Clint Didier outflanks Dino Rossi in the Republican heartland

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Clint Didier outflanks Dino Rossi in the Republican heartland

Two years ago, during my annual trek through the Republican bastion of Central Washington, I saw a bumper crop of campaign signs touting Dino Rossi for governor. Signs promoting Democrat Chris Gregoire were rare as orchids.

This year, with Rossi running for the U.S. Senate, I didn’t see even a single sign bearing his name. Instead, Clint Didier’s name was everywhere. The favored candidate of Sarah Palin and Tea Party enthusiasts, Didier is not supposed to stand a chance against Rossi in the state’s August 17th primary. But you wouldn’t guess that on a drive down the roads between Omak and the Tri-Cities. All those signs make it look like Didier country all the way.

Of course, as an Eltopia farmer, Didier is already far more at home on the east side of the state than Rossi, the Issaquah real estate broker. Didier works the land, he doesn’t sell it. And, unlike Rossi, Didier doesn’t dilute his conservatism with qualifiers to make moderates feel more comfortable. Didier is unflinching in his beliefs, even when they bear little relationship to reality.

As anyone who has read my columns for long already knows, I have a great admiration for the farmers, ranchers and cowboys of the interior Northwest, a vast region that stretches from the dry side of the Cascades to the Black Hills of South Dakota. These are folks that don’t limit their work days to eight hours, they work until the job gets done, no matter the temperature on the thermometer or the time on the clock. They don’t retire to Palm Springs, they work until death knocks loudly on the barn door. They raise the crops and herds that feed us all and risk losing everything with every season and every sudden shift in the weather.

Quite rightly, they worry that their way of life is slipping away in a changing America. Wrongly, they seem to think theirs is the only way of life that is truly American. And, for reasons that are all too human, many of these devotees of self reliance blame a long list of outside forces for the insecurities in their lives.

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