So who is Cathy McMorris Rodgers really? What is her background? Well, here it is. It speaks volumes.
Most of what follows is based on her Wikipedia article and an article on her life that appeared in the Spokesman in 2004. Cathy McMorris was born May 22, 1969 in Salem, Oregon. In 1974 when Cathy was five her parents and young brother moved to an off-grid farm in Hazleton (pop. 305), British Columbia, not far from Alaska. She was taught in a two-room schoolhouse. Just seven years later when Cathy was twelve they moved again, this time to Quesnel, B.C. (pop. 10,000) 350 miles SE, so her father could take a job as the principal of a private Christian school. That lasted three years.
Cathy was a fifteen year old high school junior in 1984 when they moved to an orchard near Kettle Falls where she worked at the family’s fruit stand. Cathy and her brother attended the Columbia River Christian Academy, a school established in 1973 by people looking for a way to school their children in their brand of Christian worldview. Her father taught the younger grades at the same school. He served as chairman of the Stevens County Republican Party. They attended a “non-denominational evangelical Christian church”.
Ms McMorris went off to the “Pensacola Christian College” in Florida. The wikipedia article notes that at the time she attended the College it was not accredited. It is identified as an “Independent Baptist liberal arts college.” The Independent Baptist churches are also referred to as Independent Fundamental Baptist or IFB. A Pew Research Center 2014 survey found that members of Independent Baptist churches comprised a mere 2.5% of the adult U.S. population. The Pensacola Christian College was finally accredited in 2013 by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. Ms. McMorris graduated in 1990 with a degree identified as Pre-law.
I invite you to the Wikipedia article on the Pensacola Christian College to comprehend the narrowness of the experience. This is NOT a place where a student is exposed to wide ranging ideas.
In 1990 Ms McMorris went straight from college to managing the campaign of Bob Morton in his run for the Washington House of Representatives from the 7th Legislative District. When he was elected and then took office in 1991 she became his legislative assistant. When Morton was appointed to the LD7 Senate seat, Ms. McMorris was appointed to fill the LD7 Rep seat that Morton had held. Ms. McMorris was all of twenty five years old at the time.
During her time in Olympia she pursued an “Executive MBA” from the University of WA starting in 1993 and graduating in 2002. According to Wikipedia: “Executive MBA (EMBA) programs developed to meet the educational needs of managers and executives, allowing students to earn an MBA (or another business-related graduate degree) in two years or less while working full-time.”
Serving for LD7 she never faced serious opposition for her State Rep seat. George Nethercutt gave McMorris the nod in 2004 when he vacated the U.S. House CD5 seat to run for Senate, a race he lost. She bested Don Barbieri that year for the seat, winning with nearly 60% of the vote. Peter Goldmark in 2006 whittled her down to 56.5%, the lowest percentage with which she has won in a general election.
I will save her U.S. Congressional career for another column.
If, as George Layoff points out in “Don’t Think of an Elephant”, people develop frames around issues that cause facts to bounce off, Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ frame, based on her education and upbringing, must be particularly impervious. She has been steeped in Independent Fundamental Baptist Christianity. From a fundamentalist childhood and education she shot directly into politics. There was no pause to examine her place in the world. Her frame provides rigid certainty with no need to consider other points of view. Empathy, the ability to imagine oneself in another’s shoes, is not likely to be her long suit.
It is not my intent to paint Ms. McMorris Rodgers as evil. She does not go to the mirror every morning and ask herself, “What nasty, awful thing should I work on today.” She does, however, go to that mirror with the mind frame of absolute certainty conditioned by the narrowest of narrow religious upbringings, carefully shielded even from broader Christian thought. She goes to that mirror having spent her entire adult life in politics in Olympia or D.C. and with almost no broader life experience.
We need a Representative with a broader understanding of the world and how it works.
Keep to the high ground,