers are turn­ing out.

Hav­ing spent lit­tle more against against I‑1366 than we did against I‑1185, we’re hold­ing Eyman to a slim mar­gin of vic­to­ry in a year when we were at a struc­tur­al dis­ad­van­tage, turnout-wise. That is a big improve­ment. We did not defeat I‑1366, but we clear­ly ran a much bet­ter cam­paign this time around.

Last­ly, with respect to the polling: There was one Elway Poll that showed I‑1366’s lev­el of sup­port at under fifty per­cent and its oppo­si­tion at an equiv­a­lent lev­el, but that same poll showed that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of vot­ers were undecided.

That poll sug­gest­ed that we were mak­ing some head­way in the cam­paign, which was encour­ag­ing. It did not pre­dict victory.

Elway him­self not­ed in his memo, “Pre­vi­ous late polls on ini­tia­tives to require a 23 vote to raise tax­es have tend­ed to under­es­ti­mate support.”

Cam­den next asserted:

The out­come was the same as pre­vi­ous initiatives.

No, it was­n’t. I‑1366 is not enjoy­ing any­thing close to the lev­el of sup­port that I‑1185 and I‑1053 got, because I‑1366 had orga­nized oppo­si­tion from the begin­ning. We like­ly could have beat­en I‑1366 had our cam­paign had $3 mil­lion at its dis­pos­al, as the incred­i­bly suc­cess­ful NO on I‑1033 cam­paign had in 2009.

Cam­den then claimed:

Eyman’s super­ma­jor­i­ty plans are 6–0 at the bal­lot box.

This is sim­ply fac­tu­al­ly inac­cu­rate. Pri­or to this year, Eyman had spon­sored four ini­tia­tives to require a two-thirds vote to raise rev­enue. Three of those passed.

We often call these Eyman’s I‑601 clones, because they are suc­ces­sor ini­tia­tives to I‑601 from 1993, which Eyman was not involved with. Here is the list:

  • Ini­tia­tive 807, 2003: Did not qual­i­fy for the ballot
  • Ini­tia­tive 960, 2007: Passed by voters
  • Ini­tia­tive 1053, 2010: Passed by voters
  • Ini­tia­tive 1185, 2012: Passed by voters

This year’s I‑1366 does not restore the two-thirds vote scheme struck down by the Supreme Court. It instead threat­ens a huge sales tax cut ($8 bil­lion over six years) if the Leg­is­la­ture refus­es to pass a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment per­ma­nent­ly sab­o­tag­ing Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 22, which the I‑601 clones all violated.

As long as we’re on the top­ic of the elec­toral his­to­ry of super­ma­jor­i­ty vote require­ments, let’s not for­get that in 1993, at the same time they were nar­row­ly approv­ing I‑601, vot­ers were also vot­ing down I‑602, a sim­i­lar­ly dra­con­ian mea­sure to require a three-fourths vote to raise rev­enue — and that, in 2007, at the same time they were pass­ing Eyman’s I‑960, vot­ers also nar­row­ly passed a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment to allow majori­ties to pass school levies.

Those votes con­flict with the nar­ra­tive Eyman ped­dles, so he con­ve­nient­ly nev­er talks about them, but jour­nal­ists and colum­nists ought to talk about them in order to pro­vide prop­er con­text. It is sim­ply not the case that Wash­ing­ton vot­ers have always vot­ed to make it hard­er to raise taxes.

Back to Cam­den, one last time:

On Fri­day oppo­nents were tout­ing the fact that King Coun­ty had vot­ed 60 per­cent against the mea­sure, and thank­ing vot­ers there and in three oth­er coun­ties for rec­og­niz­ing the ini­tia­tive is “bad pub­lic pol­i­cy.” What, like vot­ers in the oth­er 35 coun­ties are too stu­pid to understand?

Hard­ly. In this cam­paign, we worked to earn as many votes as we could, but we did­n’t secure enough to pre­vail. We should have gone to greater lengths to reach out to vot­ers about the con­se­quences of I‑1366, par­tic­u­lar­ly in swing coun­ties like Spokane, Sno­homish, Pierce, or Clark. Win­ning pro­gres­sive cam­paigns sim­ply must look out­side of King Coun­ty for votes. We’ve preached that here for a long time. Nev­er­the­less, we are pleased that we were able to win con­vinc­ing majori­ties in four coun­ties. Win­ning in four bet­ter than win­ning in zero.

In a statewide elec­tion, every Wash­ing­to­ni­an’s vote counts the same as every oth­er Wash­ing­to­ni­an’s. One woman, one vote. One man, one vote.

As of Fri­day evening, there were 670,085 votes cast against I‑1366 from all thir­ty-nine of Wash­ing­ton’s coun­ties. We are grate­ful to all the Wash­ing­to­ni­ans who vot­ed down I‑1366, no mat­ter where they live.

Cam­den:

They are now prepar­ing for a court chal­lenge. Eyman’s record isn’t as good in the courts, but with­out a change in the oppo­nents’ play­book, that’s like­ly where they will con­tin­ue to end up after vot­ers pass them.

We already have one chal­lenge pend­ing with the Supreme Court per­tain­ing to I‑1366. A sec­ond chal­lenge may be filed, but as the Court made clear in its order of Sep­tem­ber 4th, the pre­vi­ous suit remains active (The first line of the order reads, “The appeal is retained by this Court for a deci­sion on the merits.”)

Since NPI’s Per­ma­nent Defense was found­ed in 2002, Tim Eyman has had no con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries at the bal­lot. Pri­or to PD’s found­ing, Eyman had been win­ning every year. Now he wins at the bal­lot far less often. We con­sid­er that a sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Eyman only needs to win occa­sion­al­ly to stay rel­e­vant. And that is why the work of Per­ma­nent Defense is ongo­ing and vital­ly impor­tant. We want to be able to defeat Eyman every time he qual­i­fies something.

We also need to get bet­ter as a move­ment about going on offense. Next year, we will be sup­port­ing ini­tia­tives to imple­ment a cap and trade sys­tem to reduce pol­lu­tion in Wash­ing­ton State, increase the min­i­mum wage, and put our state on record as sup­port­ing a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment to get big mon­ey out of elections.

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2 Comments

  1. Bot­tom line peo­ple don’t trust lib­er­als. You guys whine and com­plain about nev­er hav­ing enough mon­ey. We see with our own eyes the waste. Why was a com­bined sales tax at 7% ok years ago but now it is over 10%. Why is this gen­er­a­tion more depen­dent on gov­ern­ment than once before?

    # by Tom Sullivan :: November 8th, 2015 at 6:02 PM
    • You mean peo­ple on the right don’t trust lib­er­als. Yeah, what else is new? Most bicon­cep­tu­al vot­ers, on the oth­er hand, are recep­tive to the idea that gov­ern­ment should be effec­tive at what it does. It does­n’t make much sense to elect peo­ple to gov­ern who are bent on the destruc­tion of the vital pub­lic ser­vices we all rely on. 

      All of human­i­ty’s insti­tu­tions are waste­ful to some extent. Why would gov­ern­ment be any dif­fer­ent? The vast amount of waste, fraud, and abuse that con­ser­v­a­tives assert exists in gov­ern­ment just isn’t there, though. It’s fun­ny that con­ser­v­a­tives focus so obses­sive­ly on waste in the pub­lic sec­tor, but ignore it in the pri­vate sec­tor. Bill Gates recent­ly spoke about this. He said, “Yes, the gov­ern­ment will be some­what inept… But the pri­vate sec­tor is in gen­er­al inept. How many com­pa­nies do ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists invest in that go poor­ly? By far most of them.” 

      In the 1970s, we were pay­ing a high­er per­cent­age of our income in state and local tax­es than we are today. So you’re wrong in sug­gest­ing that tax­es have gone up. They haven’t. As a per­cent­age of per­son­al income — the only fair way to com­pare from year to year — they’ve gone down. 

      # by Andrew :: November 8th, 2015 at 6:12 PM
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