Cascade conference XXXVI
May 16, 2015
Daniel J Evans
After listening to this morning’s panels discuss the difficulties of governing today, I think I must have been governor at the best of times.
The ferry system made a profit.
I cut the ribbon on a new interstate system link every month.
We did not negotiate with a state employee unions
We built ferries wherever we can get the cheapest bid
We funded higher education and UW tuition was $500 per year
Teachers pay was among the top 10 in the nation
We also passed a tax reform package which included an income tax. The Republican House adopted it 84 to 11 and all four caucuses produced 2 to 1 majorities. The Republican state platform in 1970 even adopted it as a plank.
Lest you think all was easy, we also endured the aerospace recession with statewide unemployment of 13%, and later inflation rates of 17% and interest rates at 16%.
Well, I started my political career 58 years ago. 57 years before that Teddy Roosevelt became president. Sometimes I feel closer to him than some of today’s Republicans.
Teddy Roosevelt was a leader. He called the presidency a bully pulpita and he was one heck of a preacher.
He was our first environmental president and a consummate conservationist.
He believed in a strong national defense but declared speak softly but carry a big stick.
He worked for a strong safety net for citizens and called for a square deal for everyone.
T.R. was not afraid to challenge big business when the Trusts tried to run amok.
Our current national administration is a pale shadow of Theodore Roosevelt and even some of our Republicans reject the initiatives and wisdom of Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan.
The Tea Party movement captures today’s political headlines. Their zealous advocates swamp the political establishment and nominate newcomers who support their anger. I share their concern over political gridlock, unsustainable spending, and a patronizing federal government, but not their raw and virulent tactics. Their chosen name honors our revolutionary protesters who dumped boxes of English tea into Boston Harbor to protest taxation. But today’s anti-tax enthusiasts forget history. Our colonial ancestors were not protesting taxation. They were protesting taxation without representation. There is a huge difference between protesting and governing and a lasting political philosophy should focus on how to govern.
I am tired of hyphenated Republicanism. Moderate, conservative, mainstream, are all adjectives which divide us. I frequently have people tell me “I am a Dan Evans Republican”. There are even a few who whisper “I am a Dan Evans Democrat” While that may be flattering it is also divisive. I am a Republican and here are four reasons why:
Conservative and conservation come from the same word root and it is a good place for Republicans to start expressing their conservatism.A Conserving the use of our natural resources, protecting unique and rare lands, building a sustainable economy and lifestyle should be fundamental concepts of a true conservative. We occupy space on this planet for a limited time and should leave to the next generation a legacy of freedom, opportunity, and resources that are better than we received. We ought to follow the hikers creed: Leave your campsite better than you found it.
2. The Constitution
I am a fundamentalist regarding the Constitution. What does this mean? A powerful Constitution accomplishes two goals, establishing the structure of government and protecting and expanding our freedoms. Our Constitution has succeeded well because it has been amended so rarely. In our more than 200 year history we found it necessary to modify our governmental structure only seven times. We have expanded our freedoms 18 times. The 10 amendments of the Bill of Rights sings to us our freedoms and we later abolished slavery and expanded the right to vote to former slaves, women, and 18-year-olds. Only once have we attempted to regulate social behavior through prohibition of the use of alcohol for beverages. 14 years later we realized our mistake and repealed the amendment.
In recent years we have faced attempts to amend the Constitution to allow prayer in schools, require a balanced federal budget, establish political office term limits, ban burning the American flag, and prohibiting abortion. But our Constitution is strong because it is amended rarely and then to expand freedoms, not restrict them. The balanced budget amendment is an impractical idea that is meaningless until we decide how to keep a national standard set of books in order to even measure balance. The interpretation of that amendment would turn over fiscal decision-making to the Supreme Court for years. As a voter, I am outraged by those sanctimonious term limiters who would steal from me the freedom of my vote. What’s wrong with trusting voters to make appropriate decisions? The flag burning amendment is a solution in search of a problem. Our danger lies not in the burning of our flag but when the time comes that thousands cheer its burning. It’s far better to spend our efforts building a strong and compassionate nation where there is little need or desire to burn the American flag. The question of abortion rights may deeply divide our nation, but I have never heard anyone say that they admired abortion. It is the ultimate and painful choice of those who face irreconcilable conflict. It is far better for us to join as a people to strengthen families, teach our children about sex and love, and open opportunities for adoption. Those actions will do far more to end abortion than the hate and violence of political conflict.
3. Strong federal system.
More than two centuries ago 13 fiercely independent states joined together for their common good. Four generations struggled for the reality of nationhood but the Civil War finally defined the United States. Noted historian Shelby Foote said it well. “Before the Civil War, the United States were. After the Civil War the United States is.” From a collection of states we now truly became a nation. Now our federal system truly emerged with defined roles for local, state, and national governments. But, for the past century the federal government has spread its influence into virtually every facet of public authority creating our current chaotic system. Overlap, conflict, and waste harass taxpayers daily. I co-chaired a national commission on our federal system with then Governor Charles Robb of Virginia. Our report, titled To Form a More Perfect Union recommended returning hundreds of federal programs to state and local control. In turn our national government would assume the cost of public assistance and healthcare. It was essentially a financial even trade but eliminating duplication created huge opportunities for savings. Responsibility for national defense, international relations, a comprehensive domestic safety net for our citizens and constitutional protection of our freedoms are clearly national responsibilities. I believe strongly in reducing the sweep of federal control by creating active, smart, and able state and local governments who are prepared to meet citizen needs. States frequently are the laboratories of democracy. Most major new federal domestic programs evolved out of initiatives first developed at state and local levels.
4. Fiscal integrity
Fiscal integrity is not encompassed in the famous words of George H. W. Bush “read my lips, no new taxes”. Rather, it arises from attempting to define the real needs of our citizens and finding the most efficient and effective ways to meet those needs. The constant challenge is to find the right balance between spending and taxes just as a business tries to discover the right balance between prices and profit. Profligate spending and irrational prices lead to disaster. But sometimes taxes and sometimes prices must rise. But every effort to reform and streamlining government should happen before we talk of taxes. Fiscal responsibility means paying for benefits we receive. Anything less is borrowing from our grandchildren for the benefits we want but are not courageous enough to pay for.
Conservation, Constitution, a strong federal system, fiscal integrity. Those define my view of a Republican Party that could be successful and deserves to govern.
I am asked frequently “how can you still be a Republican?”. It’s easy. I don’t believe in quitting. Ask Nancy! I will continue to fight for these principles because I believe they are right for America. But not all good ideas come from one side of the political aisle. In my inaugural address as Governor I said “I am not afraid of the word liberal and I am not ashamed of the word conservative”. In a later inaugural address I stated “I would rather cross the political aisle than cross the people”. We may disagree as political parties but we all share a love of our country. Laboring together for the common good is not weakness but a strength beyond political division. I have never seen a Democratic salmon or a Republican highway, a liberal park or a conservative bridge. But I have seen lots of landmark bipartisan legislation.
But, we have had one-party rule in this state for 30 years. It is currently the longest of any state in the nation. The administration has grown immense barnacles that need to be cleaned off for our ship of state to gain speed and agility. (Frankly today it is sinking). Department heads feel entitled. One was overheard asking another if he came in Gardner II or Locke I as if they were royal dynasties. The mantra is taxes first and reform later (if ever). The governor is a nice guy but brought the blatant partisanship of the US House of Representatives to governing and that is a recipe for failure.
The people of Washington state deserve better!
Reform of state government minimizes the need for new taxes and gives citizens better service.
Investment in our infrastructure will speed economic growth.
Affordable higher education opens the future to all.
We must get past the debate over big government versus small government. We desperately need smart government.
I was delighted to see Bill Bryant declare for governor. He is articulate, experienced, has good ideas and will campaign with vigor and intelligence.
He may be joined by other Republican candidates but a vigorous, positive primary campaign will strengthen our nominee.
Cascade Conference XXXVIII in 2017 will hear from a new Republican Governor, a Republican Speaker of the House, and a Republican Senate Majority Leader.
I can hardly wait to greet that Republican triumvirate for the first time in almost 40 years. GET IT DONE!!! I may not be able to wait until 2020.