Washington State Democrats are embroiled in a vicious and public episode of political cannibalism, publicly calling for the ouster of Democratic state Sen. Rodney Tom (D-Medina) in response to his participation in the bipartisan Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, a shared power arrangement that has rebalanced power in the upper body in Olympia and put many issues mainly relating to state budget and regulations imposed on business on the table for discussion.

Ever since Tom and fellow nonconformist state Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlach) reached across the aisle last December to create a third way in the Senate, Democrat leaders have had knives out.

In a Dec. 10 post on the State Democratic Party website, state Democratic chairman Dwight Pelz suggested that the maneuver then proposed by Tom and Sheldon was a “coup” and “not in the best interests of his constituents.”

Recent movement in the state Senate on bills to repeal Seattle’s paid family and sick leave act and reform workers’ liability compensation only served to spur on a round of blade sharpening.

Since then, Pelz has affixed a symbolic bull’s-eye on Tom’s chest, gathering resources for a party-led “Rodney Tom Retirement Project,” a fatwa of a political heretic. The campaign for party cleansing has been conducted through every arm of the Democratic party and continued through social media last week.

From the State Democratic Party Twitter account (@washdems):

“Send him packing,” Pelz wrote in a fundraising letter last week.

By running a publicly vicious campaign to “frag” a Democrat, Pelz may galvanize the revenge-inclined among the liberal base and rally demoralized union organizations, but is Tom vulnerable in a way that makes the effort anything more than a waste of time and resources?

Joel Connelly of Seattlepi.com teased that idea last Friday:

The party’s state central committee has already voted to censure Tom and fellow dissident Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlach, for “perfidious conduct.” Sheldon, who doubles as a Mason County commissioner, has a history of blowing away challenges from the liberal wing of his party.  But Tom represents a district on King County’s east side [sic] that gave President Obama 61 percent of its vote.

Connelly is right, but if the implication is that Tom is headed toward disaster should he decide to run for re-election in 2014 because of the Obama vote, there’s other data the aging scribbler should consult.

RecentVoteinWA48LD.bmpThe Obama vote in Tom’s 48th legislative district is a valid data point, but so are several other key votes in recent elections that could be Tom’s not-so-secret decoder ring for divining the will of his constituents on education policy and fiscal matters.

Since 2010, the voters of Medina’s Fighting 48th legislative district came out in large majorities for defeating the state income tax measure, and in support of charter schools and affirming the 2/3 requirement for raising taxes… twice.

Is it a coincidence that state Democrats were on the losing side of those key battles over the role and scope of government and now find themselves jousting with a Democratic representative whose district overwhelmingly took opposite positions?

Clearly, Pelz is dealing in propaganda but the bottom line is that he may wind up helping Republicans to continue their slow but steady advance toward a legislative majority, one that could be achieved as early as 2014 as demographic shifts begin to harden the cement around political gains Republicans feel came out of the 2011 redistricting process.