Unless you've been hiding under a rock lately, it seems like everyone is talking about the 2016 election. Not a day goes by without Donald Trump's angry face plastered across the media, and the Facebook feelings about Hillary Clinton's recent nomination have likely overwhelmed your news feed.
It's no surprise voters are fired up about the presidential race. There's so much at stake. Three potential Supreme Court picks hang in the balance; the court will make resounding decisions on abortion, immigration, and voting rights in the coming years. Plus, President Obama's legacy moving forward LGBT freedom, health care reform, and some climate change policies could be shattered by a Trump presidency. While cable news gives wall-to-wall coverage of Trump's latest tweet, there is actually a political battle going on here in Washington state that could be nearly as scary as a Donald Trump presidency.
How is that possible, you ask? Trump is a racist, sexist demagogue high on his own ego--could Washington really face anything as scary?
Yes, in fact, we could. Washington state is currently one seat away from a full Republican takeover of our House and our Senate. One. Single. Seat. And Independent Democrat Chris Hurst is retiring from his House seat in a very conservative district, leaving progressives in a pinch to ensure they flip at least two Republican seats to Democrats this fall.
Just as we've seen in Congress, a Republican takeover would be a recipe for gridlock and undermining the progress we've worked so hard to achieve. If people who don't believe in government are elected to run our government, they make decisions that hurt our schools, health care, and infrastructure. The fight for greater equality--equal pay for equal work, renaming racist places in our state, and protecting freedom for transgender people--also dies. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell admitted that his top legislative priority was attacking Obama, and local conservatives have been using the same playbook.
If you don't believe it could be this bad, we've already seen it happen. Republicans have controlled our state Senate for the last four years and it's been one extreme, partisan bill after another. Here's a short list of legislation Republicans have introduced in the last few years, and progressive bills they have prevented from moving forward:
- Defund Planned Parenthood. Conservative Republicans in our state have tried to ax funding for the popular reproductive health center, even going so far as to cut family planning funding from their budgets by $6 million in 2012.
- Hold Boeing accountable. Progressives have worked to require aerospace companies to keep jobs in Washington in order to receive tax incentives after a bill passed to give $8.7 billion in tax breaks to Boeing. But Republicans in the Senate squashed it.
- Overturn the universal background check law to prevent gun violence. In 2014, Initiative 594 passed by an overwhelming 60 percent of the vote, enacting expanded background checks for firearm purchases through online and private sales. But for the last two years, a bill with 11 sponsors has dropped to overturn the gun safety measure.
- Crush new revenue for education, whether it's from a fee paid by polluters or by out of state shoppers. Republicans continue to put special interest giveaways ahead of our schools.
- The GOP consistently attacks workers and tries to undermine unions, cut the minimum wage for teen workers, oppose paid sick leave, and more.
- Widely popular voting access bills like the Voting Rights Act and Automatic Voter Registration to ensure everyone has a fair chance to participate in our democracy have been stymied by Republican control in the Senate.
- Allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people. The Republican Senate brought a bill to the floor that would have endangered transgender people's right to be safe using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. The vast majority even opposed allowing same sex couples seeking to get married just four years ago.
- Gut Initiative 937. Big Business-backed legislators sought new and creative ways to gut our fantastic voter-approved law that incentivizes renewable energy sources.
- Refuse to give teachers raises. Despite a voter-approved law requiring cost of living raises for teachers, Republicans in the Senate have blocked attempts to pay our hardworking teachers a fair wage.
Thankfully, there are a number of key races around the state with progressives running who are worth supporting. From Lynnette Vehrs in Spokane to Lisa Wellman on Mercer Island to Marisa Peloquin in the University Place/Lakewood area, good candidates abound who will stand up for working people, the less fortunate, and our underfunded schools. They may not be on the top of your mind right now like Secretary Hillary Clinton, but their races are no less important. Wins there will usher in a new era for building a more progressive Washington, benefiting everything from our schools to our climate.
If you want to learn more about how to ensure progressives win in our statewide races this year, contact Morgan at FuseWashington.org. Get involved today, because it's up to us to and make sure we don't become the reddest state on the West Coast.
- Sara Kiesler is the Research and Digital Media Manager at Fuse Washington