What can we do to challenge the powers that be within a two-party system that is actually not useful in its current form?
We start right where we live … right here at home.
In thinking about what I might do and how I might do it, I did some research into what shakes up a system on the local level. Obviously perhaps the most powerful individual personal shake-up at the local level is that of an incumbent who is challenged for election and then who loses that election.
In 1995 the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives was Representative Tom Foley, the U.S. Representative from Washington’s 5th District. Foley was a Democrat who was first elected in 1964 at the urging of Senator Scoop Jackson. Foley was re-elected 15 times. After his 13th election win, Foley was elected Speaker of the House, taking the place of another Democrat who had stepped down because of an ethics scandal.
Foley was re-elected for two more terms. But then was challenged by George Nethercutt in 1994.
“During his time in the House, Foley repeatedly opposed efforts to impose term limits on Washington state’s elected officials, winning the support of the state’s voters to reject term limits in a 1991 referendum; however, in 1992, a term limit ballot initiative was approved by the state’s voters.
Foley brought suit, challenging the constitutionality of a state law setting eligibility requirements on federal offices. Foley won his suit, with a United States district court declaring that states did not have the authority under the United States Constitution to limit the terms of federal officeholders.
However, in Foley’s bid for a 16th term in the House, his Republican opponent, George Nethercutt, used the issue against him, properly citing the caption of the federal case brought by Foley, ‘Foley against the People of the State of Washington’. Nethercutt vowed that if elected, he himself would not serve more than three terms in the House.
Foley lost in a narrow race. While Foley had usually relied on large margins in Spokane to carry him to victory, in 1994 he won Spokane by only 9,000 votes, while Nethercutt did well enough in the rest of the district to win overall by just under 4,000 votes.
Foley became the first sitting Speaker of the House to lose his bid for re-election since Galusha A. Grow in 1862. He is sometimes viewed as a political casualty of the term limits controversy of the early 1990s. – Wikipedia
Nethercutt, who had promised to self-limit to only three terms after replacing Foley who had completed 15 terms, became his own term-limits hypocrite.
In 2000, when his self-imposed three-term limit would have kicked in, Nethercutt changed his mind and announced his intention to run again, infuriating term-limits supporters. Nethercutt was nevertheless re-elected without much difficulty in 2000 and in 2002. – Wikipedia
Nethercutt subsequently decided to reach for another plum. Apparently over-estimating the clout he he thought he had earned in predominately Republican Eastern Washington, he challenged incumbent Democrat Patty Murray.
The term-limits issue that had helped Nethercutt topple a Speaker of the House, came back to haunt him when Murray and the Democrats made hay of the same issue with Nethercutt’s own broken promise to limit his career in the House to 3 terms.
Furthermore, Nethercutt supported the policies of a controversially unpopular party leader, President George W. Bush, whose invasion of Iraq left his presidential popularity severely tainted. Already an underdog as a Republican candidate in Washington – a so-called Blue State dominated by Washington’s western side – Nethercutt lost to Murray in a landslide.
Nethercutt was succeeded by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican state legislator who was groomed by her state and national party to insure Republican control of the 5th District and the Eastern side of the state. Rural Eastern Washington1 is overwhelmingly Republican and seems to reflect the harvest of what I can only call a party and media-led campaign of political propaganda. As has happened elsewhere in the United States, the Republican media bullhorn has been extremely effective and very poorly resisted or countered by Democrats.
As we saw in the recent election successes of Trump and the Republicans, the Democrats failed to take seriously the concerns in many states with urban and rural locales comprised of significant mixed entities. It seemed that to Democrats, urban liberals are worth more than rural conservatives. The problems of urban liberals have always appeared to be the Democratic path to electoral success.
For the Republicans, not so.
However, when all is said and done, both parties live and die financially by the generosity and greed of donors who are able to hand out fortunes in extremely large amounts. Both parties in fact live or die by acting on the priorities of those who put money in the outstretched hands of folks who promised to look out for us and fight against the outstretched-hand behaviors of everybody but themselves.
Which brings me to our own 5th Congressional District Representative, Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Considered to be the most powerful Republican female in the House of Representatives, if not the party nationally, McMorris Rodgers has essentially marched in lock-step with the Republican Party going back to her days in our state legislature when the grooming-for-the-future began in earnest.
A roster of her legislative accomplishments represents two things:
1) If you read what Cathy McMorris Rodgers proudly touts as her legislative, administrative and compassion record on behalf of residents of Washington, it is important to realize that voters elected her to do those very things; to be wise and perceptive enough to see the needs and initiate the actions.
Doing those things was doing the job she was elected and paid to do.
The truth is that any competent representative – regardless of political party – could justifiably be expected to do a job with the same effectiveness. Otherwise we would be expected to accept her political advertising as her declaration that no other human being would have been able to pull off the “miracle” she single-handedly accomplished.
The truth is, we do not elect super candidates who will be able to deliver on any promise such candidates or candidate’s party tries to sell.
2) What she has done or not done for our country between 2004 and 2016 vividly reflects what her party has done or not done for country.
For the most part what the Republican Party has legislated is a partisan program for which she represented us by casting supportive party votes. What the party has opposed, likewise is reflected by the votes she cast on our behalf.
These Republican agenda items have been totally ideological to that insane degree that deteriorated – with the election of Barak Obama – to 8 years of total and unrelenting obstruction; something McMorris Rodgers has no proof that her constituency desired that she do.
The circumstance for this disastrous behavior of harming America is revealed by all the good and positive things that could have been done had time been prioritized to genuinely work on such issues and had not the obstruction dominated the expenditure of government time and taxpayer money.
Since passage of the ACA legislation, the Republican Party has attempted to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act (which her party negatively propagandized as “Obamacare,”) more than 60 times.
Quite literally, Cathy McMorris Rodgers spent our time and our money trying to repeal a single law -and failed every time – at an outlandish frequency of ten times per year through 2016.
She has – especially over the past 8 years – wasted our time and our money, and has accomplished little. Even today, despite the promises she makes in public, her party does not have a viable or adequate replacement program for the ACA.
To sum things up, in Eastern Washington voters elected and then re-elected the same campaign-promise-making, rhetoric-spouting Democrat (Foley) for 30 years.
Voters elected and then re-elected the same campaign-promise-making, rhetoric-spouting Republican (Nethercutt) for 12 more years.
The truth is, elected and then re-elected the same campaign-promise-making, rhetoric-spouting Republican (McMorris Rodgers) for 12 more years.
That’s 30 years of Democrats followed by 24 years of Republicans. We have – as evidence of such quality representation – a circumstance that has led to the election last year of the most unqualified, inept and self-interested presidential politician in our history.
How did that happen?
I suggest that the principle reason is the capturing of the vaunted American Version of a Two Party System by the power of the lobby that has failed us and that has proven to be the least useful system by which we can experience wise governance.
What can we do to challenge the powers that be within a two-party system that is actually not useful in its current form.
We start right where we live … right here at home.
Nethercutt was first elected to Congress in 1994 in a dramatic election in which he unseated Tom Foley, the Speaker of the House, .
It was the first time Nethercutt ran for office.
That’s why I’m thinking about running.