As I rode my bike into the cozy waterfront town of Sequim, Washington, early Wednesday afternoon, I imagined that after 34 years in office and having carefully negotiated the venue, incumbent Congressman Norm Dicks (D) of Washington’s 6th Congressional District would be feeling pretty confident for this one and only public debate with challenger Doug Cloud (R). Sequim is roughly 90 miles or more from the district’s most dense industrial population centers of Tacoma, University Place and Lakewood, and another hour’s travel from the port cities of Grays Harbor. Even Bremerton is 60 miles. The mid week early afternoon time all but cherry picked a limited audience, mostly senior voters who would remember his years of service. They would be a warm and polite crowd, almost friends who remembered “Norm” as always being there. But such was not the case. Yesterday’s titan of Washington politics crashed harshly against the reality of change and the failure of hope. With stark differences in style and content, Doug Cloud routed Norm Dicks.
The clues were certainly there. Norm Dicks stepped silently onto the stage at Sequim Community Church about 10 minutes before the 2:00 PM debate, sat quietly studying his notes and speaking occasionally with organizers. The League of Woman Voters had coordinated well for the moderated event and it showed. But then “the Cloud” arrived and a spectacle happened. Just moments before starting time, an enthusiastic and almost spontaneous applause erupted in the room as Republican Doug Cloud walked in. It was a rock star moment, and Cloud seemed almost surprised by the clatter; he turned toward the audience extending his palms out, smiled broadly and waved, thanking them from the stage. Game on.
If Norm Dicks had ever been confident coming in to the debate, this moment was his reality check. Staring almost blankly at Cloud, he melted into his chair and worked to ignore the din. This was not going to be easy and it wasn’t for him. Here are some “blog bites” of analysis:
- Doug Cloud ripped into Norm Dicks’ repeated claim of bipartisanship and proposed bipartisan solutions, noting that Dicks has voted with Democrat Nancy Pelosi 99% of the time. After 34 years, why would he change now? It isn’t likely.
- Norm Dicks earned an almost universal groan from the audience when he blamed the “prior administration” for the current deficit. While the Bush administration was culpable, Dicks hides his leadership role in a Democratic Party majority for the past 4 yrs. Norm Dicks was and is part of the problem.
- In consideration of earmarks, Doug Cloud wants Americans to stop relying on sugar daddies in DC, while Norm Dicks has historically used earmarks for patronage, even at some risk of ethics violations. Acknowledging, “Earmarks may have gotten out of control,” Dicks insists Congress should keep this selective power of the purse. Cloud called earmarks “a means of corruption” to buy votes and I agree. Earmark style initiatives should stand on their own merits with transparency.
- Norm Dicks’ approach to job creation is to federally fund infrastructure projects and to attack fraud, waste, and abuse. At first blush, this seems like a good idea but why hasn’t he been doing this all along? With 34 years in office, Dicks has not worked to build sustainable budgets that support critical infrastructure and now wants to use the unemployment crisis to pander temporary jobs. He has failed in his oversight position to proactively manage the money he was entrusted with. Doug Cloud is a bit more pragmatic about “make work jobs,” saying they “make people temporarily happy just long enough to vote.”
- Doug Cloud’s approach to jobs is to reduce taxes and cut federal spending. He has strong positions on how to dismantle and potentially eliminate both the Department of Energy and Education, reassigning necessary functions to other departments while eliminating overhead and putting self governance back in the hands of local citizens. Norm Dicks says this will cut jobs. Dicks is correct that it will cut government jobs but transfer necessary work to the private sector. And because it will allow business to keep more money, they can invest in job creation in viable markets that create wealth. I don’t think Norm Dicks grasps the value of reduced government spending to control the deficit, nor does he understand how to infuse dollars in a private sector that can actually create new jobs without taking it from someone else first. This is fraud, waste, and abuse.
- In a revealing discussion on taxes, Norm Dicks defined tax cuts as the same thing as government expenditures. Think about this a moment; Dicks is saying that not taking your money (taxing) is the same thing as spending it on you. Dicks has trouble reducing the budget because he thinks your money is the government’s already. “You can’t cut taxes without paying for it,” said Dicks. Yes, you can. You can reduce government and give it back to the people, stop spending money that you don’t have and you can stop borrowing .40 on every dollar you want to spend.
- On health care, Cloud was clear on expectations to repeal and replace (I always have to emphasize replace) with Norm Dicks defending the plan that nobody read or fully understands even today. Unintended cost increases, limitations in choice and services are already manifesting regardless of government promises and there is now open talk on rationing. A strong majority of voters now understand this is a bad idea. Does anyone remember Dicks being bipartisan on health care?
- The Second Amendment discussion was equally polarized. Cloud answered the question unequivocally in support of the Second Amendment and articulated why, including the defense against tyranny. Norm Dicks avoided addressing the Second Amendment directly and talked about bolstering budget for the National Guard. He did acknowledge that sportsmen had a right to get a license, but avoided discussion on the individual right to bear arms. He blinked. Don’t trust Dicks with your gun rights.
Of course there was a lot more to the debate and I have only chosen a few snippets here within my time and space.
If the 2008 elections were a time of “hope and change,” then the 2010 elections are an opportunity for “change and deliver.” I haven’t seen a lot of results from hope and change so far has put us even deeper in debt, stolen our liberties, and made us even more reliant on government than ever before. The government has even implied I am a racist for simply questioning their wisdom. This is the Norm Dicks, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi model of governance. It is progressive Obama-ism in the context of transforming America. The transformation has to stop.
After 34 years in office, it is time to say goodbye to Norm Dicks as a revered titan of progressive Washington politics and patronage that has stayed past his time. It is time for Doug Cloud.
Doug Cloud will restore individual liberties and government accountability; he will seek to reduce government spending to sustainable levels and narrow government power to constitutional levels. It is time to restore our house.
Ballots came in the mail today at many Washington homes. The time for change and deliver is now.
Know your candidates and vote. November is coming.