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.

Monday, March 16th, 2020

Tim Eyman tries to defend his irresponsible behavior during coronavirus pandemic

Scam­mer and dis­graced ini­tia­tive pur­vey­or Tim Eyman has jus­ti­fi­ably been tak­ing a lot of flak dur­ing the past thir­ty-six hours for mak­ing irre­spon­si­ble jokes about the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic and urg­ing his fol­low­ers to join him in dis­re­gard­ing Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee’s recent pro­hi­bi­tion on large pub­lic gath­er­ings.

“Let’s stick our fin­ger in the eye of Jay Inslee: 251 is the # of patri­ots I hope will join me @ Oak Har­bor today. I’m bring­ing a six-pack of Coro­na!” Eyman blus­tered in an email sent Sat­ur­day morn­ing to his net­work of Repub­li­can PCO back­ers.

After I denounced Eyman’s mis­sive here on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, it caught the atten­tion of The Seat­tle Times, The Seat­tle Post-Intel­li­gencer, and The Stranger. The Stranger’s Christo­pher Frizzelle kind­ly both linked to and excerpt­ed the post.

It appears that Eyman also took some flak from peo­ple with­in his own par­ty, because last night he sent out anoth­er email that attempt­ed to explain and jus­ti­fy his irre­spon­si­ble behav­ior and ter­ri­ble com­ments.

That email — very dif­fer­ent in tone from the email that Eyman sent on Sat­ur­day morn­ing — con­tained the fol­low­ing com­men­tary. Here it is in full:

We’re fac­ing 2 crises: 1. the Coro­n­avirus & 2. the gov­ern­men­t’s reac­tion to it.

Sat­ur­day’s update and meet-and-greet in Oak Har­bor were intend­ed to pro­voke a need­ed debate.

I am very con­cerned.

All of us — includ­ing myself — are scram­bling to keep track of the fed­er­al, state, and local gov­ern­ments’ list of can’s and can­not’s.

They keep chang­ing on an almost hourly basis.

Any­time so many gov­ern­ments are man­dat­ing so many con­stant­ly evolv­ing restric­tions, cit­i­zens need to be espe­cial­ly vig­i­lant so the gov­ern­ment does­n’t make a bad sit­u­a­tion worse.

“The price of free­dom is eter­nal vig­i­lence.” That sure fits this.

Coro­n­avirus is some­thing we’re all very con­cerned about — there are peo­ple who have died from it and will die from it and all of us mourn for them and their fam­i­lies. And we’re grate­ful to those hero­ic peo­ple in the health care field who are doing their absolute best. Coro­n­avirus is right­ful­ly get­ting a lot of atten­tion.

But what’s not get­ting the atten­tion it deserves is the gov­ern­men­t’s reac­tion to it. It’s some­thing all of us need to rec­og­nize: there are legions of exam­ples in our nation’s his­to­ry where the gov­ern­ment — fed­er­al, state, and local — made a bad sit­u­a­tion worse and basic con­sti­tu­tion­al rights are tram­pled.

Dur­ing World War II, Japan­ese Amer­i­cans were put in intern­ment camps. Dur­ing the late 60’s, there was the House Com­mit­tee on Un-Amer­i­can Activ­i­ties and Hol­ly­wood’s “black list”.

After 9–11, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment imposed restric­tions that were not con­sis­tent with our US Con­sti­tu­tion.

There are innu­mer­able exam­ples.

At the meet-and-greet in Oak Har­bor yes­ter­day, I talked about this and it was very well received.

I high­light­ed my own per­son­al his­to­ry that influ­ences my con­vic­tions: when we were doing our local ini­tia­tives to let the vot­ers decide on red-light tick­et­ing cam­eras in 2010 and 2011 — the vot­ers sided with us every time. The gov­ern­ment always said it was about safe­ty, but vot­ers rec­og­nized it was also a loss of their lib­er­ty.

Dur­ing those cam­paigns, I often cit­ed the famous quote by Ben­jamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essen­tial Lib­er­ty, to pur­chase a lit­tle tem­po­rary Safe­ty, deserve nei­ther Lib­er­ty nor Safe­ty.”

The First Amend­ment guar­an­tees the cit­i­zen­ry the right to peace­ably assem­ble. I am very con­cerned that dur­ing fear-inten­sive sit­u­a­tions like this that the gov­ern­ment infringes on basic con­sti­tu­tion­al rights with­out suf­fi­cient ques­tion­ing.

And when that hap­pens, I’ve seen the media is often silent or even com­plic­it. It’s impor­tant that when the gov­ern­ment infringes on basic con­sti­tu­tion­al rights and the press falls down on the job, there needs to be peo­ple with the courage to ques­tion it, chal­lenge it, debate it. Jay Inslee did not “sug­gest” the sus­pen­sion of the First Amend­ment, he ordered it. That is deeply dis­turb­ing to me.

Noth­ing wrong with the gov­ern­ment say­ing — we strong­ly urge cit­i­zens to do the fol­low­ing — that’s fine.

But using the full weight and author­i­ty and pow­er of the gov­ern­ment to order the end of polit­i­cal dis­course, the sus­pen­sion of wor­ship, these are basic rights that do not need to be and should not be sac­ri­ficed with­out greater dis­cus­sion and debate.

I firm­ly believe we can have a soci­ety that val­ues both safe­ty and lib­er­ty but only if you elect peo­ple who are com­mit­ted to both.

My update on Sat­ur­day and the meet-and-greet in Oak Har­bor were intend­ed — and they’ve suc­ceed­ed — in pro­vok­ing a need­ed debate.

“No man is enti­tled to the bless­ings of free­dom unless he be vig­i­lant in its preser­va­tion.” Dou­glas MacArthur.

Peo­ple need to be con­cerned, not just about COVID-19, but also the gov­ern­men­t’s con­tin­ued esca­la­tion of restric­tions.

It’s a seri­ous ques­tion: what’s next?

These are very try­ing times that we are fac­ing right now. I ask you to join me in prayer. I ask you to join me in ask­ing ques­tions that aren’t being asked. I am very con­cerned, but I am also very cer­tain that togeth­er, we can over­come these chal­lenges with­out sac­ri­fic­ing what makes Amer­i­ca so spe­cial.

My best to you and your fam­i­lies.

Tim

I do under­stand the con­cern expressed in this com­men­tary, but it was wrong and extreme­ly irre­spon­si­ble of Eyman to attempt to insti­gate a debate by putting lives at risk. Eyman should have can­celed his meet and greet and offered to engage with his fol­low­ers online, which is actu­al­ly some­thing he already does.

(Once upon a time, Eyman used to avoid social media; say­ing it just was­n’t for him; but now he can bare­ly stay off of Face­book.)

If Eyman had can­celed his Whid­bey Island meet and greet and instead post­ed a Face­book video out­lin­ing his con­cerns about Gov­er­nor Inslee’s exec­u­tive orders, he would have been mod­el­ing respon­si­ble behav­ior for his fol­low­ers.

Eyman chose instead to con­vey the impres­sion that he con­sid­ers the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic a hoax and encour­aged peo­ple to engage in unsafe, risky behav­ior. That’s inex­cus­able. A per­son seek­ing high office should know bet­ter.

Sad­ly, Eyman does not care about the well-being of oth­ers as he claimed in the mes­sage above. What he does care about is get­ting pub­lic­i­ty and mak­ing a prof­it, and his long track record of lying and law­break­ing proves it.

It is rare — exceed­ing­ly rare — that Tim Eyman ever offers a thought­ful com­men­tary on any­thing. Most of what comes out of his mouth and email account are lies and fab­ri­ca­tions. So it’s good to see that he is at least capa­ble of con­tribut­ing a more con­tem­pla­tive take on an issue of pub­lic con­cern.

If Eyman had led with this, he would have got­ten a very dif­fer­ent response. Con­trary to what he seems to think, it is not nec­es­sary to behave bad­ly and engage in juve­nile name call­ing and taunts to attract atten­tion.

With regards to Gov­er­nor Inslee’s exec­u­tive orders, I emphat­i­cal­ly dis­agree with Eyman that the Gov­er­nor is sus­pend­ing the First Amend­ment.

Inslee is using his law­ful author­i­ty (see RCW 43.06.220) to pro­tect peo­ple — and specif­i­cal­ly, his con­stituents — dur­ing a pub­lic health cri­sis.

It was nec­es­sary for Inslee to issue the orders because mere­ly “sug­gest­ing” best prac­tices would not have been suf­fi­cient to save lives. Time was, and remains, of the essence. Act­ing on the advice of sci­en­tists, Inslee moved to ensure that social dis­tanc­ing best prac­tices would not be imple­ment­ed in a patch­work man­ner, but instead uni­form­ly, because that is the only approach that yields results.

None of Inslee’s orders sus­pends the First Amend­ment, as Eyman argues. Pub­lic gath­er­ings haven’t been out­lawed, but rather cur­tailed. It is still law­ful for peo­ple to peace­ably assem­ble to address their gov­ern­ment for a redress of griev­ances.

And in fact, there are tech­no­log­i­cal ways of assem­bling in large groups that do not involve being in close phys­i­cal prox­im­i­ty to lots of oth­er peo­ple. Such activ­i­ties are not restrict­ed in any way by Gov­er­nor Inslee’s orders. The Gov­er­nor’s aim is to ensure that as few peo­ple as pos­si­ble will get sick and die from coro­n­avirus.

If you con­tract the virus and lose your life, you will not be able to enjoy any of the lib­er­ties that the First Amend­ment affords you, because you won’t be alive.

Life, lib­er­ty, and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness. Those are the most impor­tant of the inalien­able rights guar­an­teed to all by the Cre­ator, accord­ing to our nation’s Founders, who explic­it­ly men­tioned them in the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence. (The Dec­la­ra­tion pre­ced­ed the Con­sti­tu­tion by over a decade.)

Life comes first!

It is cer­tain­ly true, as Eyman stat­ed in his com­men­tary, that there have been times in our his­to­ry when peo­ple’s civ­il lib­er­ties were infringed upon in the name of safe­ty. This isn’t one of those times… at least not yet.

Thus far, the orders that have been issued by Inslee and oth­er gov­er­nors around the coun­try are sen­si­ble and designed to pro­tect peo­ple’s lib­er­ties by ensur­ing they don’t get sick and die wait­ing for med­ical care in over­loaded hos­pi­tals.

Impor­tant­ly, Gov­er­nor Inslee has repeat­ed­ly stat­ed that he expects vol­un­tary com­pli­ance with his orders, and that there will not be a puni­tive enforce­ment effort intend­ed to round up and penal­ize peo­ple who dis­re­gard the orders.

Sher­iffs and police depart­ments, for their part, have explic­it­ly advised peo­ple not to call 911 or even the non­emer­gency line to report indi­vid­u­als like Eyman who attempt to orga­nize pub­lic gath­er­ings exceed­ing two hun­dred and fifty peo­ple.

Our state gov­ern­men­t’s focus is pro­tec­tion and edu­ca­tion, just as it should be. Past gen­er­a­tions antic­i­pat­ed that there might be times of emer­gency when reg­u­lar order would need to be inter­rupt­ed to ensure the well-being of the peo­ple.

This is such a time of emer­gency and the Gov­er­nor is wield­ing his emer­gency pow­ers appro­pri­ate­ly. If he had­n’t issued the orders he did, he’d be get­ting crit­i­cized for fail­ing to act dur­ing a rapid­ly unfold­ing pan­dem­ic.

I also under­stand that as a lib­er­tar­i­an, Eyman is dis­trust­ful of author­i­ty and not enam­ored with the idea of gov­ern­ments mak­ing deci­sions on the basis of val­ues like pro­tec­tion and mutu­al respon­si­bil­i­ty, since those are not his val­ues.

But they are the val­ues Wash­ing­ton State was found­ed upon.

As I not­ed above, there have def­i­nite­ly been oth­er times when emer­gen­cies have been used to jus­ti­fy actions that were not in Amer­i­cans’ best inter­est.

For exam­ple, I hap­pen to agree with Eyman that after Sep­tem­ber 11th, Con­gress and Pres­i­dent Bush enact­ed laws that were sup­pos­ed­ly aimed at pro­tect­ing the Unit­ed States, but in real­i­ty under­mined our civ­il lib­er­ties. My team and I at NPI oppose the Patri­ot Act, for exam­ple, and we do not think it should be reau­tho­rized, unlike the major­i­ty in the House that vot­ed to extend it this week.

I was sur­prised that Eyman brought up the intern­ment of Japan­ese-Amer­i­cans (insti­gat­ed by an exec­u­tive order), as that is not a trav­es­ty that we usu­al­ly hear many in right wing cir­cles express any sor­row or con­cern over.

What we typ­i­cal­ly hear instead from the right wing is that Amer­i­ca is an excep­tion­al, great coun­try that is always right and free of blem­ish.

Which is a fic­tion. That is not the sto­ry of our coun­try.

Many of the shame­ful civ­il lib­er­ties abus­es in our coun­try’s his­to­ry were per­pe­trat­ed fol­low­ing attacks on Amer­i­ca, such as in the exam­ples above.

If our state and coun­try had just been attacked, I would share Eyman’s stat­ed con­cern (which, unfor­tu­nate­ly, I can’t be sure is tru­ly sin­cere, as Eyman lies so effort­less­ly) about the poten­tial for infringe­ment of our rights and free­doms, because we’ve com­mon­ly seen that dur­ing our his­to­ry.

But the emer­gency we’re in now is a pub­lic health cri­sis and the ene­my is not a nation state or a shad­owy ter­ror­ist group, but rather a virus.

To beat the virus — SARS-CoV­‑2 — we have to come togeth­er by agree­ing to stay apart. Gov­er­nor Inslee is using his author­i­ty to gal­va­nize the behav­ioral changes need­ed to ensure that the pan­dem­ic does not get expo­nen­tial­ly worse.

That’s lead­er­ship.

Tim Eyman is free to dis­agree and tell us how he thinks he could do the job bet­ter. The First Amend­ment gives him the free­dom to be an arm­chair quar­ter­back. But as I said above, it’s unac­cept­able that he is urg­ing peo­ple to put their and oth­ers’ lives at risk by open­ly flout­ing Gov­er­nor Inslee’s direc­tives, which are based on sound sci­ence and mir­ror direc­tives being issued by oth­er gov­er­nors.

I think it’s telling that Eyman did not explain how he’d go about respond­ing to this coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic in his lengthy mes­sage from last night.

Instead, he talked about prayer, and he asked his fol­low­ers to pray with him.

Prayer is won­der­ful, but it’s not a sub­sti­tute for pub­lic pol­i­cy.

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One Comment

  1. Tim Eyman says he’s run­ning for gov­er­nor, but keeps act­ing like a crooked lib­er­tar­i­an gad­fly. Don’t have the time or patience for such non­sense, espe­cial­ly right now.

    # by Isha Noor :: March 20th, 2020 at 1:03 AM