Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Trump vs. Kennedy

Fox New's Photo of Trump last night

Trump was as I predicted: Jobs. Improvement. Strength. Cruel.

Kennedy was as I feared: Misery. Idealistic. Vague

The Trump-Mussolini look-alike isn't new.  By now multiple people on Trump's staff certainly have told Trump that his demeanor of chin up, combined with blunt statements of nationalism and cruelty makes him look and sound like Italian fascist Benito Mussolini.  

Clearly, Donald Trump doesn't mind. He adopted that look throughout his speech.  Pugnacious. Defiant. Imperious. Tough. Take that, loser.

Trump spoke as I predicted, stretching it out 80 minutes.  I brought jobs, and no one else ever did.  I brought low unemployment, like nobody else.  I brought stock market gains, brand new to America.  I brought manufacturing back to America, unlike other presidents.  I am negotiating trade deals that are great, unlike everyone prior to me.  I want a strong military, and North Korea and Iran in submission, and terrorists annihilated, and lots more nuclear weapons, unlike my predecessors.  I observe the danger of immigrants bringing drugs, of immigrant gangs, of immigrant criminals, of a deluge of immigrants, and I propose a solution that no one else has done.
Trump likes this look.

Trump gave a strong speech.  People who do not reflexively hate Trump would have liked his plain and simple talk of jobs.  It's the economy, stupid.  Independents in focus groups scored him high, right along with Republicans.

Democrats have a problem.

Joe Kennedy presented the Democrats' solution.   He had a distracting glare on the side of his mouth.  Chapstick was running.  I tried to ignore it, but kept reaching for a handkerchief.  Wipe your mouth, Joe.

Joe Kennedy began with talk of distress and misery in America, and hard times in Fall River, the site of his speech.  "This is a difficult task. Many have spent the past year anxious, angry, afraid. We all feel the fault lines of a fractured country. We hear the voices of Americans who feel forgotten and forsaken."

It was as if Joe Kennedy invited the worst possible of match-ups.  Strong confident Trump,a winner, versus anxious, afraid, cowering, forgotten, forsaken loser Democrats.
Joe Kennedy

Kennedy's text posited Trump's America, a "zero-sum" world in which one person's gain is another person's loss, creating false choices.  Healthcare in Mississippi at the cost of healthcare in Massachusetts, the mechanic in Pittsburg versus the teacher in Tulsa. Joe Kennedy embraced all the identity groups that fit into that army of people deemed "losers" by Trump. Transgenders. Black Lives Matter. Workers.  Women. Suffragettes.  Freedom Riders. Immigrants.  Dreamers.  Kennedy concluded with a message of the unity of the frustrated and disadvantaged: "That is who we are.  Out of many, one."

So we have the two contestants in the arena.  Trump, confidently speaking of jobs, prosperity, strength, and smashing our evil enemies.  The Democrat speaking of the joint problems and worries of working people and transgenders and women and immigrants. Not a word about jobs.  Not a word about threats, foreign and domestic. It reprised Rodney King's plaintive request amidst the LA riots: "Can't we all get along?"

Liberals/progressives in America are falling into a mind-set where they divide the world between the cruel and xenophobic Trump versus the compassionate and inclusive Democrats.

There is an alternative progressive path for Democrats if they perceive it and dare take it.  It is to describe Trump primarily as a demagogue populist advocate for trickle down economics, ending consumer protections, tax cuts for the rich, and privatization of American infrastructure.  To be anti-Trump one can embrace American prosperity and claim credit for it, embrace optimism and self reliance and advocate for opportunity for all.  Define Trump as a leader of corporate privilege, not the leader of white racial resentment.

Yes, he is racist, but that isn't the point.  It doesn't do any good to point out that a lot of Americans are racist.  It backfires.  What does do some good is to talk about fair taxation, fair distribution of the wealth of America, fair opportunity to work hard and get an education and work hard and get promotions, and that Democrats are the party of prosperity.

Click: Manufacturing jobs left.
Democrats can assert Trump is not bringing back manufacturing jobs, because he is, in fact, not.  He is talking about "good clean coal" while putting tariffs onto solar panels. Even his strongest partisans know better than to see coal as America's future.  Democrats can say Trump is a fraud, and a big talker, trying to return to a long-gone past, and costing jobs in order to do it. 

What he did do was make health care less available for the hard working people who he pretends to advocate for, cut taxes on the wealthiest, increase the deficit and debt, and propose nuclear weapons buildup that no one in the defense establishment wants.

There is political space for a Democrat who talks about jobs and the economy, and less about racism.  Inclusion needs to address all races and all people, black, brown and white.  Women, transgender, and male.  The unifying message in the two speeches given last night was that Americans like a strong economy with the rewards of that economy spread justly and widely among all people.   That is the speech a Democrat can give.

The question is whether Democratic primary voters will allow such a person political space to speak that message.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

What Joe Kennedy Should Say Tonight

Preview of Tonight's Speeches.  First Trump, then Kennedy.

Donald Trump has previewed what he will do.  It will be a good, effective, teleprompter speech, along the lines of what he said at Davos, and what he says at his rallies.  The formality of the event will strongly pull him toward staying on script.  He has a speech to read.  Here it is:

"America is back!   The economy is humming.  Corporate profits are coming back to America. Black unemployment is low.  We have 200,000 new jobs a month.  We are deporting criminals who are here illegally.  Neal Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court and will defend conservative values.  The tax bill was terrible for rich people like me, but I am willing to sacrifice for the good of America, and the tax bill is great for the hard working men and women of America, the forgotten Americans. Americans are strong and proud and we stand for the pledge of allegiance and the Star Spangled banner. I inherited "carnage" but now things are great."

Something like that.

Joe Kennedy III will give the Democratic response, and he needs to play catchup.  It is late for Democrats.  Democrats need to reposition the economic recovery.  Obama did a poor job of selling the narrative of recovery. Happily for Kennedy, the facts are on his side.

Housing Market in a hard-hit area: Medford, Oregon
Anchoring.  My suggestion for Joe Kennedy is informed in part by my long career as a Financial Advisor. I watched Americans evaluate their overall well being in part by comparing themselves to mental set points.  (H. L. Mencken said "wealth is any income that is $100 a year more than a man's wife's sister's husband's income.) Behavioral psychologists call this process anchoring.  People see a value for their house or some other asset, and that number becomes the equilibrium fair and reasonable thing that is theirs.  

Loss is profoundly unsettling to people. 

Obama entered office amidst economic collapse in asset values.

US Stock Market
Some 64 percent of American households own a home.  People are aware what their property is worth.  A great many Americans own financial assets, often very little, in an IRA or other retirement account.  People with small amounts worry as much or more than people with ample assets.

What happened. The US stock market hit a low in March, 2009, shortly after Obama's inauguration and it climbed steadily for the next seven years, nearly tripling during his tenure in office.  The American housing market collapsed 2008 and 2009, hitting a bottom in 2011, then rebounded, bringing housing prices up to, or beyond, their 2007 highs.  

Joe Kennedy should reframe the economy as sound Democratic response to the recession and Trump grandiosity and narcissism.

Joe Kennedy:

"My fellow Americans, we have been through a roller coaster of highs and lows in the past decade.  We have just heard from President Trump.   He bragged.  He crowed.  He took credit for everything good.   All hail Donald Trump.  

Democratic response.
In the years prior to President Obama's election the country experimented with undoing the rules that protected our economy from wild risk taking and leveraged bets that would make Wall Street speculators billions of dollars if the bets worked--and would destroy the American economy if they didn't.  In 2008 it all came crashing down.  The stock market lost half its value.  Our homes became unsellable at any price.  We fell into deep recession.  We discovered that the banks had used their freedom to make--then sell and resell--crazy mortgages.  In that catastrophe we elected Barrack Obama, who began the slow steady work of rebuilding the economy.   

His purpose was to fix the economy, restore the values of your homes and IRAs. Politically, it would have been smart to have prosecuted and dismantled the banks.  Wall Street executives in handcuffs.  But a strong economy needs strong financial institutions.  Obama did the brave and wise thing.  He saved those institutions, and we regulated them better.  Oh, they complain.  'We have to have too much capital to back our deposits!  We can't take crazy risks!'  

We passed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to try to assure taxpayers and consumers would be protected.

The stock market and housing markets recovered.  What Donald Trump called "carnage" was a tripling of the stock market during a Democratic administration.  Unemployment went from 10% down in a steady decline to 4.3% when Obama left office.  Home prices are back up restoring the equity people have in their homes.  

Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.  This was a risky experiment for our country, somewhat like the risky experiment we entered into when we unleashed the banks, brokerages, insurance companies to make exciting, risky bets.  Part of what we got when we elected Trump was a president who flagrantly and shamelessly sells what he claims to be true--even in the face of direct evidence to the contrary.  In October, 2016 before his election he said that the Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment numbers showing record lows, were "fake."  Somehow, by inauguration day, the same statistics showing the same low numbers were a triumph for Trump!

The stock market, which had been making repeated new highs under Obama--that was carnage.  The next month, it was triumph for Trump!

Job growth of 2.2 million new jobs per year under Obama were "pathetic", but job growth of 2.1 million new jobs under Trump was somehow a spectacular achievement.

Trump claims that America is energy independent and acts like he is responsible.  The energy revolution in America took place under Obama, with clear rules in place to protect our environment ,and we still went from importer to energy independence.  Under Obama!

A campaign strategist once said that there was one key to presidential popularity.  "It's the economy, stupid."  Well, Donald Trump, we aren't stupid.  The economy was driven into a ditch by crazy risk taking under a Republican president; Democrats repaired the damage; and now Trump is taking credit for the recovery that took place while you were golfing, and now as president are busy cancelling the very protections we put into place to stop another debacle. 

You are removing regulations from banks. How did that work out last time? 

You are removing environmental protections.  Do you really think Americans are better off and safer if coal mining sludge is free to dump into rivers?  Apparently, yes, because you removed that protection.

Do you really think America's beaches are protected if we allow a free for all of offshore drilling?  Apparently, yes, because you just removed that protection--except for Florida. What a blatantly political and self serving thing to do, Mr. President.  You will risk fouling the beaches of North Carolina and California and Alaska, but your precious Mar-a-Lago gets an exemption.

America has never had such a blatantly vulgar, unrepentant, unstable president.  But you have an extraordinary talent, Mr. President.  You look the American people in the eye and some believe you, not the facts right before their eyes.  You can sell Trump Steaks, Trump University, bankrupt Trump bonds.  You have an extraordinary talent for blaming and branding others, and dividing Americans.  Lying Ted.  Low energy Jeb.  Little Marco.  Ugly Carly. You can tell people Obama was born in Kenya.  You can blame the FBI and your own Justice Department for doing their jobs.  You have a dangerous talent, dangerous for America because in order to sell the half truths you undermine the checks and balances on you.  'The news media is fake.  The opposition party are all losers. Experts know nothing.  Career people are all out to get you.'

Well, Mr. Trump, you are the fake news.  But there is good news in America.  Republicans are afraid of you, but they know full well how badly you are damaging the institutions of American government, including the Congress they control. They will awaken. The courts, the opposition party, and, yes, the news media understands that you can sell your false narrative--but you cannot lead America forward because this country is not all about you, Mr. President.  It is about the people of this country.

This country is not racist, even if you appeal to racists.  This country welcomes immigrants, and we are ready to put in place rules and procedures to make sure immigration serves America's values.  We do not welcome your smears and vulgarisms of people you disdain.

My uncle spoke of a real patriotism, ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.  Mr. Trump, this country is full of patriots, people who serve, people who sacrifice, people concerned with the greater good. People born here and people who moved here to serve our economy, to do the hard work, to serve in our military.  Your mother was an immigrant, Mr. Trump.  You have immigrants in your own family, Mr. Trump.  You insult all Americans when you insult immigrants

Mr. Trump, this country is better than you.  You stand on the shoulders of patriots, people who have made this a country where you could become rich.  The Democratic party stands for the values that made this possible.  You, Mr. Trump, are busy destroying them.

Good night.  God bless you and God bless the United States of America."

Monday, January 29, 2018

Re-Thinking Immigration for Pro-immigration Progressives

Democrats are appalled by Trump.   He has blinded them to their own values and political self interest.

Time for Democrats to re-think their immigration message.   Open our minds.

Trump rode the immigration issue into the White House, saying Mexico sends its drugs, its criminals, its rapists; Asians take our jobs; black immigrants live in shit holes and bring AIDS.

There is a huge opportunity here to do the right thing, to do something popular, and to weaken Trump.  


What is so terrible about a border wall?    It is a waste of money.  Yes.  So what?  A lot of people want it, and this is a democracy, and if they think it makes them safer, let them spend money the way they want. The wall would be a token in border enforcement.  There are millions of legal crossings a day, with people going back and forth to work and trading goods and services.  At best the wall will be a partial impediment to illegal immigration but it is a symbol, and that is enough.

Think of it as a monument, like the Washington Monument or the St. Louis Arch.  

A $36 billion symbol, not a weapon
Much of our Defense Department spending is symbolic. The program cost for one additional aircraft carrier of the Gerald Ford Class, is some $36 billion dollars.  In an actual shooting war an aircraft carrier is a sitting duck with a life expectancy of ten minutes before being destroyed from a missile from space. The aircraft carrier is a bluff, not a weapon. 

Wall or aircraft carrier, a Democrat can recognize it as just another weapon system boondoggle with a constituency group, no more, no less.  There is no principle involved.  

Democrats should use it as a bargaining chip.

Give Trump his wall, and extract a price.  Democrats who favor immigration (as I do) should get a resolution of the DACA citizenship status and a broader comprehensive resolution of immigration policy.  Trump attacks "chain migration" (i.e. bring in family members) as opposed to "merit based" migration.  The implication from Trump is that we can change the mix of immigrants to more from Norway and fewer from "less desirable" countries, but as a practical matter this will work the other direction since we can fill the available spaces with immigrants from Africa and Asia with college degrees. The parties have switched on the issue of which is the more morally correct immigration policy--family unification or education. Is this really a matter of principle and morality,, whether priority is given to the unskilled younger brother of an immigrant from the Philippians, or a registered nurse from the Philippians without family here.

If Trump thinks he "won" by favoring the registered nurse, and Democrats get comprehensive immigration reform out of the deal, Democrats should call it good.  "Family unification" vs. "merit based" is not a matter of principle; it is an arbitrary rule, helping some, hurting others.  Let Trump have his way and, again, extract a price.
This concerns some people.

Immigration is an issue important to lots of Americans.  Voters were open to a right wing populist demagogue because the number of immigrants in America is approaching the high point of immigration of the 1890-1910 era (when my grandparents came here from Greece) and the public is concerned about changing demographics. 

Trump successfully politicized those concerns, winning Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, and Florida--states that had voted for Obama.  Democrats need to face that reality. Democrats took the position of calling those concerns racist, by objecting to anything-Trump, and put themselves in the position where Trump could set up a weak straw man to attack, saying Democrats want "unchecked illegal immigration." Democrats can dampen those concerns by making clear that they, too, want secure borders and immigration rules enforced.  

Controlled borders do not stifle immigration.  They enable it.  It is the progressive, pro-immigration point of view because it creates the legal and political environment to calm populist fears of "uncontrolled immigration" and the loss of our national character.

Meanwhile, the border wall will take years to build, there will be multiple news stories of problems, eminent domain issues, contractor disputes, cost overruns, and the fact that we, not Mexico, are paying for it.  It will be an albatross for Trump.  Trump's folly. Give him rope to hang himself.

There is a progressive argument for rules and for consenting to the border wall.  There is an opportunity for a Democratic candidate for Congress in the mountain west to show that he or she understands and addresses an issue that motivated voters in that District.   They don't want uncontrolled immigration?  Neither does that candidate. 

Which candidate will step up?
Bottom line:  a progressive candidate can take the morally correct position that actually enables immigration, Trump will look foolish, and a Democratic candidate can have strong progressive appeal to voters in a rural district.


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Rural Democrats have permission to be different.

No pain, no gain.

Democrats taking on Walden need not be "Pelosi Democrats."   Time to distinguish yourselves.  

Greg Walden's seat is considered so safe  he can spend his time campaigning for other Republicans.   It is a rural, mountain west district. It is the kind of district that now votes Republican.  

The right Democrat can win.  The right Democrat is not a "Pelosi Democrat."

Nationally, Democrats are the urban party.  The diversity party.  The party of educated office workers.  The party that likes regulations because they allow people who are close proximity to each other to cooperate. The party that sees guns as a problem, not a tool.  The party that uses things that are logged and drilled and fracked and grown in the countryside. 

All six of the Democratic candidates fit comfortably into the mold of the national party.  They can live in the District and wear blue jeans and can live on a gravel road, but their policies would be equally electable in Portland or Seattle or any other blue-state city.  I say this not as criticism, but as objective observation.   

They are all good Democrats:
   They support DACA citizenship and liberalizing immigration.
   They support LGBT rights.
   They are concerned about climate change.
   They oppose a proposed natural gas pipeline to Coos Bay.
   They support expanding health care to everyone.
   They supported measure 101 to fund expanded Medicaid.
   They want taxes to be more progressive.
   They want to dis-empower special interest money in campaigns.
   They want solar and wind power, not fossil fuels.
   They want women empowered in the workplace.
   They want women to control their own reproduction choices.
   They want regulation of guns for improved gun safety.
   They want to protect public lands from commercial degradation.

Sage and Merkley.  Jeans aren't enough.
The national Democratic Party is not going to give significant assistance to the Democratic nominee because they do not consider this a winnable district.  

This is liberating.  

Democrats, you have been cut loose.  You do not need to be electable in Berkeley or Cambridge or San Francisco.  You can be a rural Oregon Democrat.  You can tell Nancy Peloisi to stay the heck out of your District.  

Style is not enough.  A home and career in the District, blue jeans, a jeep, a mountain home, hand shaking, and a back story on a farm all help, but it takes more to be credible.  

The Democrat needs to do something courageous, out of the box, and unpredictable to show that his or her loyalties are to the District, not the national party of urban sophisticates.  The Democrat needs to demonstrate credibly that he or she is different by expressing a firm policy point of view that will disappoint and offend the national party consensus and cost votes in the primary

No pain, no gain.  

What would that be?  Something that clearly demonstrates that the candidate thinks like and represents rural Oregon, not urban blue-state coastal cities.  The strategy does not work unless it is painful and controversial.  Saying one hates health insurers is good, but it is not painful nor unique to rural Oregon because everyone hates health insurance companies.  Saying one hates fracking is good, but not painful, since there are negligible fossil fuels in rural Oregon.  

Jim Crary's criticism of big money in politics is good--if he can generate real controversy--but Democrats agree with him.  No pain.

The Democrat needs to communicate that he or she hears the complaints and concerns that caused rural Americans to vote overwhelmingly for Trump.  They need to send a convincing signal that you see things their way.  That means a break with the Democratic consensus.   You have to show it.

Click Here: there is a case for higher harvests.
A Democrat who said he or she wants to expand timber harvests on public lands would catch attention.  Democrats have generally settled into being the conservation-environmentalist party.  There are O&C counties in the District and counties with Forest Service land.  A Democrat can say that environmental protections have swung too far and that forests are a renewable resource and that under-managed forests are a waste and a forest fire hazard.  Let the conservationist Democrats howl in protest. (You need them to howl in protest.)  Rural Oregonians resent people in Portland and San Francisco and DC telling them what to do with land in their back yard.  Sierra Club Democrats have five other candidates to split their votes among, and there is a case to be made that "wise use" is sound policy and that means cutting more trees.

A Democrats who says that talk of gun regulation backfires and that he or she is a 2nd Amendment Democrat would certainly create howls of protest.  There is a case to be made that gun control talk is as counterproductive as banning alcohol or marijuana.  One does not need to minimize school shootings.  One does need to acknowledge that talk of banning guns causes more people to buy guns.  

Short Clip: Clinton says a secure border helps America
A Democrat who says that immigration needs to be better controlled and that a better wall on the southern border is perfectly reasonable would shock many Democrats.  They would say he or she "sounds like Trump."  The Democrat could then argue he or she actually sounds like Bill Clinton and that immigration needs rules and controls, not blanket amnesty, to protect rural jobs.  Immigration free for all endangers future immigration because it creates backlash.  There is a progressive case to be made for immigration controls.  Welcome the howls of protest.  The Democrat could say his or her loyalty is to American rural farm workers, not immigrant farm workers.  

The Democrat needs to send a strong signal, one of unmistakable consequence.   The Democrat from the 2nd District should be a different kind of Democrat from one representing the national party.

That is the big distinction with Greg Walden.  Walden, in his leadership role, is now loyal to the GOP national party.  Currently all the Democrats sound like the national Democratic party consensus.  

Time for the Democrat to break openly and painfully from the Democratic consensus  (When you win election, don't worry.  Nancy Pelosi will welcome you with open arms.  You will be a star.)  Say you are a different kind of Democrat because Burns is not Portland and Medford is not Berkeley.

Time is running out to demonstrate that you are a Democrat who represents a rural, forested, ranching District and are proud of it.   You will demonstrate it by angering someone in your own base. 

Be the outlier.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

In search of the Silver Bullet

Candidates challenging an incumbent look for the magic issue that changes everything.   

Is there a silver bullet that will end the career of Greg Walden?  

Silver bullets exist.  We saw Al Franken drop out of contention, sparked by a goofy photograph and then some quasi-confirmations by other women.  We saw a candidates say she wasn’t a witch, then lose credibility.  We saw a candidate distinguish between "rape" and "legitimate rape", and have his popularity collapse.

Is there a magic bullet that will cause Greg Walden's support to collapse?  Democratic candidates are hunting for it.

The GOP attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and had they succeeded sympathetic people in Oregon would have lost access to health care.  Cute children would have been kicked off the Oregon Health Plan--Oregon's way of using Medicaid dollars.   Walden got lucky.  It is harder to be angry at a threat than a loss. 

The tax bill looks like a benefit for the richest and not a very good deal for Oregon, but tax bills are complicated and the economy is continuing to look strong.  We are late in a recovery cycle and wages are improving.  The party in power is catching a break with the economy unless we stumble into a recession.  

Candidate Jim Crary wrote a long comment yesterday to my post on the joint appearance.  He believes he has distinguished himself from the scrum of other candidates, and he believes he has an issue: campaign finance reform.

I think he is wrong.  So far the silver bullet is a dud.  But he could fix that, if he wises up.

Candidate Jim Crary argues in his website "The way political campaigns are currently financed is, from my perspective, 97% of the problem with politics today."  He identified a problem and he proposes a solution: giving each voter $50 to allocate to campaigns.  Fight big money with a tidal wave of public money given in small amounts by multitudes.  

Greg Walden has been extraordinarily successful in raising money from businesses his committee oversees.  Either it is a badge of influence and respect, or it is evidence of being deep in the swamp.

Click Here. Read for yourself.

Jim Crary has problems making this a "silver bullet" issue.  Voters don't yet take Jim Crary or this issue seriously.  You have one chance to make a first impression and his first impression was one of getting 30% of the vote.  As strategy, running gave him a dress rehearsal, which is good; but running gave people a simple shorthand way to think of Crary's act: unpersuasive.  It is a double edged sword.

A second problem is that this is an issue of process, not effect.  Of course, Crary says that process (big money in politics) creates the effect (high drug prices, internet favoritism, health insurance ripoffs) but the issue is indirect, not direct.  Losing your health coverage is direct; politicians getting money from Pfizer is indirect. 

But the biggest problem for Crary and this as a silver bullet is that no one is criticizing him for his diagnosis and solution.  Crary needs an opponent but he doesn't have one.   Fellow Democrats probably more or less agree with him, so he is not distinguished from the pack.  (He commented that he thinks he is alone here, but no one disagrees with him, and no fight means no issue, no news, no difference.)  Greg Walden and his various funders know better than to criticize him and make news. 

Question:  If Jim Crary fires a silver bullet in the woods, and nobody hears it and nobody gets hit with it, did it really fire?   

Answer:     Bullet?  What bullet?

It is unintuitive, perhaps, to suggest it, but Jim Crary needs somebody to criticize him for having a stupid, unrealistic, money-wasting proposal.  Crary could learn from Trump.  Trump makes news by provoking someone.  (Mexicans are rapists.  China cheats. Judges are corrupt.  News is fake.  Women are liars. Obama is Kenyan. Hillary is crooked. The FBI is biased. Kim Jong Un is fat.)

Crary does not need to "fall to Trump's level."  But Crary needs to recognize that the Koch Brothers are, in simple fact, his enemy.  So he has nothing to lose by pointing directly at them. "The Koch Brothers are corrupting America and Greg Walden in particular."  Or, if he chooses, at he can point to Pfizer, or the National Association of Broadcasters, or Comcast, or any of the other big contributors to Walden.

He should pick one or two targets, then go to work. 

Crary should tell the simple, undeniable truth, and say bluntly that they are major league contributors to Greg Walden and that their money is corrupting our system and it has corrupted Greg Walden by dividing his loyalties. Hope to seduce Walden into defending the indefensible: he gets hundreds of thousands of dollars in tribute from the people his committee regulates.  It isn't ok.  

Isn't this nasty and negative campaigning?  No need to be nasty, but if a candidate won't tell us the truth in the campaign, how can we expect him or her to tell the truth when he or she governs?  Is it true that big money is corrupting our system?  Yes.  Then say so, bluntly.  That isn't "negative."  It is truth telling.

Invite controversy.  Since it isn't coming Crary's way, provoke it. 

If there is no controversy Greg Walden gets to sit in the quiet anonymity of getting tribute money and paying no political price for it.  Crary needs an opponent.  Boring guys who get 30% of the vote don't deserve an opponent, and they will not get one.  Be newsworthy.

Poke the bear with a stick. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Democratic candidate rematch and do-over.

Something happened overnight.  Democratic candidates got tough.

They acted like this was an elimination contest, not a job interview.  They took on Greg Walden.  They got better at this.

Medford Crowd
Democratic candidates faced off in a joint appearance in Medford.  It was the same format as the event in Ashland the day prior, but the candidates treated it differently.  In Ashland on Wednesday, they competed on the basis of resume and biography.  In Medford on Thursday they competed on who could best articulate the case against Walden.

The big truth remains the same.  Democrats have decided on what policies are acceptable and what it means to be a Democrat. There is no deviation: Democrats want:  Health care for everyone.  Protect Medicaid expansion.  Oppose "repeal and replace" the ACA.  Support DACA kids.  Regulate guns.  Tax the rich and corporations not the poor and middle class.  Support reproductive freedom.

Yet all the candidates shifted overnight. They discovered overnight that they were offering the public a choice, among each other and then a choice against Walden.  

Most of the change showed up as tone.  Tone is the important thing.

Six Candidates Speak.  Medford Rematch
Michael Byrne spoke first. "I am pissed," he said.  Working people like him are not represented.  The prior day he was frustrated, now he is indignant.

Tim White spoke next.  His slogan calls himself "A Fighter for Oregon's 2nd District" and he Thursday evening he sounded like one. The new tax bill increases the standard deduction but eliminates personal exemptions and White said this is just slight of hand for regular Americans. He sounded indignant and animated.  He spoke to the hypocrisy of supposed public philanthropists who made their money hooking Americans on OxyContin. He spoke to the billions being sent to defense contractors while Walden calls a minuscule increase in the pay of soldiers and sailors as "the largest pay raise in 8 years." That is a lie.  White didn't like it.

Candidate after candidate stood and delivered.  Eric Burnette said that Oregon exported grain and that it was good trade and he was proud to have been a part of it.  Jamie McLeod Skinner said she shoveled horse manure in high school and that she burned with patriotism having served alongside American troops in Kosovo.  Jim Crary told people to go to and see the heavy hand of campaign donations that took control of Greg Walden.  Jennifer Neahring addressed the injustice and immorality of risking 425,000 people losing their health care because of actions endorsed by Greg Walden in repealing the ACA.

Written transcripts of the event might not expose the difference between the two events but it is obvious in their spoken presentations.  Walden wasn't simply incorrect, he had robbed people of something vital.  The tax bill wasn't misguided, it was immoral and offensive.  The tone changed for each candidate.  They were different from Greg Walden.  The election mattered.

One of the candidates--White-- referenced this blog, saying that it suggested the candidates be angry, but that he was not going to do so.  In fact, yesterday's blog post did not make that as a suggestion, only an observation that the tone was more NPR rather than talk radio.  Having denied that he would change his tone, changing his tone is exactly what he did.  He--and the others--spoke with moral intensity that was missing the day prior. 

In private conversations with several of the candidates I have heard a persistent theme: not wanting to "appear negative."  One candidate said that appearing negative would turn off Republican and Independent voters.  Other candidates said that negativity looks shrill when voiced by a woman, that it comes across as destructive rather than positive, and that it fails to communicate their genuine spirit of optimism and progress.  

Of the six candidates the two female candidates, McLeod Skinner and Neahring, were the least confrontational of the six candidates, the ones most rooted to non-controversial biography, and the ones whose tone shifted the least.  McLeod Skinner talked about family roots, relatives in Ashland, Medford, Jordon Valley, farming, ranching, local schools.  Neahring talks about being physician and the lens it gives for seeing the country's problems and solutions. Neither displayed the moral outrage expressed by Bryne, White, Burnette, and Clary.

What did not happen.  Sometimes the most important thing to notice is what did not happen.  None of the six candidates acted as if they were in a contest against each other, which of course, they are.  That one will probably win with a plurality of perhaps 30 or 35 percent.  No one is separating themselves from the pack on the basis of an issue.

How could one win a plurality?  By saying something that the other candidates would disagree with.  By saying something that some members of the audience would disagree with.  

Democrats are divided still on issues of Bernie vs, Hillary, between city and rural, between methods for expanding health care.  A candidate who gets 35% of the Democratic vote will likely win the election.  No one has staked out a controversial position.   It is one of the ongoing theories of this blog that one gets support by being opposed by someone, and that any point of view with 100% concurrence is just political filler.  No Democrat has yet staked out and advocated a position that would gain them support of a significant niche, solidified by it being disagreed with by others.  .

What might work?   Jamie McLeod Skinner might emphasize her sexual orientation.  No one disagrees with her having District roots and having done farm work, so that information is pleasant but not "sticky."  But being courageously gay, demonstrating a stark example of courage and transparency, makes a statement: strong enough to come out, strong enough to take on powerful interest groups.  Some people will disapprove and that helps her.  Nasty things some people might say about her would push other people to support her.  That gets her to 35%.

Jennifer Neahring might be sharply critical of some aspect of the health care system, saying things that would surprise an audience, e.g. "Physicians are awesomely overpaid."  The best thing that could happen to her candidacy would be for some well paid physician specialist (ophthalmologist?) to protest that statement, angrily.  There is little sympathy for income maintenance of physicians who make well upwards of $500,000 a year. Rich specialists are angry with her?  Great!  She would look courageous and forthright, having created controversy in her pursuit of justice and affordable health care.  That might get her to 35%.   

Tim White might voice in open presentations the angry words he uses in his slogan ("Fighter") and his blog.  White's blog reads as if it were written by a fighter, but he sounds aloud like he is giving a power point presentation at a corporate boardroom.  If people think he is "too scrappy" and too much like a bulldog, and they complain about it publicly it would be the best thing that could happen to him.  There is currently no scrappy bulldog in the group of six. I suspect 35% of the District's Democrats want a scrappy fighter who willing to be a courageous truth-teller and willing to be criticized for it.  We have six nice-guy candidates.  There is a niche here for someone who gets in Walden's face.

Jim Crary might openly say that it is inevitable that he will be badly outspent in both the primary and the general election and that he may well lose because of it.  Say aloud that his campaign is a crusade.  There may well be 35% of the primary electorate who want to send a message of defiance.  They aren't just voting yes for Crary, they are voting no to Pfizer and Humana.

And any of the candidates might take a contrary position on immigration. The Barbara Jordon/Bill Clinton position on immigration endorsed a strong border.  There is a progressive case to be made for immigration being like good, strong medicine, something that needs careful dosing and control.  Some people will disagree and say the candidate sold out.  That helps that candidate get to 35%.  A lot of Democrats like immigration but also want Democrats to say they like borders, too.

So far, no one is separating him or her self from the pack on policies.  Everyone agrees.  Everyone says agreeable things.   I suspect the winner of the Democratic primary will be the one who appears to stand out.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

High Noon in Ashland

Six Congressional Candidates Challenge Greg Walden

It was the first of two joint appearances in Jackson County.  All six candidates were there.  They made their cases.

Six Democratic Candidates 
The big message is that they are all essentially in agreement:

Expand health care coverage to everyone, 
Protect Medicaid expansion benefit to the working poor,
Regulate guns, 
Tax cuts for the poor and middle class but not for the rich, 
Citizenship for DACA children, and do create a pathway to legalization for others, 
Reduce the influence of special interest money in politics, 
Resist Trump by electing Democrats to the House.

Interesting is what no one said:

No one was anti-abortion.
No one said gun control would not work and should not be tried.
No one spoke to American policy regarding Israel or North Korea or the Middle East.
No one defended a border wall or questioned immigration numbers.

Democrats do not yet have a big national spokesman, but at least at the Congressional level in Oregon, they do have a coherent message.  We just heard it.

It is essentially the Obama message, with new added skepticism of a cozy relationship between Democrats and special interest money, so it was a rejection of Hillary's establishmentarianism.   I would interpret it as an amalgam of Hillary and Bernie.   The Democratic candidates think they have found the sweet spot.

Audience members paying close attention would notice some nuance of differences, which show up as biography, not as policy.

  Jenni Neahring is a physician and says that many seemingly unrelated issues go back to a broken health care system.  She talked about pharmacy costs and healthcare delivery problems.

McLeod Skinner
  Eric Burnette is a retired maritime regulator.  He emphasized unions and better paying jobs.  We need higher incomes, not lower taxes.

  Jamie McLeod Skinner had experience in elected office in California.  She seemed prepared with artful summaries of her positions.  She has family all over the District.

  Tim White made references to his corporate success at Chrysler in turnaround situations and marketing.  He wants a big road project to open up Eastern Oregon, essentially a freeway to Burns.  He writes sharp criticisms of Greg Walden's actions and policies in his blog:

  Michael Byrne made the point that he was working class, pro-union but spurred by them, had not had health insurance, that he struggled for money and that, therefore, he would be a candidate in sync with his District.  He called himself a "redneck."

  Jim Crary is a retired attorney and said that a corrupted campaign finance system is the centerpiece of American misrule.  It all starts with the corrupting influence of money in campaigns.

Six different personalities and biographies.  All plausible candidates.

A voter who wanted a woman had two choices.  A voter who was looking for a professional background and demeanor had Dr. Neahring and retired Chrysler executive Tim White.  A voter who wanted a District-rooted cowgirl had Jamie McLeod Skinner.  A person who wanted a union/jobs talker had Burnette and Byrne. voter who wanted an experienced candidate with a campaign finance message had Jim Crary, a lawyer in blue jeans.   

No candidate chose to distinguish him or her self as the candidate who would take it to Walden.  One or more of the candidates might have drawn sharp differences, e.g. Walden wants to repeal the ACA, I want to improve it; Walden wanted tax cuts for corporations, I want them for the middle class; Walden gets money from pharma and telecoms, and I think that is corrupt. Sharp contrasts.  It could be done with a smile, perhaps in disappointment rather than anger, but it wasn't done, at least not at this forum.  No one appears to want to come across as negative.

No candidate sounded angry.  The candidates are optimistic and earnest, not indignant or angry or outraged.  Democrats have the tone of NPR, not of talk radio.  

No candidate clearly separated him or her self from the pack.  I do not doubt that each candidate thinks his or her message was clearly unique and special and powerful. I was looking for that.  I did not experience it either in policy or in tone.  No candidate said anything that a significant number of people in that room would disagree with.  No one carved out a niche.  No one said, "Gun control wont work and it backfires."  No one said, "I support a 100% draft or national service, and if you don't like it, tough."  No one said, "I support reducing immigration to try to drive up the wages of young Americans."

There is time for candidates to change their pitches--if they choose to.  There will be more forums, including another this evening.   Each night's forum will have a straw poll and the results will be published.