I talked with Sen. Brian Weinstein this afternoon and while he gave a lot of reasons for not seeking a second term — tired of “banging my head against the wall” on issues like the Homeowners Bill of rights, disgust at the recent special session, etc — he says his primary motivation is that he simply needs to make money again… a commentary on our “citizen legislature” that I think deserves a more in depth conversation. Far from bitter or defeated, Weinstein seemed genuinely cheerful at the turn of events, and gave credit to Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown for bringing Fred Jarrett into the fold, a goal that had consistently eluded House Speaker Frank Chopp. Weinstein may not have always been the most politic politician, but he was passionately progressive, racking up one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate. He’ll be missed. (At least by me.)
As for Jarrett, well, now that he has torn that scarlet letter from his chest and replaced it with a bright blue “D”, I feel free to divulge a little secret. Back in January of 2006, when it became apparent that no other experienced candidate was willing to get into the congressional race against Dave Reichert, I went to Jarrett and pleaded with him to seek the Democratic nomination. He simply responded that he was “too old,” and that as a state we needed to pursue a “seniority strategy” by electing a younger candidate, preferably mid 30’s, to be in a position to eventually fill Norm Dicks’ role in the delegation.
I liked Darcy Burner, but up until that point I’d always thought of her youth as a liability. Jarrett’s response got me thinking about the many unique advantages Burner would bring to the job, and when, a few weeks later I started to forcefully advocate for her election, I did so with unquestioned enthusiasm. It was an uphill battle for an unknown novice to challenge a sitting incumbent, but I was confident that if she won, Burner would serve her district and the state well.
A while later I approached Jarrett again, this time asking him to publicly endorse Burner, arguing that the support of a respected Republican like him could sway enough votes to swing a close election. I was reminded of that conversation while reading Jarrett’s quote to Postman today:
“I felt there was a strong tradition in the Republican Party that really couldn’t be lost. So what I’ve been doing as long as I’ve been in the Legislature is trying to articulate that moderate Republican, progressive Republican, viewpoint, and what I found is I may have a lot of ego, but I don’t think I have enough ego to think anymore that I can do it.”
That’s kinda what Jarrett told me a year and a half ago, though not exactly in those words. I don’t know if Jarrett ultimately voted for Burner, but I can tell you that endorsing her would have required him to switch parties, and he just wasn’t prepared to go that far at that time. This was his GOP, dammit, and he didn’t want to give it over to those bastards. At least, that was the impression I came away with at the time.
But times change, as do political parties, and I think it fair to say that the GOP left Jarrett long before he left it. Jarrett’s decision was years in the making, as was the political transformation that has been sweeping formerly Republican suburban districts nationwide. As I wrote back in November of 2004, even in the immediate wake of the deeply disappointing 2004 election, the path toward a Democratic majority was clear: subdivide and conquer.
Just like the Democrats lost their base in the South with their support of civil rights legislation in the sixties, the GOP risks alienating their moderate, suburban base by abandoning fiscal conservatism to focus on right-wing social issues at home, and military and economic imperialism abroad. The neo-cons may dominate the national Republican leadership, but they do not represent the majority of suburban voters.
Families move to places like Mercer Island for better public schools, cleaner streets, safer neighborhoods, and all the other public services that a higher property tax base provides. These are people who believe in government because they benefit from it every day, and they routinely tax themselves to pay for the services they want.
These are people with whom urban Democrats have common ground, and we have an opportunity to exploit the wedge the neo-cons have provided, to expand our base politically and geographically. For in addition to a shared belief that good government is necessary to maintaining a high quality of life, suburban and city voters have a mutual interest in maintaining an economically and culturally vibrant urban core.
Welcome home Fred.