Our Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers has largely been given a free pass, both by the Review and the Inlander. When you think about it, what has she done during her now very lengthy stay in Congress? Not much. A Tom Foley she is not.
For a time, she played the role of the wise woman who didn't say much but looked quite serious about it all. Her party used her in this capacity. She certainly can't compare to our two Washington senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, who have taken leadership roles even while being in the minority.
To give McMorris Rodgers some leeway, it is true the Republican Party doesn't run a very open operation. For the most part, members wait for orders to come from Mitch McConnell, and that's about that. For example, just like her colleagues she hasn't had anything much to say about the January insurrection. We know that she hasn't supported any further congressional inquiry — even though inquiry is obviously called for. Even McConnell, who after the insurrection actually condemned Donald Trump in a speech before Congress, has since retreated to his preferred partisan position: He doesn't want this terrible event looked at any further, and as far as our longtime congresswoman is concerned, that's that. No big deal — certainly not as big a deal as whether we should teach history to our children, apparently.
McMorris Rodgers is not alone in her cone of denial about just about any issue of consequence facing her constituents. Begin looking into these matters and immediately you are led to Donald Trump's destructive role and his ongoing hypnotic hold over almost the entire Republican Party. So we hear nothing from our congresswoman, which, frankly, can be expected of most Republicans in the country.
Consider just a few issues that affect our district here in Eastern Washington — issues that McMorris Rodgers has either ignored or shown passing interest in. Migrant labor: This district is dependent on such labor, something she must know, but she doesn't have much to say about it. She has complained about delays in federal funding, but that's about it. She touts her stand on border security but does so without any discussion of its unfair impacts. She has voted multiple times against the Affordable Care Act without ever offering much of a reason, and never dealing with the trailing issues.
Or how about student loan debt? Obama failed miserably to deal with this issue. Trump obviously did nothing. Members of Congress are closer to the issue, but our congresswoman? I doubt she even understands the problem. I personally know graduates from 10 years ago who are still shackled by their debt. In her district there are several four-year schools and many more community colleges; I doubt she has investigated any of this as she waits for orders from HQ.
As for the rapidly unfolding climate catastrophe, where has our congresswoman been? Malden, Washington — a town in her own district — burned to the ground last summer, yet days before a record-shattering heat wave was about to descend on the Pacific Northwest just last month, we found her on the floor of the House decrying President Joe Biden's supposed "war on fossil fuels." Setting aside the comical delusion that Biden of all people is some sort of rampaging eco-warrior, McMorris Rodgers already represents a district that receives a huge share of its energy from renewable sources, a fact she surely knows.
Is there another Tom Foley out there somewhere? Do the Fifth District Democrats have a boldly progressive candidate who can make the necessary arguments?
It should be noted that Republicans have historically been more "top-down" than have Democrats. This isn't a new thing: As Will Rogers famously remarked, "I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat."
Would voting out McMorris Rodgers change anything? The Fifth District hasn't had much influence since Tom Foley lost in 1994. Foley worked the system for his district — for farmers, for higher education, for infrastructure. It's worth remembering Foley was taken out by Newt Gingrich, the man who started the scorched earth politics that burn us to this day. As we have found out, we're all losing in this zero-sum game.
McMorris Rodgers, meanwhile, is the consummate order-taker — another guaranteed vote in McConnell's back pocket. Is there another Tom Foley out there somewhere? Do the Fifth District Democrats have a boldly progressive candidate who can make the necessary arguments?
All this is happening while Republicans are watching the wave of voter opposition coming their way and are doing whatever they can to suppress the vote. McConnell knows full well that they can no longer win elections on the merits of their broadly unpopular policies and head-in-the-sand approach to urgent crises.
Here in our little corner of the country, the least we can do is find another option to represent us — someone who will tackle the problems that simply haven't been addressed by either Republican president since old Tom Foley was chased out of office for doing his job. ♦
Robert Herold is the author of Robert's Rules, Selected Columns: 1994-2017 (Inlander Books).