Words

Beyond Protest

Kevin Ranker completes his sermon

Hear

What: A Conversation with State Senator Kevin Ranker

When: 1 pm Sun., Feb. 19

Where: Orcas Island Performing Arts Center main stage

Cost: Free

Info: orcas
center.org

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Surveying the ashes of the November election, the normally ebullient and thoughtful senator from the islands was nearly speechless with despair.

“How could I have gotten this so wrong?” state Sen. Kevin Ranker asked himself. “Could it be that my beliefs about social justice and human rights, and those who I believe I represent, are that different from large numbers of my fellow Americans, that our place in the Salish Sea is so different from the rest of the country that we can no longer understand one another? No!”

He set out to write what he called a sermon in three parts—one part analysis on what had occurred; another part exhortation not to lose hope or surrender; a third part containing specifics on how to move forward. The first two parts came readily. On the third, he stalled. He wanted truth and action, not polemic or bromide. Ranker dug back into the research for answers.

Early conclusions about the election (the angry white electorate) were swept aside by a deeper dive into actual precinct data. The country has not fundamentally shifted since 2000; but some states formerly considered competitive are growing less so, as the electorate itself has polarized and wedge issues have calcified along “tribal” lines. Meanwhile, the outpouring of activism has been wildly greater than the senator dared imagine in November. And thus through study, the two early parts of his sermon have with time informed the third.

“I’ve been receiving hundreds of emails, voice mails, messages from people—others stopping me on the street—who are just, well, really scared, who feel overwhelmed, who feel they went to a protest and felt empowered and got home from the protest and read the following days’ news reports and felt despair again,” the Orcas Island Democrat said. “Hundreds of people have been asking me, ‘What do we do? What do we actually do in the threat.

“There comes a time,” he said, “when the mourning is over, and the fear needs to be compartmentalized, and energy needs to be turned to action and specific activities we can take on to take our country back.”

The first task, Ranker noted, is to realize that states’ rights are powerful and to use that power.

“Here in Washington, we can protect our human rights. We can protect our dignity, and we can not only say no to new federal directives, we can do something about it,” he said. “And so if they repeal the ACA, Obamacare, we can increase Apple Health [the state’s medical care coverage program] and provide health care for our citizens. if they want to threaten reproductive rights, we can protect them here in Washington. If they want to come after LGBTQ rights, we will protect our friends, our families, or neighbors, ourselves.

“We will be a sanctuary for respect and dignity and love and caring.”

The mechanism, in Ranker’s view, is his own chamber—the state Senate. The Senate is essentially deadlocked, paralyzed. A special election this fall in the 45th Legislative District—King County’s east side—is the key to that mechanism. The senate seat was left vacant by the death of moderate Republican Andy Hill in October of last year.

“People ask, ‘What can I do to make a difference,’” Ranker said. “And yes, part of it is showing up, going to protests, letting people know that there is a massive majority that feel very differently from our President and the individuals he is appointing.”

But, he said, there are steps beyond that. Beyond protest there is active resistance.

“We need to take back our state Senate,” Ranker affirmed. “The single most important thing anybody who lives in Washington state who cares about these issues can do is work to make sure we see a progressive shift in the special election that will take place in November. If we take the Senate, we can protect women’s rights; we can protect immigrants rights to the extent we can as a state; we can move forward on addressing climate change; we can pass a large number of bills that protect vulnerable members of our community.”

It’s not a high hurdle: The 45th is a district that went 61 percent for Hillary Clinton and a supermajority for Gov. Jay Inslee.

There’s more at stake, at opportunity, than just the state Senate. But you’ll have to hear Ranker issue those details at his Orcas sermon. And if you ask him real nice, he might even bring his evangelical mission to an encore performance in Bellingham.

“I’m renting as many big buses as I can, and fill them with as many people as I can,” he promised. “And on the front of each bus will be a big banner: ‘Resist.’”

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