With a super majority (62-36 in the state house) Frank Chopp, the Democratic Speaker of the House, seems to be more interested in unifying with Republicans than unifying his party. While the Democratic Party is criticized for in fighting at the expense of making progress, Mr. Chopp is committed to bringing the eastern half of the state into his embrace. With Obama-like phrases, Chapp proposes to find common ground with the perspective of the residents of the eastern part of the state. This means embracing Republican agenda, which seems like an odd orientation for a party that had claimed to be prevented by the Republican Party from accomplishing things and sold this to the electorate sufficiently to win a super majority. Chopp’s genuflection to the East seems the like the functional equivalent of a deadlocked legislature.
Last year Chopp turned his back on his constituency ( a 73% majority of which favored a waterfront tunnel) and environmentalists when he adamantly championed rebuilding and expanding the Alaska Way viaduct. He proposed doubling it in breadth and capping it, a vision that that revolted architects such as Peter Steinbrueck, who saw a wasteland created at street level.
Chopp’s epiphany about unification of the state is a fairly recent occurrence, as he had a well-deserved reputation as a progressive leader. I truly hate to sound skeptical but I can’t help but wonder whether Chopp’s swivel to the right is not so much a hope-infused rapture as it is a product of catering to special interests. It certainly accomplishes the same thing. He has thwarted no-cost progressive bills that were against the interest of his campaign donors. He killed a bill to put a cap on the interest rates of payday loans and the MoneyTree founders were contributors to his campaign. Last year he killed (and so far has delayed) a homebuyer’s protection bill that was actively opposed by the Building Industry Association of Washington. He killed a bill that would have put corporate tax breaks in the budget as expenditures to highlight the cost to the government of these corporate welfare items. He opposed requiring the disclosure of pharmaceutical-industry lobbyists. He claims to be keeping focus on healthcare but prevented full funding for health-care workers in nursing homes. This year among other things he killed a bill to reduce the influence of special interests in the selection of judges.
The strategic explanation for this veer to the right is that he wants to avoid a Republican sweep into office, such as occurred in 1994, and to nurture Democrat’s supermajority. He apparently attributes the 1994 collapse at the polls to an overly progressive agenda by the Democrats in the sessions that preceded the election coup. His apologists say that he is intent on keeping the progressive wing of the party in check while keeping legislation “mainstream” to promote the interests of the Democratic Party in the 2008 election.
This pragmatic and high sounding purpose, however, does not explain what is actually going on. He opposes transparency in government, and actively opposes bills which are disfavored by special interests. He demonstrates a belief that the Democratic Party prospers when special interests profit, even when they profit at the expense of consumers. This is not a “mainstream” precept; it is merely protecting the status quo.