1. We want Democrats (to act like Republicans):
If Washington state voters sent a clear message in 2012, it was that we want Democrats to run the state, while applying GOP fiscal principles. President Barack Obama won the state handily, the most electable GOP gubernatorial candidate in a generation was defeated, Democrats hold all but one statewide executive office and they are the dominating force in the state House and, at least mathematically, the state Senate. Questions about how much control they have in the Senate go to the larger point: the balance of power is in the hands of Democrats who often vote like Republicans. Washington should be blue on paper, but....
The clearest statement about where Washingtonians stand was the vote on Tim Eyman's perennially popular idea to make tax increases subject to a two-thirds-vote rule. I-1185 passed in every single county in Washington, all 39 of them. There was no Cascade or Red/Blue divide. Urban counties passed it, so did rural ones. The only question was, how much did it pass by? The worst it did was in liberal San Juan County where it eked a slim majority of 50.24 percent. It carried Democratic King County with 54 percent. Majorities were bigger in Eastern Washington where the worst it did was in Whitman County, which passed Eyman's initiative with a healthy 61.8 percent.
So, Washington said, Gay marriage, let's do it. Legal pot, fantastic. People with progressive values in charge, you got it. But don't let them raise taxes without jumping the high bar. It's the politics of broad minds and fiscal constraint.
2. What are they smoking in the Palouse?
It's always interesting to see how the state looks a bit scrambled on ballot measures. For example, I-1185 found Washington to be all red on tax increases. Charter Schools (I-1240) did well in much of Pugetopolis (though not King County), Central Washington (Chelan, Yakima, Benton, Kittitas counties) and Southwest Washington (Lewis, Clark, Pacific counties), but it lost in many traditionally Republican Eastern Washington counties. Enthusiasm and skepticism for charters does not follow strict partisan lines. Neither did pot legalization (I-502), which won in some usually Republican leaning counties like Clallam on the Olympic Peninsula, and notably in some of Eastern Washington's northern tier counties (Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry), plus in Spokane and Whitman. Whitman is becoming one of the more interesting Eastern Washington counties to watch, showing flashes of both liberalism and conservatism. This cycle, Whitman County was pro-pot, anti-charters, pro-gay marriage, and voted for Mitt Romney. What are they smoking in the Palouse?
3. Libertarians matter, at least a little:
Nationally, it was a good show for the Libertarian Party. The standard bearer, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, was a credible, experienced presidential candidate who drew more than 1.2 million votes nationally, and that's without being on the ballot in every state (the party now has full ballot access in 30 states and the District of Columbia). According to the party, there were in fact seven Libertarian candidates who received over 1 million votes. Five of those were in Texas and one in Georgia. More importantly, the party posed a serious problem for Republicans in a number of races. In at least nine contests nationally, the Daily Kos estimates, Libertarians appear to have helped Democrats defeat Republicans by receiving a percentage of the vote that exceeded the winning Democrat's margin of victory. The working assumption is that most of those votes would have gone Republican without a Libertarian on the ballot. (The Washington state Libertarian Party's endorsements offer ideological evidence, as they heavily favored Republicans.)
The nine races tipped by Libertarians were consequential ones, including a Senate and governor's race in Montana, two House seats in Arizona, and one in Utah. According to The Washington Post's "The Fix," in Senate contests in Indiana and Montana, the Libertarian Party candidate drew around 6 percent, which they said are "the party’s best showings in three-way Senate races in at least the last decade." The Fix's conclusion: "The question ... is whether the Libertarian Party continues to be an occasional nuisance, or whether it continues to build on its nascent progress and becomes a real headache for the Republican Party. Given the GOP’s ongoing problems with its brand, it’s not hard to see voters continuing to desert that brand and pick an increasingly valid third-party." In other words, GOP woes offer a potential opening for Libertarians, especially if they find candidates who can mainstream their ideology.
Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!