A recent Seattle Times op-ed by Senator Doug Ericksen (“Trump’s first year has been a resounding success,” 31 January 2018) suggests he has gotten drunk on the Trump Kool-Aid and is thus completely unfit to represent the diverse citizenry of Whatcom County. “No matter how you slice it,” he boasts, “Trump’s first year in office is one of the most successful of all time.”
Huh? Is Ericksen still in touch with reality?
What has he been reading or viewing? Or drinking? The chaotic first year of a sloppy, dysfunctional White House whose only possible claim to any “accomplishment” is a big tax cut for corporations and the wealthy could be among “the most successful of all time”?
Characteristically, Ericksen cherry-picks opinion polls and concludes that Trump’s popularity stands at 44 percent, almost 10 points above the average poll. But that is still abysmally low for a first-year president, which this True Believer blames on negative media coverage.
Doug’s erratic statements will not sit well in Whatcom County—and probably not even in his more conservative 42nd legislative district, either. In that district Hillary Clinton beat Trump by over two thousand votes in 2016, and Patty Murray won her US Senate race there by nearly twice as much. Perhaps Doug is playing to his deep-red base in the northernmost precincts clustered around Lynden, where he organized a sulfurous May 2016 rally for his champion. But he’s going to need a lot more votes than they can come up with if he hopes to get reelected this November.
Of course, Ericksen has benefitted financially from the 2016 elections, which probably skews his perceptions of political reality. He pocketed over $40,000 in US taxpayer funds for 516 hours on the Environmental Protection Agency’s “beachhead” team between January 20 and May 20 last year. That came to 4.3 hours per day (or 6.1 hours if you don’t count weekends) at a time when his fellow legislators in Olympia were often working diligently into the early morning hours trying to get legislation formulated and passed.
And for almost all that time, Doug still took his allotted $120 daily per diem for living expenses and a full state salary of $46,839! All told, he raked in over $100,000 from state and federal coffers during the first half of last year. Plus he went on a spending spree in the other Washington during that period, using the surplus funds from his 2014 reelection campaign—as I will delve into in a future article.
Ericksen’s bromance with the real-estate mogul and reality-show host began early in 2016 when he became deputy director of the oddly coiffed candidate’s Washington state campaign. After a planned Seattle rally fell through, Doug quickly staged another one on May 7 at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden, drawing in an audience of about 5,000 rabid fans from around the state.
But the costs to local and state taxpayers of supporting that event exceeded $300,000, of which $128,532 was borne by Whatcom County, the city of Bellingham and other agencies and jurisdictions within the county. When county administrators sought to recover from the Trump campaign the more than $52,000 that the county alone had shelled out for overtime security services (an amount that Ericksen could have afforded from his surplus campaign funds), they never heard back.
People who have been stiffed financially are unlikely to forget it soon. And I’m not just referring to the large number of Democrats in the county or the 42nd district. There are still plenty of good, moderate, fiscally conservative Republicans who care a lot about meeting budgets and not spending beyond one’s means.
“I’m a registered Republican and I, along with many Republicans, understand what a Trump accomplishment is and what it isn’t,” wrote Stanwood resident Don Curtis in a letter to Seattle Times editors rebutting Ericksen’s screed. “The tax cuts look good now but are merely a one-time effort to achieve something, anything, no matter how much pain it causes our economy when it comes time to pay the piper.”
These tax cuts, by the way, are about to push federal deficits back above $1 trillion annually. “Time will tell us what Trump has or has not accomplished,” Curtis added, “not party-line parrots like Sen. Ericksen.”
Ericksen’s blind fealty to a deeply unpopular president and his profligate use of taxpayer dollars and his own campaign funds are likely to haunt him all year as he struggles to win reelection this November.