Though Thanksgiving Day has come and gone, remain thankful for this: 47 percent of the age-eligible — not the registered — citizenry voted in this mid-term election.
We’ve not seen turnout this high for a mid-term in 50 years.
Moreover, these voters did the one thing that had to be done. They removed control of the U.S. House of Representatives from the feckless Republican Party.
The authority to put the brakes on a wayward president belongs to the House. It initiates impeachment proceedings, subject to final ratification by the Senate, as well as tax bills. And it decides who will be president if the Electoral College count is tied.
Think of putting Democrats in control of the House as a public safety measure. It puts guardrails around a runaway Republican administration that’s heedlessly careening down a dark path. With some discipline, Democrats might keep the wheels from flying off.
However, Democrats seem forever doomed to be waylaid by the siren call of political suicide — see the threatened insurrection against former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose vote-counting and disciplinary skills rival those of the legendary Lyndon Baines Johnson. Pelosi moves difficult legislation, such as Obamacare, across the finish line.
That fewer than half of voting-age Americans vote is nothing to brag about. Overall, we rank a pitiful 26th among developed democracies in voting.
Even so, there’s a reason — an admittedly, and quite cheerfully sexist one — for guarded optimism that something more substantial than toxic testosterone might emanate from the newly refurbished House.
That 435-member body will have at least 102 women, an increase of 36, mostly Democrats. This mid-term was the best showing for new female lawmakers since 1992, when 24 women, including our own Sen. Patty (“Mom in Tennis Shoes”) Murray, were elected to Congress.
Including the Senate, at least 123 female lawmakers will serve in the 116th Congress, only 19 of them Republicans.
And what’s up with that, Republicans? Hello?
The increases in numbers of female Congressional lawmakers — and the House flip — were ordained by an army of Pink Pussy Hats the day after Donald Trump was sworn in as president. That’s when the massive Women’s March descended on the nation’s capital — and downtown Twisp — to unwelcome Trump to office.
Many of these women were galvanized by the Me Too movement and were kept organized by local progressive grassroots activist groups. Nationally, Indivisible served as an umbrella organization that urged local groups to organize resistance to Trump.
Yet only six state legislative chambers flipped to Democrats. Republicans retain control of far more. Legislatures matter; they’ve been known — shocking! — to gerrymander districts in efforts to unfairly skew election outcomes. And, of course, it’s elections for the Senate that foreordain the eventual composition of the U.S. Supreme Court.
It’s about time
It’s taken a remarkably long time, if I may say so, for American women to connect the dots between their legitimate concerns and the indifference of many incumbent lawmakers to those concerns. And it’s taken even longer for women to do something about it. But with a few more rounds of election efforts as determined and successful as this one, we can expect an end to under-representation of American women among the nation’s lawmakers.
Here in eastern Washington, though, it was another story. Every Democratic or Independent woman challenger in our neighborhood fell short of the mark despite the heartening upsurge of grassroots engagement.
Democrat Christine Brown failed to unseat Republican Dan Newhouse in our 4th Congressional District. Democrat Lisa Brown — an exceptionally strong challenger to an exceptionally well-entrenched incumbent — failed to eject Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers from her seat in the neighboring 5th.
Independent Dr. Ann Diamond of Mazama, running for House Position 1 in the 12th Legislative District, lost to Republican Keith Goehner, though Diamond broke through the Republican hold on Okanogan County, besting Goehner by an impressive 12 points.
Independent Salley Bull, who challenged incumbent Republican Jim DeTro for his seat on the Okanogan County Board of Commissioners, fell 9 points short. Democrat Valerie Sarratt of Twisp lost the race for 12th Legislative District House Position 2.
My takeaway? This crowd won’t take “no” for an answer.
The single biggest “no” blunder by Washington voters was falling for Big Oil’s $31 million, panic-stricken attack on Initiative 1631, which would have made Washington the first state to put a price on carbon emissions.
“We need Congress to pass a national carbon tax” is the opponents’ disingenuous dodge. We do indeed. But Big Oil owns enough members of Congress to prevent that from happening. So states rightly are filling this indefensible leadership void.
The initial gasoline increase of 14 cents per gallon, with 2 cents added annually, was meant partly to help fund development of affordable clean energy. It was pilloried as unfair to rural areas and for exempting some big carbon producers.
Mostly fair criticism — and legislatively fixable.
But you have to start somewhere, people. Faced with seemingly irresolvable conflicts, it’s well understood that in politics you get exactly nowhere if you make achieving the perfect the enemy of the good.
Here’s the one irrefutable thing about fossil fuels and climate change: there is no free, painless fix.
The longer we delay, the more it costs. The day will come when a 14-cent increase on a gallon of gas will be lamented as a laughably cheap missed opportunity.
Solveig Torvik lives in Winthrop.