A Seat in Congress Is a Terrible Thing to Waste
Seattle's loyal blue voters have reason to be eager about 2006. With Republicans haunted by Bush's wilting numbers and the quagmire in Iraq, and with indictments hitting former GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Vice President Dick Cheney's office, Democrats are fantasizing about retaking the House or Senate. How disappointing, then, that Seattle's Democratic troops aren't poised to play a part in the much-anticipated '06 revolution. No, we'll be voting the status quo. For the 10th time in 18 years, 80 percent of Seattle will vote for U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-7).
It doesn't have to be this way. Seattle can, and should, participate in the '06 overhaul. As one of the 1,217 unsatisfied customers who chose a write-in instead of McDermott in 2004 (I went with King County Executive Council Liaison Ryan Bayne), I'd like to suggest a revolution of our own for '06: Let's replace McDermott.
What's my beef with Baghdad Jim? After all, he's a good liberal: against the war, against Bush's tax cuts, and against Bush's attempt to privatize Social Security. The truth is, I don't have many complaints about McDermott's politics. I do have a problem with his inability to get stuff done. We're wasting a safe Democratic seat on a guy who, after 16 years, has no clout or ability to impact policy.
Look at McDermott's liberal colleague to the north, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-1). Inslee shares McDermott's defensive anti-Bush positions, while going on the offensive on other fronts: His sweeping New Apollo Energy Act would have sparked investment in alternative energy. And he jump-started the bipartisan House effort to force the FDA to make a decision on the morning-after pill (Plan B). By comparison, McDermott, with his indecipherable "present" vote during last week's Republican Iraq "pullout" resolution, seems disengaged and clownish.
Here's the problem: According to Democratic insiders, McDermott is unbeatable with an active, some would say rabid, fan base.
One consultant advised: "The most credible person would be someone that says, 'McDermott is too marginalized to be effective anymore,' while having an impressive record of accomplishment himself and liberal credentials." With a shrug, the consultant offered state house Rep. Ed Murray (D-43)—adding, "Not a snowball's chance in hell."
I agree that Murray is the wrong choice. Murray has been talking about McDermott's seat forever, while failing to go for it. That hesitation has undermined his momentum. His time is past.
But that's fine. When people contemplate challenging McDermott, they make the mistake of looking for a veteran Dem or heir apparent. It's the wrong approach. The way to beat McDermott is with contrast: A surprise young outsider, who can run slightly right of McDermott. Iconoclastic County Council Member Bob Ferguson comes to mind. With a year to go, I'm certain we can find several strong candidates. Let's get on it.
Seattle may be invested in the Democratic revolution of 2006, but to actually take part, we'll need to oust our Democratic frontman first.