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. 


  1. It seems to me that this issue needs to be addressed at a broader level. Sure Koch, Phizer and all the rest donate most of the money but in doing so they represent their members and employees. These companies are Regressive in the sense that they put profits above all else, and for the most part everyone goes along or doesn't work for them. As long as a plurality accept this we are stuck. Progressive companies are learning that putting people's welfare first can be profitable. They see the wisdom of "enough".

    I'd love to hear a candidate talk about the pain felt by someone who works for a polluting industry who feels held hostage by them. One reason business resists single payer is that is provides them with a way to hold on to workers who might otherwise be happier elsewhere.

  2. Hi Peter,

    Glad you read my yesterday’s comment!

    I am running because there are so many issues that are either not being addressed (e.g. Climate Change, infrastructure, the long-term viability of Social Security and campaign financing) or are being addressed in ways that I stridently disagree with (e.g. healthcare and taxes). But campaign finance reform is my signature issue because until we change how campaigns are addressed addressing those other issues, in a progressive way, will simply not happen.

    The reason campaign finance reform is my #1 issue goes back to Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity (i.e. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"). If anyone thinks that the current system of financing elections is going to yield a new crop of congressmen/congresswomen and senators who are all of a sudden going to start representing their constituents instead of their contributors, we have a fundamental disagreement. The simple truth is that whoever pays for a candidate’s election is going to be first in line to have that person’s ear.
    I do not think leadership means taking a poll and then trying to run out and get in front of the way the wind is blowing. Before Bernie Sanders ran in 2016 how many politicians (and voters) were talking about Medicare for all? My idea of leadership is to stand up and take a principled stand on a vital issue that no one else wants to address either because it is not “sexy” enough or because it may be hard to explain.

    I neither think I will nor do I expect to out raise Mr. Walden in the money department. That is not the way I am going to “repeal and replace” him. I do however plan on raising at least $1,000,000 in individual donations. You may think my strategy “unwise” to which I respond Bernie Sanders raised over $227,000,000 in individual donations demonstrating that what I am doing is, in fact, a very viable way to finance a campaign.

    I always think when people say to me (and you are definitely not the first) that my way of financing my campaign is not viable that there is always a first time for everything and that nothing will change until someone has the chutzpah to stand up and try to make a change. You may be right, or I may be right. We will see on Election Day. I think I will prevail because, unlike when I ran in 2016, the voters are totally engaged and paying attention. You may think campaign finance reform may be a losing issue but that is not the feedback I am getting from the people I am talking to.

    I agree with you that big money in politics creates an indirect link to the many issues (e.g. high drug prices, internet favoritism and, health insurance rip-offs) most candidates talk about. I also agree that indirect is less motivating than direct. But I go back to my previous paragraph that the voters are really engaged. I am betting that engaged voters will connect the dots between campaign finance reform and the bad effects it has on our political process. Again, we will see on Election Day who is right.

    I absolutely recognize that the Koch Brothers, big pharma, Comcast and all of the other big dollar special interests are adamantly opposed to everything I want to do when I go to Washington. So be it. There are few things that will be more satisfying for me to accomplish than to eviscerate the power of the dollar and give a “Voice to the People.”

    Thank you for engaging and let’s keep in touch.

  3. Jim, I am not saying that raising small dollar contributions is an unwise or non-viable way to run a successful campaign. I am saying you have failed to piss anyone off with your campaign or this signature issue. Until you manage to get someone to denounce you, you are that silent tree in the forest.

    Insanity, as you noted, is doing more of the same and expecting a new result. Your campaign is more of 2016, although in a better political environment. My advice is about method. Change your campaign tone so that the Kochs et al. Plus Walden cannot ignore you, which they are currently doing, as you noted publicly, not even taking or returning your calls. You haven’t pissed them off, yet, nor are they acting worried or embarrassed. He has literally millions of dollars in loot-tribute, right there on the books for all to see, and you haven’t yet made him squirm.

    I am not advising you drop the issue. I am advising you become in-ignorable.

  4. Last sentence should be: I am advising you become un-ignorable.

  5. Jim Crary is a delightful person, intelligent, speaks well, but he does not come across as a fighter......Democrats right now are in a fighting mood. I don't think that fighting gets us very far, but that is the reality. Jim is seen as a lawyer from the east side and just does not have the optics for winning. Each candidate that I saw last night in Sunriver has something that stands out for them, but in my opinion, not one of them has the over all appeal that we need. The person we need is someone like Dave Ward, the sheriff of Haney County.......but that is water under the bridge. Our best chance, I see, of the candidates is either Jamie or Tim White. My personal favorite is Michael Byrnes......he is a true Oregonian with a working man history, but none of the liberal elites find him credible (part of the whole Democratic problem with working America).

  6. I would be thrilled if you wrote a guest post observation on what you saw in Sunriver.

    In Medford and Ashland Bryne was charming and self-effacing but I agree with you in saying that he did not come across as credible as a candidate. He was too offhand and not really focused on translating his working man backstory into policy. He might fix this, but I think he likely is who he is, who he is. He wont change.

    I think a credible Democrat in this District will need to irritate and maybe anger some group of Democrats in order to be credible as a spokesperson for the District, different from the national party. I write about this today in my blog.


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