Catastrophe. Devastating. Tragedy.
Those are some of the words I’m seeing being used in an attempt to describe the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, which ended last night in a series of dark, disturbing defeats for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.
And yet, while voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania were handing the nation’s highest and most important office to neofascist Donald Trump, voters on the Left Coast were charting a very different path for their states.
In Washington, voters elected a Democratic governor, Democratic executive department, majority Democratic congressional delegation, increased the state House’s Democratic majority, and brought state Senate Democrats to within one vote of a majority — while approving initiatives to increase the minimum wage, institute extreme risk protection orders, and call for an amendment to the United States Constitution to overturn Citizens United and get big money out of politics.
These victories, it should be noted, came because voters across the state — not just in King County! — united to chart a progressive path for Washington State.
King County can and has been outvoted through what has been called “the boa constrictor strategy”, where swing and rural counties align in opposition to King County’s position on a ballot measure, or band together support of an alternative candidate. In fact, that is happening right now in this election in some contests.
Not all of King County’s favored positions and candidates are being embraced by voters elsewhere. But most of them are. And that’s significant.
Democrats have succeeded in electing distinguished Iranian American Cyrus Habib as Lieutenant Governor, Hilary Franz as Commissioner of Public Lands, and Pat McCarthy as Auditor, in addition to retaining Jay Inslee as Governor, Bob Ferguson as Attorney General, and Mike Kreidler as Insurance Commissioner.
The Democratic Party only gave up one statewide position, Treasurer, due to not having advanced anyone through the Top Two election. With a strong candidate, it stands a reasonably good chance of winning that position back in 2020.
And meanwhile, the three progressive Supreme Court justices who came under attack by Rodney Tom, Tim Eyman, Matt Manweller, and their wealthy benefactors have all been returned to the bench by wide margins by the voters.
Justices Barbara Madsen, Mary Yu, and Charlie Wiggins are cruising to reelection, despite having endured months of attacks by the right wing.
In Madsen and Wiggins’ case, the attacks were turned into expensive television ad buys intended to help their right wing opponents knock them out.
But voters saw through these attacks and chose to give all three new terms on the Court. That is a hugely reassuring outcome for progressives and for democracy. It shows that right wing megabucks can’t buy everything.
Finally, in the heart of the state, urban voters said yes to a big, bold expansion of mass transit, ensuring that central Puget Sound will get a rail spine linking together all of its major cities — with expanded bus and commuter rail service to boot. Sound Transit plans to begin work immediately to bring the promised projects to fruition, so that more neighborhoods can be Linked in (pun intended) as soon as possible.
In 2016, Washington voters were given the opportunity to vote for compelling downballot candidates in addition to progressive causes. And they are taking advantage. In the 41st District, Republican Steve Litzow is being turned out of office, with a majority backing one of the party’s top rising stars, Lisa Wellman.
In the 30th District, voters are exchanging their two Republican opponents for two high caliber Democratic challengers — Mike Pellicciotti and Kristine Reeves.
In the 5th District, Jason Ritchie has a narrow lead over disgraced Republican Jay Rodne, whose bigoted, xenophobic comments on refugees drew widespread condemnation. Darcy Burner, meanwhile, trails Republican Paul Graves by only a few votes, in what is one of the state’s closest legislative contests.
Democrats will enter 2017 with a stronger working majority in the House of Representatives and will be in position to take control of the Washington State Senate before 2018 arrives, if they win next year’s special elections in the 45th, 48th, and 37th. (The 48th and 37th are reliably blue districts.)
Governor Inslee, meanwhile, has won reelection with a sizeable mandate to govern the state in accordance with progressive principles and policy directions.
The Pacific timezone has chosen a very different path than that of the rest of the country, save for New England, the Southwest, and the mid-Atlantic states, which also backed Hillary Clinton for the presidency.
The Democratic Party may be in bad shape federally and in other states, but on the Left Coast, it is finding success championing progressive ideas and candidates.
That’s a lesson the members of the Democratic National Committee and other party leaders should take to heart. The party badly needs a new chair and leadership team who can effectively challenge Donald Trump and rebuild after a bad election cycle.