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    2008: Year of Hope, Year of Fear. Essay 8

    Is this the year the Republicans went down for the count?

    At times this year seemed like 1968 — nasty wars (two this time), cultural divides, a hated president unable to appear at his own party’s national convention. At other times it seemed like 1960 — a young and articulate president-elect, generational excitement, a new “brain trust” replacing the tired suits in Washington, D.C.

    The hopes of 1960 were strangled in the jungles of Vietnam by 1968, and an entire generation was at war with themselves and the culture of their parents. In the Northwest, the entrenched partnership of Republican moderates with regional business leaders began to lose its edge. New political powers, particularly women and public-sector unions, appeared on the statewide scene and, four decades later, they call the shots.

    By 2008, our region was so predictably Democratic that we were irrelevant in the national election, and largely ignored in the building of the Obama team. Oregon, for the first time since statehood, will have no Republican in statewide office. Washington Republicans are down to Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna.

    The ability of Republicans to begin rebuilding in 2009 will depend in large measure on how President-elect Barack Obama handles his pledge to reduce partisanship, and how the Republican minority in Congress mounts the opposition. If national Republicans withdraw to their Southern base, laced with fundamentalist religion and not-so-subtle racism, Northwest Republicans will face the same embarrassment that their Democratic colleagues faced in the 1950s. Northwest Democrats of that era always had Strom Thurmond and James Eastland to explain. Northwest Republicans in 2009 will not progress if their national party leadership thinks “Barack the Magic Negro” is funny.

    Northwest Republicans in 2009 also would have to try to begin rebuilding their bench. The lack of depth is most apparent in Oregon, but in Washington the old team is also worn out and there is little in reserve. Republicans have always drawn from leaders in business and local government, and local elections in 2009 will give the party a chance to build that next team.

    Political watchers should keep their eye on those campaigns, particularly in urban areas such as Spokane, Vancouver, and Snohomish County. Regional Republicans should pray for national party leaders that won’t be embarrassing in the progressive Northwest. The twin towers of Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh would make the Northwest flyover territory for Republicans for years to come.

    Floyd J. McKay, professor of journalism emeritus at Western Washington University, was a print and broadcast journalist in Oregon for three decades. Recipient of a DuPont-Columbia Broadcast Award for documentaries, and a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, he is also a historian and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Washington. He resides in Bellingham and can be reached at floydmckay@comcast.net.

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    Posted Wed, Dec 31, 8:40 p.m. Inappropriate

    Floyd's right! If Republicans want to win again they need to run respected, pragmatic moderates for high office like John McCain. Oh wait, tried that........

    Posted Thu, Jan 1, 7:18 a.m. Inappropriate

    Well John, he ran a lot stronger than the real conservative who garnered 39.7% of the vote in the 2000 WA gubenatorial race.

    Posted Thu, Jan 1, 12:51 p.m. Inappropriate

    Well, with the benefit of hindsight, it was one of those races that I don't think anyone in the Party really could have won. 73% of the people that year said we were on the "right track", we had the strongest economy in state history, a billion dollar surplus in the bank, tax cuts AND more money for higher ed and schools plus welfare reform. Clearly, not the year to run on a theme of "change". But you live and learn....

    Posted Thu, Jan 1, 4:41 p.m. Inappropriate

    As one of the "old team that is worn out," I'm again reminded of the wisdom never to take political advice from someone who never votes the way you do in the first place.

    Thanks, Floyd, but...no thanks. Becoming pale imitations of Democrats only causes voters to opt for the real thing. Besides, right now Gov. Christine Gregoire's proposed budget is doing a good enough job of causing disarray and the destruction of a lot of governing illusions among Dems.

    I love how she's proposing deporting over 300 illegal-alien felons now doing time in Washington jails, something conservatives applaud and liberals decry. And her fight with the WFSE and SEIU won't be without residual political bitterness.

    Now, if she could only get the whole Christmas thing squared away...

    As for the worn out part...two falls out of three, Floyd?

    The Piper

    Posted Fri, Jan 2, 2:24 p.m. Inappropriate

    Scott: Beware of assumptions. I would register as a Democrat if Washington required it, but in the past election I voted FOR Republicans Reed and McKenna and AGAINST Democrat Owen. I grew up in the progressive Republican era of Mark Hatfield and Tom McCall in Oregon. I suspect this pattern of voting for Democrats at the top of the ticket (Obama, Gregoire) and Republicans for some other offices is typical of many in the Northwest. In past days when Republicans ran well in the region they often ran against their national ticket, and when they took on the trappings of the national GOP, particularly since the Southern Strategy came to dominate it, they ran poorly in the region. If Democrats botch up this recession, look for Republicans who can claim competence in office or even in private business to do well in 2010 and 2012, at least in this region. But just as Bush killed their candidates this year, any version of Sarah Palin will do so in the future. The Northwest is independent progressive in my experience, and both terms are operative.
    Floyd McKay

    Posted Sat, Jan 3, 7:24 a.m. Inappropriate

    In the last 50 years there have been 30 "Top of the Ticket" statewide races for Governor or U.S. Senator. Of those 30 races, three Republicans, Dan Evans, John Spellman and Slade Gorton won 8. The last Republican win was Slade Gorton's senate win in 1994. No other Republicans have won a "Top of the Ticket" statewide race. The three of them are conservatives as far as I am concerned, but I doubt Carlson & St. Clair would claim Evans and Spellman as one of theirs and don't know about Gorton. In any event I don't see any demonstrated appeal in this state for Craswell, Williams, et. al. type conservatives. The "Bubba Diaspora" is not that large a percentage of the population in this state.

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