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November 29, 2007

Chopp touts progressive record

Posted by David Postman at 2:29 PM

A theme in the run-up to today's special session has been the Democratic left's unhappiness with the Democratic governor and legislative leaders for embracing a Tim Eyman-crafted tax cap. At least it's been a theme here, so House Speaker Frank Chopp said he wasn't surprised when I asked him about it at a press conference this morning. He said he'd would vote proudly for the tax cap. And he is prepared to answer criticism from the progressive wing of his party.

"Now if you want a long list of all the progressive things we've done in the Legislature with our strong majorities and a great governor, I'd be more than happy to give it to you. I actually typed it. It's over 50 things that are very progressive, very positive for public schools, for health care — particularly for children — job development, for higher education, for transportation. I can go on and on."

He said later that he compiled the list himself. Unfortunately it's on his home computer and he didn't have a copy here today. This is not to say that Chopp has been inundated with complaints from his liberal friends. He said that as of a few days ago he had heard from all of three constituents. And he represents the 43rd District, one of the most liberal in the state.

The left is trying some new ways to be heard, though. By this morning legislative leaders were to be presented with a petition signed by more than 2,000 people asking them to reject Gregoire's plea to approve the 1 percent cap. Fuse, a political group in Seattle, wanted the governor and the Legislature to take a broader look at property tax reform.

In a plea to supporters to sign the online petition, Fuse's Chris McCullough wrote:

Please sign our petition today — we have to send the Legislature a powerful message demanding real property tax reform in Washington State, not a Tim Eyman stunt.

...

There are other potential solutions as well, but the Legislature is focused on Tim Eyman's approach, and won't seriously consider anything else without a powerful message from their constituents.

I wrote a little about Fuse when they first started last summer.

Speaking out against plans by Gregoire, Chopp and other leading Democrats is one of Fuse's early attempts to exercise what muscle it may have. The group hopes to both push Democratic lawmakers to "uphold progressive values" as well as to add more Democrats in all levels of government in the state.

Fuse's executive director, Aaron Ostrom, told me the other day that in general he thinks Gregoire has a pretty strong record. But tax reform is important to the group and opposing the governor and Democratic leaders now, he said, "is just one of those things we couldn't duck."

"This is just a lost opportunity to make the tax system more progressive and more fair," he said. "We are going to be an honest voice for progressive issues and we have to play it straight."

And Fuse sees Eyman as a bad guy.

This doesn't mean that a lawmaker who votes today for the limit won't get Fuse's support. And it certainly doesn't mean the governor won't. But Fuse hopes to train and deploy volunteers for the campaigns of the group's top-rated candidates. Others could still get votes of Fuse members, but not their labors.

Ostrom said:

"It's one thing to vote for the lesser of two evils, but working for the lesser of two evils is a totally different thing."

That's sort of the point David Goldstein is making today, too. He does so in his inimitable style:

Clearly the governor has no qualms about screwing her party's progressive base, a political miscalculation mired in a profound lack of understanding of what it is, exactly, the base actually does. (Hint: we don't just vote.) But our local representatives, who are, theoretically, more in touch with their constituents... they should know better. I'd wager there isn't a legislative district Democratic organization in Seattle that would endorse reinstating I-747, and yet I'd be surprised if a majority of the Seattle delegation didn't vote to approve the governor's plan. I'll be counting. And I won't be the only one.

Oh, it's not like most of us progressive activists would ever abandon the party, or refuse to cordially work with representatives who cross us, it's just that I want to make it absolutely clear that those who accuse bloggers like me of being "tools of the Democratic Party" have it exactly backwards: the Democratic Party is our tool, and we intend to use it to enact our agenda. And that's how it should be.

I am one of those who thinks some bloggers are party tools. And I think this is a rare occasion where Goldstein and some other liberal writers are nearly as hard on one of their own as they are about the opposition. I can't think of many times where I've read such a clear condemnation of party rulers.

And that takes me back to something I wrote earlier today. I think the special session is a win for Republicans, even if they didn't claim it. There are at least some Democrats ticked off by the special session. They won't vote for Dino Rossi. But for now at least they'll find something other than the governor's race, or boosting Democratic majorities in the Legislature.

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