Batten down the hatches and get below deck, it’s the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. We’re continuing this eternal struggle with today’s newest candidate because I’ve learned that you really want to know about the news as it happens and not a couple days later. Weirdos.
NAME: Jay Robert Inslee
OCCUPATION: Governor of Washington
PREVIOUS OCCUPATION: Congressman
DISLIKES: Climate change
LIKES: The taste of Jeff Bezos’ boots
Jay Inslee was born in Seattle in 1951 back when Seattle was tolerable. He was an all-American boy, a star athlete with good grades and a high school sweetheart who later became his wife. He graduated in 1969 and went to Stanford to study medicine, but his family didn’t have Stanford money and he returned to Seattle to study economics at the University of Washington.
In 1988, Inslee – who now lived in Selah, a suburb of the central Washington city of Yakima – ran for the state house. He downplayed his Seattle-bred liberalism for some more central Washington centrism and backed ideas like a tax cut that forced a popular candidate to oppose his idea because it was incredibly stupid – but no one wants to hear that cutting their taxes is stupid, and Inslee won.
Four years later, Inslee was elected to Congress. He served just one term, marked by the most Washington state accomplishments imaginable: a bill to protect the Yakima river, opening Japan to American apple exports, and funding for the Hanford nuclear waste site.
After Congress, Inslee moved back to the Seattle area. He ran for governor in 1996 but did not advance past the primaries. Instead, President Clinton tapped Inslee as a regional DHHS director, and he served in that post until 1998, when he again ran for Congress, this time in the Seattle area 1st district, which was more friendly to Democrats.
It was this second tenure in Congress that earned Inslee a national reputation as a warrior against climate change. He proposed an early version of the Green New Deal, modeling it on the Apollo space program. It is an unfortunate fact of American politics that Inslee has few major accomplishments from his tenure in Congress; he focused heavily on environmental issues, which worked out in legislation to fund and protect national parks and promote green energy but less-so in efforts to regulate emissions or limit federal use of fossil fuels.
He finally got to Washington state’s top job in 2012. Almost immediately he faced a crisis when the legislature failed to pass a budget in his first year in office, but he brought legislators into two special sessions to produce a budget and received praise for his determination and compromise. In his second term, he began to take a more prominent national profile by suing the Trump administration over its travel ban.
Inslee’s political positions represent, broadly, the Pacific Northwest. He’s a passionate believer in climate change and the need to respond to it. He set up a special pardon process for Washingtonians convicted of cannabis possession to receive expedited clemency, and he supports federal marijuana legalization.
Wait a second… is Jay Inslee a Green?
Well… no, he’s not. Inslee actually helps demonstrate some of the short-comings of the Green Party in the U.S., because the party has taken a firm line on so many positions. That’s sort of unorthodox, only because it doesn’t have any political leaders, so rather than being a party shaped by the people who lead it, the Greens have created a labyrinth you are expected to run through to be considered a Green. Inslee doesn’t have a public position on, say, reparations for black Americans, and the Green’s insistence on a one-state solution in Israel is a glaring example of how some leftists want America to not interfere in other countries while insisting those countries adhere to the demands we set on them. And if you want to be a Green but you disagree on some of the party platforms, it isn’t the same as it is in the major parties: you’ll get driven out of the meeting on a wooden rail.
The rigidity of the Green Party is a little too bad, because Inslee is possibly the best Green candidate for president you could want. His entire campaign is built around the dangers of climate change, but his views on capital punishment (bad!), LGBTQ+ rights (good!), marijuana legalization (good!), and he supports unions (good!).
“But wait,” you say, because you remain a strawman to allow me to further specific points, “up at the top you made a pass at Inslee’s relationship with Jeff Bezos.”
Inslee is the Governor of Washington. Boeing, Microsoft, and Amazon are some of the state’s biggest employers. In fact, let’s not beat around the bush: they are the largest non-governmental employers in Washington. So Inslee has supported unions but encouraged them to make the right choices, like signing Boeing contracts even if they aren’t great or, uh, not talking to Amazon employees at all.
Inslee even penned a letter to Amazon encouraging the company to build its fabled second headquarters, HQ2, in Washington state. That effort didn’t really work – the company ultimately chose a suburb of D.C. – but it definitely made it clear that Inslee enjoys the stability Amazon brings. The company pays big taxes to local and state governments, sometimes directly – like through property tax – and sometimes indirectly – like the taxes of the thousands of Washingtonians who works there. Amazon is small potatoes compared to the state’s real big employers though: Boeing and Microsoft together employ more than 120,000 people in Washington, nearly five times what Amazon employs. And keeping them happy is vital.
That means Inslee doesn’t exactly support reducing, say, the Department of Defense, or at least the Air Force. But he wants companies like Boeing and Microsoft to make their products more environmentally-friendly. And in 2018, Inslee backed an electrified high speed train service between Seattle and Vancouver. So he has taken some positions that might be contrary to what Washington state’s big employers might want.
Inslee absolutely, truly believes in the dangers of climate change and in the power of the United States to overcome the odds and to stop, and possibly partially reverse, what we’ve done to the environment. It makes Inslee a unique candidate, one who sees a different picture of what America is and what it could be. But whether it will be enough to carry him to victory over a cadre of other eccentric Democrats remains to be seen.