In summarizing The Year’s Most Underreported Stories over at Publicola, Erica writes:
4) The political demise of Tim Eyman and those that brung him.
Obviously, Tim Eyman isn’t going away–the former watch salesman’s entire livelihood depends on bringing in new contributions, and new contributions require new campaigns. But this year’s stunning defeat of his latest tax-slashing measure, Initiative 1033 (his first tax measure, importantly, to be defeated) spells doom for future Eyman initiatives. Voters don’t have to be told that taxes pay for things they need anymore–they can see it all around them, in the state’s crumbling infrastructure, the closure of county parks, and the ongoing budget crisis at the city, state, and county levels.
Moreover–to paraphrase Josh–Eyman’s defeat this year is good news for Democrats in general, suggesting that last summer’s anti-government, anti-Obama backlash was overblown.
Yeah, well—to paraphrase Mark Twain—the reports of Tim Eyman’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
It’s not that I-1033 didn’t go down to a crushing defeat, even in much of traditionally pro-Eyman/anti-tax Eastern Washington. But it’s not like Eyman initiatives haven’t been defeated before… and besides, it kinda misses the point of what Eyman does.
Eyman doesn’t run initiative campaigns; he gets initiatives on the ballot. In recent years, those of his initiatives that have generated a sufficiently well-financed No campaign have been defeated, while those that have gone unopposed have not.
From a business perspective, it really doesn’t matter all that much to Eyman whether he wins or loses. Sure, he needs an occasional win or near-win to maintain the shred of relevance necessary to garner media attention, but Eyman has long been a kept man of a single sugar daddy, and as long as Woodinville investment banker Michael Dunmire continues to finance his signature drives, Eyman will continue to qualify initiatives for the ballot, and continue to make a nice living in the process.
And from a political perspective, as long as Eyman continues to qualify initiatives for the ballot, he’ll continue to put Democrats on the defensive.
Just take a look at I-1033. Sure, it lost by a whopping 18-point margin, and in 24 of 39 counties… but only after the No campaign spent over $3.5 million to defeat it. $3.5 million. That’s money, largely from progressive donors, that could have been spent on a more proactive agenda, such as enacting tax restructuring or education finance reform or something productive like that. That’s $3.5 million that won’t be available, for example, to help elect progressive Democrats in 2010.
If you believe Eyman’s primary objective is to pass stuff, well then, yeah, I guess I-1033’s defeat must look pretty bad for him. But if you understand Eyman for what he really is—our state’s biggest political monkey, wielding our state’s biggest political monkey wrench (the initiative process)—well then, 2009 wasn’t such a bad year for him after all.
And a pretty damn profitable one at that.