SEATTLE — Election 2012 was the triumph of the liberals. But the back story was it could’ve, would’ve, should’ve been won by the Republicans.
Except they botched it, big time. By spending much of the year suicidally insulting huge swathes of the voting public.
Here, the postelection landscape sure looks like we’re the new Amsterdam. We legalized pot. Ditto gay marriage. Democrats easily won the U.S. Senate race, all three open congressional seats and eight of nine statewide elected offices, including the governorship for the eighth consecutive time going back to 1984.
So it’d be tempting for elated liberals to see in all this a dream fulfilled. That Washington state finally has become a proper extension of the People’s Republic of Seattle.
It isn’t. There are other clues this was, instead, a massive missed opportunity for Republicans. One that will haunt the party for a long time around here.
Yet, in a year of thinking liberally, you might imagine Tim Eyman would struggle. But he had his most decisive win.
His two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes, a version of which squeaked by five years ago by 2 percentage points, won in all 39 counties on its way to a 30-percentage-point landslide.
And then this contrary factoid: Here in the supposed Soviet of Washington, 53 percent of voters told exit pollsters they want to scrap either all or parts of the health-care-reform law. Only 41 percent said they want to keep it or expand it.
Yet many of these voters were at the same time re-electing President Obama, the architect of that law. And rejecting Republican Rob McKenna in the governor’s race, though he had staked his political fortunes on undoing all or parts of it.
What happened? Why would an electorate open to moderate or right-of-center ideas simultaneously reject almost everybody with an R after their names?
Because Republicans blew it. Especially on a national level, the party behaved as if there was a revolution. They were all pitchforks and doom and gloom. When what people wanted was some adults in the room.
The day before the election, I saw that Republicans in the 41st Legislative District were electronically passing around one of those joke e-cards that said the following: “Obama will grab an early lead on Tuesday ... until all the Republicans get off work.”
Doesn’t that just sum up the attitude? GOP: “You’re a taker. And I, who built this, am a maker.”
McKenna can also trace his loss to his own decision in March 2010 to give a stem-winding speech against ObamaCare at a tea party rally in Olympia. In it he attacked Harvard intellectuals and egged on the crowd, who were waving signs decrying socialism and depicting Obama with a Hitler mustache.
Remember, the voters of the state tend to agree with McKenna about the health care law.
But I bet they were looking for a more mature approach. Such as: How can we fix this law? Probably not by pandering to rallies of people wearing tri-corner hats.
Nine years ago, the Seattle Weekly posed in photos what it dubbed “a new generation of Republican leaders.” The four were Dino Rossi, Bill Finkbeiner, Luke Esser and Rob McKenna.
Flash forward to today. Rossi lost three times. Finkbeiner lost last week. Esser’s out of politics. And now, McKenna, probably the most promising, is on his way out as well.
Can anyone rebuild from this rubble?
Don’t know. But when some fresh talent comes along, they’d better hope the fever gripping the Republican party has broken. Else they aren’t going to win around here, either.