Writings and observations

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Washington

Yeah, there were plenty of people saying incumbent Seattle Mike McGinn might not even make the runoff in today’s primary election. You can understand why, given the history: Four years ago, incumbent Mayor Greg Nickels, who was a much more experienced and seemingly stronger candidate, ran in third place behind McGinn (who came in a narrow first) and Joe Mallahan (second).

McGinn just hasn’t seemed like a strong, dominant leader. the narrative since before he took office was that this guy was running the city. When Governor Chris Gregoire had to meet with a Seattle leader on transportation issues, she met with people from the Council. Nickels, at least, had been a forceful presence.

But maybe that matter of personality shouldn’t be read, as a matter of popularity with the voters, quite so simplistically. McGinn has been underestimated over and over.

Okay. Some context, then.

Political calculus is that an incumbent forced into a runoff – in other words, an incumbent (whether that’s Mayor of Seattle or a council member at Baker City) who fails to get 50% of the vote in the primary, is in trouble for the general election. Incumbents usually pull their full weight first time around; they don’t usually pick up many votes from voters who already have opted to change the occupant of the office. That’s true even if you come in first, but under 50%, in the primary. And McGinn came in second, with only 27% of the vote, to Ed Murray’s 30%.

The odds have to favor Murray for the November faceoff.

But don’t be too quick to write this off. A great deal will depend on what kind of face Murray presents to the Seattle electorate. As he puts that effort together, he may want to reflect on the particular personal qualities that voters have found appealing so far in McGinn. There are reasons, after all, why he’s the mayor and, say, Greg Nickels is not. Even under these conditions, he should be underestimated at risk.

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Washington

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

In every recovery program, the first step is always to admit you have a problem, then proceed. Without that admission, any improvement will be temporary. No use continuing. First recognition. Then work can begin.

While both national political parties can fairly shoulder blame for the mess in Congress, Republicans have far longer to go to “recovery.” Neither party is willing to admit blame, but GOP minions keep adding to the stalemate with constant attacks. The political chattering class has repeatedly used the word “gridlock” to describe the stalemate. I beg to differ. It’s not gridlock.

Rather than seeking to tie things up – gridlock as it were – about 60 cretins in the two houses are waging direct assaults on government, trying to seriously cripple it – gut it – to tear down every thing they find onerous. To some of them, that means almost everything governmental. A friend noted recently that, if this were wartime, what some of these people are doing would be considered treasonous. And Limbaugh, Beck and cohorts would be nothing more than Tokyo Roses with male plumbing. Propagandists.

Recent polling repeatedly shows most Americans – way most – are looking at 2014 elections to change things. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll even shows six in ten want to replace every member of Congress. But that – despite media claims of “proof of voter anger” – is very, very misleading.

Further down in the numbers, you’ll find 44% of Democrats want their party running Congress – 44% of Republicans want their party in charge. In Democrat districts, 56% approve what the President is doing – 58% of Republicans disapprove. Throw in successful 2011 GOP gerrymandering in many large states to protect incumbents and you have a recipe for what? No change. Now, THAT’S gridlock.

I call it the “good guy – bad guy” syndrome. “My guy in Congress is the good guy,” sez I. “Your guy’s the bad guy.” While I’d like to erase the entire Texas delegation, near total domination in their home state obviously means they’re thought of as “good guys” down there. I’d throw out John Boehner and Harry Reid. But Boehner’s been in the House for 22 years: Reid in House and Senate since 1987. So a voting majority back home(s) considers both guys “good guys.”

Americans are mad at Congress. Damned mad! That NBC/WSJ poll found 83% – 83% – disapprove of what’s going on there. But, while those same respondents hold the absolute power to change things at the ballot box, change they won’t. Not as long as those other numbers show each side sees the blame for our political mess as the fault of the other side. No admission like “I’ve got a problem.” So no “recovery.”

But – something else may hold a little hope for improvement. If you follow voting patterns of Republicans in the House, you can count about 60 who’re the problem. While there are true conservative GOP members, moderates – and, yes, Virginia – even a few liberals, it’s these 60 or so that are the political disease. Any reading of that written record shows they want to strip government of much of it’s power – gut several departments – financially starve to death specific agencies they personally hate – spend billions to build military toys the military doesn’t want – limit voting access for minorities (specifically Black and Hispanic) – tamper repeatedly with women’s health care – kill Obamacare – and more. Check the record. It ain’t that hard. And they’re proud of that record. Those 60 or so.

The glimmer of hope for change is some of the folks at home who voted these miscreants in the last couple of times may show up in that 83% unhappy with Congress. Some part of that number may represent a goodly group who wanted change but not anarchy. Not destruction. People who were mad at “what was” but ain’t happy with “what is.” I’ve got some Republican friends who fall into that category. The change they wanted isn’t the change they got.

The basic cause of the muddy mess we’ve got in Washington is not – in my mind – the fault of either party per se. It rests almost completely with this group of 60 or so who’ve managed to clog the system. Both parties have good and bad ideas. Each has a long history of valuable contributions.

The only blame I truly ascribe to Republicans is the failure of leadership to clean its own house – failure to take this wrecking crew of 60 or so by their privates, go to the woodshed and do the political neutering necessary for the majority to work its will. The nation is not going to fail if we have a working two-party system. Fits and starts we’re used to. We always succeed. Somehow.

But we’re doomed to this interminable political “grave site” where all good political ideas go to die if Boehner-McConnell and company won’t purge the GOP of the cancer within it own body.

Responsible, God-fearing Republicans – heal thy self! Admit the problem. Then, let the recovery begin.

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Rainey