After learning more about the Democrats’ undemocratic redistricting strategy (more about this later), two warnings regarding the fragility of our democracy come to mind as relevant today in Washington State. One is a famous quote from British history, while the second comes from two modern-day Ivy League political science professors.
The first comes from 19th century British politician Lord Acton, who wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
The second comes from two liberal Harvard professors (Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt) from their 2018 New York Times bestseller “How Democracies Die.” The focus of the book, which is often cited by liberal commentators, was their view that President Donald Trump was a threat to Democracy. The authors used modern worldwide examples to demonstrate that democracy is rarely threatened by armed takeover, but most threats comes from those who are democratically elected, abusing their power and slowly eroding the principles of democracy, often through the declaration of a real or imaginary “emergency.”
We are currently seeing both warnings playing out in our state today. Democrats now, with the resignation of Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman, possess all statewide offices (the Governor’s mansion since 1985), all nine seats on the Washington State Supreme Court, and majorities in both chambers of the Washington State Legislature. They also have a media, through lack of resources, sympathetic views, and/or pure laziness, that is unwilling to question or challenge the undemocratic actions taken by Democrat officials. The Democrats clearly possess “absolute power” in Washington state.
Using this “absolute power” elected Democrats have slowly eroded many democratic principles in a manner which just a few years ago would have seemed unfathomable.
Much has been written about Governor Jay Inslee’s unprecedented abuse of his emergency powers. For more than 625 days, the governor has completely eliminated the legislative branch of state government from participating in making vital decisions seriously impacting the lives and financial well-being of the state’s 7.6 million residents. Inslee has also largely ignored locally elected officials (often failing to return phone calls or even acknowledging receipt of a letter) and local health officials complained they are never consulted by the governor’s team about the health and safety mandates imposed by the state.
Nearly everyone agrees that the governor needs to have the ability to act quickly when facing an emergency. The state’s chief executive must be able to immediately deploy state resources to either protect or assist the state residents. Crisis often unify lawmakers. Partisan differences are put aside and everyone focuses on making it through the emergency and protecting Washington residents. In fact, if you look back through Shift’s archives to the early weeks of the pandemic, you will notice that we refrained for many weeks from being critical of the governor’s actions to demonstrate our support for a unified front to combat COVID. Only when the governor formed alliances with other states based solely on if they had a Democrat governor, replaced bi-partisan advisory committees with ones whose members were all his campaign supporters, and started making health/safety decisions that rewarded his friends and hurt his opponents, did Shift begin to criticize the governor’s COVID-related actions.
Yet, in a democracy, these emergency powers must have limits. In nearly every state, the governor has a limit – be it 30, 60-, or even 90 days — before the legislature is brought in (either the full legislative body or its leadership) to provide either oversight of the governor’s actions or actually deliberating and passing legislation regarding the emergency.
Governor Inslee has refused to bring the elected voices of the people in the legislature into the decision-making process. Republican legislators have repeatedly demanded that the legislature be returned to its proper constitutional role. In response, the governor once embarrassingly claimed that if the legislature’s power was restored the Republicans would immediately eliminate everyone’s health care – which the governor well knew the minority Republicans never wanted to do and, even if they did, could not accomplish unless many Democrat legislators supported the plan and Governor Inslee signed the bill.
Democrat legislators have gone along with this abuse of power, apparently because they don’t want to be held accountable to their constituents for supporting the governor’s actions. Occasionally a Democrat lawmaker or two will make public threats to end Governor Inslee’s undemocratic one-man rule, after his actions have negatively impacted their constituents, but they always retreat from these threats and allow the governor to continue to abuse his authority.
Governor Inslee’s action have been bad enough, but other Democrats have also abused the absolute powers their party currently possesses.
During the 2021 legislative session, Democrat leadership kept a fence up around the state capitol and refused any member of the public access to the state capitol. Democrats also imposed severe restrictions on the public’s ability to virtually testify on bills before the body. Senator Sam Hunt (D – Olympia) notoriously allowed only a couple of dozen citizens to testify for just one minute, out of more than 1,600 who registered, on a bill regarding the governor’s emergency powers.
While denying the public the right to speak on legislation, the Democrats did demonstrate who they listen to regarding legislation – violent liberal rioters who demanded severe restrictions on our police departments. Democrat legislators, none of whom condemned the far-Left political violence that took place in Seattle in 2020, rushed to pass pro-criminal legislation which has resulted in skyrocketing crime rates and dozens of examples where police were unable to pursue criminals or become involved in resolving potentially dangerous situations.
Prior to the pandemic, the Democrats reaction to the voters passing I-976 (reducing excessive car tab fees) in the 2019 election was to immediately file a lawsuit to overturn the voters’ decision (allowing the nine liberal justices of the State Supreme Court to strike down the initiative). This snub of the public’s views is the opposite of the Democrats’ actions in 2000, when the courts struck down the passage of a similar car-tab reduction effort (I-695). Then Governor Gary Locke and Democrat legislators worked with Republicans to pass legislation which supported the public’s desire for lower car tab fees.
Not only didn’t current Democrats listen to the public’s desire for lower tab fees, there was serious consideration (HB 2529) by Democrat legislators (ironically led by the Democrats’ 2020 nominee for Secretary of State Representative Gael Tarleton) to pass undemocratic legislation which would have eliminated initiative elections in years ending in an odd number, because Democrats do not like the results when liberal voters can’t be bothered to vote.
There is current Democrat legislation to further eliminate the public’s views on legislation by removing public advisory votes on tax measures. This bill (SB 5812) is sponsored by Democrat Senator Patty Kuderer (D – Bellevue) and was recently publicly touted in a Seattle Times op-ed by the previously mentioned Senator Hunt and Representative Javier Valdez (D – Seattle). Not only do the Democrats want to remove the public from testifying on pending legislation, but they also now want to eliminate the public’s voice on bills that have already passed.
And all of these corrupting examples from their absolute power leads to the Democrats actions in passing their state income tax on capital gains (SB 5096). Ten consecutive times Washington voters have struck down efforts to impose a state income tax on Washington residents. Knowing this, the Democrats “moved heaven and earth” to include a rarely used undemocratic “emergency” clause in their latest income tax effort, just to deny Washington residents the opportunity to repeal the tax through a referendum. The Democrats stated their suppression of voters’ rights was necessary due to the need for more state revenue during the pandemic, despite the fact that state revenues are far exceeding budget projections and collection of the new tax would not commencing for two years anyway.
Finally, now we are learning more about the bizarre actions of the Washington State Redistricting Commission which occurred earlier this week. According to many sources, it had long been the Democrats’ strategy to eliminate Republicans and the public from the process. Instead of having commissioners appointed by both Democrats and Republicans come to an agreement (as has always previously occurred with the commission), the Democrats decided it was to their advantage to have their liberal buddies on the Washington State Supreme Court decide the boundaries of the state’s 10 congressional districts and 49 legislative districts, rather than to negotiate with Republicans based on the public’s input.
In order to fulfill their undemocratic desires, the Senate Democrats’ appointed commissioner Brady Walkinshaw purposefully made unreasonable delaying requests during the final hours to ensure the commission failed to meet their November 15th midnight deadline. This after Walkinshaw had skipped out on his redistricting duties to instead hobnob with wealthy environmentalists during exclusive receptions at the recent global climate change gabfest and cocktail party in Scotland.
Thus, the Democrat strategy was to purposely waste millions in taxpayer dollars the commission spent on staff, computer technology, and hearings. But more importantly, the Democrats’ strategy was not only designed to eliminate Republicans from the process, but also to ignore the views of Washington residents who took part in the many public hearings the commission held. The Democrats’ latest undemocratic actions are a slap in the face of each member of the public who thought their voice mattered. Walkinshaw’s actions will cause many citizens to believe it is a waste of time to participate in the process (sadly, this appears to be a goal of many Democrats).
Major parts of Washington State are undoubtedly Democrat strongholds. Yet, as the elections earlier this month show, people have their limits. Current polls show that 2022 will likely be a good year for Republican candidates and conservative ideas. Many independent voters are growing concerned about the Democrats’ abuse of power and their undemocratic approach. It will be up to those voters to decide whether or not they believe the Democrats have abused their power, and whether or not basic democratic principles are worth fighting for.