Big media may think of Donald Trump as the star of the 2016 election cycle, but here in Washington State, the real stars of this election are not people, but ideas. Washington’s ballot this year features a plethora of worthy progressive policy proposals, from raising the minimum wage to passing extreme risk protection orders to putting Washington on record as calling for a federal constitutional amendment stipulating that corporations are not people and money is not speech.
The right wing, meanwhile, failed to qualify anything at all, for the first time in decades. That’s left notorious political scam artist Tim Eyman pretty disgruntled.
In an email this morning to his followers, Eyman bemoaned the progressive movement’s dominance of the ballot, instructing his followers to simply vote no on every statewide initiative plus Sound Transit 3 (which only appears on the ballot in urban King, Snohomish, and Pierce County precincts).
The Donald Trump admirer opened his email with this plea: “Don’t let the crazies take over the insane asylum. All the initiatives are awful this year — vote NO over and over and over again when you get your ballot.”
By crazies, Eyman means us — all the progressive organizations and people who are working hard to raise our state and region’s qualify of life. And presumably, insane asylum is Eyman’s inappropriate, ridiculous metaphor for Washington State.
(You know, Tim, if you don’t like living in a state with a progressive majority, you don’t have to stay here. America’s a free country. There are states and communities elsewhere in the country you can move to where right wing politics predominate.)
The initiative happens to be a progressive invention. Well-meaning activists brought it to Washington State over a hundred years ago with the intention of giving the people the power to enact laws needed to protect and improve everyone’s well-being. They promoted it as a tool for the common good. They likely never imagined it being hijacked to serve a militant, extremist agenda.
But, sadly, that’s what happened in the late 1990s when Tim Eyman came along. Eyman realized the initiative could be wielded as a weapon, and he made qualifying schemes to defund public services and wreck government his business.
In his early years, Eyman pretended to be an unpaid volunteer, but was eventually forced to admit he was diverting money from his initiative factory to line his own pockets. Eyman subsequently dropped his initiative factory’s Permanent Offense moniker, but did not abandon the concept that had prompted its name, and was able to keep going even after having been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
The stem of progressive is progress. Progress in a democratic society is only possible when people are given the opportunity for vote for a better future… in other words, when the qualified electors of the society have the ability to elect representatives who will make their communities freer, safer, and more prosperous, or approve laws themselves that would do the same.
When elections are a choice between the status quo or going backwards, there is no opportunity for progress. It’s vital that progressives oppose destructive schemes like Eyman’s initiatives, but is even more vital that progressives offer Washingtonians the opportunity to vote on ideas that will make our state better.
And that’s exactly what is happening in 2016. To Eyman’s chagrin, progressives this year are once again using the initiative in accordance with its original intended purpose — allowing citizens to vote on worthy ideas that died or could not get traction in the Legislature. Meanwhile, he’s got nothing. More significantly, neither do any of his confederates. Progressives own Washington’s 2016 ballot.
That’s a big deal. It is very, very satisfying to see Eyman in the position of having to call for a NO vote on every initiative that’s in front of Washington voters this year.
We at NPI enthusiastically support most of the ideas on the ballot in 2016. We urge a YES vote on I‑1433, I‑1491, I‑1501, I‑735, SJR 8210, and Sound Transit 3/Regional Proposition 1. Though we are unable to support I‑732 or I‑1464 due to defects in each, we would definitely like to see successor initiatives or bills that would tackle the same problems those measures seek to address.
Polling indicates that all of the initiatives we support are likely to pass, because voters like them. That’s very good news. But we need to be ready as a movement to build on these potential successes by qualifying even more progressive ideas to the ballot in 2017 and 2018. Our research shows that voters are hungry for progressive revenue reform and corporate tax accountability. If the Legislature will not act on these priorities, then the people must be given a chance to.
That is, after all, one of the uses for which the initiative was actually intended. In the words of the Direct Legislation League, the leading proponents of bringing the initiative, referendum, and recall to our corner of the country:
We shall need the Initiative in the future to secure the passage of just tax laws. Past experience indicates that tax dodging interests will powerfully oppose such laws.
– 1900s era DLL pamphlet, archived by the Washington State Library
As we finish out this election cycle, we must commit ourselves to staying on offense and bringing an end to the Eyman error. A better future is within reach if we can continue to give the people the power to vote on the progressive ideas we need.