Moving Forward Together to Address Seattle’s Homelessness Crisis

I’ve been asked recently, by reporters, stakeholders and individuals why I’m participating in the call for a measure on homelessness to address the issue in Seattle. Let me be super clear – people are dying on the streets of Seattle. Our homeless crisis is dangerous and not improving fast enough. That’s why I’ve joined Mayor Ed Murray and many other political and civic leaders in working to craft a bold proposal for the August ballot to urgently address our city’s homelessness emergency.

Mayor Murray’s administration and my team have come together in pursuit of this shared goal. I am proud of this partnership, and honored to be appointed by the Mayor to co-chair his advisory committee.

Seattleites agree—this is a time for bold action, a time to save lives and protect public health and safety. Mayor Murray has been taking action to address the crisis and talking publicly for months about the potential need to go to the ballot to get the resources we need to fill the gaps in our fragmented homelessness services system, and we here at Civic Ventures saw this as a perfect opportunity to apply our unique ability to work outside the normal “Seattle Process” to help catalyze change.

But of course when you try to shake up established systems, some defenders of the status quo will get offended. The Seattle Times this week published a story that questioned my motives and obfuscated what has been, to date, a streamlined and drama-free process. The story ignored Mayor Murray’s calls for action and implied that I had forced him into committing to an August ballot measure on homelessness. That is plainly and simply not the case.

But let’s focus on what actually matters:  The need to quickly and effectively move people off the streets and into permanent housing is too urgent to be distracted by politics as usual.

I cannot tell you how honored and excited I am to be standing with Mayor Murray in leading this critical effort, and I invite anyone who shares our passion and focus to join our campaign—we will need volunteers and grassroots donors and door knockers and phone callers to make this campaign a success.  But to make progress on this issue we need to recognize that it is larger than any of us, and humbly set to work.

That’s my commitment, and I know our allies—good people in City Hall, the stakeholder advisory committee assembling this package, and service providers who address the humanitarian crisis on our streets every day— feel the same way.  Let’s not lose focus on what matters.  For the sake of the homeless people on our streets, let’s make sure we continue to put people before politics.

Immigrants and Refugees Don’t Subtract from America—We Are America

Dujie Tahat hand-delivers 28,000 signatures of support to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Dujie Tahat hand-delivers 28,000 signatures of support to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

(Editor’s note: this is a condensed version of a terrific essay published on Medium last month.)

My mom and I arrived in Los Angeles on the eve of Christmas Eve 1995. I remember the city more than the airport. It seemed so easy, gliding from the terminal through customs straight to the golden doors — even with a Jordanian passport, even with Mohammed as a middle name. Back then, coming to America had been so simple that embracing my mother’s uncle in a new language in a new land seemed perfectly normal. The drive to Union City in his little white pickup truck so uncomplicated that it was practically forgettable.

In 2002, we applied for our permanent residency — to be citizens-in-waiting. We were denied. Applied again, but we were denied. We were denied. We were denied. They claimed we were denied on a number of technicalities but the truth is that we applied as Arab nationals in the months after September 11. Tens of thousands of dollars later, we were placed in deportation hearings. We faced a federal judge. Despite our incompetent lawyer’s best efforts to mess it up, our case was administratively closed; we had been deemed not a priority by the state.

When you apply for a green card, you have to give up your previous status and claims to past citizenship. You literally become a person with no country. No one really talks about this arcane requirement and the burden it places on individuals and families, often assuming that the process shouldn’t take that long. In 15 years, though, I haven’t been able to travel abroad for fear of being denied re-entry. I’ve missed grandparents’ funerals and cousins’ weddings, business trips and trips home.

Donald Trump’s executive actions—his travel ban—made this requirement a reality for nearly half a million permanent residents and stoked anger among immigrants and non-immigrants alike. Within hours, protests sprang up at airports across the country.

The marching, the yelling, the confrontation felt like a kind of action. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Governor Jay Inslee’s continuing fight against the Trump administration feels like hope. But it’s easy for me to say that; I get to hold my American children today and tell them I love them.

From the injustices against the people of first nation to the 3/5 compromise to every wave of immigration ever, the American experiment has been one of making our people whole. Donald Trump’s executive order and Republican capitulation to his order is an utter rejection of these values.

Even if you are not an immigrant or a child of one or married to one or work with one, you’re in this boat now too. Whether you fully grasp it, your identity is at stake. Who you fundamentally are is in question, and who you could be has already forever been altered. Our identities are intertwined in this. Your exceptionalism. Your beacon of hope. From the grand idea to the cliche. The very triteness of the American melting pot. The “give me your poor, tired, huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This is all at stake. You get to decide.

Starting today, we are either the people that rejected this cruel idea or tacitly endorsed it through silence.



It’s Time for (Civic) Action

Since we founded Civic Ventures in 2015, lots of people have enjoyed our writings and podcasts. We’ve attracted a loyal audience that’s interested in furthering a progressive, policy-focused agenda. Many of you have gotten in touch over the last two years and asked us how you can help, what you can do with all this newfound knowledge. Sometimes we’d ask you to publicly support secure scheduling, say, or to help debunk some trickle-downers’ bullshit excuse for why the minimum wage should be eliminated. But we were largely happy to spend our time thinking deeply about policy and working behind the scenes to enact change.

Obviously, the election of Donald Trump has changed everything. We can’t just organize and obsess over the future of policy anymore. You know it as well as we do; this isn’t a time to just sit back and read, or to listen to a podcast. The age of passivity ended on November 8th, 2016. People still want to inform themselves, but they also want to take action. You can’t choose one; you have to do both.

Qq1jjVMhThat’s why we’re proud to announce the debut of Civic Action, a new results-oriented partner organization of Civic Ventures. Civic Action is outward-facing and, as the name indicates, action-oriented. If you’re looking for public officials to call, or causes to take up, or information about where to best focus your energy, you’ll want to sign up for our email blasts, or follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter.

For the first few months, we’re going to be figuring out how to make Civic Action the most effective, efficient organizing tool that it can be, but we know what we want it to do. We want to direct people to causes where they can make a substantial difference. We hope to make a big difference in elections by highlighting good work and supporting stellar candidates. We want to continue our efforts to educate people on how the economy really works.

And we want to continue the discussion about what America can be. Resistance is not enough; you also need to rebuild. We have to provide an alternative vision, spotlight the people who are doing positive work, and plan how to recommit to the American Dream for generations to come.

These are confusing times. A person could spend all day every day calling representatives and signing petitions and sharing links. We expect Civic Action to be a signal in the midst of all this noise, a way to direct your energy and make a difference in the world. I hope you’ll follow Civic Action (email, Twitter, Facebook) and let me know what you think.

Kim Wyman’s Campaign Is A Cautionary Tale

washington secretary of state

The Secretary of State’s office is not a particularly sexy one; stop a person on 5th Avenue in Seattle and ask “hey stranger, who’s the Secretary of State?” and they will either name John Kerry or give you a blank stare.

This general lack of enthusiasm and recognition likely would have been beneficial for current Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman in her reelection campaign. Wyman, a Republican, holds a seat that has been (strangely) kept out of the hands of Democrats for nearly 50 years, and she could possibly have sailed into her second term on a hope and a prayer were it not for two key factors:

1.) Her opponent and

2.) Herself.

Way back in January—well before the primaries were even started in earnest—former Seattle City Councilmember and tech-sector leader Tina Podlodowski announced she would be challenging Wyman. Podlodowski’s campaign focused on expanding voting access (one of her first ads featured footage of Wyman saying she would not support the Washington Voting Rights Act), streamlining elections, and saving taxpayers money.

A major part of Podlodowski’s campaign against Wyman has been undermining Wyman’s time in office; she’s cited low voter turnout, a lack of ballot boxes, and the frustration voters felt over the caucus system in the spring. In September, she uncovered a glaring error in the state’s voter database that could have resulted in a data breach—and seemed to pin its existence on Wyman’s inattention.

Podlodowski has turned what might have otherwise been Wyman’s sleepy cruise into incumbency into an actual race. But she’s not even Wyman’s biggest enemy, as the last few days have demonstrated.

Despite netting endorsements from many of the local newspapers, Wyman’s earned media has largely been soured by her own record. After the Everett Herald wrote that she “deserves another term,” Rep. Luis Moscoso wrote in to correct their editorial, stating that “Wyman didn’t step up” on voting rights.

In attempt to turn the tide in her favor last week, Wyman made her first major announcement of the campaign—using the recent, deadly shooting at the Cascade Mall as a springboard, Wyman’s office released a proposal to require identification and proof of citizenship paperwork to register to vote.

“During this past week, questions were raised about the citizenship of Arcan Cetin, who confessed to murdering five people at Cascade Mall in Burlington,” read the release from the SoS’s office. “He registered in 2014 and voted in three elections. On each of those occasions, he affirmed that he was a U.S. citizen and met the other qualifications to be a voter. The penalty of registration and voter fraud is a prison term of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.”

Unfortunately for Wyman, Cetin’s citizenship had been verified just hours before her slated announcement; as a result, the proposal seemed desperate and in poor taste.

Voter ID laws are kind of a conservative (read: racist) dogwhistle—except for the fact that just about everyone can hear them, which means the announcement was sure to turn off some of the moderate folks that Wyman would need to win the entire state. To try to play both sides, Wyman’s announcement was slated as “bipartisan,” and included a provision for automatic voter registration. Unfortunately, that part of the story was quickly buried by all of the rest of it and likely didn’t win anyone over.

And then there’s today’s October surprise—a complaint filed by the Washington Attorney General’s Office alleging numerous instances of campaign finance reporting violations. They aren’t massive and they aren’t especially shady, but they are sloppy. And there are a lot of them.

Which doesn’t exactly bode well, considering the job that Wyman is trying to keep.

Up and down, Wyman has shown that campaigning is not her forte—unfortunately, in an office that oversees campaigns and elections, that seems like a pretty huge problem. Sure, you could say it’s just paperwork, but then what is the job of Secretary of State if not paperwork?

Wyman’s campaign isn’t a complete disaster, but it is a cautionary tale; public disclosure in Washington is watched closely and taken seriously, and paperwork needs to be filed in a timely manner. If Wyman can’t manage to do it on the campaign trail, it’s hard to say if she’ll be able to do it in office.

Seattle Shouldn’t Be in the Wells Fargo Business


Jonathan Tasini at CNN does the impossible: he succinctly sums up the recent controversy over Wells Fargo’s specious business practices in a single sentence:

Wells Fargo engineered a widespread scam on its customers, opening up as many as 1.5 million bank accounts and hundreds of thousands of credit card accounts that their customers never authorized, partly to inflate the perceived value of the company.

Of course, once you stare at the scam a little more closely, you pick up all sorts of terrible little details. Just today we’ve learned that Wells Fargo has repossessed hundreds of cars owned by US service members, for instance. I bet we haven’t learned the last of the bank’s various acts of malfeasance.

In response to this news, Wells Fargo fired over five thousand ground-level employees. But the bank’s executives are still cashing in: the company’s head of community banking, Carrie Tolstedt, might be walking away from Wells Fargo with 77 million dollars.  And as a thank you for overseeing all this, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf—yes, his real name—could receive a $134.1 million payout.

This is, frankly, disgusting. It’s parasitic behavior. Normal Americans have suffered thanks to the bank’s callous exploitation of trust, and middle-class employees of the bank are the only ones who have been penalized to date. If every bank in America followed Wells Fargo’s nihilistic business model, the economy would collapse. Barring a few trolls and high-paid banking executives, nobody in America thinks Wells Fargo should get away with this kind of scheme.

So why, then, are we rewarding Wells Fargo’s behavior? Why would you keep an account at Wells Fargo, knowing that not only does the company screw over its workers in pursuit of a ballooning profit for a few high-level executives, but that they actively scammed their customers? I understand that inertia is a hell of a drug, and that it’s easier to believe your account is safe from these practices now that Wells Fargo has been publicly shamed than it is to go through the whole process of closing your account and taking your business to a reputable credit union, but the lack of real consequences for Wells Fargo executives indicates that this kind of behavior was not sufficiently discouraged.

Which brings me to my point: did you know that Wells Fargo serves as the City of Seattle’s depository bank? This means that the city’s money—your tax dollars—flows through Wells Fargo. They profit from this relationship. Which also means that Seattle is effectively endorsing Wells Fargo’s behavior by keeping a contract with the bank. I could perhaps understand a trickle-down government like Sam Brownback’s state of Kansas banking with Wells Fargo, but the bank has demonstrated time and again that it is entirely at odds with Seattle’s stated values.

Over the last few years, Seattle has dedicated itself to the belief that we all do better when we all do better. Through laws like the $15 minimum wage and secure scheduling, we have affirmed that we need everyone’s participation to build a robust economy. We have no time in this city for employers who exploit their employees for a quick payout, because we want our economy to be a race to the top, not a race to the bottom. Why, then, would we encourage a bank that knowingly cheats its customers out of money? A bank that has demonstrated time and again that artificially inflated bottom lines are its most important goal? A bank that didn’t pay its employees for time worked? Seattle stands against everything that Wells Fargo has become. So we need to stop rewarding them with Seattle’s money.

David Rolf, president of the local SEIU chapter, and Civic Ventures founder  (and my boss) Nick Hanauer have joined forces to launch a petition demanding that the city of Seattle pull its money from Wells Fargo. I’ve signed it. I suggest you sign it. And I suggest you share it with your friends and family. I know that petitions often seem ineffectual—some wags online tend to mock petition-signers as “armchair activists”—but I’ve talked to a lot of politicians and I can tell you that petitions matter—especially on a city level. A petition signed by many constituents carries real power with elected officials. It’s one of the simplest, most effective ways to make your voice heard.

Of course, signing a petition isn’t the only thing we need to do. Simply entering your information into a form is no replacement for talking to elected officials, keeping up on the news story as it develops, and letting your social circle know why this issue is important. But it is absolutely an important first step. As Seattleites, we already know that our politicians are committed to making the economy more inclusive. They’ve demonstrated this in the way they legislate. But a politician’s attention and resources are finite, and so we have to guide them to the issues that matter to us. This is one of those times. And the best part is that it won’t take much effort on their part; breaking ties with Wells Fargo won’t require months of crafting legislation or many hours of public appearances to debate this issue. They likely already agree with us—we just have to, as the old FDR anecdote goes, make them do it.

This the right thing to do, and it’s a great message for our city to send to the rest of the country. Seattle is open for business, but we won’t reward practices that hurt everyday Americans in order to benefit the wealthy few. Sign the petition to let the world know that our values are the bedrock on which the city is built, and there is no room for compromise.

Finally, We See Donald Trump for What He Is

One of the biggest expenditures of the Trump campaign last month? Hats. He's a terrible candidate, but a stellar haberdasher!

One of the biggest expenditures of the Trump campaign last month? Hats. He’s a terrible candidate, but a stellar haberdasher!

So. I can’t stop thinking about Donald Trump. Last night, after a day spent dealing with the messy blowback of firing a campaign manager at the absolute worst time to fire a campaign manager, he announced his campaign fundraising totals, and they are apocalyptically bad:

Trump raised just over $3 million in May — the month he secured enough delegates to win the Republican nomination — while Clinton raked in more than $26 million, according to the latest filings from the Federal Election Commission….Clinton didn’t just out-raise Trump 9-1: She also entered June with much more cash in her coffers.

Trump started the month of June with just $1.29 million cash on hand —compared with Clinton’s $42 million.

Reporters are digging through the reports and finding all sorts of interesting facts: Trump paid $35,000 to a sketchy firm apparently named after characters from Mad Men; Trump paid over one million dollars to Trump-owned companies in May; Trump paid himself and members of his family a salary. Even a head of a Trump Super PAC admits that Trump’s campaign is in “big trouble.”

A moment like this is unprecedented in presidential politics. We’ve never seen such a disparity in campaign income before, and while Sarah Palin certainly got some fringe benefits out of the VP candidacy, no other major party presidential candidate has cashed in so publicly in the heat of a campaign. The New York Times is reporting that Trump may get reporters to pay for a business trip to Scotland next week, for crying out loud. It’s hard to look at all these facts and not conclude that Trump is running a very elaborate grift on the Republican Party.

How bad are things for Trump right now? Speculation is very high that he will drop out. Of course, you wouldn’t know that by looking at Trump’s Twitter feed. The presumptive GOP nominee has gone on the offensive today, attacking Hillary Clinton repeatedly and making the case for a Trump presidency. (In fact, you might say he’s protesting a little too much in an effort to change the narrative.) Here’s one of Trump’s main arguments for a Trump presidency:


Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 10.57.09 AM

FASCINATING. This is absolutely fascinating. I think Trump is trying to say that debt is bad for the United States, but it sounds more like he’s saying that his business practices are “bad for the country.” And then he announces that he “made a fortune off of debt,” but that he’ll “fix U.S.,” presumably by doing the exact opposite of his debt-inflating practices once he gets in office.

So no matter how you read this tweet, Trump is making a case against voting for Donald Trump. Either he admits that his sketchy business practices ruined America or he is arguing that you can’t run America the way you’d run a business. Twice he says his business practices are founded on debt.

This is true. Donald Trump’s business career is built on bankruptcy—”no major U.S. company has filed for Chapter 11 more than Trump’s casino empire in the last 30 years,” CNN said last year—and he’s been sued repeatedly for not paying workers. By keeping his debtors waiting and his workers tied up in endless lawsuits, and by exploiting years of free media through his outrageous antics, Trump has constructed a gigantic pyramid scheme built on ego and morally reprehensible behavior.

In other words, he’s profited by exploiting the shady areas that other businesses are too ethical to approach. Trump is right. This kind of behavior is “bad for the country.” He’s undercutting his competitors and exploiting the free market in terrible ways.

And it appears that Trump was trying to use these same sketchy business practices in his presidential campaign, too—pumping money into his businesses, giving payouts to friends and family, relying on free media to get his message across—but the monthly fundraising reports instead revealed his scam for what it is.

Who would’ve thought? After decades of unethical behavior in the business sector, it was finally politics that revealed Trump for the crooked scam artist he is. Think about that the next time you want to decry politicians as the lowest form of life. Whatever you may want to say about the corruption of the American political system, it at least had the decency and transparency to lay Trump’s simple-minded game bare in a matter of months, in a way that the business world never could.

There is absolutely no evidence—zero—that, if elected president, Trump would do anything different. He only knows one way to behave, and he’s not imaginative enough to learn a new way. He’d run the country using the same techniques he’s used to run his businesses, and his presidential campaign: he’d try to distract from his continual reliance on debt and exploitation with more and more outrageous behavior. And all the while he’d be praying that nobody would notice that underneath all the flim-flammery and showmanship, he’s just an empty vacuum in an ill-fitting suit, building an empire out of a con game.

Reflections On the End of the GOP

All hat, no cattle.

All hat, no cattle.

The Republican Party is coming apart, and if this disintegration wasn’t endangering our country and the world, it would be amusing. Much has already been said and written about this, so I am aware that this rant may add nothing to the conversation. But I think this political event was more predictable and is easier to understand than most people realize. And I think that Donald Trump himself has far less to do with the fall of the GOP than the GOP itself.

The end of the modern GOP should come as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention. Because from the point of view of the typical GOP voter — their 99% — the modern Republican Party has been one of the most epic failures of all time.

The modern GOP as a political construct has principally been an alliance between two interest groups: urban economic elites and rural social conservatives. The reason the party is disintegrating is that it has over-delivered to the former, and completely failed the latter.

If there is one thing the Republican Party stands for and has effectively delivered on, it is trickle down economics. Trickle down economics has three major elements — tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of the powerful, and wage suppression for everyone else — all in the name of “growth.” And the Republican Party (with unfortunate cooperation from some Democrats), has been extraordinarily effective in the promulgation of these ideas. Over the last 35 years, middle-class voters from both parties bought this scam hook, line, and sinker.

Meantime, the Republican Party has theoretically represented the interests of social conservatives, fundamentalist religious types, and racists. And for this coalition, despite the rhetoric, the party has completely and utterly failed. Across any social issue, the country has lurched towards inclusion and liberalism, from LGBT rights to drug legalization, women’s rights, minority rights, and worst of all, the election of a black president named Barack Hussein Obama. From the perspective of these Republican voters, it is the end of days.

But to the GOP’s one percent — the secular, more socially centrist, urban economic elites who have controlled the party — the last 35 years have been a bonanza. They have been the recipients of an immense concentration of wealth and power, without the inconvenience of having to deliver on the backwards and often bigoted social demands of what the GOP elite dismiss as their hillbilly, bible-thumping brethren.

Which brings us to the unresolvable challenge facing the modern GOP.

From the point of view of their 99%, the median Republican voter, the last 35 years have been a disaster, and their party has caused it. Because if you are a working- or middle-class white Republican-leaning man, your party has completely and totally screwed you.

They screwed you by holding down the minimum wage.

They screwed you by almost completely eliminating overtime pay.

They screwed the union that used to defend your interests.

The screwed you out of the pension on which the middle-class once retired.

They screwed you a thousand ways on trade, and exported your job.

They screwed you on tax policy by lowering taxes on the rich.

They screwed you on infrastructure and education investment.

They screwed you by deregulating the banks.

They screwed you out of your home during the housing bubble and subsequent collapse.

They screwed you on health care costs.

They screwed you on the cost of college and on student debt.

They screwed you (and sent your kids to die) in the Iraq war.

And then they also screwed you on abortion, and gay marriage, and the “War on Drugs,” and women’s rights, and minority rights, and Obamacare repeal, and all the other things you culturally care about, by delivering absolutely nothing.

Since 1980, 95 percent of the benefits of growth have accrued to the top one percent of earners.  The share of income for the top one percent has tripled, from about eight percent of national income to about 22 percent over this time. The minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or $2.13 plus tips, is at historically low levels; if it had tracked the wages of the top 1 percent, the minimum wage would be over $28 per hour today. Overtime pay, which used to apply to about 70 percent of salaried workers, now applies to only 9 percent. Union membership, and the middle-class wages and benefits that comes with it, has fallen from a third of American workers in 1964 to only 10 percent today — and just 7 percent in the private sector. Consequently, wages as a percent of GDP have fallen about a trillion dollars, while corporate profits have increased by the same amount. Add in the ridiculous increases in compensation and other income for the very rich and you are talking about close to a two trillion dollar-per-year scam perpetuated on the American middle and working class. Over thirty years, that shit adds up.

If you are a rural social conservative, your Republican party has enacted economic policies that destroyed your communities and sucked the life out of your small towns. And then to add insult to injury, they could not stop people like me from winning on all of the social and cultural issues that you care so much about.

So it should come as no surprise that a candidate like Donald Trump, who appeals to the nativist, racist, and nationalist tendencies of some right-leaning voters, despite his flaws, could take the GOP by storm. Who couldn’t? Seriously. Daffy Duck with a nationalist message would be winning today. I do not agree with a lot of the policies preferred by rural right-wing voters. I think they are wrong and misguided. But I do emphatically agree with their anger. They should be angry. They deserve to be angry. And the focus of their anger should be on the GOP elites like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio and the rest of the trickle-down clown car.  These people have screwed, and want to continue to screw, the median Republican voter. And typical Republicans are finally beginning to notice.

I wish the answer to all of this was simply that more people should become Democrats. And indeed in this election cycle, given what is at stake, that would be my preference. But long-term, that isn’t what our country needs. Instead, America needs a Republican party that isn’t simply a vehicle for the already very rich to increase their wealth and power. Our country needs a Republican Party that vigorously and honestly competes with the Democratic Party to actually increase the welfare of the typical American family. Not with a scam like trickle down economics that simply makes the rich richer, but with actual ideas that might improve the life of the typical family.

Thus, the Republican Party’s greatest challenge is how to ditch the economic program of their donor elite. Because embracing a new economic narrative that actually delivers the goods to regular folks is what it will take to compete in a meaningful way again. Paul Ryan is against raising the minimum wage because he is paid to oppose increases in the minimum wage. So, too, are Marco Rubio and the rest of these clowns. Claiming that “raising wages kills jobs” is really just saying the Koch brothers prefer wages low and profits high. It’s the GOP elite declaring that “we matter, and you don’t.”

I do not believe a Republican Party that works to ensure a more inclusive capitalism will eliminate the racism in the party. Prosperity does not end racism—but it is one hell of a distraction. When most citizens feel like they are winning, it’s not so important to them that others lose. Shared prosperity creates the conditions whereby few reasonable people are angry enough to take a clown like Trump seriously.

Let’s all hope that the current crisis in the Republican Party will bring the fundamental change necessary to allow it to reconstitute itself in a new and more constructive way—one that we may not all agree with, but at least that we won’t be embarrassed or appalled by. America needs a Republican Party that actually represents the true interests of regular Republicans, and not the exclusive interests of the Republican elite.

WA Secretary of State Kim Wyman is defending the indefensible

Washington State is leading again on another pressing civic issue. Earlier this year, Democrats in Olympia introduced legislation that would “automatically register eligible voters who have an enhanced drivers license, commercial driver’s license or apply for benefits for certain programs through the Department of Social and Health Services or the state Health Benefits Exchange.”

This proposal passed the state House (controlled by Democrats) but has since been bottled up in the Republican-controlled Senate. Washington’s secretary of state, Kim Wyman (R) is a supporter of the law, but admits that “there are very, very long odds right now” for its success.

How has this come to pass? How can Republicans actually stand in the way of this legislation? Automatic voter registration shouldn’t be a policy which is considered “partisan” in a thriving democracy. Yet here we are in 2016 with the Republican party (both locally and federally) opposed to any suggestion of increased democratic participation. Their arguments against this “liberal” proposal are hardly unfamiliar. They claim it is an example of creeping “big government” and warn that adopting such a policy would lead to a “slippery slope” where it would “eventually lead to compulsory voting and fining people who don’t turn out, like in Australia.”

As per usual, these arguments have little basis in reality and only prey on fear and philosophical fallacies. If opponents of voter registration actually cared about the truth, they would have seen that the proposed registration law actually gives citizens the opportunity to opt out. Our neighbor to the south, Oregon, did just that. It’s worth reading about the success of their registration law in full:

Oregon began implementing its program through the state’s DMV at the beginning of the year, and through the first six weeks, 7 percent of people who received cards alerting them to their new registration returned the cards asking to be taken off the rolls. But the state registered more than 10,000 new voters over that same time period, dwarfing the monthly average of 2,000 new registrations it previously reported. Officials have projected that as many as 300,000 new voters could be added to the 2.2 million already signed up in Oregon.

That sounds really promising. So you’d expect Sec. Kim Wyman to ditch her partisan lens and tell her Republican colleagues that their obstructionism is absolutely unfounded. However, she gives her colleagues a pass and uses another logical fallacy to protect her party from looking intransigent and petty. Wyman gives a textbook example of false equivalency:

I have met many Democrats that are convinced that Republicans are trying to keep their party from voting, and I’ve met many Republicans that are convinced that Democrats are cheating. And it’s really hard to convince either side otherwise.

Talk about a specious statement. On the one hand, there is hardly any proof of widespread voting fraud (see John Oliver’s comedic take on this issue). In fact a comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation found 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots cast. If the Democrats are, in fact, “cheating” – my goodness, they suck at it. 

Yet on the other hand, there are real, demonstrable examples of voter disenfranchisement in the USA today, as well as historically low records of voter turnout. Yet, Wyman makes it sound like each party’s qualms are one and the same. She must know better than that. Which leaves us with two possible conclusions that can explain Wyman’s position: she’s either completely ignorant about the issue or she’s falsely equating concerns in order to protect her Republican colleagues. I wonder.

What’s more, even if she did honestly believe both concerns cancelled the each other out, wouldn’t she want to err on the side of higher voter participation? Especially since she’s overseen an incredible drop in voter turnout during her time as secretary of state. Just look at this graphic to see the deplorable state of voting in Washington.

That's a bad trend line.

That’s a bad trend line.

With automatic voter registration, Washington has an amazing opportunity to bolster democratic participation, while also encouraging other states to lead on this important civic right. From gay marriage to marijuana legalization to universal background checks, Washington has set the pace for the nation many times before. It’s all well and good for Kim Wyman to support automatic voter registration (coincidentally during an election year!), but in order for her support to sound like more than just a self-serving election promise, she cannot continue to provide credibility to Republicans’ erroneous and egregious claims about voter fraud. If she continues to do so, she will be putting party loyalty over the truth.