Nov 27 2006

WA: Whither the GOP

Published by at 7:11 pm under Washington

The quite serious subject of where the Washington Republican Party goes from here is given a thoughtful treatment in “Make or Break Time for the Washington GOP,” a Matt Rosenberg post on Sound Politics. It isn’t the final word on the subject, but it constitutes the best opening shot we’ve seen yet.

The situation is serious indeed, and he stakes are high. One of the comments to Rosenberg’s post notes acidly, “WA is now a one party state. There are many such states in the US, and the one thing they have in common is that the out-party (the GOP in WA) can sometimes win the executive’s office, but the statehouse is lost basically for a generation or more.”

That’s often true. Washington Republicans should look east to the plight of the Idaho Democrats for a vision of their future if they fail to reverse what has now become a decade-long slide. There, Democrats have been out of control of either chamber of the legislature for 46 years.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. Washington and Oregon have each provided more rapid shifts in recent decades. The current Washington issue is that the switch looks structural. It was shown up starkly in a Seattle Times article and, especially, a map published today. The map shows the east King County legislative districts, seven or eight of them (depending on how you count) which only a decade ago were nearly all a lock for Republicans, and now are – with the partial split exception of District 41 – solidly Democratic. Much of that happened on November 7, but the trend has been building, accelerating, throughout this decade. It’s not a momentary lapse; this has been in the works.

If that means the suburbs as well as the central city of Seattle have gotten off the fence and landed on the Democratic side, then you can just about say: game over. Between those places and the other Democratic bases in the state – most of the rest of the Puget Sound area and most of the Olympic peninsula, plus part of Vancouver and central Spokane – there isn’t enough votes everywhere else to counterbalance. The Seattle suburbs were the key.

Rosenberg:

So perhaps it’s comforting for some Rs to continue assuming that the key Central Puget Sound suburban electorate is a fickle, impatient beast, and Ds could be on the outs soon if they don’t deliver. That’s not a smart approach. State Republicans likely now stand at a precipice.

If they are unable to inspire suburbanites who are far, far closer to the political center than most Sound Politics readers – the party will fall into the hands of blindered zealots fixed on banning abortion, insisting on deportation of 12 million illegal U.S. immigrants, and reviewing school fiction picks for suitability.

Lacking a fresh, responsive and inspiring agenda significantly decoupled from the political hackery and boilerplate of the official party “platform” process, the state GOP will fare quite poorly; and their expected ’08 gubernatorial challenger Dino Rossi will fall far short compared to his highly-contested loss in ’04.

Actually, of course, it is possible for the Democrats to blow it – it would take only the wrong dollop of overconfidence breeding arrogance; such is an old story. But, as Rosenberg wisely notes, you’re never well advised to base your strategy on your opponent making a mistake. (That is simply hope which, as we all know now, is no strategy.)

What does he suggest?

A series of policy initiatives, basically, on transportation, crime and other subjects such as “a tenable, sincere, yet authentically GOP environmental agenda which is about much more than land-use and business regulation gripes.”

If the details are different, you get an overall feel that sounds a bit like national Democrats were suggesting a couple of years back. (Not that we agree with some quick Republican critics that Rosenberg’s idea is just Democrat-lite.)

He goes on from there to add other ideas, and the rest of the post – and no less, the responding comments – are worth a read.

This will be an ongoing conversation. We’ll be watching to see where it goes.

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