… without changing it.
Dino had been the first announced “Pro-life” candidate in sixteen years (since Bob Williams) to squeeze through the cracks to run for a statewide office without the tangible opposition of the Republican Party Pragmatist Elite. They hated Ellen Craswell and had spent more than a decade badmouthing her. They gloated when Linda Smith lost the ’98 Senate race. They vilified Buchanan, belittled Harold Hochstatter and destroyed Reed Davis. They made sure pro-life candidates lost. And then they trumpeted that “Pro-Life candidates can’t win in Washington” (Reagan be damned). We supported their lesser-of-two-evil candidates but they didn’t support ours. It was a recipe for the destruction of conservatism.
Jennifer Dunn, as (quietly pro-abortion) Party Chair from 1980 – 1992, had systematically hunted down conservatives and built a draconian, top-down empire. She gave lip service to Republican phraseology and claimed to love Ronald Reagan while she made the Party agenda subservient to Evans/Gorton liberals. Her re-structuring of the WSRP reversed the authority structure and laid the foundation for permanent defeat by putting liberal/pragmatic leadership in semi-permanent control of the Party mechanisms and developing (illegal) means of thwarting control of the Republican Party by its owners, grassroots conservative Republicans.
Beginning after 2000, Party Chair Chris Vance had not only tipped the scales against pro-life candidates, but had censored campaigns and literally banned campaigning on the Life issue.
In between Dunn and Vance, from 1992-2000, we had endured four State Chairs who ONLY ONCE, in all that time, even allowed amendments and debate on the State Platform. Allies of Mainstream Republicans of Washington dominated the agenda from the top and zealously controlled process. They ran a continual assault on Pro-Life activists, the Pro-Life right, and had sandbagged pro-life candidates.
Yet here, suddenly, was a good-looking young state senator with the aura of Al Pacino, saying he believed “every soul has a value” and the elite were NOT fighting him.
Dino’s campaign style, coming just eight years after Ellen Craswell’s, seemed perfectly suited to the task. Ellen had a virtually perfect conservative voting record, but seemed intent on leading with her chin. She ran for governor just four years after the media had invented the “Religious Right” as a strawman for hatred and derision by claiming (entirely falsely) that Christian conservatives wanted to use government to force their religion on everyone. And Ellen had scripture verses on her signs, playing right into it. Rossi down-played it.
And he actually won the governor’s race. A “Pro-Life Catholic.”
This proved we had been right all along. Being “pro-life” was a political asset, not a liability. He outperformed all his pragmatic predecessors for major offices in Washington. He was an overnight hit in 2004. Even his silence was taken as wisdom. He had been the only Republican (anyone knew of) running for governor.
What would have been the purpose of vetting him?
Looking back I can’t say I ever heard him make a really good speech, but I assumed, at the time, he must have. Everyone was supporting him. No exceptions. He never… Let me repeat, never, faced any conservative primary opposition. There was no one and nothing to quantify his real positions or commitment. He was never challenged from the right for any reason.
Two lessons were served up in 2004 but only one was learned. We learned that there was virtually no margin of victory in a race for governor that liberal Democrats could not overcome with ballot fraud. Thousands of real votes were lost and never counted. Thousands more appeared from nowhere. Thousands of ballots had no voter. When a count concluded that Rossi won, they just counted again after adding new votes. Hundreds of imaginary “homeless” voters listed Democrat administrative offices as their “home address.”
But there was a second lesson we didn’t learn. We didn’t want to.
While he was waiting for the re-counts to confirm his 2004 win, Dino Rossi announced a transition team. These were the staff through whom Rossi would fill the positions to run his administration as Governor. They spanned the left side of the political spectrum from moderate to Socialist, heavy on the liberals. It was a rogues gallery of terrible politicians. Collectively they had pushed abortion and a State income tax, liberally-financed Democrat campaigns, rewarded violent communist guerillas with massive government giveaways and hired Marxist-Leninists to fill government positions. And these men were those who would help him fill appointive offices. No real conservative could possibly, knowingly, name such a crew.
Why didn’t I wake up?
I recognized names on the transition team but I made excuses. My image of Rossi was too precious to give up. I had seen the Gorton boys surround Bob Williams in 1988 when he won the Gubernatorial primary and take over “to win.” Exchanging his endorsement of corrupt liberal State Chair, Jennifer Dunn, for “Party Unity,” Bob got the full treatment. In Snohomish County his campaign was taken over and his grassroots supporters, the ones who had achieved the primary victory, systematically alienated and kicked out. By the time they were done, Bob Willaims’ career as a candidate for public office was over and instead he became the head of a think tank. I thought it was history repeating itself. I thought, “Oh, no! Another conservative makes the wrong campaign decision!” I just concluded Dino had been surrounded by the Gorton team (as had happened to Bob Williams) and lost control. But Williams had never lost sight of his vision of conservative governance. Dino is not worthy to tie Bob Williams’ shoes.
Still we would not learn the lesson. Easily un-coverable facts went un-researched. We loved our image of Dino so well we didn’t want to examine it under the light of reality. We should have. I should have. And I was in a privileged position. I recognized the names on the transision team. But average Republicans had at least three other reasons.
I. Conservatism Assumed
There is an inordinate presumption of conservatism for any candidate who runs as a Republican. Because of the Party’s extraordinary turnover rate (we won’t take the time, right now to examine), most of the activists in the Party at any given time are new. Since, in almost every case, they are drawn to the Party by their own conservatism, and since they know Republicans draw both sharp criticism and unjust hatred for conservatism, they find it unlikely that Republicans hold anything but conservative beliefs. A politician with an “R” behind his name doesn’t have to do much more than repeat a few code phrases like “personal responsibility” and” constitutional governance,” or criticize his opponent for “tax and spend” policies, or make a derisive joke about Democrats to convince a Republican audience that he believes the things they believe. (I once saw Dave Reichert, who couldn’t even repeat code phrases, say, dramatically, “We know what we believe, don’t we?!?” and he got applause.)
Dino quickly touched those bases. But then he went beyond and identified himself with the issue a generation of Midstream leaders had labored to expunge from the Party: The Inalienable Right to Life.
And he won! He HAD to be our guy!
II. Team Spirit
All over the country, people develop loyalty to their teams. To their high school team, to their college team, to the professional team in their city. If he played for your college, sometimes you might follow an athlete’s career, rooting for him, even if he plays for another city’s team. It is natural loyalty finding its own reasons. School spirit. It is entirely random in nature, but strong nevertheless. You end up singing the national anthem of whatever country you are born in. We identify with our team and mentally embellish its virtues. Children do it with their parent’s political party long before they have any understanding of politics. Republicans also form these irrational loyalties, often to socialists wearing an elephant logo.
III. THE STAR
Big Stars of TV, movies and popular music develop fans whose affection for them crosses rational boundaries to hero worship, and encouraging “fans” is, in a way, what those industries are all about. It sells tabloids and DVDs and fuels personal appearances. The same thing happens in politics and it happened with Dino Rossi. And when he won the race for governor in 2004, that feeling of loyalty accelerated. and when the victory was stolen by ballot fraud in high places, it skyrocketed (it even overcame many of us who saw the dirty underwear).
Like a Heisman Trophy quarterback drafted in the first round by a losing team, we all just wanted to get him on the field. And Dino Rossi never had to face a truly conservative opponent. Republicans never tried to “vet” Rossi beyond his code phrases. What was the point? There was no alternative. We just wanted him back on the field.
Looking back, I can say we, at the Reagan Wing, were desperately fighting other battles. Our attention was diverted. Following the primary loss of Reed Davis (to State Party cheating and illegal censorship), the Reagan Wing worked full time to find a way to replace the person primarily responsible, the liberal and openly corrupt State Chair, Chris Vance, to give control of the Party back to grassroots conservatives. It has been our commitment at the Reagan Wing from its inception, that honest process must be returned to the Republican Party. It must become what so many erroneously assume it already is, a political party committed to conservative principles. We were formed, as an organization, that year, for that purpose.
Knowing that most Precinct Committee officers don’t know how the State Party Chair gets elected, we set about to give them back their power. We held debates between candidates for State Chairman to let people know there actually were candidates and raise awareness of the process: that choosing a state committeeman and committeewoman is, in essence, choosing a State Chair, and to introduce, for the first time, candidates to their actual constituency. We initially, set up three such debates: one in Seattle, one in Yakima, and one in Spokane, and sent videos, on disc, of the first one to Republican leaders. We began with four candidates, Joshua Freed, Sharon Bumala, Mark Hulst, and Rose Strong. But Vance refused to participate. He knew he couldn’t compete. Chris Vance was so arrogant and so transparently dishonest he had even aroused oppositition among liberal Republicans. And he was so liberal any conservative would vote against him when the truth came out. He only had one hope for re-election.
Somewhere, behind closed doors, a deal was struck.
I had personally sought out Dino Rossi at a Party event and held out a DVD of the first State GOP Chair candidate’s debate to give him. “Please watch this,” I said. He refused to take it and pointed to a handler, who took it. “How can we talk to you?” I asked. He told me to click the contact link on his website.
He had been completely swallowed.
Both Mark Hulst and Rose Strong, before committing to run for State Chair, sought to know if Dino was going to endorse a candidate. He convinced them both he would not. Mark, as chairman of the Skagit County Republican Party, was one of the most influential Republicans in the entire 2nd Congressional District and he had knocked himself out for the Dino Rossi campaign. Rose, an inspiring speaker, had literally mobilized members of the Seahawks to do personal appearances for Dino, and campaigned extensively herself.
Somewhere, behind closed doors, a deal was struck.
Unbelievably, Chris Vance, the pro-choice, anti-Constitutionalist, incompetent, irritating, pompous, pro-gas tax, perennial cheater, Chris Vance announced that he had been endorsed by Dino Rossi for re-election.
Within weeks Dino Rossi’s entire staff went on State Republican Party payroll. All the legal fees for Dino Rossi’s legal challenges to the 2004 election fraud, from that point forward, became debts of the State Republican Party.
Chris Vance got re-elected. The Party was plunged into millions of dollars of debt from which it has never fully recovered. But for stabbing Mark Hulst and Rose Strong in the back, Dino probably lost the 2008 governor’s race at that point of history. Sure they probably voted for him, but the belief and willingness to campaign for him, and get others to campaign for him was gone.
Still, almost everyone ignored it. Still, no one did the vetting research. We were deeply invested in the Dino Rossi of our imaginations. Still we accepted his “conservatism” at face value. Because he said it. We wanted to believe in Dino Rossi like a child wants to believe in Santa Claus.
What were we smoking?
One Last Kiss
In the spring of 2007 The Reagan Wing held the Washington State Illegal Immigration Summit in the auditorium of the Everett Elks Club, one of the last events held in that old building. An offshoot of that association was the opportunity to introduce Dino Rossi as a speaker at another event held earlier, in the cocktail lounge of the same cavernous Elks Club, an event to honor many of our troops’ triumphal return from the Iraq wars (obviously just to later redeploy to the same arena). At the time Dino should have been in his third year as governor of Washington. The Elks were “non-political;” nevertheless, I gave Rossi the following introduction:
In 1967 our next speaker was 8 years old. But I was a freshman in college.
In those days you could play touch football on campus on the huge lawns between buildings. Now, of course, it’s full of more buildings. One day I met a very famous touch football player on the lawn in front of our Student Union building, but he was riding in the back seat of a huge American convertible with the top down. It was four years after his older brother had been shot and killed in the back seat of another American convertible, and two years before his younger brother would drive a big American sedan off a bridge, killing an innocent co-worker and just one year before he, himself, would die at the hands of a Palestinian terrorist assassin the night after winning a Presidential Primary.
But that afternoon I observed, shaking his hand and then sitting three feet away, as he spoke, a combination I didn’t see again until 2004.
Robert F. Kennedy exuded a powerful charisma entirely without trying to do so. His politics were serious, but not about self-promotion and you could just feel destiny about him.
I felt the same thing from our next speaker in 2004 when he got off a helicopter for a political event.
When people tell me that candidates who believe the things I do cannot win, I point to two men, Ronald Reagan and our next speaker.
But did he win? Following the fraud-plagued 2004 gubernatorial election the man in full control of King County’s appearing and disappearing ballots, Ron Sims, appointed a commission to look into the County’s system. In 2005 I had a series of conversations with a very famous member of that committee because she was considering a run for the U.S. Senate. She said that several things were clear to the commission; one was that the margin was not 129 votes but about 2000. Another was that the clear winner of that election was our next speaker.
Ladies and Gentlemen, give it up for Dino Rossi!
That introduction is indicative of the political capital Dino Rossi held at that time among conservatives. Despite everything Dino Rossi had already done to prove me wrong, you can tell by that introduction that I gave him credit for being a true conservative. I compared him to Ronald Reagan. Preceding that introduction, I had sat with Dino at dinner, discussing, among other things, his “approach” to politics. He assured me he was pro-life, but that just his “approach” had changed. It was the perfect thing to tell me. But he had already assured the Seattle Times that it was his views that had changed. But I didn’t do the research. What would have been the point? Who was he running against?
In 2008 he was the prohibitive choice of the Party. What would have been the point of vetting him? Who else would we run? Mike the Mover? Why would we have labored to disprove our earlier assumptions? And the primary reason he lost in 2008 is the same reason he can’t possibly win the Senate Race in 2010. Dino Rossi is a boring candidate without conviction or motivation.
Worse, yet, he finally got vetted and we know he is a fraud.
In 2010 we had a contested race for the U.S. Senate Nomination, for the seat now held by Patty Murray. Every candidate in it looked and sounded better than Dino. And because Dino ignored them, because Dino insulted their supporters, because Dino ignored their work, ignored the Primary altogether, ignored the process, ducked the forums and refused to answer questions he got vetted. For the first time in his career Dino faced conservative opposition, for the first time we looked at him critically.
And Dino Rossi does not measure up.
Rossi did not “balance the budget without raising taxes” He both raised taxes and created mounds of unfunded debt, recapitulating the very problem we face in Washington D.C.
Dino Rossi may be better than Christine Gregoire, but he is not as good as several senatorial hopefuls that started out this year:
Not as good as Craig Williams
Not as good as Art Coday
Not as good as Paul Akers
No where close to Clint Didier
Yes, I endorsed him before. I can not, in good conscience, do it again.