Lisa Brown's campaign against Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is proceeding about as predicted: Rodgers has more money, while Brown is closing in. But as for press coverage and what passes for policy debates? It's all so very civil. Focus on the issues. Show deference to both candidates. Find those distinctions without differences. All these things are otherwise known as being "Spokane Nice." I coined this still-relevant term in 1994 for a piece that appears in the recent collection of my past columns, Robert's Rules.
With the 2000 change in Spokane's government — from council manager with at-large elections to strong mayor with elections-by-district — local elections became less Spokane Nice and more relevant. Congressional elections, not so much. The last two losing Democratic challengers seemed more intent on winning the Mr. Congeniality Award than actually winning — evidence that here in 2018 Spokane Nice remains alive if not well.
As a result, so far we are missing the only point in 2018 that really matters, and that's how a vote for Cathy McMorris Rodgers is a vote for Donald Trump. If formal presentations, questions and exchanges fail to make this clear, we will have learned nothing of importance. Rodgers has been Trump's most loyal water carrier since his campaign began. She has supported his every proposal and has had nothing to say about his abysmal conduct and irrational behavior. Nothing.
Meanwhile, special counsel Robert Mueller is getting closer and closer to the Oval Office, where Trump's son-in-law doesn't have a security clearance but is parked in the White House cutting deals. OK by Cathy, apparently.
The very concerned former CIA Director John Brennan described Trump as "unstable, inexperienced and unethical." She ignores all of this concern.
She has bought Trump's routine hook, line and sinker, for the past four years parroting the Republican line, which has become Trump's line, from health care to tax reform to gun control to trade to race relations to immigration to gender issues to education. On health care, Rodgers was front and center against what President Obama sought to accomplish, with her "Repeal and Replace" mantra, which became a Trump line that proved, as do so many of his lines (aka tweets), to be both disingenuous and, frankly, pure nonsense.
On health care, what Rodgers and her party eventually agreed on (absent congressional hearings and with Trump's full support) revealed that they were starting over on health care but they had no plan, playbook or clue. On taxes? The Congressional Budget Office predicts their bill will cost America billions of dollars. Wealthy donors love it, because those billions are headed their way.
As of yet, she hasn't even criticized Trump for his recent unilateral decision to raise tariffs, a decision that, if allowed to stand, could prove disastrous for our local agriculture industry. And what the tariffs don't wreck, Trump's rabid anti-immigration campaign will.
There are so many non-Spokane Nice questions just begging to be directed to our sitting congresswoman. Hopefully the media and Lisa Brown can pose them.
QUESTION: Since the massacre in Florida, a number of companies have dropped NRA involvement. Do you favor such efforts in the interest of public safety? If not, why not?
QUESTION: Would you consider reinstating the assault weapon ban that your predecessor helped kill? If not, why not?
(And just to make sure we are working off the same page, note that refusal to take action against military-style weapons can't be traced to the Second Amendment. Justice Antonin Scalia, in explaining his very controversial opinion in the Heller case, was explicit that in no way did that decision preclude gun control.)
Some very knowledgeable writers — E.J. Dionne, Norman Ornstein and Thomas W. Mann, to name only three — continue to hold out hope that once Trump is gone, America can retrieve some semblance of sanity.
Kevin Baker writing in the New Republic, however, says, "Forget it. A ruthless movement has seized the United States the likes of which has not been seen in our time, or maybe ever."
Cathy McMorris Rodgers' Republican Party, continues Baker, "went rogue decades ago ... and has slipped any remaining traces of civic decency, cynically installing a man it knows to be a ranting incompetent in the White House just to advance its self-interested end."
All of which leads to the final two-part, non-Spokane Nice question, the first part directed at both candidates, the second only to our sitting congresswoman:
QUESTION: How would you rate President Trump's performance at the end of his first year in office? And do you agree with former CIA Director John Brennan's assessment of the president?
QUESTION: Congresswoman, do you continue to support President Trump? In the name of the best interests of the 5th District, why?♦