For a fleeting moment, State Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent, appeared to have committed an act of political bravery. Before an audience at the Kent Chamber of Commerce, she spoke her mind about her peers. But she undermined her own credibility by accusing a journalist of inaccuracy, then all but recanted what she had professed was bold truth.
She had vented to the lunchtime crowd about “hate, sexism, racism and misogyny” in closed-door Senate Democratic Caucus meetings. The remarks, covered by the Kent Reporter, portray a hostile workplace with a toxic culture that must be meaningfully addressed through a Senate review.
The Senate Democratic Caucus controls enough votes to shape legislation for all of Washington, as well as confirmation power over Gov. Inslee’s appointments to top jobs. Its public responsibilities are too great to allow a negative culture to inhibit state governance. Each one of the Legislature’s four caucuses overzealously guards its privacy, behaving as if the act of lawmaking is not public business.
When Das’ speech made the news, she claimed “mischaracterization” by the reporter. When video of the speech proved the story’s accuracy, Das pirouetted again, saying her true complaint is against biases in “the entire world.”
There is nothing new in a politician walking back statements after reconsideration. The ploy of claiming misquotation is a particularly craven, and ancient, form of it. But in a time when truth-telling is violently attacked in America and abroad, Das emulated the noxious behavior of President Donald Trump and undercut a journalist’s credibility to deny her own words. This outrageously irresponsible decision must be accounted for.
In light of it, Das needs to show why voters should believe her about anything at all. If a culture of bias arose “when that caucus door closed,” as Das said, the Senate ought to take public corrective measures. But Das impeached her own credibility and added that she was uninterested in filing a formal complaint, although she has cooperated with an ongoing Senate investigation. Other senators must step up where she faltered and participate openly in the review of caucus behavior.