Saturday, March 31, 2018

Jennifer Neahring: Campaign Update

"I'm running because we couldn't just keep doing the same thing. I was unhappy enough with Walden to quit my job to run for Congress.  I couldn't just sit back."

Dr. Jennifer Neahring

Dr. Neahring broadens her portfolio of interests.  She got into this because she wanted to fix health policy.  Now she wants to fix a lot of things.

Last year Jennifer Nearing had been talking with thought leaders at Harvard and DC, and she felt a calling.  She could help fix a broken health care system, and because she could do it she must do it.

She spoke with members of our Congressional Delegation. Could someone with a physician's perspective--someone keenly interested in health policy--make a difference?  Could a physician actually win in the 2nd CD?  They encouraged her.  She jumped into the race.

Jennifer Neahring is an example of one happy version of the American success story: the high achieving, mixed-race, 2nd generation immigrant.  She had smarts, a great work ethic, a can-do attitude, and America rewarded it. She isn't done.  She wants to do more, achieve higher, make a difference in America. 

She met with ten people in my home on December 5, 2017, four months ago, and impressed them with her sense of mission to fix a broken health care system. The question was her electability. She was all about policy; elections are about connection to a constituency. She was accustomed to success and work being rewarded, but 2nd Congressional District residents voted 60% for Trump who spoke to the frustrations and disappointments of white Americans. Trump connected with rural America. He said the present was carnage.  He said experts and urbanites and racial outsiders were stepping in front of regular American, grabbing the success that had been theirs.  His message was one of resentment.  Nearing communicated optimism and opportunity.

It might not be a good fit, I thought.

That was then. She is a much better candidate now, with more issues to discuss.  She is talking about infrastructure, the electrical grid, rural broadband, and shoring up Social Security by significantly raising the income cap on the Social Security tax.

She still projects optimism and opportunity.

She is one of seven candidates. She is settling into a niche on the political spectrum--somewhere to the right of Eric Burnett who has claimed the unabashedly Bernie-style leftist union orientation.  She is content that Tim White--and not herself--gets applause from audiences for angry denunciations of Walden. "That's just not me."  

She recognizes that Jamie McLeod Skinner connects with some people with her ranch talk and belt buckle, but that isn't her, either.  She wears what she wore as a physician in practice in rural Iowa and again in Salem: either a dress or khaki pants and a shirt.  She said she only wore the white doctor's jacket for her website photo, so she would be identified as the one who was a doctor. "I had to go out and buy one.  I didn't own one."

She said she thought being exactly who she was--a physician--was a good way to connect with the district.  Doctors are needed and respected in rural counties, and people expect doctors to know things. "Doctors care.  Doctors connect with individual patients."   Doctors belong in rural counties just like ranchers do, she says.

Knowing things creates a problem for Neahring.  In forums people ask the candidates to announce what they propose for solving the health care problem.  The response that gets applause is one that is simple to understand and state:  "Medicare for All."  

She doesn't say it.  Fellow candidates notice and want that apostasy noted.  

Nearing says that that solution is over-simple, it misunderstands that some 15% of Medicare patients are also Medicaid eligible, and that Medicare itself must be fixed before it can be expanded.  Medicare cannot negotiate drug prices, Medicare is fee-for-service instead of whole-body-wraparound. Medicare is "rescue care", treating illness, rather than promoting wellness. Until Medicare is fixed it is the wrong model. We need to get to universal coverage, but some form of Medicare for everyone is the end, not the route, she said.  She took ten minutes to explain what needed to happen, and I may not have summarized it correctly, but it is my understanding of what she said, which, of course, exemplifies the problem.  Its complexity is both Neahring's strength and political weakness.  

Trump said, "Who knew healthcare could be so complicated?"  

Jennifer Neahring did.

Neahring thinks the congressional race is settling into a contest between two women, herself and Jamie McLeod-Skinner. There is no polling. 

 It is the year of the woman, she said. "Jamie got in early and built an organization early. And she has deep residency roots." Nearing thinks that her own big asset is her deep knowledge of the subject matter of a signature betrayal by Greg Walden, his risk to health care for hundreds of thousands of his own constituents.  Repeal and replacement of the ACA would have reversed the expansion of the Oregon Health Plan, risked access to insurance for people with pre-existing conditions, and it would have damaged rural hospitals in his district.

She says she is making that case, and trying to do it as someone who brings people together, not as someone who calls Walden "a liar", which she says is Tim White's task.  Can a soft tone and a complex approach to a complex problem cut through the clutter and campaign talk of six other candidates? That is her task.

[This is a second in a series of profiles on each of the candidates.  Jim Crary's was the day before yesterday.  There are more to come.

I write about politics and messaging every day.  Bookmark this page, or follow it by email.]

Friday, March 30, 2018

Oregon's 2nd CD Candidates need to toughen up.

Oregon 2nd Congressional District Candidates play softball with each other.  It's too friendly.  It's a big mistake.

If Democrats don't expose the weaknesses of each other, then Walden's campaign will do it.  Democratic candidates need to stop playing so nicely.  Time to toughen each other up.

Click for nice ad. Negative ads come later.
Walden will have a huge campaign.  I heard that Greg Walden is in Medford today at a fundraiser for local donors. Really. The guy with three million dollars in the bank is here raising yet more money.  The event happens so people can pay tribute and show support.  Donors have a message: "We know you are important, Greg.  We like you. Notice us here at your fundraiser."

Walden has a message for them; "I take this race seriously.  You are dealing with the sure-thing winning incumbent."

Walden's campaign will try to smash the Democratic nominee in a one-two punch of positive and negative ads.  We know the good-guy ads: a golden glow of children playing in parks, grandparents, a veteran, a wheat field, and Walden in voiceover sounding compassionate and self assured.

Expect negative ads. They will hammer away at perceived flaws in the Democratic candidate.  Currently the Democratic candidates all say they are friends with each other.  No one wants to "go negative." No one wants to ask direct hard questions. They hear from county Democratic committees that "negativity suppresses turnout," and that they shouldn't damage each other.  But no one want to be the one to look the other in the eye and say "you have a problem."  

So I will do it.  

By definition, every candidate has problems, because a candidate's strength is his or her weakness, when it is seen from the opposite direction.  Let's expose the weaknesses. Better me than Greg Walden. Let's see how the candidate's respond and parry the attack. 

Question for Jim Crary:  " Sure, you were a lawyer.  What in the world were you doing being one at BP for seventeen years? While you were there BP's shoddy wells had the worst disaster in history. If you actually cared about climate change and fossil fuels you should have resigned and worked for someone else. And besides, by not taking money from good groups, you insult them by likening them to the bad groups."  (Walden's ad will be titled "Flagrant hypocrite")

Question for Jennifer Neahring: "Sure you are a doctor, but you practice everywhere but here. You aren't really from the 2nd District. You are from Salem, admit it.  And besides, you don't really favor Medicare-for-all."  (Walden's ad will be titled "Just visiting.")

Question for Eric Burnett: "Sure, the unions love you, but if unions are so good how come they are disappearing everywhere except in public sector.  Why push a 19th century solution in the 21st century gig economy?  It isn't a solution for an agricultural and small business district. And besides, you are way, way too liberal."  (Walden's ad will be titled "Pawn of Union Bosses.")

Question for Jamie McLeod-Skinner: "Sure you have experience in government. You got fired in Phoenix. The police chief said you created a toxic work environment.  Employees said they dreaded coming to work.  Admit it.  You cannot work with others. And besides, conservative Christians aren't ready for you." (Walden's ad will be titled "Toxic Personality.")

Question for Tim White: "Sure, you were a big shot Chrysler finance executive, but you know so little about this District that you tell cattle ranchers to become vegan and you expect to get the feds to build an interstate between Bend and Ontario. Go run in Detroit.  And besides, you sound angry all the time and that turns people off."  (Walden's ad will be entitled "Executive Suite.")

Question for Michael Byrne: "Sure, you are a nice guy, but you would have no credibility in  Congress. You aren't running for stonemason. You are running for Congress. And besides, you sound like a socialist." (Walden's ad will be entitled, "Getting things done.")

Question for Raz Mason: "Sure, you have lots of ideas on anxiety, stress, interpersonal relationships, and existential doubt. But you are running for Congress, not meditation coach. And besides, we don't want to hear about your 'vision.'  We want to hear about your policies."  (Walden's ad will be entitled, "Ommmmm."

Training hurts.  Nipples chafe and bleed.
I am trying to predict the future and get candidates ready for it. The real Walden attack ads will be more nasty. The Democratic nominee must have inoculated him or her self and figured out a way to parry or reverse the thrust of these charges and others I haven't thought of. 

Political strength isn't being above criticism.  It is getting criticized and coming out of it stronger.

I liken this campaign as the training a hobby runner does to prepare for a marathon run of 26.2 miles. The training runs give blisters.  Knees hurt. Cramps.  Long training runs let people learn what goes wrong and how much Advil to take. One does not prepare for race day by driving the route in a car. You run long distances, for real. It hurts. 

One prepares by dealing with the hurt, and getting stronger and tougher so one can actually finish the 26.2 mile run head held high.

If the campaigns of Crary or Neahring or McLeod-Skinner and others get hard questioning by fellow Democrats, we will all learn something. They will either figure out a solid, plausible response that audiences accept, or their campaigns will fail, right then, in the primary.

Time to toughen each other up.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Jim Crary: Campaign Update

"When May 15 comes I will have left nothing on the table."

On the road, one on one.

Jim Crary:  Male--age 65-- Democrat--retired lawyer--rural homeowner who heats with wood--candidate wants to change our corrupt system of campaign finance--candidate who walks the talk by taking no money from PACs or special interest groups.

Those are the seven things he said he wanted people to know about him.  Gender, age, party, and former occupation were locked in for him.  

What he chooses to communicate is that he is a genuine rural guy, a lifelong hunter who lives at high altitude in a forested area in a home that uses ten cords of wood a year to heat. He is on the board of a rural volunteer fire department. 

He chooses to communicate that the overarching reason for disfunction in American politics is the fact that politicians' campaigns are financed by special interest money.  Politicians don't represent the interests of regular individual people. Special interests, primarily corporate, make cold, hard investments in politicians who will vote to make laws that benefit them.  

He wants people to know that he is a person with integrity and consistency strong enough that he himself takes no campaign money from anyone but individual donors. He says he has raised about $80,000 so far.  He currently has about $15,000 in the bank.  He says he can afford a small paid staff, lawn signs, Facebook ads, and maybe some radio ads.  He says his campaign has one other asset: he is tireless and is campaigning hard.

Jim Crary is one of seven Democratic candidates for Congress in Oregon's 2nd Congressional District. He considers his current campaign a continuation of the campaign he started when he filed for the position back in 2016.  He lost with 28% of the vote to Greg Walden's 72%.  

He says this time is different. The previous run was a test to see what was possible. This time is for real, meeting people, talking to groups, doing candidate forums, and being taken seriously as a candidate. His campaign has a thorough web page.  He updates his campaign Facebook page nearly daily.
Click Here: Short website video

He says the differentiator in this race is emphasis and focus.  He says his centerpiece position is one people already believe: American politics doesn't work because special interest money dominates campaigns.  His positions are in the presumed sweet-spot in Democratic politics--the Bernie-progressive left. That is where the activists are. Crary wants a single payer health care system and says the recently passed tax bill is trickle down that favors the very wealthy. He favors net neutrality, renewable energy, a higher minimum wage, pay equity for women, equal treatment of the LGBTQ community, and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have stayed out of trouble.  He opposes the Jordan Cove pipeline project. 

But for Crary, all roads lead back to the corrupting influence of special interest money.

Crary made contracts for BP, and is now making one with the people of the District.  I observe a repositioning of his depiction of his years as a lawyer in Alaska, where he wrote and negotiated contracts for BP.  That history was a political problem for him. To the environmental left, fossil fuel companies are the enemy.  Crary glided over that in forums, eager to avoid being characterized as the "retired BP lawyer." 
Backwoods Jim--from his campaign website

That was smart and necessary.  "Retired BP lawyer" is a bad label for a candidate this year.

But now, in a long interview, he made frequent reference to his former lawyering, describing it as valuable preparation for honest communication with the public.  "I probably should have been talking about my experience in contracting from the very beginning."  He said candidates should put "policy . . . with a degree of specificity" out there. Crary pointed me to his website and his detailed policy positions on seventeen issues.  

He said he was making a deal with the voters of the District.  His Alaska oil experience wasn't about BP.  It was about how to be accountable to voters. "Broad platitudes drive me crazy."  His work writing contracts are part and parcel of his bigger campaign theme: honest government.

Could Jim Crary win?  He has been developing a niche and brand, as have been the other candidates.

Tim White is projecting his own different emphasis--the fighter taking it to Walden. Jamie McLeod-Skinner is the woman in blue jeans and a Jeep, emphasizing rural ranching identity and roots. Jenni Neahring is Doctor Neahring with specialized knowledge.  Eric Burnett is the union-oriented plain talker.  Michael Byrne is the working man who understands working people.  Raz Mason communicates that change comes from within.  

Click for details.   Wipeout in rural counties.
Crary presents more credibly as a retired lawyer than he does as a backwoods homeowner. His signature policy is about government process and accountability, not  Lincolnesque hardiness in a log cabin.  He appears to be trying to share a rural niche with McLeod-Skinner, and the vote two years ago shows the necessity of it.  Crary lost 2-1 in the two counties with mid-size cities, Jackson (with Medford and Ashland) and Deschutes (with Bend) but he lost 4 to 1 in nearly all the smaller, rural counties.  Four to one!  

Jamie McLeod-Skinner is the one who reads at first glance like she knows something about farming and ranching and dusty roads and sagebrush. She is working hard to present herself as a at one with the district. Like Crary, she has a law degree, but she doesn't lead with it.

Rural counties have lawyers.  (Doctors, too.)  Being a lawyer should not be a deal-killer for Crary, and he seems to be starting to make that history a qualifier, not a disqualifier.  After all, some of the leading citizens and office holders in rural counties are the lawyers. Still, the results from the election of 2016 show that Crary had a problem appealing to those voters.  Maybe they didn't vote against him because he was a lawyer or because of where he lived.  Maybe they simply knew noting about him, other that his party and gender, which they inferred from his name. That wasn't enough.  

By May, 2018 Democrats will know perhaps 7 things about him. He is clean shaven now.  Shaven, he looks more like a retired lawyer than he does Daniel Boone. It may be that enough voters will connect with him because they will have seen him, or at least heard that he was in Burns, Pendleton, Lagrand, and Madras or wherever they happen to live, and they agree with his basic premise, that politics has been corrupted by special interest money.

He needs to do something to connect with rural voters.  Possibly the campaign issue is exactly enough.

[Note:  This is the first of other profiles like this one.  I expect to do at least one on each candidate.  Likely more than one.]

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

State Sen. Alan DeBoer: "A pro-gun email every 30 seconds."

Gun rights activists keep pressure on GOP lawmakers.  

Student activism 1968
Young people, and their Baby Boomer grand parents, joined March For Our Lives rallies.  They sense there is a change coming, an anti-gun wave, led by young people.

They may not see it, but there is entrenched opposition to that wave.  Senator Alan DeBoer reports on NRA pressure on GOP officeholders.

This is student activism season.  Blossoms on the trees, students rallying in parks and streets advocating a cause that seems dead simple correct to them:  it is wrong to shoot and kill kids in schools.   Everyone agrees with that.

What people do not agree with is what to do about it.  If anything.

I know the season.  I was in my own little version of it back in the day. Harvard in the spring, 1968, fifty years ago this week. 

The issue was the war in Vietnam and the corollaries of grievances that sprang from that, including opposition to the draft and ROTC--and then the ripening "women's liberation" issue unleashed by the general activism.  We didn't just want to end the war. We wanted co-education and the equal treatment of men and women in college admissions and entry into the professions. 

Everyone I knew associated in any way with Harvard agreed with us, we thought, but I recognized that "out there" in the neighborhoods of blue collar Boston, people did disagree. Nixon had his "silent majority."  I had some tiny sense of non-verbal "messaging" clear back then.  I kept my hair semi-short, by the standards of the day.  I was "Clean for Gene."  I recognized that really long hair on students sent a message of defiance to grownups, and that that message worked against our cause.  On campus I wore a Harvard Strike T shirt, size medium and then shrunk to fit. I have saved it under glass. It is too small for me now.

It is the turn of a different set of youth with different issues. They may think they are winning and so might their parents and grandparents in the March for our Lives crowds. They sense that wave.  Former Supreme Court judge John Paul Stevens suggested repealing the 2nd Amendment. Now that moves the goalposts. Instead of controversy regarding reducing the size of the magazine in an AR-15 from 30 down to 10 rounds to give school kids a better chance to run while a shooter inserts a new magazine, this is a cause big enough to inspire activists. 

Democratic politicians are speaking out more firmly.  There are more attacks on the NRA.  Rick Santorum says the solution is for students to learn emergency medical interventions and the late night comics laugh and scoff.

Medford march
And look at the crowds. New York, DC, San Francisco, Chicago, and right here in Medford and Ashland Oregon.  It feels like a movement.

They face opposition they don't see.  

State Senator Alan DeBoer gave some insight when he described to me his experience in Salem. Oregon legislators, meeting in a special short session, debated and then passed a law closing a loophole in the law that banned people convicted of domestic violence from buying or possessing a firearm.  Previously the law described spouses, but the law was broadened to include non-spouses in a relationship or co-habitating.  It was called the "boyfriend loophole" and the hole got plugged.

It ended up passing, on a near party line vote.

The NRA was watching developments in Oregon closely,  and they opposed the bill as it was written in committee by Democrats.  Alan DeBoer said they sent out the word: do not vote for that bill or face the wrath of the NRA and a near-certain Republican primary battle. He said they showed they meant business.  They sent out an alert to their members. The membership was ready. He said he could look at his smart phone's email program as it beeped notifications of new emails--another one every 30 seconds.  Email after email from gun rights voters with the same message:  "Don't you dare support that."

Medford march
"Gun rights voters" is the phrase DeBoer uses.  He uses the word "Democratic" as the adjectival form for the Democratic Party. DeBoer uses respectful language. It is part of what gives DeBoer his nice-guy reputation.

DeBoer said that the Republican caucus negotiated with the NRA to see if there was some form of the bill that would allow Republicans to support it. The officeholders understood the political peril of opposing a law to stop boyfriend domestic abusers from buying handguns. It could look bad in ads if someone voted against the bill, which DeBoer said was a big part of the reason it moved forward. Democrats didn't simply like the policy; they liked the politics of it. The bill put incumbents into a bind: look bad to voters or look bad to the NRA.

Negotiations went back and forth: what about this word, how about if we changed that word?  In the end, the NRA allowed very little latitude, and most Republicans voted no.  Better to risk the uncertain wrath of voters in the general election than face the certain organized opposition of the NRA in a primary. The NRA does not lead a majority of the people, but they do lead a cohesive group of people highly motivated and politically sophisticated on that one issue. 

They have leverage. 

Medford march
The exercise of that leverage is nearly invisible to people outside the circle where that leverage really counts--among GOP candidates and lawmakers at the point where they shape a law and support it--or not.  The people marching last Saturday were sure they were right and were sure "the people" were with them.  

Some of the people were with them, but not all of the right people. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Trump: better a horn dog than a autocrat.

"If there weren't any women, all the money in the world wouldn't matter."     

Scolds Trump
Attributed to Aristotle Onassis

Trump has been a playboy his whole life.  Stormy Daniels and similar tabloid tawdry stories don't hurt him. We knew this already.  

The new revelations actually help him.  They suggest he doesn't want wealth and power so he can conquer far off lands.  He wants it because it gets him sex with beautiful young women. We can live with that.

There is a big message hiding inside the current round of Trump sex revelations.

1.  They distract his political opponents. Democrats and the mainstream media have something new to joke and scoff about. They think this is one more straw breaking the Trump camel's back. No. Americans don't expect Trump to be a moral leader. Trump supporters just don't care.

Democratic and media scolding is backfiring because it is more comfortable for Americans to laugh at Trump than to hear the pious judgements of Jimmy Carter.  Carter condemned Trump's "immorality and his violation of his sacred oath before God to be loyal to his wife."  Carter represents guilt. Trump represents joyful excess. Carter is Sunday morning.  Trump is Saturday night. Trump wins that face-off. 

Democrats and the mainstream news shows put righteous women on the air.  "Mansplaining" is condemned. #MeToo is celebrated. Democrats proudly cleansed themselves of Al Franken.  They rise in opposition to Hollywood's reputation for casting couch seductions. Charlie Rose, Garrison Keillor, Matt Lauer, Mark Halperin and others are purged. Democrats and the media represent a period of renewed morality, and they feel better for it.  It is a righteous position but a dangerous one, vulnerable to accusations of hypocrisy. Evangelical Christians voted 85% for Trump. It is the secular party coming across as the scold.  Most people don't like being scolded, especially when it is deserved.

2. Trump's adulteries and horn dog history make him seem more clownish than dangerous.  Trump is in danger of crossing over a grey boundary line into narcissistic, un-democratic authoritarianism. He is the tough tough guy, the brute, the one who justifies torture, the one who praised viciousness.  Many people like it.  His crowds cheer tough talk: death penalty for drug dealers; trade wars; harsh words for North Korea; military parades.

This could easily be worrisome to voters. What could stop Trump from doing anything?  Not Democrats. Not GOP officeholders.  Not the civil institutions of media, academia, churches.  

One thing only: as Trump would put it, "pussy."

Yuck. And yet it serves Trump.

His being a horn-dog softens and humanizes him.  He is driven by sex and distracted by sex. He does foolish, dangerous, disreputable things for sex.  He comes across as ridiculous, but not frightening.  A growling, barking male dog showing teeth is intimidating.  The same male dog, sniffing at a female dog's rear, or desperately trying to hump ones leg, is laughable. We see testosterone at work in male dogs: aggression, domination, libido.  Humans complicate and try to hide it inside customs and restraint, but it is there.. Trump cannot hide it. He wants a harem. 

A harem is less dangerous than an army.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Blue Wave. Could Walden actually be in danger?

This is new. The Democratic Party of Oregon thinks Greg Walden is vulnerable. They are now putting resources into this race.

Message:  Walden on an invisible leash.

Political professionals claim they want to contest every seat, fight every battle.  They don't.  The reality is they know some seats are sure things for the other side, and they don't waste resources trying to win them.  
Walden is not "safe."

Republicans aren't going to spend a lot of money trying to elect a Republican in Earl Blumenhauer's urban Portland seat.  The state and national Democratic Parties weren't going to spend resources trying to beat Greg Walden.  

Now they are.  This is a Blue Wave year, they think.

The Democratic Party of Oregon reconsidered the 2nd Congressional District. They just launched a website using the state party apparatus to enable people to donate directly to whoever wins the Democratic nomination.

This is due to Conor Lamb's win in Pennsylvania.  Both that Pennsylvania District and the Walden seat had Trump winning by 20 points. The Republican candidate in Pennsylvania was an established and well known.  Walden is established and well known. The Pennsylvania Republican had huge national PAC funding advantage, and so will Walden.

Conor Lamb was a strong candidate.  Oregon 2nd District voters have seven to choose from, and the winner will have proven his or her appeal. 

But isn't Walden really well liked?  He was well liked, back when his public reputation was that of a mild-mannered, cordial conservative, who voted like a conservative but talked like a moderate.  I have seen him under pressure.  He is nice.  He doesn't insult Democrats and liberals and environmentalists.  He sounds "Chamber of Commerce," not "Tea Party."  

New website: Walden and Ryan together.
That was then.  His tone stays likable and moderate, but circumstances changed. 

1.  Health Care. Greg Walden is Chair of the Committee that voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Low and moderate income people were a major beneficiary of Medicaid expansion. In town halls he spoke earnestly about preserving access to health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. This is a bi-partisan issue with special appeal to Republican constituencies, including owners of small businesses. Prosperous, solidly Republican voters sometimes want to leave corporate jobs to start a small business, but don't dare. They would lose their group insurance by leaving, and if there is any health problem on their records he or she would be unable to get a new health insurance plan at any price. That means any future health problem would risk a lifetime's savings and the capital to run their small business. The pre-existing condition issue is not just aid to the poor--a Democrat's concern. It is protection of accumulated assets of entrepreneurial prosperous Republicans.  

Walden gave that up. He abandoned protection for pre-existing conditions and voted for a GOP plan that would have reduced federal support for Medicaid expansion--the Oregon Health Plan.  He didn't vote his prior promises or his District. He voted his GOP caucus. He is in GOP leadership, and that power comes with the price of locking arms in a caucus dominated by Tea Party Republicans.  

It isn't the same old Greg Walden.  A Democrat with advertising help from the state and national party has a story to tell: Walden betrayed us.

2. Tax Bill. He voted for the GOP tax plan, which the Democratic Party of Oregon calls a "tax scam to give corporations and the wealthy massive tax breaks."  This blog has noted that he did go along with the tax hike on Oregon professionals contained within the $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local taxes. This blog called it the "Doctor tax" because the $10,000 tax cap results in well paid professionals paying more in taxes, with the money transfering to states with low state income taxes, e.g. Texas. Republican Congressmen in New York, New Jersey, and California voted "no."  They have high state income taxes, just like Oregon.  Greg Walden voted "yes." 

Again, a Democrat with resources can get that story out: Walden voted like a GOP soldier, not like an Oregonian.

3. Swamp. He was chair of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. He called on industry PACs to raise money for himself and for fellow Republicans.  Normally this would be seen as a positive. He has lots of money. Greg Walden is the archetypal example of a very successful member of the Congress-lobbiest-PAC world in DC.  Donald Trump gave it a name: "the swamp."  Trump demonstrated "drain the swamp" has bi-partisan appeal. 

Walden is stuck with a public record here. Contributions and voting records are public. He supports his special interest donors; they support him. He gets money from telecom companies; he votes to repeal net neutrality.  He gets money from health insurers; he votes to end the ACA.  He gets money from the NRA; he votes a straight NRA ticket at a time when the NRA has an aroused opposition.
Older message: Trump = Walden.  Now its Paul Ryan

Greg Walden is establishment, but the District is populist.  A Democrat may be able to change the polarity of that money, saying it isn't proof of strength, it is evidence he represents the swamp.  

A Democrat with resources can tell a simple story: a populist Democrat represents people while establishment Walden is chest deep in the swamp.

We can see early signs of the Democratic message:  Put Greg Walden together with Paul Ryan.  That is what worked in Pennsylvania.  Walden is, in fact, on the Ryan leadership team. The Democrat need not run against Walden. He or she can run against the GOP leadership represented by Paul Ryan. The website front page tells the message.  Look closely: Paul Ryan just behind Walden, keeping an watchful eye.  We cannot see it, but apparently there is an invisible leash.  Now Walden takes instruction.

Voters may like Walden well enough, but they don't like the swamp and they don't like the leash. Walden is vulnerable because Paul Ryan is unpopular and because Democrats may turn out because they hate Donald Trump.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

New Subject: Let's move on.

Do not despair.   People actually read!  People learn things!  Does it get any better than that?

I am sick and tired of writing about the Tribune. 

The Medford Central Library is wonderful.  If you haven't been in it recently you are missing something.  You will feel better about your life, your community, and the future of America if you drop by.

People use the library. I counted the number of people in the library in a quick walk through that I did Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.   Every minute there were people leaving and people entering.  There were 135 people at one time, but surely five or ten times that many people over the course of the day. A staff person told me it was an average day in business.  

The Children's section will make you feel great.  There are young mothers and fathers with children.  Children walk around clutching a bundle of books to check out.  This isn't a chore or duty for them.  It is a joy.  They beam. 

Children sit in the sculpture bench with the bronze "monster" reading to his pre-school child.  You see evidence of engagement between young people and the world of books and serious information: names on the Wall of Fame of active readers.  In visits past I have watched a room full of young mothers, sitting on blankets, with toddlers playing together in some group. Yesterday I watched a 4 year old girl pushing a toy train up and down the tracks of a tiny train village, observing how it coasted down if she let go at the top.

There is a Teen Room, with young adult books.  There is an open area with at least a hundred different current periodicals along the wall. Readers everywhere.

Here with his young father


Book a day for 3 years.

Scouts write "peace" in 48 languages

My father, Robert Sage, funded this bench.

Group play schedule

"Refrigerator Wall" near the Teen Area.

Rusty. Practicing 8 + 7.   Taken with mother's permission.

Library Volunteer helping out.

Donated books

Reading Room

Reading Room. Periodicals on the wall.


I appreciate the outpouring of support.  Thanks.

Thanks, too, to all the new readers of this blog, brought here by the Mail Tribune.  
The problem I tried to address
Please stick around.  

You can bookmark this blog site and check it daily, or subscribe to get the blog posts sent to you by email.  

Normally about 600-1,000 people see this blog daily.  Way more recently.  

There is a silver lining in the black cloud of being bashed by the dominant media source.  Sometimes it backfires on them.  

That is what this blog is about.  Messaging and politics and unintended consequences.

I try to be objective and fair minded.  I am not a cheerleader for any candidate. I try to observe and describe the sometimes hidden implications of messaging and branding.  

That is what caused me to think there was a destructive "message" hidden inside the Tribune's subscription policy.  A policy that resulted in huge disparity in prices (some people renewing for a year as low as $114 with others at $220, 240, $370, $440) sent an unintended message: that the Tribune wasn't trustworthy and loyal to its longtime customers because the price disparity was just too much, and it penalized long term subscribers. There wasn't a "fair price"; there was a price of whatever the subscriber ended up being billed. That was a dangerous unspoken message, I wrote.
They lay into me.

Once again, here is a link to their editorial denouncing me hard. Click Here.  Lots of people ignore Tribune editorials but this one is extraordinary.  

The editorial is a great example of unintended messages, which turn out to be more consequential than the intended, denoted one.

1.  They communicated they were really defensive about something.  The intemperance was way out of proportion. People called and wrote me, "Boy, you must have really hit a nerve."  And, "They must be desperate to hide something."   

The denoted, objective text of the editorial is that the Tribune had nothing to hide, but the tone of the editorial shouted the opposite, that they were worried about something. The tone implied they wanted to divert attention. The tone raised the question: Why are they so upset?  

2.  They communicated that my comments, and this blog, were significant.  By making this a nasty attack on me, personally, they elevated this blog. They made me a focus. They could have had an editorial or news story that made reference to "comments we have heard" and then addressed the concerns themselves, positioning themselves as earnest community minded folks working to address a problem.  Very appropriate.

Instead, the tone and denoted words of the editorial denounced me as an inaccurate, manipulative nobody who needed schooling, one who disrespected subscribers by saying they were the trusting sort. By coming out guns a-blazing, they gave the unintended message that this blog a force to be reckoned with, and associated me and this blog with disgruntled subscribers.  It turns out there are a whole lot of them. They amplified the issue, challenged subscribers to complain about their personal subscription, and made this blog more visible.

3.  They communicated they were OK with looking like a powerful bully that could do what it wanted.  Remember, my original point was that the Tribune's subscription policy made them appear like one more big corporation, clueless about the reality in a small city that subscribers might compare prices and feel unhappy.  By nastily bashing a critic, they reinforced that image, as if to say "Watch us, the mighty Tribune, squash stupid Peter Sage like a bug."  
Yes.  The Tribune is very powerful.

It was an impressive display of circulation power and vitriol. There was an unintended message sent: we are big and powerful and we don't have to be respectful to critics. We can take them apart and humiliate them. That message accidentally reinforces my original criticism, that they aren't acting like a uniquely trusted community institution, respectful of loyal subscribers,  but rather like a powerful institution that can do what it wants. (By the way: I don't feel humiliated.)

4. They communicated they were hypocritical.  The Tribune champions the First Amendment, open meetings, full disclosure in others.  The editor's email to me--which I reported here in this blog--that they were turning things over to their lawyers and I should govern myself with that looming in the future, is another unintended message. The Tribune lawyer reference reinforces the "powerful bully squashes the lowly bug" image, and gives the additional unintended message that they respect the First Amendment when it suits them, but doesn't respect it when exercised by lowly subscribers and critics like me.  And maybe you sometime.

If they bring legal action against me I will keep readers apprised of how my legal bills accumulate. The Tribune has millions of dollars to spend on legal bills if they want to make an example of me, to show what they can do to intimidate critics. That will be my misery, but at least I can report it and reveal to fellow subscribers how the Tribune treats subscribers who speak up. I don't think of myself as a bug to be squashed, bankrupted, and silenced, but that may be how the Tribune sees me.  We will see.  

"Reverse Favoritism"
Summary:  The Tribune has an excellent case to make that they are a valuable community resource and that people need to pay for subscriptions if it is going to exist.  I agree completely.  I personally think their current system is indefensible. 

They can stick to it and defend it if they wish.  Perhaps a representative of the Tribune would accept an invitation to speak at my Rotary Club, one that has so many members with so many different subscription deals. No doubt they believe they have a good, persuasive case to make. If they can do it nicely I would like to hear it.

I want the Tribune to be as good as it can be.