I stopped by the open house at the Vance Building last night, where a bevy of progressive organizations have set up office, proving there’s camaraderie, if not necessarily safety in numbers. There was free food, always an attraction to starving bloggers, and the halls flowed liberally with booze and schmooze; it was kinda like a roaming, multistory Drinking Liberally, but with a less embarrassing ratio of men to women.
Wandering from office to office, each with their own special interests and their own particular agenda, a common theme arose in regard to expectations for the coming legislative session. It will be a busy two months the various activists and organizers told me, hopefully filled with some small victories on important issues. But the really ambitious agenda — the substantive legislation on issues ranging from tax reform to transportation to publicly financed campaigns and more — well, that would have to wait until 2009.
It was like a Passover seder (but with cheese on the crackers, and potable wine,) as a common prayer arose from the Vance Building last night: “Next year in Olympia.” Next year, I was repeatedly told, after Gov. Gregoire wins reelection, and the Democrats hold or expand their legislative majority, that’s when we can expect a truly progressive agenda. Next year, with the burden of electoral politics temporarily lifted from their shoulders, the Democrats would apparently be free to make progress on some of our most pressing issues.
Of course, a lot of things can happen in a year that can lead to an awful lot of disappointment. Voters don’t always behave the way we expect them to behave, and candidates don’t always run the kind of campaign they should. And even if we manage to keep our unchallenged hold on Olympia, the Democratic leadership there has often proven more bold at maintaining and expanding its majority than actually using it. Finally, even if an emboldened Gov. Gregoire does attempt to leave her mark during a second term, her agenda will necessarily be limited; even the most successful legislative session will leave the halls of the Vance Building scattered with winners and losers.
Perhaps I’m wrong, but if I were tasked with pushing a bill, I’d be pushing it hard in 2008, with the Democratic governor and near legislative supermajority we have now, rather than waiting for some political heaven on earth next year in Olympia. But then, I’ve never been a man of faith.