Politics It’s a Mandate, Stupid. Use It or Lose It.
posted by November 30 at 9:25 AMon
In my column today, I’ve got a report from the recent state House Democratic caucus meeting (held at the Sea-Tac Doubletree on Nov. 19). The Democratic legislators were advised by their leadership not to overreach. Democratic state House leaders feel they may lose power if they alienate voters with a sweeping agenda.
Of course, if you voted Democratic, that type of Catch-22 logic is maddening to hear about.
What’s the point of having power if you don’t use it? Use it or lose it, I say. I think voters will be more upset with the Democrats if the Democrats don’t get anything done, than if the Democrats actually pass some meaningful legislation. So go for it. And given all the recent pro-D vote counts around here (No estate tax repeal, No “property rights” initiative, No gas tax repeal, Yes renewable energy, 7 Dem pick-ups in the state House for a 62-36 advantage, and Cantwell by 56%), I’d roll the dice on doing something and, well, expecting voters to dig it.
And so, in my column, I admonish the Democratic leadership for advising their House members to tiptoe around the place.
However, I wanted to add something that I didn’t have the room to spell out in print.
It’s this: My admonishment may seem to contradict what I’ve said here on Slog about the national elections. That is, I believe the Democratic victory at the national level was the result of President Bush’s overreach—running his party of the cliff, and thus, alienating mainstream votters. Soooo, you may ask, why am I risking the same fate with the state House Democrats by advising them to push their agenda?
The answer is this: Judging from recent vote counts, there’s no evidence that people are going to be turned off by the Democratic agenda. In fact, the opposite is true. In other words, there’s a big difference between the status of Olympia’s Democrats today and Bush’s status after election 2004. In January 2005, Bush acted like he had a mandate, but he didn’t. He only beat Kerry by 51%. And remember, he actually lost the popular vote in 2000. You can’t run around playing Anna Wintour with shaky numbers like that.
Ahhh, but check this out: The Democrats cleaned up here in Washington state in 2006. For example, they posted numbers like 59%, 59%, 58%, 57%, and 67% in the used-to-be hotly contested eastside suburbs. They even knocked out a GOP Senator in Spokane’s suburbs by 54.5%. Meanwhile, GOP agenda items like the estate tax repeal and radically prioritizing “property rights” over the environment got trashed by 61% and 58% respectively.
And in the state’s only official statewide partisan contest, GOP candidate Mike McGavick didn’t even crack 40%. Again: He didn’t even crack 40%. It was Cantwell 56.8% to McGavick 39.9%. Ouch. Meanwhile, in the unofficial statewide partisan contest, incumbent Washington State Supreme Court Justice Susan Owens crushed a challenge from a hotly partisan GOP state Senator, Stephen Johnson, who was backed by the GOP business lobby—59% to 40%.
These are mandate numbers. This is a mandate. Use it or lose it.