No one has been vindicated by the events of the past few weeks more than two struggling local candidates — both of whom, in a twist that says it all, would rather talk about anything else.
That’s the strange dynamic heading into Washington’s Tuesday primary election, in which the biggest story is the fate of two GOP members of Congress who stuck their necks out in January 2021 to impeach a president they’d both voted for: Donald Trump.
Consider what has happened since. Their party turned on them, calling on them to resign and passing resolutions of censure. But that was last year. This year, the congressional investigation has been unfolding into what really went down during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol — and man has it shown that these two were right.
Take Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside. He stands today as one of the more vindicated figures in American politics.
You’d never hear that from him, though — he voted against even establishing the Jan. 6 committee and rarely talks about his vote anymore.
“Instead of living a year-and-a-half ago, we should be focused on what’s going on right now, and how do we address those things that concern everybody, like inflation,” he said recently, when asked about his radioactive vote to oust Trump.
I wrote about Newhouse’s rationale for his vote at the time, under the headline: “A Washington state Republican made the strongest case yet for Trump’s impeachment, but is anybody listening?”
They weren’t listening, but they are now.
Newhouse had said whether Trump incited the riot was too hard to prove. Once it started, though, Trump did nothing for three hours.
“We had a domestic enemy at the door, and he did not respond,” Newhouse said back then. “Only he, I think, had the power to be able to quell the siege that was happening, as people’s lives were being threatened, as people’s lives were being lost. He didn’t do that.”
The Jan. 6 committee has shown, using insider accounts from Trump’s staffers, how egregious this lack of action was. He sat around mostly watching TV for more than three hours, egging on the rioters.
The testimony was so damning it caused both the Trump-loving Wall Street Journal and New York Post editorial boards to finally dump the MAGA king.
“The President Who Stood Still on Jan. 6,” the Journal said last weekend.
“It was incitement by silence,” the Post concluded. By sitting “in his private dining room, watching TV, doing nothing, for three hours, seven minutes … Trump has proven himself unworthy to be this country’s chief executive again.”
This is exactly what Newhouse argued 18 months ago when it really mattered.
So did Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, also one of just 10 Republicans nationally who voted to impeach. That January she tweeted out a photo of the mob surrounding a downed officer: “I urge you to ask yourself … does the Commander in Chief have a responsibility to try to stop the beating of this police officer?”
The article of impeachment Congress passed never mentions this three-hour-long dereliction of duty. Yet, it’s proving to be the most incriminating of all. These two foresaw it all along.
It makes this upcoming vote on Tuesday one of the more intriguing in years. In our tribalized politics, does being so right just make you that much more wrong?
So far, of the “Impeachment Ten,” four have quit. One lost in a primary. One barely survived, Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., who moved on in a June primary despite getting only 25.6% of the vote. Three are up on Tuesday, and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., faces voters last, on Aug. 16.
The conventional wisdom suggests our top-two, open primary may save Newhouse and Herrera Beutler, as their fates aren’t solely up to GOP voters. But what a humiliating twist for democracy — the ones who told their truths, and called it right, are the ones most at risk of being cast out by their own.
That’s why Newhouse and Herrera Beutler are out on the stump talking about anything else they can think of.
I rarely write about politicians getting things right. It’s a sign of the cultlike times that this is one time the politicians themselves won’t be happy to see it.
Speaking of inner-party strife, remember when democratic socialists were a rising force threatening to split the Democratic Party?
That was back when Democrats were rising. Now, facing a possible “red wave” backlash election, the three local socialist-adjacent challengers to moderate Democratic congressmen aren’t getting quite as much buzz.
Even the left-wingers at The Stranger argued the times are too precarious for experimentation. So, they endorsed moderate Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, for his “14 millionth term in office” over newcomer Stephanie Gallardo, a democratic socialist.
There are also “Berniecrat” candidates vying to upend longtime Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, and Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor. How they do will be a good gauge of whether primary voters on the liberal side have become just as skittish as The Stranger.
There’s a theory among national handicapping pros that Washington’s open primary is better than any poll for forecasting November election trends. “As goes Washington, so goes the nation,” they call it.
So, vote. You matter.
And then check this space after Tuesday for the answer on whether right really is now wrong. Or if the big wave of the year turns out to be something more subtle, a ripple maybe, of sanity attempting a comeback.