The gathering of thousands of opponents of Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 mandates in Olympia Sunday was an exercise in democracy.
It comes at a time when many of the pillars of our government have been put in a stranglehold by a governor who believes he alone has the power to save lives as this seemingly never-ending pandemic drags on. He has resisted the pleas of lawmakers to return power to the legislative branch of our government while unilaterally making decisions for each and every Washingtonian.
First it was who could work or operate a business. Then it was when and where we must wear masks and coverings. Now it’s a declaration that forces thousands of workers to choose between their livelihoods and strongly held beliefs or accepting a medical procedure they fear or distrust.
Anger, resentment and rebelliousness are natural feelings in this reality.
The throngs of angry demonstrators who packed the Capitol campus Sunday were displaying more of the tenets of our democratic republic than the mandates coming from the governor’s office. Their frustration is understandable, and their numbers show that they represent more than the unreasonable minority they are often depicted as.
We don’t agree with all the signs and sentiments on display, but we do respect their right to have their voices heard.
Yes, COVID-19 is real. It is dangerous. Members of our staff and editorial board have chosen to protect themselves by getting the vaccine and wearing masks. We have lost friends and in some cases family members to the virus.
But as Americans, we deserve a choice. That right has been taken for many by Inslee with signs it could be expanded to our children in the future.
So what can be done?
Sure, calls for a revolution might help some blow off steam, but this is not a reasonable approach. In fact, it is a destructive one.
What we must do is win at the ballot box. Not just here in Lewis and Thurston counties, but in other areas across the state where Democrats face strong Republican opponents who, with support, could turn blue legislative districts red.
Beyond that, we can support the good-faith lawsuits seeking to return power in our state to the people, more specifically the lawmakers elected to act as a balance of power. Sadly, Democrats have had no interest in such activity.
So our hope is with Republicans.
That brings us to this week’s meeting of the Lewis County Republicans in Winlock.
During the “good of the order” portion of Monday night’s meeting, many Republicans shared a lot of frustration and anger with the Inslee administration as the Oct. 18 vaccine mandate deadline approaches.
State Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, provided his legislative contact information and emphasized pathways to change.
“There are a lot of families impacted by the governor’s unilateral decisions with little to no regard for deeply held personal and religious beliefs,” he said. “The lack of respect will be felt by many working families, nurses, teachers, law enforcement and state workers who have been protecting our community and keeping us safe since the beginning of COVID. We must continue supporting judicial, legislative and political efforts for change that represent our community values and share our concerns with state and locally elected officials. Your voice matters to me even if the governor and Democrat majority fails to listen to you. Please keep supporting the lawsuits opposing the mandates, legislation that opposes the mandates, and in November 2022 help us gain the majority in the State House and Senate.”
This, though not as swift as many would prefer, is the way forward.
Until we get there, demonstrations such as Sunday’s rally in Olympia continue to prove that there are many who feel their rights are being unjustly limited by a governor who insists he alone knows best.