On Sunday State Rep. Roger Goodman spoke at a meeting of the King County Democrats’ Legislative Action Committee.

Goodman has filed for Congress in the first Congressional District, which Jay Inslee is vacating to run for governor. Apparently, Dennis Kucinich may be running for the same seat, since his congressional district in Ohio is being redistricted away. (See references at bottom.)

I asked Goodman about Kucinich’s run. Goodman said that according to a (non-scientific) poll, 81% oppose Kucinich.  Clearly, Goodman wants to win!  On the Washington State Progressive Caucus email list there was recently a big debate about whether to support Kucinich. Both sides have valid points.

Goodman is a strong candidate: accomplished, progressive and youthfully handsome. His dad was a political science professor at Brown; they discussed politics at the table. Politics is in his blood. Goodman went to the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He trained as an environmental lawyer, was executive director of the Sentencing Guideline Commission, and is now a member of the state House Judiciary Committee.

Goodman said that campaign finance reform is the #1 federal issue, especially public financing. Some progressives are pessimistic, but “I’m not giving up. I’m optimistic. You can’t get elected on negativity.” Carter learned that.

In his remarks and answers at the meeting, Goodman came across as a cautious progressive who concentrated mostly on noncontroversial issues such as early education, crime, and sentencing reform. He worked on bipartisan bills about drunk driving (breath interlocks for ignitions) and domestic violence. He said “We’ve been putting crack users behind bars but we’re letting domestic violence abusers go free.” We need to teach domestic violence prevention in high school. Witnessing domestic violence (even hearing it) is an ACE (adverse childhood experience) that is predictive of later problems.

Goodman said that early learning is the best investment. We need a universal preschool bill. Currently only a few percent of kids get preschool. We shouldn’t need to depend on philanthropies.

One noncontroversial issue that Goodman spent a long time talking about is drug decriminalization. The War Against Drugs is a big, expensive failure that causes crime, fills the jails with nonviolent offenders, and ruins black families. Five hour energy drinks are more dangerous than marijuana, he said. Criminalization of drugs led them to becoming more concentrated and dangerous. Former South American leaders say: stop the drug war and you could weaken the drug cartels/gangs If marijuana were legalized and taxed, the state could make up to $1.4 billion in revenue per biennium. Yes, marijuana can be abused. For example, Goodman said that many sixth graders in Washington State abuse it, and he knows of a 9th grader who was attending class stoned and had to go into treatment (after which he ended up on the dean’s list).

Drug laws are mostly about social control, he said. In the 1400s use of chocolate and coffee was punishable by death.

Goodman recalled hearing a conversation on one of Richard Nixon’s tapes. Nixon was asking his advisers Haldeman and John Ehrlichman about what to do about the Blacks and the hippies and the Jewish psychiatrists. How about a war on drugs, one of his advisers said. Now 2.5 million blacks are in prison.

Goodman said that he’s testified at drug hearings and the presence of accomplished well-dressed advocates like him has lent credibility to the cause of drug legalization. Little by little, the country is moving towards legalizing drugs, as they have done in many European countries. Even though many Republicans too are sympathetic, they can’t get themselves to support it yet. The House Republican caucus opposes legalization.

King County is a showcase, known nationwide, for the use of treatment as opposed to incarceration. But even here ten times as many people are in jail as are in treatment.

On the topic of education, Goodman said he has nothing against Asian workers, but is it desirable that Microsoft has to rely so much on South Asian engineers? (It’s true: I’ve worked at high tech companies, and at companies like Microsoft and Amazon up to half the software engineers are Indian and Chinese.   Yet Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and Amazon’s Jeff Beezos donated six figures to the anti-I-1098 campaign.  They don’t want to fund the school system.)

People say “Fund education first!” But, said Goodman, you can’t do it successfully if the kids don’t have food, health care, and a roof over their heads.

Most economists consider that 4% unemployment should be considered “full unemployment,” since if the rate is any lower, inflation tends to accelerate. Goodman said that something is seriously wrong with an economic system that depends on unemployment for 1 out  of 25 people looking for work.

Goodman says he’s not a one issue guy. He wants to base policy on science but knows that it’s sentiment that brings people to the table.

During the question and answer people, we asked about how to beat back against the anti-tax mentality that led to the passage of I-1053. Goodman said we need angry. We’re in a box. How can we message it? “We need to get rid of these wasteful tax exemptions.” But that message doesn’t win with the voters. Republicans have a nine syllable platform. It’s nonsense but the voters can understand it (they think). Someone suggested “Let’s get Washington working again.”

Republicans have short, memorable phrases. Democrats tend to have posters with numbers, graphs, and arguments. Don’t talk about programs, talk about values and visceral messaging. (George Lakoff)

I challenged Goodman (and Rep. Marcie Maxwell, who also spoke at the meeting, mostly about education) why the Democrats don’t take more of a leadership role in educating the voters about fair taxation. I said that the Democrats defer to advocacy groups to take the lead. But the lawmakers are our leaders and should stick their necks out a bit. Goodman said he agrees that the Governor hasn’t led. I think Goodman and Maxwell were rather surprised my challenge.   Goodman said something like, “Well, our nation was founded on the issue of opposition to British taxation.” I came back with, “The Revolution may have been about that, but the Constitution was very much about building a strong federal government; there was a balance between Federalists and Jeffersonians. And the ‘General Welfare’ clauses of the Constitution show that the Founders realized the need for a strong central government.” See The General Welfare.

References: