It's easy to forget, but there are plenty of important questions before voters next week not named Trump or Clinton. Even now, before the votes have been counted, there have been some remarkable developments that will impact our politics well past 2016. Will lessons of this election cycle be learned or ignored?
A PRICE TO PAY
It's been equal parts amusing and alarming to watch Republicans tie themselves in knots trying to decide which is worse — to un-endorse Donald Trump for his misogyny (and other problems) or to handcuff yourself to him, no matter what kind of crazy he shares at his rallies?
In our area, Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo was especially twisted up, having un-endorsed Trump after his creepy predator talk with Billy Bush. He even got a shout-out from Saturday Night Live writers for his act of political bravery. But it didn't last, as he re-endorsed Trump last week.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers has been in a difficult spot too. By association, Trump has insulted her, a woman, and her husband, a Navy veteran. Despite his offenses being so personal, Rodgers' calculus seems to be that sticking with him is best for her political bottom line.
To be fair, her position in leadership complicates her situation. But it wasn't long ago when a local member of Congress also put national leadership ahead of what's deemed right for the district. That guy, Tom Foley, was thrown out.
Every elected official who sticks with Trump sends a message: "We're cool with objectifying women — as long as we get to keep our jobs." There will be a price to pay, and sticking with Trump, instead of women, may cost Republicans down the line. Bigly.
PARTY IN EXILE
Meanwhile, there are two Washington state GOP candidates who managed to run without showing much fealty to Trump. Bill Bryant (governor) and Chris Vance (U.S. Senate) found plenty of ways to argue traditional conservative policies. (Remember those? The ones you could hear back in the days of Ronald Reagan?) They didn't let Trump undermine their message; they just renounced him.
The rebuilding of the GOP is already underway, but does anyone think it can happen inside the Beltway? They're already doubling down on everything America is fed up with. Witch-hunts that never end? Check — more of those. Stonewalling Supreme Court nominees and undermining the highest authority in the land? Yep — for four or eight more years, depending. Their hole is deep, so the plan is to... keep digging?
Bryant, in particular, was a solid voice for a different approach to state government — and it's an outlook that addresses pressing issues. We should be proud that we had two leading voices of reason representing the Republican Party here. Whatever your political persuasion, we all need to encourage more of that. Bryant could emerge as an important figure in what comes next. Who knows, maybe the seeds of the future GOP are being planted out here on the West Coast.
A PROGRESSIVE WAVE
Polling shows that many of the bold ideas about how to run our state better are probably going to be enacted. Public financing of elections (I-1464, lagging in recent polls), the carbon tax (I-732, also losing steam), increasing the minimum wage (I-1433) and even restricting access to firearms in certain cases (I-1491) are all looking good in voters' eyes.
This all sounds great — we're innovating and creating a more dynamic state, with marriage equality and legalized marijuana two other recent examples. But, um, what do we have a state legislature for again?
The devil's always in the details, and every public initiative is fraught with unintended consequences. Voters beware, and do your research. Meanwhile, the elected officials of Olympia need to get in the game and address some of these items in a more balanced, responsible way. When the statehouse punts, solutions come instead from an army of signature collectors and the sugar daddies who buy the ballot space.
BIG BUCKS ON THE BENCH
We're seeing more and more interest in judicial races, with three Washington state Supreme Court justices facing challenges (and one more in Idaho), along with two local Superior Court judges. It's true that no elected position should be a rubber stamp once you get in, but it's also true that money has a way of polluting the process — and there's more being spent on these races than ever before. Voters generally know too little about judges, so, again, do your homework.
SHORTER IS SWEETER
One idea that's getting some traction as America has suffered through this Bataan Death March of an election is making it shorter. This would require the parties to enforce new limits — sorry GOP, but you can't have 17 candidates. Wouldn't it be nice to have, say, six months of electoral pain and suffering instead of 18? But if the parties won't play, perhaps a single, six-year presidential term is worth a look.
If we don't fix it while the nightmare is still fresh, I'm afraid the sequel will get the green light by February: Election 2020: The Do-over. ♦