Seattle Times political reporter David Postman is reporting from eastern Washington this week, and he’s sending back some great stuff. His most recent post is from Garfield County. (Anti-government types, pay attention: Garfield’s two largest employers are the federal government and the county itself. Go figure.)
Postman interviews some rock-ribbed Republican family farmers, and finds that not everything is going as planned:
These are no longer the energetic Republican backers who in 2000 spent $3,000 of their own money to make a batch of 4-by-8-foot “Save Our Dams” signs that urged people to vote Republican. You won’t see them at a rally this year, or maybe even at the Republican caucus Feb. 9. Where Mary had “a totally intense feeling” about the campaign in 2000, today there is a palpable sense of disillusionment.
In the GOP’s SOP, meaningless fringe issues are used to rile the peons, while the Wall Street faction gets exactly what they want. (Dividend tax cuts! Corporate tax cuts! A farm bill that pays millions to ADM and peanuts to the little guys!)
Meanwhile the Dyes sold off their life insurance policies, reduced their health insurance to a bare minimum, and put their kids on the state’s Basic Health Plan. And they all scrimped. When there was a bit of milk left in the bottom of a glass, it got poured back into the carton for another day. Mary said:
“In large part, there’s something really awful to me about a man who has been farming since 1978, now in his mid-50s, having to struggle like this.”
Mary stayed involved in politics up until mid-2004. She was a Bush supporter and leading the Washington state effort to draft that year’s party platform. Then as her family and friends struggled she no longer wanted to be part of the system that had once energized her.
She quit the campaign and all the party business. She didn’t tell anyone why and everyone was apparently too polite to ask.
“George Bush has betrayed me personally. … I just definitely thought he understood.”
Software folks have a saying for when something doesn’t work right. They say “it’s a feature, not a bug.” The Bush Administration was always all about screwing the little guy and using the government for the advantage of the powerful. That was the idea all along.
It would be easy to go all “What’s The Matter With Kansas?” on these folks, and to dis them for voting against (what I perceive to be) their economic self interest, but that’s gauche. I can’t expect them to be wooed by an argument of economic populism if the leading Democratic candidates aren’t wooing them with one. It’s as simple as that.