Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published August 5, 2014 at 9:20 PM | Page modified August 6, 2014 at 3:26 PM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments
  • Print

Dan Evans, vestige of a GOP that believed in the American Dream

Former governor and U.S. Sen. Dan Evans told a stirring story about helping refugees the other day. But he didn’t mention that it’s his own party that’s shouting “stay out!” today.


Seattle Times staff columnist

Reader Comments
Hide / Show comments
Danny - I respect and admire Gov. Evans, but we disagree on this issue. There are literally an unlimited number of... MORE
Interesting thing about the Democrats favorite Republican Dan Evans, his article comments are full of people calling... MORE
Viet refugees cames as intact families, and were screened and legally processed to come here. Also were really fleeing... MORE

advertising

I bet Dan Evans is rolling over in his grave about now.

Don’t get me wrong — Evans, our former governor and U.S. senator, is physically alive and kicking. In fact just a few days ago he wrote a stirring article in this paper urging us to have compassion for refugees fleeing violence in their own countries.

But whatever political tradition or party Evans belonged to sure seems dead and long forgotten to us now.

Read Evans’ story if you missed it. It’s a sepia-toned portrait of our better angels. He tells how when he was governor, in the mid-1970s, our state went out of its way to welcome a flood of Vietnamese refugees fleeing that war-torn country.

Angry that some states were turning away refugees, Evans sent a staffer down to a temporary camp near San Diego with an unusual message: You may not have heard of our state, but you’ll be welcome there. The staffer even got on the camp’s loudspeaker to invite refugees to Washington state for a better life (Evans jokes that the hundreds who eventually came probably thought they were going to the nation’s capital).

Can you imagine this scene happening today? I can’t. Not with the feckless leaders we have now. Not to mention our increasingly jingoistic politics.

The day before Evans’ reminisces were published, Republicans in the U.S. House not only voted to make it easier to deport child refugees fleeing violence in Central America, but also voted to strip work permits from and potentially deport the half million or so “Dreamers” — people who were brought here illegally years ago as small children and have since grown up as American as you or me.

This appalled even The Wall Street Journal editorial board.

“The GOP again gave the country the impression that its highest policy priority is to deport as many children as rapidly as possible back from wherever they came,” the paper wrote, labeling Republicans “the deportation caucus.”

Did I mention former Governor Evans is a Republican? It makes the change between then and now even more astonishing.

Evans was urging us to welcome the Central American children, perhaps to temporary housing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. That’s now not going to happen, the feds announced Tuesday. The government didn’t say why — though Congress’ failure to provide any aid money before going off on a five-week vacation probably had something to do with it.

Congressman Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, said Tuesday that deportation fever is only rising in the GOP — and that some in his party seem cowed by it. Smith was about the only elected official who strongly, publicly went to bat for the refugees.

“I mostly heard political silence,” he said. What little noise was made was negative, with one mayor at the local level suggesting “the migrants were going to give us all diseases,” Smith said. That was the mayor of Lakewood, near the base, who wrote the feds that he was worried the refugees might spread everything from swine flu to scabies.

“Personally I think our inaction is shameful,” Smith said.

For now, direct help while the refugees await asylum rulings is being left to scattered faith-based groups and volunteers. Smith said that could go on for a while because Republicans are unlikely to agree to a less-punitive aid plan.

“We’ll never go along with their ‘deport the children’ stance,” Smith said. “So we’re stuck.”

To his credit, GOP Congressman Dave Reichert of Auburn did vote against the part about deporting the Dreamers. But a tweet about that from former state GOP Chairman Chris Vance only served to showcase the sorry state of our politics:

“Thank you to Dave Reichert, one of the 11 brave Republicans who voted no on the bill to deport Dreamers,” Vance wrote.

GOP leadership used to be when you went to a camp of desperate, displaced foreigners and announced over the loudspeaker that you were there to help them seek the American dream.

Now, you’re considered brave if all you do is vote not to deport them all.

Dan Evans, thanks for that memory — and for doing the right thing back in the day. But unfortunately today it is little but whisperings from a political graveyard.

Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

Also in Local News

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Get ready for 2015

Get ready for 2015

The Seattle Times 12-month wall calendar features hand-picked photos of life in the Pacific Northwest. Order while supplies last!

Advertising

About Danny Westneat

Danny Westneat takes an opinionated look at the Puget Sound region's news, people and politics. Send tips or comments to dwestneat@seattletimes.com. His column runs Wednesday and Sunday.
dwestneat@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2086

Partner Video

Advertising


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►