Another profile in courage, this time from the Republican side of the aisle:
Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, said an income tax is a dangerous path for Democrats to take. “This politically hurts them,” he said. “I don’t think this helps them at all.”
Well, duh-uh. Since when are taxes, of any kind, popular?
But it reminds me of a conversation I had with John Carlson about a proposal to reinstate voting rights to felons upon their release from prison. I suggested to John that he and his fellow Republicans should support the measure, because demographically, Washington’s felon population generally matches one of his party’s core constituencies—white, working class men with less than a college education—to which John retorted in disbelief: “Then why would Democrats support it?”
“Because it’s the right thing to do,” I told him. John didn’t seem to buy it.
Perhaps he and Hewitt were projecting, or perhaps they really think that poorly of Democrats that it doesn’t even occur to them that we might, just sometimes, be willing to put governance ahead of politics. But the unexpected conversation we’re starting to get about an income tax isn’t part of a strategy to “help” Democrats… it isn’t even about quickly plugging a hole in the current budget. It’s about helping Washington take a step toward a more fair and stable tax system, period. In fact, even putting the issue on the ballot will likely cost Dems a few swing districts in 2010, regardless of whether the measure passes.
No doubt a majority of voters would prefer the Legislature balance the budget without raising taxes, and that would surely be the easiest political path. But that’s not leadership; that’s following. No, leadership isn’t about giving voters what they want, it’s about persuading voters to want what they need.
It remains to be seen whether we have that kind of leadership here in Washington state.