The Gristle

Blue Wave Stalls Offshore

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

BLUE WAVE STALLS OFFSHORE: An exciting August primary nevertheless pulls back the curtain on the weaknesses of the state’s Top-Two Primary, and the moribund political discussion that will follow it into the fall.

Perhaps the most unsettling outcome in this election, an unprecedented number of excellent candidates seeking office did not likewise encourage voter turnout and interest in electing them. A theoried Blue Wave stalled, and state election officials gauged this primary turnout as only a tick above average. As of Tuesday, little more than one ballot in three had been returned in Whatcom County, with even skimpier response in Skagit. A public disinterested (or defeated) in their future continues to dominate local elections.

Stacking results is one means to analyze and understand a primary result. It involves taking the total aggregate of votes received by all candidates representing one party or platform and assuming those votes will remain loyal to that platform and carry over into the fall. Five hundred votes split among five likeminded candidates in a primary are likely to coalesce to 500 votes for one of those winnowed candidates in the general election.

In the 40th District—a district that received remarkable interest among talented and qualified Democrats seeking to replace Rep. Kris Lytton this fall, and a district that would not in a century readily elect a Republican to that office—Republican Michael Petrish appears a top vote-getter at 20.0 percent.

Stacking the combined votes received by Democrats suggests that’s all Petrish—a qualified and rock-ribbed conservative—will receive, and he will be carpet bombed by more than 30 points in November. But he nevertheless gets to campaign on, megaphone in hand, on a platform supported by little more than one vote in five in that district.

There is something deeply dysfunctional with an electoral system that would propel a candidate with such marginal support in his own district into a lead position in policy debate into the fall.

The robust discussion among 40th LD Dems about issues and solutions that energized the primary now gets neutered to a paralyzed quarrel against Republican intransigence over guns, god and government into the fall. It is a public discussion that leads nowhere and to no understanding; and moreover does not represent the robust policy discussions district voters signaled they wanted to have.

Something analogous occurred in the 42nd District, where stacking illustrates the daunting challenge of Democrats into the fall. There, Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen—surely one of the most polarizing political figures in recent memory, with towering negatives—was the top vote-getter in a primary in which there was little to stir Republicans. Barring some Big Blue Wave miracle that was not in evidence in this primary, he may sail to easy victory in the fall.

Stacking the votes received by Democrat Tim Ballew II on to the votes received by frontrunner Democrat Pinky Vargas scopes the challenge faced by Democrats in this district, the many thousands of votes they must still activate and collect in order to make a difference this fall.

The dirty little secret in American politics is the two parties like their safe districts, and are more than happy to cooperate together to reinforce them and create more of them.

Money and energy that might have been spent by Democrats in the 40th District may now be moved elsewhere—for example, the competitive 10th Legislative District to the south. Similarly, money and energy the Republicans might spend in a fundraising effort to hold Whatcom County may also now be confidently shifted—perhaps to Dino Rossi’s bid to replace retiring Rep. Dave Reichart in the state’s 8th Congressional District in order to retain the Republican hold of the U.S. House of Representatives.

These notable battlegrounds are, in consequence, created by making every other district less competitive—and politically less interesting—in successive gerrymanders. Through motive and mischief, the parties are becoming increasingly sealed off from one another across geographic domains, and they’re taking their voters with them.

The strategy of centrist and progressive Democrats alike—that a more energetic primary with more choices among candidates and positions would increase voter excitement and participation into the fall, and might heal the frictions between the two camps—does not appear to have been borne out by participation totals. Candidates were diverse and excellent, but it made little difference to the interest of voters. This midterm is shaping up to be as lukewarm in turnout as any other in recent years.

The Blue Wave can only arrive through the activation and participation of the population cohort under the age of 40, the largest and most influential voting bloc in the United States. Yet while polls indicate this cohort dislikes the current direction of our corrosive national politics, and dislikes it with a more ferocious intensity than any other voting group, their indifference to elections suggests they’re a generation content to continue to be punched in the mouth by those politics.

For local Democrats, the immediate challenge will be bringing the camps together, patching together frayed coalitions and salving bruised feelings from a notably fractious primary. The searing irony for Ds is the fractious primary fallout was calculated to boost voter interest and demonstrate the party accommodates many views and the interests of a broad-based electorate.

Now the party must sweep up the flotsam and shards of a self-inflicted storm surf, while the wave they wanted to ride crested and broke offshore.

BoS
Past Columns
Halfway Houses

March 20, 2019

New Directions

March 13, 2019

Fire and Ice

March 6, 2019

The Big Short

February 27, 2019

Marina Lacuna

February 20, 2019

New Bites at the Apple

February 13, 2019

Coal Folds

February 6, 2019

Refocusing the Narrative

January 29, 2019

Old Town, Old Story

January 23, 2019

Ranker Unanchored

January 16, 2019

‘Alternative Methods’

January 9, 2019

Top Stories, 2018

January 2, 2019

Et Tu, #MeToo

December 26, 2018

Turn That Corner

December 19, 2018

Paradigms in Collision

November 28, 2018

Leftover Turkey

November 21, 2018

The Divisions Between Us

November 14, 2018

The Map is the Territory

November 7, 2018

Events
Today
Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest

8:00am|Whatcom County

La Conner Daffodil Festival

10:00am|La Conner and the Skagit Valley

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition

12:00pm

Imagine Convergence on Orcas Island

12:00pm|Rosario Resort

Peter Pan, A Musical Adventure

7:00pm|Meridian High School

Dyo Festival Plays

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Bellingham Puppetry and Mask Festival

7:30pm|Alternative Library

SICBA Home & Garden Show

11:00am|Skagit County Fairgrounds

Tarnation, Ryan Stiles

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

The Pageturners

7:30pm|ACT Annex

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #154

Honeywagon Runs

8:00am|Riverside Park

Nordic Roots Seminar

9:00am|United Methodist Church

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Squalicum Creek

Native Plant Sale

9:00am|Whatcom Community College

Make It and Take it

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

WNPS Field Trip

9:00am|Breazeale Interpretive Center

Spring Studio Seconds Sale

10:00am|Blue Water Pottery

Quilt Museum Annex Open House

10:00am|Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum

Youth Ag Day

10:00am|Skagit Farmers Supply

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Skagit Beer Week

11:00am|Skagit Valley

Dahlias Made Easy

11:00am|Christianson's Nursery

Free My Heart

12:00pm|Village Books

Tax Help Available

12:30pm|First Congregational Church

Fidalgo and Mount Baker Youth Symphonies

1:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Forest Bathing

1:00pm|Rockport State Park

A Family Immigration Story

1:00pm

Cheese Classes

5:00pm|Chuckanut Center

PechuKucha Night

5:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Contra Dance with the Alphabeats

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Manouche NW Concert Series

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Giovanni & the Camino of St. Francis

7:00pm|Village Books

Gabriel and Rebecca Manalac

7:30pm|Jansen Art Center

Skagit Symphony's Masterpiece Concert

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

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Tomorrow
Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest

8:00am|Whatcom County

La Conner Daffodil Festival

10:00am|La Conner and the Skagit Valley

Imagine Convergence on Orcas Island

12:00pm|Rosario Resort

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition

12:00pm

SICBA Home & Garden Show

11:00am|Skagit County Fairgrounds

The Pageturners

7:30pm|ACT Annex

Skagit Beer Week

11:00am|Skagit Valley

Rabbit Ride

8:30am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

History Tour

12:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Legally Blonde, the Musical

3:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Murder & Mayhem

3:00pm|Everson Library

Poems for Peace

3:00pm|The Happy Place

Powerful in pink

3:00pm

Art of Jazz

4:00pm|BAAY Theatre

Classy Comedy

7:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Bos2 Village Books
Monday
Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest

8:00am|Whatcom County

La Conner Daffodil Festival

10:00am|La Conner and the Skagit Valley

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition

12:00pm

Skagit Beer Week

11:00am|Skagit Valley

Community Soup Kitchen

6:00pm|Little Cheerful Cafe

Monday Night Pizza

6:00pm|Ciao Thyme Commons

Poetrynight

7:00pm|Alternative Library

Open Mic Night

7:00pm|Village Books

Guffawingham

9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

see our complete calendar »

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