Inslee’s “why” problem

I’m proud to admit it:  I’m a fan of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.  I think he’s done a good job in his first two terms as governor.

And yet I have no idea why he is running for a third term.

Let’s face it: if you can’t speak truth to your friends, who can you speak truth to?  I’d like to think of Gov. Inslee as a friend. He may not feel the same way, but such is the art of politics. So, to my friend, here is the truth.


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Even if you aren’t a fan of Inslee, you knew exactly why he was running for president.  If you lived under a rock in Kansas, but you had somehow heard about Jay Inslee, you knew why he was running for president.

The answer was climate change.

This from the stump in New Hampshire:

When I thought about what I was going to do with the rest of my life, I wanted to be able on my deathbed to look my three grandchildren in the eye and say that I did everything within my power to give them a healthy life and a nondegraded place to live.”

Some folks thought his campaign was folly. I disagreed. I thought he played a unique role in our national conversation, elevating climate change in a manner that no other candidate has.

In fact, his absence has removed the impetus to talk about the issue.

During the 4th Democratic debate, not a single question was raised about climate change by the moderators.  It’s a testament to the role Inslee played nationally that the issue was relevant while he was campaigning, and appears less relevant while he has stepped back.

His passion for the topic had an impact on the national debate. While moderators aren’t asking questions on the topic, the Democratic nominee is likely to pull from Inslee’s ideas – perhaps pull Inslee himself – into a Democratic administration, should the election turn out that way.

In my view, that’s why one should run for such an office: a passion to get things done for the people one seeks to represent. Inslee clearly had a vision for his office. He clearly had a “why” when it came to the presidential campaign.

So, why is Inslee running for a third term as governor?

AG Bob Ferguson puts it clearly:

“You need to have a reason for it, right, beyond one’s ambition to have that position.”

Ironically, he said that in comments supportive of Inslee running for a third term.

So, what is Inslee’s reason? What is his “why?”

The fact that he was so clear about his “why” in the presidential campaign makes the lack of a “why” in his gubernatorial effort stand out even more starkly.

His campaign website, as of this writing, has only one page asking for donations. There are no vision statements or policy positions. There isn’t a biography or a news page.

When asked this week about his gubernatorial candidacy and the possibility of serving in a Democratic cabinet, Inslee offered:

I’m running for governor, it’s a great job.

Is that enough?

No. It’s not enough.

Sure, there is an partisan orthodoxy that will likely compel Inslee to victory. This is a 57% Democratic state, and as a recent Danny Westneat column captured, many Democratic electeds and staff won’t say anything.

Instead they all stood in a line at the news conference, and, one after another, pledged happy fealty to it (Inslee’s campaign).

In the back of the room, one of the many aides on hand summed it up like this:

“It’s going to be a long four years,” he said. “And we’re determined to be all smiles about it.”

Lots of folks want to support you, governor.  But we need a reason why – more than you’re the status quo in a time of uncertainty.

You’ve got it in you. Let us have it.

Tell us why you want a third term as governor.