Share story

Hard times for the Republican Party around here sure look like they’re about to get harder.

Did you hear how the GOP down in Oregon responded to the liberals’ dominance in the last election? They veered wildly to the right, picking as their new leader a global-warming denier who has equated public education to child abuse and once advocated sprinkling nuclear waste over the U.S. to build up our resistance to diseases.

It’s Oregon, you’re probably saying. State loves its crackpots.

OK, then. Get a load of the candidates vying to run the Grand Old Party in supposedly sane, sophisticated Washington.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

There’s the party official from the Vancouver area whose handle on Twitter reads: “American before partisan, conservative before republican, dead before liberal.” Points for conviction, I guess, but not likely to go down that smoothly in, say, King County. Home of a few live liberals.

There’s the precinct-committee officer from Benton County who says he’s running to bring the fractured GOP together. But then poses the most divisive questions possible on Twitter, such as: “Will the Jews face another Holocaust? We know that babies have been facing their Holocaust. Abortions and infanticides.”

True, those two won’t likely win (though you never know — see Oregon).

So moving on, also running is a genial libertarian from Aberdeen who recently wrote a primer on the perils of government, titled “Libertarian Nation.” Typical chapter: “Social Security: The Statist Fraud that Undermines Everything Else.”

Side note: Did you see that Social Security celebrated its 78th anniversary last week? It now supports 57 million Americans and is one of the most popular government programs ever created. Happy birthday, you old statist fraud.

Former TV anchor Susan Hutchison also is running, but the odds-on favorite when the party meets this weekend to choose its new chief is said to be Luanne Van Werven, a longtime official in the local chapter of Phyllis Schlafly’s anti-feminist Eagle Forum. She made waves last year when she disinvited King County Councilmember and fellow Republican Reagan Dunn from a planned speech because he backed gay marriage.

Her pitch to the loyalists now? The GOP’s main problem isn’t that it’s too right wing. It isn’t right wing enough.

“We have gone the moderate Republican route, and I would just like to say, how has that worked out for us? Not very well,” she said.

Republicans, get a hold of yourselves! You’re not in Texas or even Oregon. Our state, like it or not, is pro-gay, pro-pot and pro-abortion-rights. It’s getting less white, less religious and less straight. Meanwhile, your party is viewed as anti-government, anti-science and anti-anything-that’s-not-Christian.

So why not try something new? Run some social liberals who are economic moderates. Find some politicians who fit the mold of, say, state Sen. Rodney Tom (only more reliable and who are willing to actually remain Republicans). Eventually, one of them will win — and the state will be better for not being in one-party control. But obviously you have to move at least a little to the left. That’s where the people are.

Going hard to the right now, even if just to select a state party figurehead, would represent a crazy level of denial. It’s asking to spend another generation in the wilderness.

Look at it this way: Republicans have only one statewide elected official left on the West Coast — Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman. So how much worse can it get?

State Sen. Pam Roach this week said that because of the above-mentioned leadership vacuum, now she may be in the running to lead a party that has tried to bar her in the past for bad behavior.

So maybe it has to get worse before it can get better.

Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.