Moving on from ’18: what next election may mean for the state
With the election of 2018 and its accompanying unpleasantness finally over, we can get back to the real business of America — brawling over the next election.
There’s no post-election lull or off season in politics any more. The purpose of counting votes to conclude one campaign is to get it out of the way so as to focus on the next campaign, which has already started. Politics seems to pervade everything. The lament or complaint that “it’s all political” is increasingly a statement of fact, not opinion.
So we might as well get on with it and figure out how this year’s election, really just one more chapter in the perpetual campaign, sets us up for elections in 2019 and 2020:
The leading issue in the
A national campaign was how much various sides and factions loathe one another, but some issues of actual substance were debated.
Trade policy wasn’t one of them. And it’s not likely to be over the next two years, even though it’s important to multiple industries and regions of the country, especially the Northwest.
Trade policy debates do not neatly follow conventional political dividing lines. President Donald Trump’s hard line on trade, insisting on new deals and hitting imports with tariffs and duties, plays well with his base in industrial cities that have borne the brunt of lost revenues and jobs.
Tough talk on China also appeals to many business executives unhappy with the continued pilfering of intellectual property.
But his trade policy isn’t that different than what the traditional Democratic base, particularly labor union members, has been calling for for years. The motivations might be different, but it’s not far from what is espoused by the Bernie Sanders wing of the party.
This puts the Northwest in the middle of the fight, where you can find bipartisan advocacy for open trade and for managed trade, as well as lots of bystanders who are helped or hurt by whatever policy is in force.
Many of the industry-specific international-trade disputes this Washington is caught up in — airplanes, lumber and paper, agricultural products, solar panels — predate Trump, and are likely to outlast him.
Speaking of perpetual cam
A paigns, the effort to whack Washington businesses, consumers and motorists with some sort of tax, fee or penalty for continued use of Demon Carbon has now gone 0-for-4, with the defeat of Initiative 1631.
That follows the defeat of a different initiative a few years ago, failed efforts to get the Legislature to pass an anti-carbon measure and Gov. Jay Inslee’s efforts to impose carbonemission caps via administrative regulation (slapped down by court ruling, although it’s on appeal to the state supremes). Get ready for round five.
With a bigger Democratic majority in the Legislature, and a governor who would love to have a win on his signature issue to take on the national political road, proponents are likely to take another run at the issue in the legislative session commencing in January. (With Tuesday’s vote, the initiative route is probably closed off for a few years.)
They might be further encouraged by the fact that the I-1631 campaign managed to enlist some business support.
The limiting factor will be the
mindset of legislators — how convinced are they that the political pendulum has, in Washington, permanently frozen to the advantage of liberal Democrats.
If they think there’s a chance enough of the electorate will bring the Republicans back to power, they’ll nod politely when Inslee makes his State of the State speech, then quietly bury the proposal in committee, never to be seen or heard from again.
But if they detect no political penalty in advocating an anti-carbon measure, then proponents will find the fifth time is a charm.
Political campaigns are A of financial benefit to some — the winners, consultants, pollsters, print- ers, advertising outlets, even the U.S. Postal Service — but as the recently concluded campaign demonstrated, there’s a huge economic-efficiency problem involved.
Does the 15th full-color oversized postcard have any more influence than the first or second? Does the 27th repetition of a television spot going to influence a voter’s decision on a candidate or ballot measure? (Please, can’t I just watch some football in peace?) Does anyone notice the 53rd sign jammed into a public median strip, other than to prompt the thought, “Who’s going to clean up this mess?”
Advertising theory says repetition builds audience awareness. Advertising reality says loud, humorless ads build annoyance or are tuned out as noise. Technology hasn’t improved political advertising efficiency; it’s simply created more channels politicians figure they have to saturate to reach voters.
Whether they are reaching voters, much less influencing them, is debatable. But for all the complaints about the annoyance, the inefficiency and the expense of political campaigns, no one is going to be the first to stop doing what is annoying, inefficient and expensive.
That won’t happen until someone figures out a more effective, less expensive approach, has the courage to break from the herd and try it — and has the results to prove it works.
With that as a warning, on to the next election.
Bill Virgin is editor and publisher of Washington Manufacturing Alert and Pacific Northwest Rail News. He can be reached at email@example.com.