The Republican formula
IF demographics = 0 GOP Pres THEN make Pres < powerful (gerrymander, suppress, spend, obstruct, smear, sue, impeach)

This past week­end in Leav­en­worth, the Dan Evans wing of Wash­ing­ton State’s Repub­li­can Par­ty gath­ered at the Enz­ian Inn for its annu­al Cas­cade Conference.

The Seat­tle Post-Intel­li­gencer’s Joel Con­nel­ly attend­ed the gath­er­ing of the self-pro­fessed Main­stream Repub­li­cans and reports that atten­dees “used humor and hard argu­ment here over the week­end to gird for what their fundrais­ing chair Jim Wal­do pre­dict­ed will be ‘our two tough­est years.’ ”

Repub­li­cans won the 2016 fed­er­al elec­tions and now con­trol every branch of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton State are grap­pling with the fall­out of that, and under­stand that one con­se­quence of Don­ald Trump’s rise could be severe dam­age to the Repub­li­can Par­ty brand through­out the state.

In Leav­en­worth, Repub­li­cans sig­naled they’ll try to pro­tect their hold on the state Sen­ate not by advanc­ing wor­thy ideas to improve Wash­ing­ton’s qual­i­ty of life, but by bash­ing Seat­tle every chance they get — and try­ing to tie every Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date run­ning out­side of the state’s largest city to the specter of an income tax.

As Joel point­ed out in his report­ing, in the days when Dan Evans was gov­er­nor of this state, such a strat­e­gy would have been unthink­able. Evans and oth­er Repub­li­cans of his day were well liked in Seat­tle and King Coun­ty; Evans served as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the deep blue 43rd Dis­trict pri­or to becom­ing Gov­er­nor. Evans was a stal­wart pro­po­nent of levy­ing a state income tax and twice con­vinced the Leg­is­la­ture to approved a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment to pro­vide for one.

Nowa­days, Evans has a dim view of Seat­tle pol­i­tics, and of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party.

“We are evolv­ing into one very blue (Demo­c­ra­t­ic) area around Seat­tle and the rest of the state is turn­ing Repub­li­can,” the ven­er­a­ble Evans said in Leav­en­worth, accord­ing to Con­nel­ly’s report. He added: “They (Democ­rats) don’t care and look down on peo­ple who live in the rest of the state.”

I like and respect Dan Evans a great deal — he was arguably one of the best gov­er­nors this state ever had, and I applaud his efforts to reform Wash­ing­ton State’s regres­sive tax code — but those state­ments are nonsense.

Wash­ing­ton’s polit­i­cal make­up is indeed evolv­ing, but it’s much more com­plex than Evans makes it out to be. Greater Seat­tle isn’t the state’s only Demo­c­ra­t­ic area. Sim­i­lar­ly, rur­al com­mu­ni­ties aren’t the state’s only Repub­li­can area.

Democ­rats do very well in Wash­ing­ton’s 3rd Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict (Spokane), which is cur­rent­ly rep­re­sent­ed by Democ­rats Mar­cus Ric­cel­li, Timm Orms­by, and Andy Bil­lig. But appar­ent­ly in Evans’ eyes, they don’t count.

Nor do Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tors like Kevin Ranker, Kris Lyt­ton, Steve Tharinger, Mike Chap­man, Kevin Van De Wege, Bri­an Blake, Dean Takko, each of whom also rep­re­sent a dis­trict that is hours away from Seattle.

Democ­rats would not be with­in strik­ing dis­tance of a Sen­ate major­i­ty and would not have a House major­i­ty at all if they could­n’t com­pete out­side of Seattle.

Evans’ claim that Democ­rats are uncar­ing and look down on peo­ple who live else­where in the state is also wrong.

I’m active in the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, and the par­ty cares deeply about every com­mu­ni­ty in this state, whether it be urban, sub­ur­ban, or rural.

It is pre­cise­ly because of that con­cern that pro­gres­sive Demo­c­ra­t­ic Lands Com­mis­sion­er Hilary Franz is embark­ing on a Rur­al Com­mu­ni­ties Part­ner­ship Ini­tia­tive, which was just announced today by DNR.

“The Depart­ment of Nat­ur­al Resources has sig­nif­i­cant resources and capac­i­ty to aid in eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment around the state, espe­cial­ly in areas of Wash­ing­ton that have been tra­di­tion­al­ly nat­ur­al resource-based economies,” the Com­mis­sion­er said.

“This agency believes that social, envi­ron­men­tal and eco­nom­ic invest­ment, and stew­ard­ship are con­cepts that work in con­cert, not oppo­si­tion. We can invest in clean jobs, restore habi­tats and cre­ate eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty around the state at the same time. It takes per­se­ver­ance, trans­paren­cy and ener­gy – all things that this agency and its employ­ees are com­mit­ted to.”

The Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty feels the same way. The par­ty refers repeat­ed­ly in its plat­form to the needs of rur­al com­mu­ni­ties, stat­ing:

  • We are the stew­ards of the land and water that sus­tain us. We must pre­serve fam­i­ly farms, strength­en rur­al com­mu­ni­ties, ensure the avail­abil­i­ty of high-qual­i­ty food, and main­tain the via­bil­i­ty of land and water.
  • We call for… strength­en­ing the Wash­ing­ton State Growth Man­age­ment Act and poli­cies that pre­serve agri­cul­tur­al land and nat­ur­al resources, along with robust rur­al infra­struc­ture;
  • We call for… gov­ern­ments to invest in con­tin­ued local access to need­ed trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture, includ­ing rur­al road and high­way main­te­nance and improve­ment, ensur­ing that con­sid­er­a­tion be giv­en to those cities and coun­ties out­side of the I‑5 and I‑90 corridor.

The par­ty aims to prac­tice what it preach­es. To that end, it has an active, vibrant Agri­cul­ture & Rur­al Issues Cau­cus orga­niz­ing reg­u­lar activ­i­ties, and holds most of its busi­ness meet­ings in cities far from Seat­tle — many in rur­al Washington.

I can attest to that first­hand because I attend those meet­ings as a mem­ber of the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cen­tral Com­mit­tee (WSDCC).

For exam­ple, just this past April, the WSDCC held its spring meet­ing in Wal­la Wal­la at the Mar­cus Whit­man. Pri­or to that, the par­ty held meet­ings in Yaki­ma, Wenatchee, the Tri-Cities, Chelan, Ocean Shores, Fer­n­dale, and Vancouver.

The most recent state con­ven­tion (2016) was in Taco­ma, and the one pri­or to that (2014) was in Spokane. The clos­est meet­ings to Seat­tle have been in Lyn­nwood and Olympia. Seat­tle itself has not host­ed a state par­ty meet­ing or con­ven­tion since 2012, five years ago. That will change in Sep­tem­ber; it’s Seat­tle’s turn to host.

It is pre­cise­ly because the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty cares about com­mu­ni­ties like Fer­n­dale, Wal­la Wal­la, and Van­cou­ver that it choos­es to hold busi­ness meet­ings in those places. Com­mi­teemem­bers from the greater Seat­tle area are quite used to hav­ing to trav­el to get to state par­ty meetings.

Hav­ing the meet­ings around the state means there are oppor­tu­ni­ties for par­ty lead­ers to learn about the needs of rur­al communities.

I remem­ber when we were in Chelan, there was an oppor­tu­ni­ty to tour one of the local orchards. In Fer­n­dale, we got to meet peo­ple from the local tribes. In Van­cou­ver, we demon­strat­ed in sup­port of a new bridge for I‑5.

And while we were in Wal­la Wal­la, I went across the Ore­gon bor­der to observe a town hall that Sen­a­tor Ron Wyden was hold­ing in Milton-Freewater.

What I learned from going to that town hall is that peo­ple in rur­al North­west com­mu­ni­ties have the same con­cerns as peo­ple in urban or sub­ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties. They’re try­ing to fig­ure out how to pay the bills and take care of their families.

Many rur­al North­west­ern­ers are incred­i­bly upset with Don­ald Trump and the actions tak­en by his regime since Jan­u­ary. There’s a deep desire for an inves­ti­ga­tion into the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion’s involve­ment in our 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, and deep dis­gust with Repub­li­can plans to do away with the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act, round up immi­grants who are con­tribut­ing to our soci­ety, and enact tax cuts for the wealthy.

Dan Evans and the Main­stream Repub­li­cans rec­og­nize that Trump is akin to an anvil tied around their col­lec­tive heels. Local Repub­li­cans want to escape his shad­ow and tox­ic pol­i­tics, and know that if they don’t, they’re like­ly to lose.

“It has nev­er been more impor­tant to estab­lish a Wash­ing­ton brand of Repub­li­can­ism,” Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Hans Zeiger told atten­dees of the Cas­cade Con­fer­ence, as relat­ed by Con­nel­ly’s report.

It seems the plan for estab­lish­ing that brand is to sow seeds of divi­sion among Wash­ing­to­ni­ans (fit­ting, con­sid­er­ing that’s a tac­tic Trump used in his cam­paign) and stoke as much anti-Seat­tle sen­ti­ment as they can whip up.

Democ­rats already have a darned good bogey­man in Don­ald Trump, and Repub­li­cans are clear­ly envi­ous. They want bogey­men of their own.

In the words of Slade Gor­ton, as report­ed by Con­nel­ly: “There is a whole cul­tur­al dimen­sion that is more impor­tant than economic.”

Joel’s report­ing strength­ens my view that the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty — includ­ing the Main­stream Repub­li­cans — care more about cling­ing to what they have than solv­ing any of the state’s press­ing problems.

Wash­ing­ton’s pub­lic schools are sig­nif­i­cant­ly under­fund­ed. NPI research has found that strong majori­ties of Wash­ing­ton vot­ers believe new rev­enue is need­ed to ensure our chil­dren receive the amply-fund­ed edu­ca­tion the Con­sti­tu­tion requires they get.

The Sen­ate Repub­li­cans have pro­posed a bud­get that increas­es the prop­er­ty tax­es of most Wash­ing­to­ni­ans while leav­ing less mon­ey over­all for our schools. Their pro­pos­al has been wide­ly panned, but they’ve stub­born­ly refused to open their minds to any of the rev­enue ideas Democ­rats have come up with.

For instance, Repub­li­cans have flat­ly reject­ed levy­ing a cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy, which 65% of polled Wash­ing­ton vot­ers say they sup­port.

I searched the agen­da of the Main­stream Repub­li­cans’ Cas­cade Con­fer­ence for the words “edu­ca­tion” and “schools”. There were no match­es. Now, I imag­ine the top­ic must have come up, but it’s sig­nif­i­cant it was­n’t the theme of any planned ses­sions. And it’s not men­tioned in Joel’s recap of the conference.

It seems that our resolv­ing our school fund­ing cri­sis sim­ply isn’t some­thing that the Main­stream Repub­li­cans regard to be a top priority.

There were ses­sions on con­ser­va­tion, immi­gra­tion, home­less­ness, and oth­er wor­thy issues. Some of these ses­sions appeared nos­tal­gi­cal­ly themed.

But con­sid­er­ing that the Main­stream Repub­li­cans say their desire is to build a brand inde­pen­dent of the nation­al Repub­li­can Par­ty — where are their ideas for fund­ing our schools? That is the most impor­tant state-lev­el issue there is.

At the end of this month, state gov­ern­ment will have to shut down if we don’t have a bud­get. And if that bud­get does­n’t mean­ing­ful­ly bol­ster school fund­ing, an impa­tient Supreme Court just might strike it down.

We are hurtling towards that moment, and yet Sen­ate Repub­li­cans refuse to nego­ti­ate with House Democ­rats, to the exas­per­a­tion of Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee.

It’s very evi­dent that Repub­li­cans are eager to fig­ure out a way to win and don’t want to throw in the tow­el just because the nation­al envi­ron­ment is bad and get­ting worse. But they have not pre­sent­ed a cred­i­ble plan for how they’d govern.

When Dan Evans was Gov­er­nor, Wash­ing­ton’s tax code was regres­sive and a hin­drance to the health of our pub­lic ser­vices. It remains so today. How would Repub­li­cans fix that? What are their ideas? I don’t see any, and I don’t hear any.

All I see and hear com­ing out of this Cas­cade Con­fer­ence are grand old par­ty elders like Dan Evans and Slade Gor­ton rem­i­nisc­ing about bygone days and sug­gest­ing that Seat­tle-bash­ing will help get today’s Repub­li­can can­di­dates like Jiny­oung Lee Englund elect­ed in places like the 45th despite the specter of Trump.

Sor­ry, Wash­ing­ton Repub­li­cans. That’s not going to work. Run­ning against Seat­tle isn’t going to save your brand. You can try it, but if you do, it’ll only prove that you have more sim­i­lar­i­ties with Don­ald Trump than differences.

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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One reply on “Sorry, Republicans: Seattle-bashing isn’t going to save your brand in Washington State”

  1. Keep me post­ed. Please con­sid­er a trip to Kala­ma. We are doing great things down here.

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