This election matters, don’t sit it out

May 12th, 2010 by Ken

(Editors note:  The following editorial comment is from Dick Davis, president of the Washington Research Council.   I present it here for your contemplation.)

By Richard S. Davis

Washington State has never really taken to politics as a contact sport. While thepros play hard, the stands rarely fill. The fans show up for the big games -a presidential contest or hotly contested gubernatorial race – but therwise
stay home.

Maybe it’s the temperate climate, the legacy of Scandinavian diffidence or
the abundance of competing diversions, but our culture does not cultivate apervasive political passion.

People pay attention when they believe the investment of time and effort
will pay off for them. When things are going well, the average voter can
afford to leave politics to others.

In 2004, Ilya Somin, an assistant professor at George Mason School of Law,
explained such “rational ignorance” this way: “The rational voter has little
incentive to gain more knowledge about politics because his or her vote is
unlikely to affect the outcome. Since gaining more knowledge offers few
benefits and substantial costs, the average citizen remains ignorant, though
rationally so.”

Things are not going well, now, however. Moreover, what may make sense for the individual poses a significant risk to the democracy. Last February, in a Forbes magazine commentary, Somin wrote, “The best response to voter ignorance is to reduce the size and scope of government.”

The larger and more complex the government, the more estranged and powerless its citizens become. It will be the work of a lifetime to recapture
territory ceded to the federal government in recent years.

The mounting deficit and governance problems in California, New York, and other big government states underscore the dangers of expanding entitlements, burgeoning bureaucracies, and runaway regulators.

That’s why this year Washington voters have good reason to engage directly
and vigorously in the 2010 election. There’s a great deal at stake. Each vote matters.

Already, 16 incumbents have said they would be leaving their current seats. According to Washington State Wire, 10 of them are leaving for good and six to run for another office.

That’s unusually high turnover. It may get higher as the June filing date approaches. While health, ambition and fatigue played a role in individual decisions, who can doubt that politics has lost some of its appeal in these days of tight budgets and tense temperaments?

Open seats offer opportunity for newcomers. Moreover, national polling
points to uncommon incumbent vulnerability among those running for

With Democrats holding overwhelming majorities, they have the most at risk.  Nationally, political analyst Charlie Cook writes, “. the passion for voting is almost all Republican.” Our state is not the exception. Consider it a passion for job creation and a growing economy.

With unemployment expected to remain high through the fall, the economy will again be the dominant issue in the coming campaigns. A projected budget shortfall of more than $2 billion raises the prospects of another
tax-and-cut legislative session.

A recent analysis by Democracy Corps, a consulting firm founded by Clinton alumni James Carville and Stanley Greenberg, lays out the majority party’s problem: “Democrats have yet to credibly reassure voters on spending and deficits. At the moment, voters believe cutting taxes and spending and reducing government will be better for the economy than investing to create jobs.”

That’s not an easy position for Democrats to take in Olympia, though some
did. Organized labor has drawn a line in the sand. Last month, Washington
Federation of State Employees, angered by budget reductions and “attacks” on state worker salaries and benefits, endorsed just one state senator and 18 representatives. For organized labor, “rational ignorance” has never been an option.

Public employees have a direct stake in increasing the size and scope of government and protecting their Cadillac compensation packages.
That sets up the likelihood of union-backed challengers to more centrist
Democratic incumbents.

With the “top two” primary, we now can see competitive general election
contests in districts dominated by a single party. So wherever you vote,
you’ll have choices. Choose the candidates that will work to restructure and
streamline state government, stimulate private sector job creation, and
bring spending under control. Get to know them. Volunteer in their
campaigns. Write them a check. Start now.

Ignorance isn’t rational this year. It just guarantees more of the unsustainable status quo.

Richard S. Davis, president of the Washington Research Council, writes on
public policy, economics and politics.

Posted in Government, Informational, Local Politics, The Real News

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