I’m no great fan of Barack Obama. His election will be historic, and he will provide both an inspiration and a desperately new face for America to the world. And he’s smart and competent. That said, he’s proven his corporate centrism on far too many issues (including, most recently, his enthusiastic backing of a $700 billion that I suspect we’ll soon come to widely acknowledge as a criminal looting of the treasury) for me to be much impressed. And Joe Biden, from his whoring for credit card companies to his war on drugs mania to his disastrous plan to partition Iraq, is a neat encapsulation of what is vile about many Senate Democrats.
But it doesn’t matter. In Washington state, our electoral votes are a foregone conclusion. The presidential race is strictly a spectator sport here. And, as Darryl has been demonstrating nightly, one with a pretty much foregone conclusion.
Similarly, I’m not all that worked up about this blog’s special obsession over the past two years, Burner/Reichert. Darcy would make a great Congressperson, and Reichert is a lousy one; I really hope she wins. But it’s not my district.
Where I (and most of us) will be most affected and can make a difference is in the race that concerns me most right now: the race for governor.
Four years ago, I did not support Christine Gregoire. I found Dino Rossi repellant, but after eight years of the execrable Gary Locke, I also had no love for yet another do-nothing centrist Democrat. I wound up voting for (and publicly endorsing) the Libertarian candidate, Ruth Bennett.
Once the election dust settled (without the help of my vote), though, a funny and very rare thing happened: I was won over by a politician who did a much, much better job than I expected.
Mind you, there’s still quite a bit I don’t agree with Christine Gregoire on. (And sorry, but if we can mock Sarah Palin’s faux-folksiness, I’m also not on board with the calculated effort to rebrand “Christine” as “Chris.”) In particular, Gregoire’s handling of the Alaskan Way Viaduct controversy has been both ham-fisted and wrong. But generally, Gregoire has been exactly what Locke was not: a leader who gets things done. She’s brought the legislature to the table and helped hammer out compromises on several key contentious issues. Her fiscal and executive management of the state, contrary to Rossi’s propaganda, has been exemplary. She balanced the budget, got voter-mandated education monies funded (unlike Locke, who simply ignored the voters); she used economic good times to invest in needed expenditures that had been slashed under Locke; and she also set aside money for the inevitable slow times that are now upon us. Does anyone doubt that, if elected, Rossi would have done none of this, electing instead — just like his party’s national leaders — to use the economic good times to simply give tax breaks to the wealthy?
Gregoire also deserves credit for respecting voters — not only by getting education funded, but also (much as it galls me) by pushing for enactment of Tim Eyman’s successful measures. The contrast couldn’t be clearer: Dino Rossi has shown time and again his contempt for voters, from his flagrant violation of campaign finance laws and his idiotic party label (“prefers GOP”) deception and his cynical effort to exploit Obama’s coattails to his fantastic (in the literal sense of the word) transportation plan to his consistent efforts to avoid fessing up to policy stances, especially on social issues, that are wildly out of step with this state’s electorate.
Even so, Rossi would not be making this race close if Gregoire’s story had been told effectively. Instead, she has proven herself in two campaigns now to be as bad a CEO for her campaign as she is good as a CEO for the state. Over the last 18 months I was repeatedly assured, by people who should know, that Gregoire’s people understood that they’d run a dreadful campaign in 2004, and that it would be fixed this time. Instead. Rossi — with an able assist from this state’s ever-pliant media — has skated by on his deceptions and a blizzard of negative ads that, until recently, have mostly gone unrefuted in any meaningful sense. Rossi has been allowed to define Gregoire and set the agenda for this campaign, an almost inconceivable feat given that Gregoire’s the incumbent. Even though Rossi is, if anything, even more repellant and dishonest than he was in 2004, Gregoire’s campaign incompetence could easily cost her the election, and us a very good governor.
But every poll shows this race within polling’s margin of error — which it certainly was in 2004 — and so even though many of us have already voted, this is one race where the next 24 hours could make all the difference. Get out the vote. Talk up the governor’s race among your friends, co-workers, relatives. Don’t let Dino Rossi’s dishonest and illegal campaigning carry the day. If it does, it not only establishes an awful precedent for how statewide campaigns are to be run, but it sets us up for a long four years in our state, years in which many people will needlessly suffer from Rossi’s budget priorities. And it will cost us the best governor we’ve had in ages.