Only a gutsy loser demands concessions from the winner
PETER CALLAGHAN; STAFF WRITER
If I were cynical about American politics, I might conclude the whole thing was a setup.
The losing tea party candidate, whose presence in the race drove the Republican frontrunner to the right, declares what it will take to win his endorsement.
The frontrunner must take a no-tax pledge and proclaim his absolute opposition to abortion. On cue, the frontrunner refuses to do anyone’s bidding – even those he agrees with.
In one sequence, the frontrunner shows himself moving to the political center where he needs to be for the general election. He demonstrates to moderates that he’s not as conservative as the tea partiers. But he sends the message – with a bit of a wink and a nod – that he actually agrees with the vanquished candidate.
As I said, a political cynic might think it was theater. Wait, I am a cynic and even I can’t believe that Clint Didier’s demands of Dino Rossi last week were an orchestrated attempt to help Rossi’s dash to the middle.
It just turned out that way.
Didier is a former pro football player who farms and coaches high school football in small towns north of the Tri-Cities. He has become the best-known tea party adherent in Washington – earning the ultimate imprimatur when he was endorsed for the U.S. Senate race by onetime Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
But once all the votes from Tuesday’s “top-two” primary are collected, Didier will have attracted just 12.5 percent. Toss in his co-candidate Paul Akers and you get to 15 percent. Put most generously, Didier won the support of 25 percent of state voters who said they are Republicans.
Not bad for a protest candidate but not enough to start making demands of the winner.
To invoke the sports metaphors Didier loves so much, the Mariners will win 40 percent of their games but still not be arrogant enough to tell the Yankees how to win games.
Yet there Didier was, announcing publicly what he claims he told Rossi in private – that Rossi must meet Didier’s demands before Didier will campaign for him.
“He doesn’t have a chance of winning right now,” Didier said. “I’m trying to give him a chance.”
Rossi must promise to introduce legislation that would eliminate U.S. Supreme Court jurisdiction over state and local abortion restrictions (so much for constitutional fundamentalism), take a no-new-taxes pledge and promise no increases in federal spending.
Rossi, who’s trying to beat Sen. Patty Murray, the three-term incumbent Democrat, issued a statement that he wouldn’t “submit to a list of demands made by anyone, even people with whom he agrees, in Washington state or Washington, D.C.”
Pretty masterful, actually. Agreeing would have cost him far more votes in November than refusing. And he gets to communicate that he agrees with the demands without saying that he agrees with the demands.
All of the items on the Didier Litmus Test are positions Rossi believes in, even though he hasn’t gone so far as to support pre- empting the Supreme Court on abortion. Instead he says the issue is settled in a state that trends pro-abortion rights.
When, by the way, did the tea party movement become an anti-abortion movement? The core of the tea party coalesced around economic issues and a belief that incumbent politicians had grown arrogant.
So are these voters simply waiting to trade establishment arrogance for insurgent arrogance? Some trade.
Didier’s Friday demands suggest something else only a self-deluded politician can believe – that the people who voted for him are waiting to be guided. I’m guessing a movement built by independent-minded voters is not so easy to lead.
Didier’s supporters may be unhappy with the election results. They may have adopted the rhetoric that Dino Rossi is a just a smidge different than Patty Murray. But over the next 10 weeks most will decide that there is a significant difference. Most will vote for Rossi – or at least vote against Murray. And they won’t demand to see his signature on Didier’s demands.
Peter Callaghan: 253-597-8657 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/politics