Lost Cause of the Coughederacy
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
LOST CAUSE OF THE COUGHEDERACY: Filing Week opened this week. With excellent candidates registering online for state and federal offices in a presidential election year amid an economic crisis, it’s a safe bet November may spell another cratering of Republican fortunes in Washington. In that, it is a vast self-inflicted wound.
While poll after poll indicates broad public support for the state’s health guidelines during the pandemic crisis, the Washington GOP continues to run on a platform of aggressive defiance and partisan stunts.
Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times watched a recent candidate forum for Republicans seeking the governor’s office and observed, “The five candidates… never once spoke of the public health aspect of the crisis gripping the nation. They never talked about the virus. They seemed oblivious that something involving health was going on at all.”
Each of them has engaged in dramatic violations of the state’s social distancing orders in an approach spearheaded at the national level by the powerful corporate lobby front group, the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC documents call for action to “bring the economy back to life through a free market approach that gets big government out of the way.”
Small wonder state Republicans have seized this aggressive, partisan response to a public health crisis when the House Republican Caucus is staffed with ALEC stalwarts like Luanne Van Werven and Matt Shea, the latter under censure for his plans for “war against the government.” Also in the Caucus is Snohomish Representative Robert Sutherland who in April said, “We’re starting a rebellion in Washington, we’re not listening to this governor, we’re taking our state back” and threatened to shoot at law enforcement “goons.”
The epicenter of the 42nd District’s “resistance cell” is, unsurprisingly, the City of Lynden, which over the weekend held a “Freedom Parade” in defiance of the governor’s orders.
In a video promoting the parade, an event organizer requested that parade attendees not arrive with Nazi flags or Confederate or Klan regalia because it would detract from the intended message. As one observer noted, “If you have to remind your friends not to bring their Nazi flags to a parade, perhaps it is time to get new friends.”
In April, Lynden city officials issued a letter to local builders encouraging them to continue working in defiance of the governor’s orders—“it is the city’s policy that work continue, uninterrupted,” the mayor’s office stated—a policy that drew rebuke from the governor’s office.
Last week, the House Republican Caucus refused to extend the governor’s proclamation to extend protection orders for victims of domestic violence exacerbated by stay-at-home orders.
“This proclamation is not about convenience,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “It is about saving lives of domestic violence and sexual assault victims who are in need of protection now more than ever. The proclamation ensures victims can apply for protection online and provides options for serving alleged perpetrators with orders that don’t involve in-person service.
“Both the state prosecutors and sheriffs and police chief associations supported the extension of this important order,” Inslee said. “It is unfathomable why Republicans would turn their back on victims, sheriffs, police chiefs and prosecutors. This is not just deeply disappointing, it is dangerous.”
Republican intransigence in a public health emergency is perhaps even less fathomable as an election strategy.
An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll this week finds 55 percent of Americans nationally disapprove of the protests even as they are chafing at public health measures that have decimated the global economy. In Washington, the sentiment runs even deeper—76 percent of voters believe the pandemic restrictions are working, and 61 percent express concern about lifting them too soon, according to a recent Crosscut/Elway poll.
“We found extremely high and consistent levels of support for government restrictions put in place to combat COVID-19,” national poll researchers noted. “We asked respondents about eight such policies, including stay-at-home orders, mandatory closure of nonessential businesses, cancellation of major sports and entertainment events, closing of K-12 schools, requiring restaurants to limit their service to carry-out, restricting international travel to the U.S., and restricting domestic travel, as well as monitoring cell phones in order to track exposure to sick people.
“Across the nation, no fewer than 70 percent of respondents in any state in the union approved (somewhat or strongly) of these eight restrictions,” they noted, with Washington voters well above national average in their support. “In every state in the union, residents approve of their own governor’s handling of the COVID crisis.”
Again, it is hard to square these findings against an election strategy focused on flagrant resistance to those actions peppered with threats of armed violence. The COVID-19 crisis has torn away the bandages covering the suppurating rot of the modern Republican Party.
“Since Donald Trump came to define the GOP, Republicans have lost five state Senate seats, seven House seats and, for the first time, the 8th Congressional District,” Chris Vance wrote in a recent op-ed. Vance is the former chair of the state Republican Party.
The Republican base is largely made up of culturally conservative white evangelicals, who are ardently pro-life and opposed to same sex marriage and transgender rights—and reject climate change. “All this works for the GOP in some parts of America,” Vance noted, “but not in West Coast suburban communities.”
It’s a wonder the state GOP persists in their folly. Perhaps they literally cannot help themselves.
Trump has no coattails to carry down-ballot candidates to victory in the deep Blue Puget Sound region, particularly when their opponents are engaging and highly qualified for the positions they seek. In a presidential election year, when voter turnout statewide averages 80 percent (Whatcom County turnout in 2016 was 82.7 percent), COVID-19 is looking like an extinction-level event for local Republicans.