I love friendship symbiosis. Case in point: I am a music/pop-culture junkie, while my best friend Imaginary Lorenzo is the political smartie-pants. As an active member of Democracy for Washington, an avid campaigner, and a lifelong news junkie, he's my one-stop resource for all-things-political. When Lorenzo needs a new music recommendation or the lyrics to some obscure 80s song, he calls me. When I need an election crash course, I turn to him. We have a long, illustrious history of trouble-making and using our respective powers for good.
So when it was time to cast our absentee ballots this November, my fella and I opened our voters guide and called Lorenzo. We were especially interested in his input on the gubernatorial race between Democrat Christine Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi.
Why did we, as extremely socially-liberal and politically-concerned voters, not immediately cast our votes for the Democratic candidate?
Lorenzo's expressed our concerns and expounded upon them, as he was extremely involved with the race throughout the campaign:
"Of the three Democrats who were running for the gubernatorial nomination Christine Gregoire was absolutely the worst. She presented no vision, she held no strong opinions, and of the many issues Washington State is facing, she didn't take aggressive or progressive stands on any of them.
I attended the Democracy for Washington-hosted gubernatorial forum for the Democratic candidates, where all three candidates were asked about two of the most heated issues facing our state: 1) gay marriage and 2) the fact that Washington State has the most regressive tax structure of any state in the nation. Only Chris Gregoire refused to discuss either issue. When I personally asked for her views, she evaded the questions in the most patronizing way possible, insisting that "Washington State wasn't ready to talk about either one of those issues." What many of the people in the audience heard was, "I can't talk about those issues because Eastern Washington won't vote for me if I do."
Not an inspiring example of leadership."
Washington State has had been a Democratic stronghold for over 20 years, with the populous liberal areas in western part of the state, including Seattle, outvoting the more conservative/less populous eastern part of the state. Once Gregoire easily won the Washington State Democratic nomination, her election was practically predicted. Then she ran a vague, issue-less campaign, with the subtext that the office was hers by entitlement.
Needless to say, we were under-whelmed by her assumed great expectations. So there we were, our pens hovering over our gubernatorial votes, pondering: how could we make our votes count? As true social liberals, was it more honest to vote along Democratic party lines? Or were we serving justice better by refusing to support a candidate who we felt would waver on all important social issues, and prove ineffectual on reforming our tax structure? How could we support a candidate who couldn't even express enough of an opinion to let us know why we should support her?
Again, Lorenzo expressed and validated our concerns:
"I can fight Dino Rossi if he wants to restrict a woman's right to choose, or if he wants to legislate against gay marriage," said Lorenzo. "I can't depend on Christine Gregoire if I don't know what her positions are. Will she sell my right to marry down the river for boost in the polls? Will she compromise on social justice budget issues? How can I know that she'll support the issues that are most important to me if I don't know what she believes?"
As per always, Lorenzo had a good point. We couldn't bring ourselves to vote for Dino Rossi, an acknowledged opponent of gay rights and abortion rights. But we couldn't bring ourselves to vote for Chris Gregoire either. Instead, we three cast our votes for the honorable Lorenzo Winnerman.
Apparently we weren't alone in our doubts. Gregoire underperformed the Kerry vote in Washington State by anywhere from seven to 11% in Democratic strongholds. Never did we guess that this race would become the closest race in history – that the entire election practically came down to our three votes. Rossi won the election, and the first recount.
It appears that now, after a second recount, Gregoire is the governor-elect of the state. Throughout the weeks following the election, Lorenzo and I have both been questioned by Democratic activists if we regret "throwing away" our votes. I asked him this week if he wished he had voted differently.
"Not at all," Lorenzo answered emphatically. "After the contested vote, it has become universally acknowledged that she ran a bad campaign, and was hurt by her lack of vision. That was my goal in refusing to vote for her, and no matter who ends up winning, that goal has been met."
As per usual, I concur with my personal political advisor. While I will confess that the thought of a Republican governor in my state with George W. Jackass starting his second term gives me hives, I feel like voting against weak Democratic candidate was the smarter decision for the support of issues that matter most to me: personal rights, freedom of speech and the press, and the separation of church and state. Because the Democrat party has become amorphous at best, and the only way to let them know what we Democrats think is to cast our votes.
Hell, I just read last week that John Kerry and other Democrats have decided that, "Democrats also needed to welcome more pro-life candidates into the party." Excuse me? We've hardly heard anything from John since he conceded the election faster than you could say "but what about the money I donated to investigate election fraud?" – and this is how he come roaring back out of the political gate? I find that terrifying, and exactly the wrong direction for Democrats to choose.
"Democrats at local and national levels are torn by the decision to shift the party left or right. The party moving left would look like an embracing a progressive ideals, social justice issues, and a strong counterbalance to the false accusation that the Democrats have no moral authority. A move to the right would look like making the Democratic Party more Republican light than it currently is.
I think the true message in Washington State's gubernatorial election is this: when given the choice between someone whose positions are clear, even if you disagree with them, versus the choice of a person whose positions are ambiguous, it is natural to choose the person whose positions are clear."
And moving forward, we need to be very, very clear about how we want the Democrat party to progress.
Heavy thoughts for the end of a heavy year. Tune in next week, when I tell you and Lorenzo all about the best imaginary albums of 2004.