Friday morning, I attended the Annual Legislative Outlook Breakfast organized by the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Identity Clark County and the Columbia River Economic Development Council. Since the main thrust of the program involved having nine State Legislators address questions on topics ranging from Economic Development to Transportation to Education; it seemed likely to be a very interesting morning. However, the announcement, about 36 hours prior to this breakfast, that the current Member of U.S. Congress from Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, Brian Baird, would not be seeking reelection, resulted in an added dimension to this event that made it particularly dramatic. This dramatic added dimension was due to the fact that several candidates for this, now open, seat were present, both in the audience and on the dais. In fact, Ginger Metcalf’s (the Executive Director of Identity Clark County) opening remarks included the question, “Is there anyone on the stage who is not going to run for Congress?” Ginger was one of only two or three out of the 10 on the stage who raised her hand.
As the Q&A-based program unfolded, it struck me that differences in the responses from the Democrat Legislators versus the responses from the Republican Legislators might be generally indicative of the coming 2010 race in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District. Indeed, the theme that emerged for me was very much along the lines of my recent article entitled “Advancing American Greatness - Two Dramatically Different Views”. In that article, I contrasted President Obama’s bent for looking to the government, as the source of all solutions for our nation’s challenges with solutions being offered by Jon Russell (Candidate for U.S. Congress and in attendance at the Legislative Outlook Breakfast), which focus on the true source of American Greatness … its people, not its government.
As mentioned earlier, the agenda of Friday’s event consisted of questions on a broad range of topics. However, whether the question had to do with balancing Washington State’s Budget or Jobs or a new Columbia River Bridge or What You Would Do If You Were King Or Queen For A Day, there was a remarkable consistency to the responses, along party lines. Generally, with Republicans, the government wasn’t the first place to look to for solutions and with Democrats, the government was the only place to look. In fact, with the Democrats, each of them seemed to closely adhere to the positions of the Obama administration. None more so than Deb Wallace, the State Representative for the District where I live. In fact, I thought she did an excellent job of affirming what a spokesperson for the NRCC had said about Wallace when she announced that she would run for the seat Brian Baird is vacating – i.e. that Wallace is “ just another tax-hiking, job-killing Democrat.” And, for me, I’d have to add, “It would just be replacing one Career Politician with another Career Politician.”
Ironically, I thought Democrat Representative Jim Jacks provided a great wrap-up to the Legislative Outlook Breakfast with his answer to the question, “What You Would Do If You Were King Or Queen For A Day?” In his response, he reminded us that we rejected being ruled over by a King or a Queen over 200 years ago and he went on to say, “We’re a representative democracy which means it is your responsibility to have an opinion and to share it with us … its your job to do it with us … we are all in this together … democracy is inconvenient, it takes a lot of time … it’s a process and its incumbent upon all of you and all of us to be actively engaged in it.” Based on Representative Jacks’ responses to earlier questions, I’m guessing that what he wants to hear from us is our views on how the government can best meet our state’s and nation’s challenges. However, his wrap-up response was deserving of every bit of applause it drew and I think it serves as an excellent reminder to us all. Democracy is inconvenient and to be successful, it does take a lot of time and its incumbent on all of us to be actively engaged in it. In my opinion, the most productive way we can be engaged in it is to shift the focus from our government, as the only way to meet our state’s and our nation’s challenges, to our people … the true source of American Greatness … as the best way to meet our challenges and perhaps, again start seeing them as opportunities.