Friday, July 28, 2017

DeBoer Wrap-up: The Manner is the Policy

DeBoer was gracious, patient, open and respectful as he heard from constituents at the Town Hall.  

His manner is more than simply surface courtesy.   It represents one side of an underlying policy split within the Republican party.   

Posture giveaway:  defensive
State Senator Alan DeBoer represents the  civic minded good government tradition.  It is not at war with government   It want to use government. That "civic" orientation leads toward building and nurturing robust institutions, which require consensus, or at least supermajorities.  It starts with a premise that there are multiple interests and concerns and that all of them have a right to having influence. The notion incorporates values of inclusion and diversity because it imagines a variety of interests and people inside the polity tent.

There is deep policy embedded in that notion: government is good and needs to work well.  That policy requires a tone: graciousness, patience, respect.

That notion of good government is not simply controversial; it is in low esteem. Within the Democratic coalition the Sanders-oriented voter think the government has been corrupted by the special interests, but generally they have a pro-good-government solution.  Fix the corrupting power of wealth first and then have good government do a good job, i.e. with tuition free college and Medicare for all.   

Another night:  defensive posture
Republicans have succeeded electorally because the ascendent wing of the party has channeled an anti-government message. 

Donald Trump described "this American carnage."  America is a disaster: we are exploited by foreigners, invaded by illegal immigrants, crime ridden, bereft of jobs, endangered by terrible nuclear deals, impoverished by terrible trade deals, led by fools and traitors described as a swamp, and more recently as a sewer.  Policy solutions involve dismantling institutions:  reduce the EPA, cut regulations generally, cut the State Department, defund Planned Parenthood and public broadcasting, privatize the public schools, privatize Social Security, privatize Medicare, reduce Medicaid eligibility.   The problems Trump identified were problems of bad governance and he came from business not government.  He knows how to do deals, to build ice rinks, to build a wall.  It struck a powerful chord among Republican voters:  We need less government because government is the problem, not a solution.

That politically ascendent theme in the Republican party also pushed back against diversity and inclusion of minorities.  It reaffirmed the power and dignity of white, Christian, native born, heterosexual, nuclear families--i.e. "regular" people, not interlopers.  Politically, it created wedge issues: fear of Muslims, dislike for immigrants, disgust or confusion over LGBTQ populations.  

Taking hits
This suite of policies has triumphed.  Trump won the electoral vote.  The Trump-Gingrich-FoxNews-TalkRadio policies found a huge audience and they are the dominant voice in the GOP.  The anti-government message thrives on a tone of anger, of sharpening conflict, on de-legitimizing the opposition players and assuming their bad motives.  It protects the "we" by defining the "they" as enemies.   

This blog received an extraordinary gift in the form of comment to yesterday's post, an example of the two modes of communication, which represent the two primary wings of the Republican party.  The tone of the comment is in sharp contrast to DeBoer's manner and policies.    It has many of the elements of the successful Trump angry in-your-face style, including a Hitler reference.   It is splendid in its use of words and themes as it describes Town Hall attendees:  "rude, boorish, aggressive and hateful", "Brown Shirts", "eco-terrorist", "hard-leftist filth", "tantrums", "paid activists",  "mob mentality", "swamp", "empowered bullies."

Read it yourself.  I consider it a valuable primary source document:

"For the last two nights I've watched a pillar of our community, philanthropist, employer of 200 Southern Oregonians, tireless public servant, life-long Oregonian, etc., Senator Alan DeBoer, be berated by a rude, boorish, aggressive, and hateful crowd at his two town halls, because he isn't the eco-terrorist, social justice warrior the hard-leftist filth in Ashland, Talent, and Phoenix want. He was shouted down, booed and heckled despite giving honest answers to questions that had no easy "yes" or "no" answer. This is the face of Progressivism - the "Indivisible", "Resist," “SOCAN” and "Unite Oregon" groups. The Brown Shirts of today.

The left likes to yell. Since November’s crushing defeat, they’ve perfected and focused their tantrums. Members of these hate groups live for this and get paid for this; employed by agenda-driven non-profits. These paid activists feed off the mob mentality. Republicans traditionally don’t turn out for these things – especially on work nights. They need to start.
Senator DeBoer embraces courtesy, grace and decorum. He doesn’t yell back, he listens. His only problem is that he attempts to teach and educate people on how things work in the Democrat-controlled swamp that is Salem. The left doesn’t want to hear that. They want sound bites for opposition research. They want yes or no answers to issues that aren’t black and white. They’re already producing their negative ads for November 2018.

As an angry mob they are empowered bullies. As individuals they are wilting lilies. I approached several of these naïve youth last night following the meeting and asked direct questions. Do you live in the district? Where do you get your funding? Are you paid activists? You’re against fossil fuels but where are your bikes? They couldn’t look me in the eye or give straight answers. Classic bully behavior when someone finally stands up.
Republicans haven’t abandoned DeBoer. They will be there when it counts – at the ballot box."

Tough job.  Tough night.
Alan DeBoer is taking the difficult, virtuous path, one fraught with danger for him.   Supporters like the commenter above must be a siren call to him, providing safety and fraternity in the company of fellow Republicans angrily defending their position against illegitimate outsiders and wrong-headed thugs.  How nice to be defended by a warrior.  And, after all, the warrior mindset is the dominant theme of current politics.   

DeBoer's path requires that he ignore that temptation because the angry Trump-style dividers are not his allies.  They are the complication. They perpetuate disfunction.  They confound consensus politics.  They make civic minded good government impossible because they make super majorities and grand bargains impossible.   And DeBoer isn't just a Republican.  He is a civic minded good government Republican.   By age 67 he has settled into who is is.

Every pressure and temptation from the state and national party, plus a healthy instinct for self-preservation, would pull him into the ascendent Trump suite of policies and style.  Slash, burn, survive.   This week DeBoer showed he could resist it.  There is no tying oneself to a mast.  He is free to go-angry, go-Trump and join the mainstream GOP and its loyal voters and blog-commenters.   But he didn't.

The strongest message he could send his party is to stay true, to try to reform it from within, and then actively be the crucial 18th vote that creates grand tax and PERS solutions.  He would demonstrate that the civic wing is alive and well and eager to make government be a positive force for good.   

If he cannot do that without breaking with the mainstream angry anti government wing of the party then the second strongest message would be, as I suggested yesterday, to admit the simple truth that good-government civic-minded people actually have a political home, and that is in a Democratic party, a party he can help by helping give it the perspective of a successful business career.


  1. So very well written. I always enjoy your blogs - intelligent, insightful, and objective. I was at Alan deBoer's town hall in Medford, and I haven't experienced any rude, boorish, aggressive or hateful behavior. People were polite, raised their hand, and asked to the point questions. Republicans must be from Mars, Democrats from Venus. We must be wired differently. I'm still trying to understand... How can we see one reality so differently?
    When I look at the hundreds of images I took during the Tuesday Resist Trump rallies, marches, town halls, visits to Walden's office, etc., I don't see paid left activists and Ashland hard-leftist filth, I see intelligent, socially responsible citizens who care about democracy.

  2. It was an eye opener to see the angry rant from the right regarding the town halls. I was at the Talent town hall. I felt that people were not as polite as they might be. Some I felt were rude(ish). But they were certainly not paid agitators. I appreciated Senator DeBoer willingness to listen, to say up front he is not for deportation of undocumented folks. For his interest in education and health care. I'm 75 so I grew up with respect for Republican like Mark Hatfield. After leaving the town hall in Talent I wondered if people (progressives like me) just wanted easy answers to hard situations. yes, folks, PERS (which pays my pension) is a problem! After reading your blogs I understand better the frustration with a senator who seems to share so many of our values. We want him to be a stronger progressive voice. A situation difficult for him as a Republican. Thanks for adding to my perspective.

  3. Your DeBoer posts peel back the stereotypes of politicians, and expose an even clearer stereotype at the core. Its the subterfuge of political behaviour enshrouding a solid personality of accommodation. It would take an analyst to go even deeper into whatever life experiences created an adult as conflict adverse as this. "Hiding" you call it sounds apt enough, hiding his positions in plain sight. His constituents may be confused about what those positions are, but not about who he is.

    DeBoer's orientation is that of an accomplished mediator, an ability to listen even when abused. A trained subjugation of ego to achieve peace and restrain bickering. Customer service selling unexciting but serviceable products, not allowing ideals to thwart smaller achievements. Your posts and reader comments lead me to conclude that DeBoer is a needed palliative in a time of blind political outrage. Democrats could use some candidates like that.

    Your posts have transcended the blogosphere into the realm of quality journalism.

  4. "DeBoer isn't just a Republican. He is a civic minded good government Republican. By age 67 he has settled into who is is."

    I identify with the left, but I don't care if he's a Republican. This is the kind of politician that is needed. World-wide.

    Truth. Honor. Justice. Decorum.


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