Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Blue Wave is turning into a Blue Ripple

Republicans are getting comfortable with Trump. 

Don't count on a Blue Wave. Democrats lead shrinks to 4. Trump is making the 2018 election a referendum on Democrats, not him.

The Congressional Generic Poll previously showed Democrats ahead by 15. Now they are ahead by 4. This is the difference between a Wave and ho-hum. The trend is moving the wrong way for Democrats.   

Here is the Real Clear Politics average of polls: 
Notice that Democratic support has been in a minor decline from the 48% range down to about 46% of people saying they prefer a Democrat. Meanwhile, people who say they want a Republican Congressman has moved from danger range of the mid 30's back up to 40%.

Because of gerrymandering and Democratic concentration of votes in cities which "waste" Democratic votes, it takes a 6 point margin to change the House to Democratic. This suggest a Blue Ripple.

Trump understands that if this is a referendum on Trump then Trump loses. If the election is a referendum on Democrats he comes out pretty well. It is smart strategy. It is the way elected officials in Oregon succeed in defeating a recall election. They attack the motives and credibility of the recall petitioner. Make it about them.

Trump is making Democrats the issue. His speech in Nashville was an attack on Schumer and Pelosi and on the media. If you vote for the Democrat candidate for Senator, you will be voting for a stooge for the Democrats, he said.

Trump understands a mood.  People are frustrated with government, all government. Trump is helping cause the dysfunction, so people will be angry with Trump, right?  

Not necessarily.  

People will be angry with whoever the Salesman in Chief directs their anger toward, and Trump is an accuser and a master salesman. He is interesting and he dominates the media. Trump makes Democrats the villain.  He is still attacking Hillary.

Fox: Liberals linken all Trump supporters to Rosanne
It took Trump and the White House 16 hours to let the left criticize the Roseanne Barr tweet. There was a short period of shock and Roseanne saying "don't defend me." Then Trump and the White House weighed in with an attack against Democrats, Disney, and the media. You are hypocrites, he said. Cancel Roseanne?  Roseanne and Trump are the victims of nasty criticism. You are the bad guys.

Besides, this is an attack on Trump supporters. Liberals are saying Trump voters are racist!  How dare they?

This is working for Trump. 

Republican voters may be unsure how they feel about Trump but they know exactly how they feel about Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi and people who kneel for the national anthem and MS-13 and Trump says that Nancy Pelosi loves MS-13. They may dislike the changing face and color of America, and they may be happy with a blanket ban on Muslims visiting America, but they know they don't like being accused of racism. 

The generic poll shows Republicans are bunkering in as Republicans.

Meanwhile, Democratic activists are motivated. Jamie McLeod-Skinner had a general election kickoff event in Medford and the campaign scheduled the meeting in a room far too small at the Medford Library building. I arrived early and could not get in, and people were streaming in behind me to join me outside the doors.

Political pros say that Republicans vote for Republicans, and Democrats vote for Democrats, and there are very few "swing voters" in the middle. If that is true, then Jamie McLeod-Skinner has no chance. There are far more Republicans than Democrats in this District. 

Not necessarily.

The McLeod-Skinner campaign notes there are a huge number of non-affiliated voters in the District, who are maybe up for grabs. Maybe they are in the middle. Or maybe they call themselves non-affiliated because they don't want to join a team because they are generally distrustful of government and politics. For them, who better to vote against than an incumbent who has been in office for twenty years? They are anti-Walden voters, even if they don't know it just yet.  Maybe.  

Democrats can figure that Jamie McLeod-Skinner is an exciting, unconventional alternative, while Greg Walden is stuck defending a dysfunctional House of Representatives and Donald Trump. He has a tough complicated sell, while Jamie McLeod-Skinner is new and different and an outsider who seems confident and knowledgeable. Democrats are the party of hope and change, and it is time for a change. Maybe Republicans will stay home while Democrats show up.  Elections are won by differential turnout, especially in non- presidential elections, and 2018 is one. 

There is hope. There is a reason to think a Democrat can win.

The pros say the people crowded into the room are dead wrong, but there are a lot of them crowded into the room, which is a signal of something. They think they have a shot.

Jamie McLeod-Skinner addressing group

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Calibrating the dog whistle

Roseanne Barr went too far.  

This is delicate, dangerous ground. Flirt, don't commit.

Starbucks closed 8,000 stores on Tuesday for racial sensitivity training. They discovered what is both obvious and perilous to observe, that Americans have implicit racial bias.

Humans profile and "read" a situation based on appearance.  Clothes matter. Bearing matters. Tone of voice matters. Skin color matters. An ongoing theme of this blog is that we evaluate politicians in large part on the basis of body language and tone, not detailed donated political positions. We saw Trump looking dominant and self confident. A bully, yes, but an unapologetic one because he said he was a bully in defense of America. In the month of October, 2016, a continuing meme was that Hillary was weak, possibly sick from Parkinson's Disease, fainting and needing to be carried into vehicles. Americans voted for the strong one.

Implicit bias test. Click to take one.
We know the news stories. Starbucks employees saw two men waiting for a third, and felt nervous and called the police. Police officers interpret the actions of black men as inherently threatening and men get shot. People profile.

Harvard University has a website where people can test themselves for implicit bias, based on how quickly and reliably one associates good or bad words with white or black people.  I took the racial bias test and spent five minutes clicking on photos of black faces, white faces, words like "love" and "happiness" and words like "hate" and "disgust."  The test results: "Your data suggest a strong automatic preference for White people over Black people."


Maybe the test is wrong.  I think it is wrong. I deny the results. But the test is intended to discover implicit bias, the bias that we likely don't recognize. I don't like the test results. Maybe there is something there.

George Wallace in 1963 knew what to say to his Alabama voters. "In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."  He was speaking of segregation of whites and blacks. It was popular with white Alabamans, but over the next decade he changed his focus.  He began talking about crime. He spoke of urban problems. His 1963 language would be utterly unacceptable now. People would recognize it as racist.
Click: CNN, April 20, 2018

Trump said a version of "segregation now" when he siad the US should implement a total ban on Muslims coming to America. Not of terrorists. Not of criminals.  Of Muslims.

That got him pushback from Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, but his base voters appear to have been comfortable with it.  Muslims are scary per se. Ban them as a group.

This is not just campaign talk for short term political purposes.  Trump still defends it. "There's nothing to apologize for" he said in April of this year.

America has learned something about where the boundaries are. Advocating exclusion of Muslims is acceptable. Advocating seregation of blacks from whites in America is not.

Donald Trump is widely described as careless, but he picks his targets carefully. Donald Trump does not attack black people per se.  He attacks people who happen to be black and who are doing something he can criticize.  NFL players protesting. Black parents of a basketball player. A "wacky" congresswoman with bright hats. Black people protesting police shootings.  There is a difference between criticizing the behavior and the race. He lets audiences draw implications. His hands are clean.

He spoke generally about Mexico sending its rapists here--"and a few, I assume, are good people,"-- but his messaging has generally evolved from his opening campaign statement. Mexico, he said, will pay for the wall.  Mexico has gotten the better of the NAFTA deal.  Mexicans cannot be fair judges. We should have immigrants from Norway, he said, not "shit-hole countries."  People get it.  But currently Trump has focuses on behavior, not classes of people, pointing to MS-13 gang members, saying they are "animals. He was indignant that people said he implied all Mexicans are animals. Only MS-13. MS-13 is a risk from all of Mexicans, but they aren't all MS-13.  There is a difference.

Trump knows where the lines are. One can imply what one cannot say.

Roseanne Barr messed up, and she knows it. In an evening of unfortunate tweeting she stated Chelsea Clinton was married to the nephew of George Soros (she isn't), that George Soros was a Nazi collaborator (he was 14 in 1945) and then that Valerie Jarrett looked like a cross between the Muslim Brotherhood and an ape. (Jarrett isn't Muslim.)

Trump has shown that broad brush attacks on Muslims is acceptable. Likening a black person to the mixed child of apes was too much.  That crossed the line.

Trump was silent on her show being cancelled. He could have defended her, but did not. Neither Fox News nor Breitbart defend her. Fox alludes to the potential hypocrisy, citing other comments made by Steve Colbert, Bill Mahar, and others, but did not try to minimize or justify what Barr said . Likening a black woman to an ape is the "third rail," Fox media analyst Howard Kurtz admitted.
Click: NPR report

America is experiencing renewed consciousness of our racial presumptions. Trump won election in part by appealing to racial resentments and anxiety over the threats to "normal" Americans, i.e. white Christians men and families.  A majority of white people tell pollsters that whites face more discrimination than do people of color, and answering that way was strong indication of support for Trump.

Trump showed it was safe to admit to prejudice against Muslims, but prejudice of blacks needs to be handled obliquely.

Roseanne Barr was too blunt.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Jessica Gomez, Athena Goldberg, and Jeff Golden

If Jeff Golden wins, it needs to be for the right reasons.

There is a delicate task in front of Southern Oregon Democrats. On policy grounds, most Democrats will vote for Jeff Golden. 

That could send the wrong message.

Thad Guyer, a frequent Guest Post author, raises an issue with care and good taste. It thrills me that from time to time this blog stimulates careful thought on delicate subjects.  Guyer brings up the simple truth that Jessica Gomez is Latina, apparently moderate in her positions, and that she is speaking in favor of bi-partisan cooperation to bring good government in Oregon.  That is what Democrats want. She is the Democrats' ideal. 

Yet most will vote against her, on policy grounds.

GOP voters have responded to xenophobic dog whistles by Trump, echoing the comments of then-Democrat George Wallace in 1968 and 1972, but saying them more carefully and without a southern accent. It is entirely possible that Gomez's close brush with defeat in the GOP primary from a patently offensive and unsuitable opponent, Curt Ankerberg, happened because a significant number of Republicans simply don't like or trust a Latina.  She faced Republican voter prejudice. Jessica Gomez noted this herself when we spoke last week. 

Guyer argues that Jeff Golden needs to be very careful in messaging on Gomez, being certain not to appear to be condoning or profiting from Trump's ethno-nationalist talking points and the endemic racism that motivates many voters. I watched Republican voters tolerate--and indeed cheer in rallies I attended--Trump's open insults of Latinos, and generally to people of color.  

Of course, Jeff Golden himself would not encourage xenophobic voting. And it is a hallmark of Golden's approach to want to be open to cooperation and bridge building. Xenophobia and racism are opposite his entire life history in politics. But as this blog has noted, candidates in this race may lose control of what is said by others on their behalf, and voters make choices based on their own goals, preferences, and prejudices. Some people will hear what they want to hear, and as Trump has revealed, there is a large core of voters who want to vote white.

Guest Post by Thad Guyer

Thad Guyer
"Voting for the Right Reasons"

"Democrats should vote for Jeff Golden because he will far better represent our political agenda in Salem. That obviously is the point. But standing very closely beside that point is a broader question of values and identity. It is our party that most loudly extols the virtues of ethnic inclusion and women’s empowerment. Having rebuffed Athena Goldberg’s hopes to be the first woman District 3 state Senator, instead preferring a man who made a big point of rejecting pro-choice and environmentalist group money, 

Democrats have some explaining to do. If there were any big policy disputes between this progressive woman and progressive Jeff Golden they were sure hard to see. Was it instead populist inclination to reject even our own “establishment”? Was it Jeff’s long background in politics? Or was it voter preference for a 68 year old man over a 48 year old woman, both of whom had the same ideology and political goals?  

When the voters’ choice does not come down to ideology, issues or incumbency, then gender, ethnicity and racial identity have to be considered. That inquiry is a moral obligation. Having rejected the woman in the Year of the Woman national Democratic push, we need to be especially careful on how Jessica Gomez and her ideas are treated. Callous regard of her and her call for bipartisanship, despite her undoubted ability to handle it with strength and dignity, would diminish Democrats. We must take care not to alienate ourselves from our own values, community standards and good examples to our children.  

Arguing against moderation and compromise on specific core Democratic issues such as health care and reproductive rights is fully defensible. But taking a stance against “bipartisanship” generally, or projecting that “we don’t want to work together”, is not only uncivil and counter-intuitive, it will surely be politically unpalatable to most voters and we will lose. And it would elevate the specter that the real reason voters might prefer Golden to Gomez is ethnicity and gender. 

I’m confident Jeff Golden is going to treat Ms. Gomez with respect and is not going to reject her call for bipartisanship. That's just who he is. Hopefully he will make a point of embracing it generally and reserve the strongest expressions of partisanship to our most important issues. His job in protecting the egalitarian aspirations of this community is to engage her on very specific political issues, so that if the moderate Latina loses, we can be assured the cause was her positions on the issues, not his identity as a white male."

Trump brands things, and we fall for it.

Trump has people talking about "Spy-gate."

Trump names things, and by naming them defines the frame.  

Donald Trump dominates the political news. He is vulgar and shameless and very interesting.  No Democrat on the national stage is anywhere near as interesting. He is the bright sun that blots out everything else.  He is the center of gravity. 

He uses his media domination to define the terms that Americans use to think about issues and fellow politicians.

Trump creates the frame which the media describes events by branding it and repeating it. Trump chooses the frame that serves his interests. When the media covers Trump they end up disseminating Trump's frame.

In logic and rhetoric it would be "begging the question", the fallacy of an argument's premises assume the truth the answer to a controversy.  For example, the name "fake news" imbeds the conclusion, that the news is unreliable.  "FBI investigation" creates an image of conscientious law enforcement looking into potential criminal activity. But "spy-gate" embeds very different presumptions about that activity: outsiders sneaking where they don't belong (spy) in an action that is a high level scandalous wrongdoing (gate.) 

Trump is good at this. 

Trump's has a technique, usually to link an adjective to a noun. The adjective picks at a vulnerability and defines the noun. Trump picks memorable adjectives. They stick in the mind.

Witch hunt.
Fake news
Failing New York Times
One-sided Iran deal
Illegal aliens
Illegal immigrants
Job-killing regulations
Clean coal
Rocket Man
Click for the article
Crooked Hillary

Lyin' Ted
Litle Marco
Low Energy Bush
Dicky Durbin
Wacky Congressman Wilson
Crazy Joe Biden
Little Adam Schiff
Crazy Bernie
Leaking' Jim Comey

It works for Trump. 

Only 13% of Republicans consider the investigation by Robert Mueller to be a legitimate investigation. 

And one more thing:  Trump is always selling.  Always. Even when it is inappropriate. 

Voters will ignore his narcissism if they see him as having brought prosperity. Voters don't need to be proud of Trump. It's the economy, stupid.

Monday, May 28, 2018

State Senator Alan DeBoer: "There is a middle."

Oregon Senate Candidate Jessica Gomez is in an awkward spot. 

She is trying to be in a middle that may not exist. 

She is a Latina in a Republican Party uncomfortable with Latinas. She is a soft spoken moderate when both Democrats and Republicans say they want more civility in politics, but are in fact moving to motivate their partisan activists. That's where the marginal votes are.

State Senator Alan DeBoer
This blog's profile of Jessica Gomez created useful responses.  Republican State Senator Alan DeBoer is retiring and has endorsed Jessica Gomez as his successor.  He wrote a thoughtful comment asserting that there is, in fact, middle ground in the Oregon legislature and that it serves an important purpose. Those swing votes in the legislature, which deny Democrats a super-majority, force bi-partisan solutions which are better for Oregon, he writes.  

The comment below is lightly edited for clarity:

Alan DeBoer writes:

"I can't help but write a response to this blog, and the premise a Guest Comment asserted that the Party caucuses lock people into one side or another. There is a middle. It is to do the right thing for solutions to the big problems of our State. 

The example I will use was just illustrated Monday in the one day session. Democrats (with the exception of Mark Hass) voted to expand a decrease in taxes to the rich. They did this at a time we are working on increased funding to education, health care, mental illness, etc. It takes 22 million out of a two year budget and was done under pressure from their caucus to support the governors re-election against all they have worked to do in repealing the tax structure that passed in 2013. 

If we give theDemocrats a super majority they will ignore the minority and blaze ahead with programs, when we have better solutions that we only get when we all work together. I can tell you that Jessica will make a difference and the Republican caucus will be better with her there. They have certainly allowed me to voice my opinions and follow my heart when voting. I wrote a tax plan (referred to as the DeBoer plan) that raised taxes only on the wealthy, dedicated all the money to fund PERS, and helped schools from the increase in PERS costs they will be facing. It went nowhere, as the majority party wouldn’t want a Republican tax plan as the optics weren’t good. 

Jessica Gomez
We need to take the politics out of our legislature and we need to elect people who know business, who have signed paychecks, and are in the middle with positive solutions. The Democratic Party Caucus is very intolerant of independent thinking."

Jessica Gomez confounds Republicans and Democrats, both. 

Republicans had a choice in the nomination process, and they nearly nominated Curt Ankerberg. I have left in place Ankerberg's comments for the past two days of blog posts so readers can observe for themselves his fitness for office. I consider his near-victory, despite being outspent 40-to-1, amid extensive reportage of his legal troubles and medical incapacities, a powerful signal of the GOP mood. Ankerberg says voters don't like her policy views.

He also demeans her personally. I am uncomfortable having this blog be a venue for his incivility, but I am leaving the comments in place, for now, as primary source material. Republican voters--at least 48% of them--tolerate Ankerberg's behavior. Trump exposed a simple reality about the American mood when we observed him broad-brushing Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers, and then go on to demolish fifteen primary election opponents. So, too, with Ankerberg's comments on Gomez and others. Ankerberg exposes what behavior and language is apparently acceptable to a great many Republicans.

Ankerberg gets 48% of vote.
In conversation with me Gomez gestured up at her face and made a shrug of "here I am, look at me." 

She said a lot of Republicans distrusted her.

Democrats, too, had a choice. Attorney Thad Guyer, a frequent guest commenter on this blog, noted that Democrats chose a white male senior citizen, Jeff Golden, instead of Athena Goldberg, a charismatic woman who had the support of the traditional institutional friends of Democrats, including women's reproductive rights, unions, and environmental groups. Democrats chose independence over alliances. And as regards Jessica Gomez, he wrote that Democrats "celebrate by trashing her as a phony because she is campaigning for bipartisanship. Indeed, that delegitimizing of her will be the one thing we have with the deplorables who attack her for not mouthing conservative battle cries. Beat down the Latina because she says we need to start somewhere in reducing the political bloodlust."

In headgear near "clean room."
Jessica Gomez produces a problem for Democrats, because as a young technology entrepreneur, a Latina, someone apparently moderate and civil and bi-partisan, she represents exactly the kind of Republican Democrats wish were more common--the kind of Republican that has largely disappeared as the GOP moved to the ethno-nationalist right under Trump. Republicans like Gomez are exactly the kinds of people who make good effective government possible, and Democrats attempt to be the party of good government. They oppose Gomez from the left, even as she and moderates like her struggle to win primary elections against candidates like Curt Ankerberg who try to shrink or eliminate the institutions progressive government created. 

Democrats are forced to thread a political needle, arguing that Jessica Gomez sounds good, but cannot stay good. She is the kind of person they want to see more of in government, but not exactly. She is an idealist, but naive. She would be co-opted and corrupted, they say.

It is left, then, for Gomez and Alan DeBoer to be the idealists hoping to implement a better future of unifying effective government in Salem. The system can work, they say, if we put good hearted bipartisan people into government, and elect them now.

They are beset on both sides. From the left Jeff Golden, the voice of "immense possibilities" for positive change, says that the current system of politics and elections is inherently corrupt to its very core, and both Democrats and Republicans who are elected with the assistance of organized groups and money are compromised and indebted by it. In Golden's narrative, he would stand nearly alone in being personally free from PAC influence and if we elect him he would be an exemplary example of uncompromised political leadership and courage.

From the right Curt Ankerberg asserts that Jessica Gomez is a fraud and corrupt to the core, as is nearly everyone else in government, business, and media. As a genuine conservative, in his narrative he would expose the corruption that besets the entire system of crony capitalism.

In either case, Jeff Golden or Curt Ankenberg, each would be a lonely voice of reform in a thoroughly corrupt system.

Jessica Gomez and Alan DeBoer are the ones saying our political system can work and that  an election makes a positive difference right now. They are saying that Gomez's election tips the system toward bi-partisanship and civility, so your vote really matters. DeBoer says that one person can make a big difference, and he has seen it happen. Gomez says she is a moderate who can be that person.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Democrats respond to Jessica Gomez's candidacy

This may not work out for her.

Jesica Gomez is attempting something difficult in the current electoral environment. She is positioning herself in the moderate middle, saying she represents "balance." She avoids harsh rhetoric. She communicates empathy, not division. She smiles and is pleasant and earnest.

Jessica Gomez
Republicans need not sound Trump-like.  Greg Walden, whose signed photo she has beside her office desk, communicates nice-guy moderation. He stays in sync with a Trump-supporting Republican base by voting hard line conservative back in DC: pro-gun, anti-abortion, repeal ACA, tax cuts for the wealthiest, cut Medicaid for the working poor. He is part of the House leadership driven crazy by the need to accommodate the right wing House Freedom Caucus, which has pushed the House to the right. Meanwhile, in the District he looks and sounds compassionate. It works for him politically. 

Gomez wants the harder path. She actually wants to be moderate, be in the bridge-building center, not just talk it. She is Latina. She is young. She is educated. She is far outside the Fox News demographic, and indeed that demographic is hostile to that biography. This raises two questions.  Can she be elected as a moderate, and then could she govern as one?

Today I present two comments that address those questions, both from Democratic observers of this race.

Kevin Stine comments: is she electable as a moderate?

Kevin Stine
Stine says maybe. He thinks possibly Jeff Golden is vulnerable to being marginalized by Jessica Gomez, if she rounds up endorsers and other validation signals with credibility with Democrats. Possibly traditional institutional supporters of Democratic candidates feel snubbed by Golden and would rather a Republican win than see a Democrat prove he can win without their support. Or maybe Golden will let Gomez be identified the jobs-and-strong-economy-candidate while he gets identified as the candidate concerned with electoral process and 22nd century climate. Or maybe that Blue Wave is actually a Red Wave. 

Kevin Stine thinks through some of her pathways to possible victory.

Kevin Stine: "1) If she gets an array of left-leaning supporters for her campaign. Endorsements from groups or individuals that a Republican never, or hardly ever, receives to burnish her credentials. As of now, there isn't any surprises, as the prominent right-leaning elected officials in the area (Sal Esquivel, Rick Dyer, Alan DeBoer) are supporting Jessica. The left-leaning electeds (Pam Marsh, Darby Ayers-Flood, John Stromberg) are supporting Jeff Golden. Alan DeBoer won in large part because of his personal ethos he gained with the DeBoer name and 40 years of community work. Jessica doesn't have that to fall back on and needs some Hillary and Kate Brown voters on her side.

2) Campaign messaging issues. If Jessica is talking about jobs, housing, and the economy while Jeff Golden is talking about climate change and the environment, that could tilt the scales to people that aren't satisfied with the status quo in regards to pocketbook issues. If Jessica could make Jeff Golden look like a person far from the middle, that could be effective as well, and it seems she touched on that issue during your meeting. She pledged not to go negative, so I'm not sure how she's going to try to define him. Perhaps some surrogates could do the work for her.

3) Some dramatic shift nationally from Democrats to Republicans. Midterms are historically against the party that holds the Presidency. 2002 was the last good year for the party in charge, and that was largely because of the national mood so soon after 9/11.

4) Another could be the Statewide left-leaning groups sitting out the State Senate election, but with Governor Kate Brown on the ballot in a competitive race, that's not going to happen. Even if they don't outwardly support Jeff Golden, they are pushing Kate Brown voters to vote, which will help him as people fill out their ballot.

As a person that wants to see Jeff Golden win, I'm fine with the likely 5-12 point victory that one could expect with the registration advantage and the national mood. As a spectator, all I see is a headline of "Experienced Politician Wins Election vs Novice Candidate." I also wonder what would have happened if Jessica just stayed a member of the Democratic Party, but that's another story for another day."

Art Baden comments: could she serve as a moderate?  

Art Baden
Baden says no, because there is no middle. Baden is a retired insurance broker who came to Ashland to retire eight years ago. He and his wife quickly became active in Democratic Party politics. Baden writes that politics comes down to yes-no votes and Gomez picked a side. He thinks she will have no choice but to be loyal and compliant to the people who will fund her campaign. Baden had met and talked with her, and wrote that he found her cordial and sincerely moderate in her thinking--but it will not matter. She will be forced to the political right, and her thinking otherwise is naive.

Art Baden:  "And on our next State Senator’s first vote - with which party to caucus - there is no middle.  Jessica Gomez presents an attractive and moderate facade, which, if we allow ourselves to be fooled by its glossy veneer, allows us to forget what is the nature of the Republican minority with which she would caucus.  Putting aside those divisive social issues she characterizes as pointless wedge issues (a woman’s right to choose, a student’s right to a safe gun free school, an immigrant’s right to contribute to our society), the economic issues are just as informative.

The Republican caucus and those who fund them (The Koch Brothers and their ilk) have no interest in tax reform that will shift the burden off of the working and middle class onto the wealthy and powerful.  They have no interest in funding our children’s education in this State; rather they want to shift public education funding to the private schools to which they send their children.  They have no interest in creating a health care system that serves the people, rather than their political contributors in big Pharma and the insurance industry. They have no interest in protecting our environment against the fossil fuel companies that fund them.  They have no interest in a livable minimum wage for workers; rather they complain about over-regulation and do all they can to destroy one of the few institutions left that protects workers - labor unions. And they have no interest in allowing local communities to institute rent control, or in funding subsidized housing, so our young families can have an affordable place to live.

They have one interest, protecting the wealth and political power of those who fund their campaigns.  And hats off to them, they do a very effective job at that.

If Jessica Gomez believes that she will be the agent for compromise, a bridge between the parties, she is naive; and naivety is not a quality I look for when choosing a legislator. And if she believes we’ll overlook the regressive policies of the Republican Party she so recently joined, there is one way to disabuse her of that notion.

The Republicans in the State legislature will continue to obstruct the solutions that will help the majority of Oregonians, because that’s what is in the interest of their political contributors.  Follow the money. What we need is a Democratic super majority in the State Senate that will find solutions that benefit the many, not the few.  That’s why I’m voting for Jeff Golden in November."

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Jessica Gomez: Republican Candidate for State Senate

Gomez: "We have an opportunity in southern Oregon to have a respectful discussion."

Gomez: "I know Jeff Golden. He's spent a lifetime contributing to this community. I have a lot of respect for him."

Jessica Gomez said she hoped to get through this campaign doing it her own way--and with reputation intact. She knows it has not worked out that way for others.

Gomez, in her office.
Jessica Gomez is the co-owner of a micro chip fabrication business located in an office park near the Medford airport, and she just won the Republican nomination for the State Senate seat currently occupied by the retiring Alan DeBoer. We met in her office, where she quickly removed a lunch bag before I took a photo of her and the signed photo of Greg Walden. I asked if I could describe her as "fourty-ish." She said she was 40. 

Jessica Gomez presents in person very much like her introductory video. Non-controversial. Community-minded. Earnest. A builder, not a fighter. I told her I had described the video in earlier blogs as a clear message statement: she is a Republican but not a Trump-Republican. She wanted to project a tone of cooperation. 

She said I got it right.

Over the course of a two hour meeting--and quick tour of the factory--she repeated her hope to avoid pointless, divisive issues that were designed as wedge issues by the national parties. Issues like abortion and sanctuary cities and gun laws aren't really the important things for the southern Oregon region, she said, and they serve a partisan political purpose, not a real policy choice. Voters are divided and dug into talking points on those issues, so people are unwilling to acknowledge the complications and nuances of them. Those wedge issues keep voters divided and distracted. She said she wanted to focus on things that a State Senator can actually change ,and where people can work together and make actual progress. She said the important things for us are jobs, a strong economy.

She told me she understood that campaigns in the hotly contested senate district have "taken on a life of their own" and that this "isn't a comfortable position." There is a pattern established for campaigns here for the state's Democratic and Republican Party leadership to run massive independent campaigns of TV and mailers on behalf of the candidates. It has already happened in her race. Candidates lose control of their message.

Her opponent is Democrat Jeff Golden. She said she recognized she was not yet as well known as he is, so she will need a big campaign. She said she had a lot of respect for Golden. 

She said the District had a lot of Democrats and liberals in Ashland and Republicans and conservatives in Medford. She said she thought this District needed someone "balanced"  to represent it. 

I asked, What about Jeff Golden?

She answered carefully. "The perception of Jeff Golden is that he stands for the left side of the equation."

I asked her what things she hoped people would know about her by election day. I said that most voters had only so much mental "shelf space" for politicians, so she might try to pick seven distinctive attributes to be known for, and that five of them have already been determined. Just seven? I said voters have busy lives. Her seven are:

1. Her name is Jessica Gomez.
2. She is a woman.
3. She is 40-ish.
4  She is the Republican nominee.
5. She is the co-owner of a technology business.

In hair nets for facility tour
That is biography. The final two took some time and thought. I waited. These represent her political message and positioning. 

6. She said she wants people to know she wants statewide decision making to better represent Southern Oregon, because it is currently dominated by Portland.

7. She said she wants people to know she represents political balance, being neither far left nor far right.

I asked if her Republican voters and the Republican caucus will be satisfied with that. I said I was pretty confident she will be under pressure to follow the national Republican Party's policies, i.e. move right, or sound more like Trump and adopt Trump positions. 

She said "I have to be comfortable with myself and my way of thinking about issues and about how to treat people. People can misconstrue people being nice with not being strong. That is not the case with me. I am strong, too."

This may not work out for her. The political process works to push people toward hard decisions because legislators make yes-no votes, and voters themselves have to make partisan choices, Golden or Gomez. 

On a yes-no vote, there is no middle.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Democrats have a message but not a messenger

Democrats are leaderless. Trump sets the agenda.

They are leading from behind, serving for now as the party of Trump-resistance. It isn't enough, but it will change.

There is a national consensus on acceptable Democratic policy. It is essentially Bernie Sanders' policies, but without Bernie. And certainly without Hillary. They are pro-expanded health care, anti the tax bill, concerned about climate change, pro-immigrant.  Mostly, though, they are anti-Trump.

Lleadership requires a face and personality, and Democrats are currently led by people who read as legislators, not presidents. Chuck Schumer does not inspire. Nancy Pelosi serves only to inspired Republicans to stop her, not support her.  

A president announces an overarching understanding of how the whole world works. Trump did so, and this blog described it yesterday. Trump-ism.  It can survive Trump because it is a message other personalities can carry.  Trumpism is an ethno-nationalist message of resentment by white, Christian men--and women--to maintain status quo of social and economic privilege against the rising female, black, Hispanic, Asian, immigrant, and LGBTQ communities who are rivaling a traditional social order. Make America great again harkens back to an imagined better period when there were men's jobs, before Title IX, before affirmative action, and when the default "normal" American was a white Christian nuclear family.

Trump sets the agenda.
Culture, not economics, explains Trump-ism and his electoral victory. 

A Democrat will emerge with an alternative comprehensive view of things. It will incorporate the progressive message, it will add a biographical back story, and there will be an overarching cause-and-effect explanation about how we got here. They will have a story about immigrants and taxes and inclusion and how they all fit together They are writing books now and getting onto talk shows to promote them. They will be visiting Iowa and New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, it is about Trump, 24-7, for good or ill, filling the news and the political consciousness.  Frequent blog commenter Rick Millward responded to the blog post  yesterday with a longer, more complex comment than usual, so I am presenting it today as a continuation of the discussion.

Rick Millward is more consistently liberal than I am, more insistent on women candidates, more dismissive of Republicans.  He calls them "Regressives," because he sees them as obstructionist to the reality of the current culture, people longing for an impossible--and unjust--past.

Guest Post by Rick Millward

"Trump has a cult. Democrats don't."

In the coming elections states with sufficient numbers will likely flip seats, others will hold on and divisions will solidify. The wave is real but lacking a single unifying issue. Obama's election was a strong reaction to an economic crisis and protracted war. Neither of these issues are currently prominent leaving Democrats with anti-Trumpism. I think the values based narrative you discuss is likely lost on most voters who aren't necessarily looking for a reason to vote Democratic. 

Rick Millward
Whatever problems the country is facing Democrats don't have a message or messenger to address them. The Obama coalition was a outlier and would need a similarly charismatic candidate(s) to regroup and put Progressives back in power, but that would also be a return to the gridlock of the Obama administration. Regressive resistance, intellectually stunted, fundamentally racist, is not going away anytime soon. It is a generational scourge that will take decades of concerted effort to eradicate.

The two components of Trump's cult...

1. His and their interests intersect and he shares their beliefs - this is a personal adoration
2. He is fighting to right wrongs inflicted on them

In the first case, revelations of criminality and personal digressions, could erode support as it becomes widely known (and proven) that Trump's motives are purely personal and selfish, something imminently clear to the majority. Without this information the cult will find justifications for continuing to worship the carefully nurtured image of the brilliant tycoon, and even then many will simply refuse to believe the evidence, since doing so will shatter their world view. 

The second case is more difficult because Trump is positioned in a wider movement against immigration, science, etc., as the leader of the Republicans and in command of the majority of their voters. In order to hang on to power the GOP has accepted many Regressive policies they would otherwise avoid. It's hard to imagine a president Jeb Bush abolishing the EPA, or ordering ICE raids.

To turn the tide the first, Trump' personal fall, is a necessary element to allow the second, a return to "normalcy", to occur. Democratic gains in Congress may not be enough to move the needle, but there is a possibility that fed up Republicans could find the courage to begin to regain their party by supporting more bipartisan policies, and importantly, exercising their constitutional duty to check the Executive.

Finally, one can point to particular lawmakers, mainly older white male incumbents, who value the power they have and who have no problems with an aberrant executive taking the heat while they quietly reap the benefits of a legislature held hostage by Regressive special interests. Dislodging these characters is another necessary step in restoring order.