Opening Remarks from Mike Vaska, MRW Chair, at 2018 Cascade Conference

Cascade Conference XXXVII

Opening Remarks from Mike Vaska, MRW Chair

“Welcome to the 37th Cascade conference. I’m Mike Vaska, Chair of the MRW Board. I’m excited to be here with you this weekend. I was at my oldest son’s college graduation in St. Louis yesterday. His college—named after our First President George Washington—was founded just days before the Washington Territory was created. We felt right at home. It rained on the ceremony. It was pure joy to see the next generation of leaders from all parts of the country, all races and religions, begin their journey. Camille and I are proud of our son, Grant, who will be a little closer to home the next few years as he’ll be at Stanford working on the economics of health care. I want to thank you all for taking time from your busy schedules to be part of our conference.

“Our theme is Riding the Blue Wave: Charting our success in 2018. As with all good conference themes, this one is a tad bit provocative, and subject to more than a little debate. Does the Blue Wave mean the mid-term headwinds that the President’s party usually faces? Or does it mean the shock waves rippling off Seattle City Hall as it one more time heaps a tax burden on the people and jobs in that Great City? You might be interested to know that parents from all over the country asked me about Seattle Head tax and if there might be consequences for the City and our state. A political wave that lifts one movement to new heights, can send the other crashing against the rocks. We have gathered at this conference from all parts of Washington to hear how we can ride the blue wave or waves this year to create opportunities, and find success.

“At my son’s graduation, I learned that Washington University in St. Louis cherishes its connection to the Founding Fathers so much that it has one of the few surviving hand written copies of the Declaration of Independence.
St. Louis was also the jumping point for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which rode different types of waves—the
Missouri and Columbia rivers—on a voyage of discovery to the Northwest. Lewis and Clark were men of the frontier, where common sense and perseverance are basic survival skills.

“A great Mainstreamer Bill Ruckelshaus observed many years ago that the expedition was launched to plant ideals of the American Revolution in the Northwest frontier. Lewis and Clark were sent on their mission by Thomas Jefferson, the Founding Father who wrote the Declaration of Independence, So, when Lewis & Clark decided on the location of their winter camp at the mouth of the Columbia, they held the first American vote in the West. In a Big Tent on the Washington side of the river, all 30 in the group were allowed to vote, including Clark’s slave York, the Native American women Sacagawea, and foreign born French Canadian trappers. This vote aspired to the values of the American Revolution; the ideal that everyone is created equal and should have a voice in our society.

“It would be more than 50 years before Abraham Lincoln freed slaves like York, and nearly 100 years before women like Sacagawea were allowed to vote. But that vote on the shores of the Columbia River foresaw the future, where the voices of people of all races and colors came together as one people, as one team, the American Team. The Cascade Conference first met in 1969 to raise a Big Tent around a movement that continued Lewis & Clark’s legacy, aspiring to the ideals of our Founding Fathers, shaped by frontier pragmatism. Since becoming chair a year ago, I’ve been asked by many: What is a Mainstream Republican? Here’s what I’ve learned from talking with many of you: this Mainstream movement is not defined by a place on the political spectrum. It is not shaped by a single issue, a single vote, or a single elected official. Mainstream is a way of engaging in politics and governing. The Mainstream Way is guided by these ideals.

“First, a government of, by and for the people must work toward commonsense solutions that are fiscally responsible, and not based on some abstract ideology or political fad; Second, we work toward solutions that reflect our unique Northwest values; we cherish our Great Outdoors and welcome newcomers who can help us to build stronger and more successful communities, and; Third, we embrace the diversity of our people. Under our Big Tent we respect our differences, but recognize we share fundamental American values. We value political diversity but reject litmus tests for participating in our democracy. We know that in a democracy, enduring solutions require finding common cause with those who may not share all of our values.

“Of course, Mainstream’s origin story includes many of our state’s greatest leaders: Governor Dan Evans, Senator Slade Gorton, Congressman Joel Pritchard and so many more. Like Stan Lee in the Marvel Movies, they show up everywhere.
They led by example, and created a Mainstream Way of governing embraced by our leaders of the present. For much of the last decade, our Republican leaders in the state legislature used the Mainstream Way of working across the aisle. They created and led a Majority Coalition Caucus that included commonsense, thinking Democrats along with our Republican Senators. We’ll hear more about that at lunch.

“This bipartisan coalition is on temporary hiatus since last year, something we hope to change through elections this year. But we should be proud of its accomplishments, which show that the Mainstream Way continues to shape a progressive vision for our state based on collaboration:

• they reduced public university tuition and increased public school funding without raising taxes
• they passed one of the first state family leave laws in the nation
• they gave undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children access to higher education

“As the theme of this conference suggests, Democrats would like to ride a Blue Wave to extinguish this Mainstream Way of governing. So how do we win in spite of this?

• We make sure we have the best candidates
• We create opportunities that help our citizens succeed
• We take your passion and turn it into real engagement

“That is how we win in 2018. Today and tomorrow we will discuss how to make this plan a reality. We’ll look at Who are the candidates, What are the solutions, and How we put our passion into action. I know that when you go home on Sunday, you will be as excited as I am for our prospects. Now, I was a youth soccer coach for more than a decade. I quickly learned that whether we had success in the Fall depended on the quality of our efforts in early Summer. So, I like to think about this Cascade Conference as the beginning of our 2018 season. What we do this weekend may decide whether we are a winning team this Fall.

“Yes, you will hear today from our great speakers. Think of them as your coaches. Ask them questions, challenge them, and learn all you can from them. But as anyone who has been on a winning team knows, success comes only when each member commits to being the best he or she can be. And even more importantly, success comes only when each commits to the fullest of his or her ability to help the team win. Returning players set the tone for success. New players bring energy and fresh ideas. We are very honored to have veteran Mainstreamers in the room today, and also to have a dozen college students, many attending their first conference.

“So, with the goal of building a winning Mainstream team—one that can win this Fall—I ask all of you to stand up and welcome your teammates. Shake their hand, and wish them a good session today and tomorrow. And wish them a winning season this year. Now, let’s get this team going.”

Leave a Reply