Washington’s fifth congressional district has been held for a decade by one of the most useless representatives one can imagine. Cathy McMorris Rodgers ran her first campaign as a conservative evangelical Christian who would defend traditional family values. She won handily, and has continued to do so with no trouble. In the meantime, she has done as little for the district as is possible not to do, but with an attractive smile and none of the maniacal histrionics that have eventually ended the careers of other oddball members of congress. Without visible accomplishment or competency, she has risen to the number three position in House leadership, seldom heard from but frequently seen as an adornment in photo ops. Her most recent letter to constituents said plainly that she is 100% behind Trump’s agenda, and proud to be there. It’s a solid statement of support for an agenda of phosphorescing swamp gas – seen for a moment in the dark of night, but gone by daylight. How does she keep getting reelected, and will she finally be defeated in the next round?
No, she will not be defeated. She will be reelected, and easily. Why? In spite of easy as pie mail-in ballots, voter turnout tends to be low. Moderates and progressives haven’t seen a good reason to get excited about alternative candidates. Cultural antipathy for the mythical extreme liberalness of the west side of the mountains inclines the east side to vote conservative just out of spite. But wait! There’s more! Democrats, at least where I live, act like exclusive club members who talk with each other but don’t know how to talk with ranchers, farmers, and others who keep voting for McMoRo. The district’s most committed voters think of themselves as conservative, and they understand that, no matter what, she will oppose the creeping socialism they’re convinced is what Democrats are all about. Limbaugh and O’Reilly say so, so it must be true. They want nothing from the federal government other than what they already have, so it doesn’t matter if she accomplishes little. She can be counted on to keep the federal government from doing more, and that’s what they want. The irony escapes them that Eastern Washington is dependent on federal government largesse. Snake and Columbia River dams, paid for by the federal government, provide low cost electricity and irrigation water that enables our farms and ranches to exist. Land grant colleges and county extension services bring the latest and best knowledge to their doors.. National forests, national parks, rural electrification, and generous farm bill goodies provide even more sustenance to people who detest government handouts and gripe about how poorly the ones they get are managed. Many of their employees, and some of them, are on SNAP. Sadly, they’re not without a valid point. Too many government bureaucrats have forgotten, if they ever knew, they’re in the business of customer service. There’s a difference between making people jump through government hoops under threat of penalty, and helping customers make government programs work well for them.
That’s the context, and here’s the problem. Democrats have been running against McMoRo and her record. It’s a losing proposition. You can’t win by running against something. You can only win by running for something on behalf of somebody. The something must be clearly defined. The somebody must be real and benefit from the something. Both must be communicated in terms easily understood by potential voters who do not follow politics closely, except for what they’ve heard for their entire adult lives on talk radio. That doesn’t mean dumbing things down so lesser mortals can understand, a mistake Democrats often make. It means respecting the dignity of the voters they need but have seldom attracted. Take two lessons: one from the far right wing, and one from the history of Minnesota’s Democratic Farmer Labor Party. The former has been wining elections by running for lower (burdensome) taxes, fewer (onerous) regulations, and more freedom from Uncle Sam. That sells, even in the face of long term detrimental effects on the average person’s quality of life. The latter was known for giving voice to farmers, ranchers, hourly workers, kids, teachers, and the oppressed for government action to make life better for the average person. That meant investments in the future through fair taxes, protection from corporate and environmental abuse, and laws to better guarantee the freedoms that define the American dream. When it’s done right, the far right’s propaganda becomes little more than a cheap back alley crap game run by con men taking suckers for a ride. Oddly enough, when it’s done right, it opens the door for true conservatives to do what they do best: negotiate in good faith to impose needed discipline and restraint.
Ignore McMoRo. Ignore tea party Concentrate on what needs to be done for the district that can only be done through bipartisan openly debated congressional action.