A Stark Contrast You Might Have Missed

Time to Pay Attention

I am more or less on vacation this week, but I could not resist forwarding this post from Heather Cox Richardson concerning President Biden’s announcement of his candidacy for re-election. (If you don’t subscribe already to Professor Richardson’s daily posts on Substack as Letters from an American I highly recommend that you do.) I repost this particular entry because I—and I expect many of my readers—missed Biden’s actual announcement and the Republican response to it, the media landscape being as fragmented as it is. The pairing of the two makes a compelling statement.

Keep to the high ground,


What follows is all copied from Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American:

April 25, 2023


APR 26

Exactly four years after he announced he would challenge then-president Donald Trump for the leadership of the United States, President Joe Biden today announced his reelection campaign, along with running mate Vice President Kamala Harris.

The contrast between the 2019 announcement video and the one released today shows how both the country and Biden have changed over the past four years. The earlier video featured former vice president and presidential hopeful Biden alone. It began by focusing on Charlottesville, Virginia, and the promise of the Declaration of Independence, written by Charlottesville’s famous resident Thomas Jefferson, that all men are created equal. Biden claimed that while we haven’t always lived up to those ideas, we have never walked away from them. They are the foundation of who we are. 

In the video, Biden contrasted the ideals in the Declaration of Independence with the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, where Klansmen, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis came out into the open and were met by “a courageous group of Americans.” The resulting clash took the life of counterdemonstrator Heather Heyer. Trump answered the horror over the riot by saying there were “some very fine people on both sides.” 

“With those words,” Biden said, “the President of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment,” he continued, “I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had seen in my lifetime.” We were in “a battle for the soul of this nation.” He urged us to remember who we are.

Biden’s 2019 campaign video was a rallying cry to defend American values from those who were trying to destroy them. Now, four years later, after winning the 2020 election by more than 7 million votes and working with Democrats and some Republicans to pass a raft of legislation to shore up the position of working- and middle-class Americans that rivals that of the New Deal, Biden’s message is different.

Like the previous video, today’s message begins with footage of an attack on the United States, but this time it is the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to overturn our democracy and keep voters from putting Biden into the White House. But Biden is not the centerpiece of this video; the American people are. The video is a montage of Americans from all races and all walks of life, interspersed with images of President Biden, Vice President Harris, First Lady Jill Biden, and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff talking to people, laughing with them, hugging them, supporting them. It is a picture of community. 

Over the image, Biden says that fighting for democracy has been the work of his first term. “This shouldn’t be a red or blue issue,” he says. He has fought “to protect our rights, to make sure that everyone in this country is treated equally, and that everyone is given a fair shot at making it.”

In contrast, the video says, MAGA extremists are threatening our “bedrock freedoms.” They have taken aim at Social Security while cutting taxes on the rich, dictated healthcare decisions for women, banned books, and attacked gay marriage, all while undermining voting rights. We are still in a battle for the soul of the nation, Biden says. The question is whether in the years ahead, “we have more freedom or less freedom. More rights or fewer.”

The video switches to upbeat music and faster energy as Biden says, “I know America. I know we’re good and decent people. I know we’re still a country that believes in honesty and respect, and treating each other with dignity. That we’re a nation where we give hate no safe harbor. We believe that everyone is equal, that everyone should be given a fair shot to succeed in this country.”

“Every generation of Americans has faced a moment when they have to defend democracy. Stand up for our personal freedom. Stand up for the right to vote, and our civil rights. And this is our moment,” Biden says, as the music changes and the video shows images of Americans coming together, laughing and working together. “We the people will not be silenced,” Biden says. 

“Let’s finish this job; I know we can,” the video ends. “Because this is the United States of America. And there’s nothing, simply nothing, we cannot do if we do it together.” 

“Let’s finish the job,” says writing across the screen.

It is a revealing moment. If Biden announced a presidential run in 2019 to recall the United States to its principles, he is running in 2023 on an extraordinary record of legislation and the idea that he has restored competence to Washington. And unlike Republicans eager for their party’s nomination, he appears to revel in highlighting the people around him rather than hogging the spotlight, while he touts the work the government has done for ordinary Americans. 

Politico’s Eli Stokols observed that some major media outlets treated the president’s announcement as a less important story than a new revelation that yet another right-wing Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch, didn’t disclose that he sold real estate to a wealthy man with business before the Supreme Court, or information coming out about the ongoing lawsuits against the former president. Stokols suggested the Biden campaign was quite happy to let the Republicans tear themselves apart in public while the president stays in the background, permitting Americans to forget the federal government is there—as they were able to in the past—because it is operating competently and without drama. 

As if to honor that theme, Biden announced that Julie Chávez Rodríguez will serve as his campaign manager. The former director of the White House office of intergovernmental affairs, focused on working with state, local, and tribal officials, she has been described by a colleague as “a get-sh*t-done staffer.” Rodríguez is the granddaughter of union activist César Chávez.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who had left open the possibility that he would run as a progressive candidate, promptly threw his weight behind Biden and announced that he would support the incumbent president, suggesting the Democrats are unified behind Biden’s reelection.

The Republican National Committee responded to Biden’s announcement with an entirely computer generated video warning of what the world would look like if Biden were to be reelected: a dystopian future full of international and domestic crises (including an economic crash, which promptly led Twitter users to speculate that House speaker Kevin McCarthy’s threat to force a crisis over the debt ceiling was part of a larger plot to destroy Biden’s booming economy before the election). In keeping with the party’s construction of false narratives, the “news reports” in the ad are fake; the images are computer generated. 

MSNBC’s Steve Benen notes that the ad “accidentally makes an important point.” Unable to find anything horrific about Biden’s actual record, “the RNC found it necessary to peddle literally fake, made-up images referring to events that have not occurred.”

Bloomberg columnist Matt Yglesias tweeted: I feel like if you have to use fake [images] of hypothetical future bad things that might happen if the *incumbent president* stays in office, that itself tells you something.”

Notes:  Biden’s New 2023 Announcement

The 2019 Announcement:







McConnell’s Newest Procedural Obstruction

How Senators representing a minority of Americans control judicial appointments

The process of appointing judges (for life) to the federal judiciary is once again in peril—and we, as citizens and voters, would do well to pay it close attention. 

First, remember that U.S. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to allow the U.S. Senate to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court after the death of Antonin Scalia in 2016. McConnell’s lame excuse was that the next President should decide on Scalia’s replacement. He staved off the nomination for 293 days until it expired with the seating of the next Congress on January 3, 2017, a delay that more than doubled the previous record delay of 125 days. Then he had the gall to boast that “one of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.’” 

Thanks to the subsequent election of Donald Trump and Republican senators jettisoning the filibuster, Neil Gorsuch replaced Scalia on the bench. Near the very end of Trump’s term in office, on September 18, 2020, Justice Ginsberg died. Regardless of the oncoming presidential election, McConnell went into high gear, pulling out all the stops to get a new justice confirmed. Just 30 days separated Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination from her confirmation. She was seated on the Supreme Court just 7 days before a solid majority of voters rejected the Trump presidency and the Senate changed to a slim Democratic majority. Of course, this speedy confirmation of Barrett before Biden was elected was the precise opposite of McConnell’s justification for robbing Barrak Obama of filling a Supreme Court seat. 

McConnell’s slimy, hypocritical power play set up an extreme right wing majority on the Supreme Court, a majority poised to remove from the people of the United States settled rights they had enjoyed for more than half a century. The new Court wasted no time. With the Dobbs decision handed down in June of 2022 the McConnell-engineered reactionary majority on the court struck down Row v. Wade, and with it a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. 

But the Supreme Court appointments were just the tip of the iceberg. The Senate Republicans under the Trump administration, while they held a slim majority both in the Senate Judiciary Committee (and the Senate as a whole) rammed through approval of 245 federal judges, most, possibly all, of whom were filtered for Republican idealogical purity by the Federalist Society. In contrast, the Senate has confirmed (as of April 17, 2023) only 119 Biden nominees to the federal bench. There are 38 nominees awaiting confirmation for 101 federal judicial seats (76 that are now open and 25 positions of judges who have announced plans to retire before the end of Biden’s term). 

Appointments of ideologues to life long federal judgeships have long ranging consequences. News continues to swirl around Trump-appointed U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s ruling that, if it stands, would upend scientific evaluation of drugs by the FDA, further restrict access to abortion, and rob obstetricians of a valuable pharmacological tool in dealing with the complications of pregnancy—all not on account of the rule of law but as the consequence of Judge Kacsmaryk’s theological convictions. And then there is the legal incompetence of Trump-nominated District Judge Aileen Cannon, the one who twisted herself into legal knots to favor Trump in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents scandal.

Republican U.S. Senate Procedural Blockade

So with 101 federal judicial seats to fill before the end of his first term in 2024 and a Senate majority with which to accomplish it, President Biden’s effort should be smooth-sailing, right? Well, no. 

In order for the U.S. Senate as a whole to consider and vote on a nomination of a federal judge, first the nomination has to pass the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary (aka Senate Judiciary Committee). That committee consists of 11 Democrats and 10 Republicans in this closely divided Senate. Passage requires a majority vote, so if one Democratic member cannot be physically present attempts to advance a nominee to the Senate floor fail in a tie. 

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a frail 89 year old and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is at home in California recovering from a bout of shingles that initially required hospitalization in March. Whether she will be able to return to the Senate is uncertain. Moreover, she has announced that she will retire from the Senate in any case at the end of her term in 2024. In the meantime the ten Republicans on Senate Judiciary, no doubt with minority leader McConnell’s support, vote as a block against advancing any Biden nominee to the Senate floor. 

You would be pardoned if you imagined that the Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer could just seat another Democrat in Feinstein’s currently empty chair—but you’d be wrong:

Feinstein…who has vowed to return to D.C. “soon,” requested on April 12 that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer appoint a temporary replacement for her on the Judiciary Committee to allow the Senate to confirm justices.

However, the move needed unanimous support in the Senate, with South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, the Judiciary ranking member, formally objecting to the measure on April 18 to prevent the Democrats’ plans to “force through their very worst nominees.”

The move to temporarily replace Feinstein on the panel could go to a roll call. However, it is unlikely that a vote would ever pass as it would require the support of at least 10 Republican senators to reach the 60-vote threshold.

Got that? An objection of a single U.S. Senator, in this case Lindsey Graham (R-SC), either on his own or at the instigation of McConnell, is sufficient to block any further Biden appointments to the federal judiciary as long as Senator Feinstein cannot physically return to the Senate. If, in 2024, Biden is re-elected to the presidency but the majority in the Senate reverts back to the Republicans this blockage could continue to 2028.

On account of the continued existence of the sixty-vote-requiring filibuster rule in the Senate, Senate Democrats, even though they hold a single vote majority of the Senate cannot overcome Graham’s “objection”—unless they convince 10 Republican Senators to vote with them to close debate on replacing Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee. Why is there still a filibuster rule? Again, it’s McConnell. McConnell held Senate business hostage at the beginning of the last two year term of Congress (January 2021) by threatening to filibuster a vote on the organizing resolution until it included wording preserving the filibuster

Republicans in the U.S. Senate are not only currently “in the minority” but, by virtue of the lesser total population of the aggregate of states they represent, they also represent a minority of the American people. Sustaining the filibuster rule offers these Senators even greater leverage over the will of the majority of Americans.

Some have called for Senator Feinstein to resign. If she resigns a Governor Newsom- appointed replacement would be seated in her place in the full Senate, but it will still require sixty votes (nine Republicans) to avoid a potential filibuster. Such a foul roadblock by Republicans could keep Democrats from filling Senator Feinstein’s seat on the Judiciary Committee until this Congress comes to a close at the end of 2024.

Over the years a number of exceptions to the filibuster have been carved out by a simple majority vote of Senators. It has been referred to has the “nuclear option” and has been used to toss out the filibuster first for confirming federal judges other than Supreme Court judges (by Democrats on November 21, 2013) and then for Supreme Court judges, too (by Republicans on April 6, 2017 to confirm Neil Gorsuch). The process is described in the Wikipedia article on the Senate filibuster under “Process for limiting or eliminating the filibuster”.

Perhaps it is time to invoke the nuclear option once again…

Keep to the high ground,


“By the People”

Get Involved

Echoing the words of the United States Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863, ended his now famous address “…that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” The “by the people” clause we ignore at our peril. “By the people” is at the heart of our democratic values—values we must express in civic engagement—or we risk losing what made the United States stand out favorably among the monarchic governments of the time of our founding. 

Civic engagement requires that we bestir ourselves to turn away from our televisions, smart phones and computers and actually connect with other people, learn the details of at least some small part of how we rule ourselves, and participate in that endeavor. An important way of doing that is to run for and serve at least in some small corner of what makes our joint human endeavor actually function—be that as member of a fire, school, water, or cemetery district board or a precinct committee officer—or as a city council person. Many of these positions really are non-partisan (in more than name)—and they are at the heart of what makes our democracy work. 

Next Thursday, April 27, the Spokane County Democratic Party is offering a chance to learn about ways to become civically engaged by running for elective office this year (or in later years). Bring is your civic commitment and your Spokane County home address. Volunteers will be ready to provide you with your precinct number, all of the overlapping districts with offices in which you could serve, an idea of what such service would entail, and the tools necessary to run for the position.

This is an opportunity to better learn the geography of the overlapping governmental districts in which we live, districts governing schools. libraries, water, and even cemeteries. This is a district geography so complex as to make one wonder if someone were working to make it intentionally obscure.

Are you interested in running for office in Spokane County in 2023?

Spokane County has 127 open positions including School Boards, Commissioners and City Council Positions. Click here for a list of the scheduled races. [Don’t be daunted by this list—it is imposing.]

If you are interested, and would like more information on this, please attend our:

Candidate Information Forum

April 27, 2023 @ 6:00 PM (Zoom Call or in-person at Hamilton Studios)

We are hosting a candidate workshop to discuss filing for office in Spokane County, submitting your local voters’ pamphlet information, voter lists and data management, campaign sign regulations, and basic public disclosure information from the Public Disclosure Commission.

If you can attend in person, join us at Hamilton Studios (1427 W Dean Ave, Spokane, WA) for some pizza, and socializing before the event.

Doors open at 5:30PM.

To register for this session, email your name tooperations@spokanedemocrats.org and or call 509-324-8525.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Beth Wilder

Co-Director of Operations 

Keep to the high ground,


The Excuse of “Election Integrity”

They didn’t teach this in school either

A short time ago I had a short conversation about voting with a distant friend, a local professional woman, a faithful attendee of a relatively liberal local protestant church. I was rendered briefly speechless when she asserted, “I don’t think everyone should be allowed to vote.” Asked for clarification, she added that she thought that only “educated” people should be allowed. The statement rang in my ears for days. Whom would she qualify as “educated”, someone who could pass a literacy test? 

I’ve been mulling over that encounter ever since. Growing up in the 1960s with awareness of the southern states’ voter suppression—and with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965—I conceived of U.S. History as a punctuated march of voting rights expansion from white male landowners to former male slaves to women to eighteen year olds of both sexes (on the grounds that if they or their husbands and boyfriends could be drafted and die in Vietnam they should be allowed to vote)—and now to felons who had duly served their sentence and rejoined society. “I don’t think everyone should be allowed to vote” rang in my ears like screeching brakes. For me the assertion violates a basic principle of fairness in small d democratic government. If not everyone over a certain age, then what criteria should we chose, and, perhaps more importantly, who gets to decide whom to allow?

Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen from him by widespread voter fraud is an excuse that the Republican Party has formed into a call for “election integrity”. Pursuing “election integrity” is a thinly veiled, coded excuse for limiting the right and means and places to vote for certain groups of people deemed statistically unlikely to support Republican candidates. An Arizona State Republican said the quiet part out loud to CNN in 2021:

“There’s a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans,” he [State Representative John Kavanaugh] told CNN. “Democrats value as many people as possible voting, and they’re willing to risk fraud. Republicans are more concerned about fraud, so we don’t mind putting security measures in that won’t let everybody vote — but everybody shouldn’t be voting … Not everybody wants to vote, and if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they’re totally uninformed on the issues. Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well.”

“Quality of votes” sounds a lot like “educated”. It begs the question: Educated by whom and about what? This is about the power of a minority to change voting rules to shore up their power. It should remind us that the modern day Republican Party is, at its base, profoundly anti-small-d-democratic. The modern day Republican Party does not believe that a majority of citizens should determine their representation in government. Instead, only a majority of voters of a certain “quality”—a “quality” defined by Republicans—should make that determination. 

We tend to think the results of elections are determined solely by the final vote counts—but that is hopelessly naive. Elections are determined by those who set the rules. 

In researching for last Monday’s post “More Republican Election Meddling” I was reminded that counting the ballots submitted in a general election is only a tiny piece of a long process subject to meddling. Most of us (including me) imagine that primary elections, held to determine who would advance to the November general election, have been a feature of elections since the founding of the country. Not so. Primary elections have been around only since the 1890s. In earlier times political parties held a caucus, a gathering of party members, at which the party’s candidate for the general election was selected. We still see vestiges of this process in party caucuses in some states held in the process of nominating a national party candidate for the presidency. 

As you read the following passage from Wikipedia on Primary Elections recall that the racist Democratic South is a demographic constituency absorbed by the Republican Party via the Southern Strategy in the early 1970s, effectively flipping the alignment of the two parties among voters:

The first primary elections came in the Democratic Party in the South in the 1890s starting in Louisiana in 1892. By 1897 in 11 Southern and border states the Democratic party held primaries to select candidates. Unlike the final election run by government officials, primaries are run by party officials, making it easy to discriminate against black voters in the era of Jim Crow. The US Supreme Court declared the white primary unconstitutional in Smith v. Allwright in 1944.

These original “closed” primary elections, that is, open only to certain people, were conceived in the South as a method of encouraging party loyalty among those who might not have the time or interest to become involved in a party caucus. Closed white primaries (interesting article)—something they didn’t teach you in U.S. History class—were a key mechanism of perpetuating Jim Crow in the southern states until the mid-twentieth century. Who knew? We in Washington State still hear echoes right next door as Idaho Republican Party members complain of “RINOS” (Republicans In Name Only) who take the trouble to jump through the hoops necessary to vote on the Republican Primary Election ticket. The point of a closed primary is to exclude, to assure the doctrinal “purity” of the small group of primary voters who determine the candidate to advance to the November general election ballot. The primary election becomes a choke point—a further illustration that the devil is as much in the details leading to the general election as in the election itself. 

Paul Weyrich, founder of the American Legislative Exchange Council, laid out Republican strategy on voting in stark terms in this famous quote which no small d or big D Democrat should ever forget, especially as we listen to Republicans promote the Big Lie and whine about “election integrity”:

“How many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome: good government? They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”[46]

Keep to the high ground,


More Republican Election Meddling

Playing the details for partisan electoral advantage on the thinnest of excuses

The Montana State Senate’s passage of Senate Bill 566 on April 4th is another election modification pushed by national Republican operatives with the goal of regaining national politic power. The bill is a surgical adjustment to Montana’s election law that applies only to the 2024 elections. It is designed to tip the scales against just one office holder. Montana’s U.S. Senator Jon Tester is the last Democrat in Montana to hold an elected office that is subject to a statewide vote, making him a prominent target for national Republicans trying to take back the U.S. Senate. Undoubtedly, the tipping of the scales was meant to slip under the radar. Instead, it has made national news.

The Republican calculation is simple. Senator Tester won his last general election (2018) with 50.3% of the votes cast. In the two previous U.S. Senate general elections, 2012 and 2006, Tester won with a hair less than 50% of the vote. In 2006 and 2012 Tester bested the percentage of the vote gathered by his Republican opponent—but in both those elections the Libertarian candidate was the “spoiler”. Had Libertarian voters voted for the Republican in those general elections, Tester would have lost by a tiny margin. 

The “junior” U.S. Senator from Montana, Steve Daines, is the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the group laser-focused on taking back the U.S. Senate in 2024. Although Daines himself has made no public comment on SB566, the New York Times reports that multiple operatives tied to Daines have pressured Montana State legislators to vote in favor of the Montana bill. The optics of singling out one critical race in one year for special treatment even makes some Montana Republicans squeamish, particularly since Montanans are traditionally skeptical of outside interference in Montana’s affairs. In the Montana State Senate seven Republicans joined all the Democrats to vote against the bill—but it passed anyway. 

The Montana State Senator who sponsored the original bill, Greg Hertz, claims that he just wants to make sure that Montana sends someone to the U.S. Senate who has the support of the majority of Montana voters. Regardless of stated intent, Mr. Hertz’ bill’s singular focus on the Montana’s U.S. Senate race in only one year makes his sincerity highly suspect. 

If Mr. Hertz were actually concerned about elected officials having majority support of the voters, why not a top two primary (like California and Washington State already have) for all state offices? Well, no, we just want to run a “test” he says and then consider broadening the application of a top-two primary in subsequent elections. California and Washington State legislature have current Democratic majorities. Might that make a universal top-two primary a hard sell for a Republican dominated legislature like Montana’s? Non-partisan blanket primaries, of which top-two primary systems are one example, are thought by some to weaken partisan control of candidates. That’s not likely something Montana Republicans want to entertain on a statewide basis—but it’d be OK for one race in one election.

Better still, how about Ranked Choice Voting, like Alaska and Maine, a system that insures majority support? Not so fast. Earlier this year the Montana State House and Senate both voted (HB598) to preemptively prohibit the use of Ranked Choice Voting methods in any election in the state. And guess what? State Senator Greg Hertz voted to prohibit RCV. So much for Mr. Hertz’ sincerity of purpose. 

State Senator Hertz is, however, somewhat sensitive to the optics of his bill now that SB566 has attracted critical national attention. His solution? Offer an amendment that would remove the “sunset” provision from the bill, making the top-two primary applicable to all subsequent U.S. Senate races in Montana, basically a fig leaf offered to hide naked intent to surgically meddle with one race in the 2024 elections.

Elsewhere Republicans hide behind bogus claims of protecting “election integrity” to excuse themselves for passing laws that are clearly meant to make it harder for some voters to vote, voters who are deemed likely to vote for Democrats. These laws, for example, restrict the use of mail-in ballots, remove voting places in minority neighborhoods, outlaw ballot drop boxes, and gerrymander voting districts (see REDMAP). People not paying close attention can yawn and declare, “Oh well, that’s just the game of politics” or console themselves with the total fiction that elections are somehow made more secure by these laws instead of making intentionally making it harder for certain voters to vote. Montana’s SB566’s selective tipping of the scales is one more example of Republicans’ anti-democratic meddling. If a top-two primary is good for one election in Montana it should be good for all of them. 

Spread the word. It’s time for backlash.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. A top-two primary system, by advancing only the top-two vote getters from the primary election to the subsequent general election, guarantees that the winner of the general election will garner more than half the votes cast. Top-two also offers the possibility that two people of the same party will advance to the general election (as we’ve seen in some eastern Washington races). 

P.P.S. The specifics of voting systems are very important—and very tricky. The non-partisan blanket primary (of which top-two is a predominant variation) has a complex history you can read about in Wikipedia at the underlined link. Check out the large section at that link that specifically covers the history of Washington State election systems. Arguably, a non-partisan blanket primary system (like Washington State’s) undermines the authority of political parties in choosing and vetting the candidates that purport to represent the party. In contrast, in a partisan primary system candidates are vetted and put forward to the primary ballot by the party. Then those who declare themselves members of the party elect one of these candidates in the primary election to advance to the general election under the party banner. 

Political parties in states with partisan primaries have differing rules for declaring oneself a party member for the purpose of primary election voting. For example, the Idaho Republican Party in our neighboring state has special signup requirements. That requirement combined with a very early primary (in May) gives an edge to the most extreme voters, the ones interested enough to plan ahead and turn up for the election. In much of the non-Boise area of Idaho a Republican advancing to the November general election is almost a shoo-in. As a consequence, Idaho elected Republican officials may advance to office on the basis of only a thin plurality of votes garnered in the Republican closed primary—a recipe for extremist governance. It also generates accusations of RINO! (Republican In Name Only) when interested, but less idealogical, voters sign up as Republican Party members for the purpose of having some voice in elections. It’s complicated.

Justin Jones and Joan Baez

Chance meeting in an airport

This was going to be a day off, but, instead, I want to share this video that re-awakened for me all the folksinging we did in the 1960s—and reminded me of how much work there still is to do. 

For any who do not yet recognize the name, Justin Jones is the Tennessee State Representative from Nashville. Along with State Rep. Justin J. Pearson Rep. Jones was expelled from the Tennessee State legislature for protesting in favor of gun control following the Covenant School shooting. Both Jones and Pearson were re-appointed from their respective districts the following week. 


Keep to the high ground,


A Plea For Cooperation

Open letter to Spokane city/county and state officials

Below is the text of a letter to our city, county, and state leadership. If you agree and support, go to this link and sign on! If you sign on you won’t be alone. I understand the letter already has signatures of 200 individuals and 28 organizations. 

We understand that the city and state will meet again soon in court to determine a plan to clear Camp Hope. Having this discussion in court is an unnecessarily expensive and time-consuming route. Closing camp has always been the plan, as evidenced by current camp residential count being under 60 persons, down from over 600 last summer.  We write to you today to ask you to let the process in place continue, allowing for the most robust method of ensuring Camp Hope residents move into housing and not temporary shelters or onto the streets once again. 

We are individuals and organizations who know this camp firsthand from our on-site work and experiences.  We have met campers and know everything that happens in and around Camp Hope.  We are also individuals, organizations and service providers who support the efforts at Camp Hope, have visited regularly and trust the process that is happening on-site. Some of us have volunteered, donated much needed items and believe that the best way to get campers into housing and help them stay housed is to provide the services they need and get them into housing. 

Most importantly, we listen to the campers about what they need. Given the opportunity to participate in the process of their own next steps in life, ensure outcomes that lead to stable housing. They haven’t be willing to go into the shelters before now for a variety of reasons, despite your efforts and ours, and they certainly aren’t going to go now. Sadly, we know too well that if camp is forced into a pre-mature closure, they won’t go to shelters and the chances of getting these campers into housing is highly unlikely. They will be back on the streets, neighborhoods and sleeping in parks. 

All of us, including campers, agree that the camp will close, but ask that it not be done pre-maturely. We request the continued time to get everyone into appropriate housing with the resources each individual needs.  Campers are 100% participating in the process. To that end, the following opportunities have been created to support the ongoing efforts and serve as potential placement and resources for housing readiness: 

 The Catalyst Project – more bed space is available for Camp Hope residents with on-site wrap around services, and campers continue to be placed here when they are housing ready.  What a game changer for homeless services! A shining example of what we should do more of. 

 A detox facility will be opening this month to serve the camp. Drug treatment is typically a resource that most, even those who disagree with our methods of resources and housing first, will agree is needed. The folks remaining at camp will have access, without barriers, to drug detox, drug treatment and behavioral health services. These resources will make maintaining housing possible and not result with folks back on the streets in the same situation again next year. 

 All campers have been assessed with behavioral health workers, substance abuse workers, and people they have built relationships with and trust. Two agencies on site have clinical staff and are behavioral health licensed with the State of Washington. 

 Unlike the shelter system, campers have peer support daily and access for resources to meet their basic needs. Every single camper has access to mental health care and medical health care regularly (unlike the limitations at TRAC due to insufficient staffing contract levels for mental health: contract allows for 175 persons to receive services, and yet the daily resident count is typically over 300). 

 Over the last year 100 members of camp have been hired to work on-site or with service providers assisting the houseless community. Some have made enough funds to exit homelessness with little assistance. They simply needed an opportunity, and when it was given, they made the most of it. Employment options continue to be when possible. 

 Some campers have court related legal issues and the on-site teams are working with them to become compliant through the help of an amazing legal assistance providing community partner. As the individuals get their legal issues in order, their housing ready status improves and will lead to housing opportunities. 

 Peer navigators, in addition to helping with housing readiness, provide transportation to ensure campers make it to their appointments.  Transportation and daily guidance is not currently a resource available within the shelter system. 

Safety and crime have been an ongoing topic of conversation regarding Camp Hope.  WSDOT security provides on-site provider’s a report daily. For weeks it’s been the same:  no disturbances, no holes cut in the fence, and not very loud. Everyone has made curfew and followed the rules. It’s a very structured environment.  

This is the calmest encampment we have ever been to. Police are relied on only in the case of crimes, which are always reported when there is evidence of occurrence. Staff are trained in de-escalation techniques, and we are able to handle most challenging situations with limited required interaction with emergency workers (except in the cases of emergencies requiring additional care). 

All of this, and the most important statement that hasn’t been said:  this entire topic is about people’s lives.  The lives of those living at Camp.  The decisions made regarding a pre-mature closing can mean the difference between dying next winter downtown or housing them appropriately.  That decision will mean less people added to our growing homeless population, or adding to it. 

Campers are caught in the middle of the political and legal chaos created by the unnecessary dueling between elected officials, who are all housed, privileged and talking about them, instead of with them. All they want, and all they need, is for us to finish what we started.  We are so close to the finish line of closing this camp appropriately. No one is asking you to keep the camp forever.  We are asking for more time until the needed housing options are available. The City of Spokane’s own ROW funded providers do not have their housing options up and running (the contracts were just signed this week!) 

Please put aside your political agendas and work in collaboration, instead of forcing closure, to figure out a plan that allows the work at Camp Hope to be completed. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you to move the needle down in Spokane’s homeless population. But you can’t do it alone. You need to listen to the campers and the service providers on-site to understand how you will be the most effective.  We assure you that a pre-mature closing is not part of an equation of success. 

The lives of sixty people depend on your next steps. They aren’t “just Camp Hope”, they have names and their own stories. They also have a wide range of challenges and traumas they are working to overcome.  Each of them are doing all they can to break down barriers to their own housing. Are you going to send them back on the streets and into neighborhoods, or are you going to give them the time they need to get into housing and on track to a more healthy and sustainable life?

Remember – you have tried to push them into shelters before and it didn’t work. The work of the past five months, on-site at Camp Hope, have resulted in getting campers into housing.   What will you choose? 

Keep to the high ground,