Sunday, 19 October 2008

Gregoire; Goldmark; No on I-985

Washington State Friends,

Now that ballots are in our hands until that moment we attach a stamp and commit them to the US Postal Service, or drop them in a ballot collection drop box on election day, I want to share my own observations.

Once again Washington State is just "blue enough" that I think we can be pretty confident that Obama will carry our state, (and I hope the nation), but several other races are far too close for me to relax, and I hope you will join me in trying to influence these.

You see in my Title the three races I see as the important biggies:

Gregoire 4 Governor -- Peter Goldmark 4 Lands -- NO on Eyman's i-985 Gregoire is excellent enough to support enthusiastically!

Early on my own support for our incumbent Governor was rather luke warm, though I never doubted she would be my clear choice over Dino Rossi. As the race remained surprisingly close, however, I did some research and discovered Rossi's attach ads to be viciously scurrilous, misleading, and downright false. Further, there is ample evidence that Governor Gregoire has been an outstanding administrator of our ship of state, receiving high marks from several sources.

Having heard a number of Obama supporters expressing doubt about Gregoire, and even a friend who asked "What has she really done?", I want to provide links squelch those doubts, answer Rossi's charges, and encourage you all to be full-throated in your enthusiasm for supporting Christine Gregoire in her very tight re-election campaign. She doesn't agree with me on every issue, and hasn't initiated as progressive an agenda as I might prefer, but she is clearly a highly competent administrator, who ought to be ahead in our state by landslide margins but is not. But she lacks charisma, Rossi is clever, and Gregoire's campaign has not be effective in answering his charges.

I have collected these talking points in answer to Rossi's charges:

Tribal Gaming Compact
Projected Deficit
National Economy
Keeping Kids Safe
Foster Care

In addition to what you can read about the deficit there, let me add that these projected deficits of such size for following biennia are hardly anything new, and Gregoire has solved them before. We certainly don't want Rossi's values to be those guiding our policy when cuts have to be made.

Gregoire accomplishments listed at her website

Finally, however you may want to explain it, our state by many measures by Forbes magazine, the Pew Foundation, and other groups is rated one of the best in the nation.

Pass this map
along to anyone you know who believes otherwise. It can't be said to be partisan, as Utah, one of the other two states with the best rating has a Republican Governor and Legislature.

Peter Goldmark for Lands Commissioner

The media does not bring nearly enough attention to this vital statewide elective office which oversees our Department of Natural Resources, manages state owned public lands, provides direction for the protection of our shorelines, and is responsible for a significant source of income for the state by sale and lease of Washington school land.

Peter Goldmark is an exciting candidate for this office, who brings a diverse background, clear intellect, and a positive mission to this race in challenging a Republican opponent, Doug Sutherland, who has supported the desires of extractive industries in allowing them insider knowledge of public lands going up for auction in advance of the public. Sutherland allowed Weyerhauser to clear cut on many state lands pretty much wherever they chose to, often on sensitive slopes, such as those in Lewis County which washed away causing increased devastation in those awful floods a year ago.

Because Goldmark is a rancher from Eastern Washington, he doesn't carry the "Puget Sound liberal environmentalist" stigma so prevalent for many Democrats in those more conservative areas of the state. In fact he has been endorsed by the Yakima Herald, and certainly ran better than Gregoire in conservative areas during the primary. He is in fact sound environmentally with strong endorsements from conservation groups, and is a microbiologist who has attended and contributed to global climate change meetings in Asia. Sutherland, in contrast, has been on record as a climate change skeptic.

Goldmark narrowly was running behind the incumbent in the primary, but if we can spread the word about his qualifications (he is also a former Director of Agriculture for the State) in the Puget Sound region where he has less name recognition, there is every reason to believe that he should win this election.

NO on I-985 -- Tim Eyman's latest attempt to hamstring us

My ballot arrived with this near the top, and it is not nearly obvious enough that this is a Tim Eyman initiative, and an especially bad one at that.

You can find out all about it here.

Mostly, PLEASE, just make sure everyone knows I-985 is an Eyman initiative!

Additional notes:

I am an enthusiastic backer of I-1000.

I will definitely vote NO on I-1029, which is a well-intended measure that just doesn't come close to meeting my very high bar for supporting initiatives. It's costly and complicated, with a high potential for undesirable unintended consequences.

There are good things in it which would be worth urging our legislators to enact, but as a package it is not the sort of thing that makes sense to legislate by public initiative.

I encourage you to learn about Randy Dorn's candidacy and qualifications to be Superintendent of Public Schools.

Kitsap residents, I encourage you to vote for Jeanette Dalton over her unqualified opponent for Kitsap County Superior Court.

Finally, mailing your ballot early will eliminate all of those pesky Get Out the Vote reminder calls in the final weeks. And just to be safe - do not mail your ballot on the final day. Mail dropped off on Bainbridge sometimes does not get postmarked until it arrives to be sorted in Tacoma. If it is already late in the day on Monday, November 3rd, I think you are better off dropping your ballot at one of the ballot drop-off locations.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Senate: looking ahead & party balance

The Democratic pickup in the Senate is looking bigger than first expected, but Republicans need not be too glum long term. If they return to more traditional conservative values, stop alienating moderates, and act honestly as a minority party, they will make a comeback. Otherwise another party WILL step in to fill in the void.

We face so many huge challenges and problems currently. Have we come to the end of American Exceptionalism? Will we enter a worldwide depression? Will climate change overtake the planet disastrously? Doing our level best to answer all of these questions in the negative should be our focus.

Nonetheless, some people worry about one-party rule. The structure of our politics pretty much guarantees that some form of opposition will gain traction, so I believe such concerns are overblown. The Republicans just a few years back thought that they had an opportunity to establish a permanent majority. I confess that I was worried that Bush's willingness to ignore the Constitution might lead to real disenfranchisement of any opposition, and set the stage for something close to a coup. But the pendulum is swinging, and appears to be swinging pretty hard right now.

Which brings me back to Congress. Let's assume for the moment that Obama will win - not a guarantee but a likelihood. What will it mean for our nation if the Democrats are virtually filibuster proof in the Senate, and significantly extend their lead in the House? Many conservatives are genuinely worried that "the liberals will go wild", and more and more you hear talk from the right about impending "socialism". We liberals are entertaining some hopes that finally some actually liberal policy positions can be given the chance that they have been denied since Reagan's ascendancy.

To those who fear balance will be lost, consider that balance takes various forms. The obvious Party balance between executive and legislative branches, or between the two houses of Congress are not likely to be present for the next four years. But there still is a time balance in play.

It is not necessarily best that divided government be the order of the day for all times. Periods of time with one party or the other in both elected branches do present the opportunity to actually implement plans that otherwise face gridlock. Our democratic process for replacing politicians means that even when one party has both Congress and the Presidency, some caution needs to be exercised if those positions are to be maintained.

There is also ideological balance within parties. In order to win seats, the Democrats have run increasingly conservative candidates in known conservative districts and states. A truly socialist agenda is not likely when so many Democrats in the Senate are far more conservative than moderate and liberal Republicans of 30 or 40 years ago. And in the House, disaffection with the ruling party can change the majority in fairly short order, with every position standing for re-election every two years.

Because of six year terms, it is easier to look further ahead in the Senate, to possible party changes. Let's look at this election, that of 2010, and that of 2012, and even 2014, to see what we can anticipate.

This year the Democrats WILL expand their lead, and this was virtually guaranteed already when the current class of Senators was elected in 2002, an extraordinarily good year for Republicans. With the current economic crisis, and sullying of the Republican name brand, the extent of Democratic expansion has changed from 4-6 seats, to more likely 7-8 seats, and an outside chance of as many as 11, if Chambliss of Georgia, McConnell of Kentucky, and Wicker of Mississippi were all to be defeated.

In 2010, the party affiliation of Senators whose terms are up for re-election is more evenly divided, with similar numbers in safe vs non-safe seats for both parties. Depending on what happens between now and then, either party could pickup a few seats on up to a maximum of 8 or 9, though I would guess the net change to be 2 or less.

In 2012, the Republicans will almost certainly pick up multiple seats. Depending on outcomes this year and two years from now, this is their next realistic opportunity to pick up a majority. Given the likely larger than expected Democratic win in this election, 2014 will be yet another election in which Republicans should again make gains in the Senate. Again contingent upon their ability to return to more traditional conservative values, while avoiding alienating moderates, Republicans have a very high likelihood of becoming the majority party in the Senate by 2014.

My crystal ball pretty much ends there, as so much depends on intervening events which cannot be foretold.

Logically, the Senate is the body which is most likely to be Republican, since the less populated states of the Plains and Intermountain West, tend to be more conservative, while the House with heavier urban representation, should logically be easier for the Democrats to retain.

The importance of time balance, especially in the House has been hammered home with the corruption of the Democratic reign of some 40 years up to the Gingrich Revolution of 1994, and the subsequent corruption of Republicans developed over their 12 year reign from 1995 to 2006. If we can get redistricting reform enacted which reduces gerrymandering and the creation of safe seats, that would greatly reduce the likelihood that either party could retain control in the house in such long runs that corruption perverts the process as much as has happened in recent times. Iowa has set the standard for redistricting reform, and other states should follow suit. Look to Maryland(D), Florida(R), and Texas(D then R) as gross examples of partisan gerrymandering gone bananas, though it can be found in most states to one degree or another.

As I hinted in my opening, it is still possible that the Republican Party implodes and can't agree on its fundamental principles, losing its grip on enough of the electorate that it really does relegate itself to obsolescence. I think that is unlikely, since it is in a better position than any other party to right its ship and remain the dominant second party in America. The Democratic Party in spite of its recent successes is also at risk if it remains stodgily dependent on constituencies that are taken for granted, and doesn't demonstrate more political agility than it sometimes does. Should either party truly stumble though, other parties will surely enter the vacuum created, and opposition politics will remain in place for years to come. Personally I would be delighted to see another party replace the Republicans as the second dominant party, but I'm surely not holding my breath for that day. Rs and Ds are likely to remain the tags we see next to candidates' names on the ballots for many election cycles to come.