The United Kingdom recently had an election and, as I always do, I watched the BBC coverage with great interest. Since electing the UK Parliament is analogous to electing our House of Representatives, they focus on the shifts in votes for the various seats, and whomever wins or controls a majority in the House of Commons chooses the Prime Minister. If we had a similar system, Paul Ryan would be the Prime Minister of the United States.
BBC election coverage focuses on something called the "Swingometer." Its purpose is to measure the change in the vote, or swing, from one party to another between elections. Applied across the board, it helps the pundits estimate how many seats one party or another can hope to gain or prepare to lose on any given election night. Of course these swings are not uniform, but they are instructive. It is the entire basis upon which UK elections are evaluated for the most part.
If our media took this same approach, I think the narrative about the four special House elections that have taken place this year would be different. All four elections took place in heavily Republican districts. All four elections featured a huge surge in turnout as well as a Democratic voting percentage. However, Republicans won all four seats as would be expected by their strongly Republican tilt. Look at the data in the table below.
If you applied the average "swing," or change in the vote, to all of the districts Democrats are targeting in next year's House elections, they will conceivably win the majority in the House of Representatives rather easily. The average swing in the four elections this year has been a whopping 18.6%. That is an extraordinarily large number. The only reason they did not win the seats this year is that those races were in Districts so red it was unreasonable to expect they would go blue. And yet they almost did. That is the very large ray of sunlight in what otherwise seems like a sea of dark clouds. It is, rather, a dark cloud at sunrise that will soon be drowned out by the light.
Much can happen between now and the 2018 elections, not the least of which could be the impeachment, removal, or resignation of the President. However, given the current dynamics and the canaries in the coal mine suggested by this data, Democrats should take heart. Their chances of taking the House next year are very very good.
We are now nearly three months into the Trump Administration, and things have not gone well. Executive Orders and snap administrative decisions have laid waste to the progressive progress made in the areas of immigration, global climate change, health, safety, and education. Neil Gorsuch has been railroaded onto the Supreme Court. The Trump agenda menaces the successes and hopes inspired by the last eight years. It hurts, and it will keep hurting.
To lead the opposition requires a recognition of the long game and a tip of the cap to reality. Donald Trump is likely to be President until January 2021. If, for some reason, he were to resign or be impeached and removed from office, we would still be living under Mike Pence. The 2018 elections, even if they see a massive turnout wave for progressives, are still a tough haul Congressionally. It will be victory if the Democrats hold even in the Senate, considering they are defending 25 of the 33 seats in play, and even if they make gains in the House, a majority is highly unlikely. Therefore, in terms of public policy, international policy, and judicial policy, we must embrace the wilderness and do the hard work that this time of reflection and choosing demands. 2020 is our next real chance to regain control of government.
With that understood, we must work hard to avoid what is happening to the Republican Party before our eyes. Their factions are proving more powerful than their unity of purpose in governing. The Clinton and Sanders wings of the Democratic Party have the potential to have as much conflict as the business wing and Freedom Caucus wing of the Republican Party are having now. Primarying Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill, and Joe Donnely would be tantamount to self immolation. Those Senators are doing their best to represent their states in political environments that are generally hostile to progressive ideals. We do not want to experience the same bloodletting that Republicans have unleashed upon themselves. Rather, we need to seek candidates that will truly represent and speak to the interests of where they are from. In other words, we need to be the adults in the room and not commit suicide with purity tests.
Adam Schiff and Mark Warner are setting a good example with their steady and principled leadership on the House and Senate Intelligence committees. They are a good face for the party. I like that Chuck Schumer is including and consulting Bernie Sanders in leadership. Leaders will emerge from the battles that the next few years will see, and we may even need to agree from time to time when it is called for. The recent strike in Syria is such an example. The big tent that wins appeals to the middle. When both sides seem unprincipled, the middle splits down the.....middle.
Donald Trump may self destruct, or he may not. He is showing signs of a correction. The investigations may lead somewhere, but that somewhere likely take some time to find. We need to act and behave as though this is a long game and there is no magic bullet. After four years of what we are seeing, America will need adults in the room. We must be those adults.
It is a dark time in the Republic. The very mechanics of our nation have exposed and reminded us that we are not truly a democracy. The nature of our elections leaves the legitimacy of our president suspect for the second time in a generation. There is real concern that a foreign power has actively colluded with a Presidential campaign and influenced our election. Despite all of this, Donald Trump was inaugurated President of the United States on January 20, 2017. The question has become, "Who shall the Democrats be?" Who shall we be as a nation?
This should not be a question answered in dark halls or made through the lens of political calculation. It should be made with a view to who we are as a nation and who we wish to be. The Party should, to the greatest extent possible, aspire to represent the whole of the country and pit groups against each other as minimally as is practicable. In other words, we should contrast ourselves with and embody the alternative to Donald Trump. There are many facets of this contrast, and I wish to speak to them now.
First and foremost, it is clear and evident through his cabinet selections that Donald Trump is going to tear down the wall that separates the kleptocracy from the people and their system of government. They will now be one and the same. In terms of his personal business interests, and the business interests represented by the foxes he will have minding the hen house, Mr. Trump must be held to full account. There will be no need to be petty. Plenty of opportunities will exist to expose who he truly stands for a represents, and make clear to many that voted for him that they were truly duped. The abandonment of science, the rape of our environment, and the cow-towing to every corporate wish list in America that will occur over the next four years will boggle the mind, and make clear that the moral authority the Republican Party once claimed to command is now a relic of the last century. Its soul is truly dead. We must be brave enough to call it out clearly, consistently, and factually.
In terms of our role in the world, there is real fear and dread. We are at our best when we fight for ideals and not just interests. We garner the support and appreciation of the world when we stand for more than just what is best for us economically and geo-politically. When we lose sight of this, our authority and standing wane. When we embody it, we are more than the sum of our interests, and stand alone as the one true force in the world that can affect change through the power of our own will and ideals. Democrats must be brave enough to be the party that embodies these ideals. At this point, it would be refreshing if the President could at least summon the ability to talk to our allies with some modicum of respect. I am not hopeful this will happen. As has been said, a lot of China has already been broken.
And then there is the issue of the death of truth. This Administration has a contempt for facts, for convention, for critical thinking, and for the role of the Fourth Estate in holding them to account. Whether it is "alternative facts" or the "Bowling Green Massacre," the B.S. meter has gone off the scale in a short space of time. In fact, it truly seems as though the strategy is to so overwhelm the media, the public, and the Democratic Party with radical decisions that none will have the ability to respond with any organization or coherence. We must not be distracted by shiny objects. We must keep our eyes on the policies that are being implemented and the institutions that are being undermined in our name. The public, the media, and the Democratic Party must be vigilant and engaged to ensure that this happens.
It may very well be that this Administration will expose and call out those who are truly leaders from those who are feckless shills. This goes for both organized political parties. I will state here that John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins have a earned a measure of respect from me for being willing to call out and resist some of the absurd policies and inane nominees put forward in these two short weeks. I hope that more integrity becomes evident. I believe impeachment is not only likely within the first year of this Administration, I believe it is virtually guaranteed. One the Republican Party recognizes and confronts that Donald Trump is an existential threat to their party, the institutions of government, and the stability of our nation, I believe they will rise up. Let's be honest. Mike Pence is their guy. Once Trump stops signing their pet legislation, they will turn on him. It is only a matter of time.
It is a dark time in the Republic. The Resistance is rising. It must be vigilant, unrelenting, grounded on principle, and resilient. If it is, this storm can and will pass.
On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. Not long after his inauguration, on that same day, Republican leaders met in a local restaurant and essentially committed themselves to block and obstruct everything President Obama attempted to do. They stuck to that plan. In 2010, the "Tea Party" wave swept the nation and Republicans gained control in the House. In 2014, they were similarly successful in taking over the Senate in that off year election. With these facts in mind, one might be led to conclude Democrats should now do exactly the same thing in preparing to oppose President-elect Trump. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The cycle we are in, in which partisan battle lines are drawn and cooperation is not to be found, is toxic. No major piece of legislation has been passed in six years. Americans are disgusted with the culture in Washington. If Democrats were to mimic Republican behavior over the last eight years, they would rightly deserve the contempt of the American public. They must not fall into this trap.
Rather, it is for the Democratic Party to once again earn the right to lead by first representing itself as something we are in dire need of. They must model what it is to be a loyal and principled opposition. President Trump and proposals of the Republican Congress must be addressed on an issue by issue and case by case basis. Where there is clear reason to disagree, object, propose amendments, or offer a critique, Democrats should absolutely do so. However, reflexive opposition for its own sake will not only lead to gridlock, but will also lead to the Democrats being rightly labeled with pejorative stereotypes much the way the Republicans have been in recent years. We must be better.
Have no doubt. President Trump and the Republicans will present Democrats with plenty of opportunities to object, critique, and score legitimate political points. Even the President-elect's cabinet appointments offer such opportunities. My concern is that the current environment is one where wild eyed objection is taking the place of reasoned conversation. The way to eventually defeat Trumpism is not to emulate it, but to transcend it. In that transcendence, Democrats will experience opportunities to rebuild their ranks and regain footholds in government.
There has already been much discussion of 2018. Even in a good year, Democrats to not have a very good opportunity to regain control of Congress that year. They are defending 25 Senate seats while the Republicans are defending only eight. Furthermore, many of the seats they are defending are in "red" states like North Dakota, Missouri, and Montana. The House districts are still gerrymandered to make it extraordinarily difficult for Democrats to win and control the chamber.
The real opportunity in 2018 is for Democrats to win over governor's mansions where many Republicans will soon term out. Florida, Ohio, Maryland, Nevada, Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan should all be prime targets. This is critical because the governors in those states will have the opportunity to sign or veto redistricting plans submitted by their legislatures in 2021. Electing as a many Democrats as possible to state legislative seats is actually more critical than the House or the Senate from this perspective. It may seem far off, but that, more than anything else, will truly shape the landscape moving forward into the mid-term future.
Retaking Congress is, at minimum, a two cycle project. If Democrats can gain or not lose ground in 2018, 2020 looks more promising. This is especially true in the Senate. If the Democrats can at least gain House seats in 2018, so much the better, although that will run against trends where the mid-term electorate tends to be more Republican. This is a long game.
In short, in order to lead, one must earn the right to lead. Democrats should not lose touch with this essential principle. They should not lose their mind and flail about in an unfocused way. They must stay true to who they are, craft a message that speaks to the entire country, oppose when called for, and support when appropriate. They must be the adults in the room. It is safe to say we are not likely to be thinking that way about our Administration for at least the next four years. We must do everything in our power to keep it to four.
The election of 2016 is now behind us. What lies ahead in the immediate future are the last ten weeks of the presidency of a man to whom this nation owes an enormous debt. Barack Obama's presidency is singularly unique in the modern age, not only because of the barriers he broke but because of the situation he inherited, the changes he oversaw, and the way he carried himself in office. He restored something we thought we had lost, and we owe him a reverence and appreciation in his last days that we can only hope a future leader may again inspire us to.
The partisan rancor of the age we are about to move beyond has been unprecedented. Dating back to the early days of Bill Clinton's presidency, exacerbated by the rancor of the 2000 election, and capped by Republican refusal to work with President Obama in any way, this era is singularly unique since World War II as a time when virtually nothing meaningful got done. We can only imagine what President Obama might have achieved had he had a reasonable partner in Congress, and that we will never know. What we do know is the essential dignity with which the man has carried himself despite the slings and arrows of his opponents challenging his ideas, his decisions, his "otherness," and even his citizenship itself. This has been a man fully aware of his place in history and mindful that the standard to which he has been held is much higher as a result. He has lived up to it and set a new bar.
I will list as a case in point the President's response to the police shootings in Dallas this year. It was truly a gut wrenching time no matter what corner of the political spectrum you may hail from. The President was spot on with every word he said, and became the voice of the nation. Can we imagine how any other leader we have had in recent memory would have responded to the same events? It is unfortunate his words were not given more play, for surely they were historic. I will link them here as a testament to their power.
The President successfully passed the first major piece of socially progressive legislation in a generation - the Affordable Care Act. As he leaves office, more than 10 million people will have health insurance who did not eight years ago. He appointed the first Latina to the Supreme Court, and the first African American and African American woman to be Attorney General of the United States. He is the first President to fully embrace the LGBT community, and to speak out in support of same sex marriage. He also has helped to reinstate the reputation of the United States as a trusted partner and a reliable ally on the world stage. We have, for the most part, once again been living up to our ideals.
I could go on, and I do not mean to suggest that there have not been mistakes along the way. Syria stands out in the mind, as does the precipitous manner in which we left Iraq. However, on balance, this is a man soon to be missed, and I suspect history will be far kinder than the political and media culture of our day. I believe we are in the sunset of an era marked by the true greatness of the man twice elected to lead us, and I for one wish to express my gratitude on behalf of myself as an individual and the preponderance of our nation.
I speak not of the era ahead. It will speak for itself, and I will certainly have many words to share in that epoch. I wish to be present in this moment with this man. I am grateful I lived to see him lead our nation. I am grateful I lived to see November 4, 2008. Now is a time to appreciate and reflect and to say two simple words.
For the second time in a generation, and only the fourth time in 58 presidential elections, we have a President-Elect who has won a majority in the electoral college yet garnered fewer votes nationwide than his opponent. Dwell on that for a moment. Irrespective of the party it benefits, this is simply unacceptable and untenable in the world's oldest democracy. Prior to the year 2000, it seemed like a historical oddity that was far in the distant past. - 1876 and 1888. The election of 2000 itself has been treated as aberration by many in the punditocracy. It has now happened again only sixteen years later. In a closely divided country, which we are, this is far too likely to continue occurring. We must eliminate this system, and elect the winner of the popular vote. It should require a change in the Constitution, but states totaling more than 270 electoral votes or more can do so through state-based legislation.
The history of our current system dates back to the time of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The framers were deathly afraid of the popular masses, and wanted to construct a system that took input from the people, but insulated the final result from their influence. They also wanted to recognize the federal nature of the system they were creating, so states were recognized as separate sovereign entities and given a number of electors based upon the number of House and Senate seats they were entitled to. Those electors were people drawn from the elites in the various states who did not hold federal office. They were expected to exercise independent judgement when casting their votes for president. As a result, if the people voted for some wild yahoo as President, the electors could act as the final arbiter of whether that would or would not happen. The Presidency would be protected from the people.
The mode of selection of electors has not always been as it is now, and initially varied wildly from state to state. Some states chose their electors through the state legislature and did not even give citizens a voice. Others created special districts for selection of electors from different geographic regions. Still others opted to select their electors on a statewide basis. It was only in the run up the the election of 1800, when Thomas Jefferson realized that maximizing Virginia's electoral votes by having them allocated to him on a winner take all basis, that the current system began to take form. Federalists in Massachusetts followed suit to aid John Adams, and all other states began to fall in line to adopt similar systems. The winner take all principle had been established.
In the time since, all new states have followed the winner take all principle. Only Maine and Nebraska have followed a system that allocates some electoral votes based on Congressional District votes and the final two by a statewide vote of the people. If more states adopted their stance, we would have a hodgepodge system that would lack consistency, and therefore fairness, and would also allow the decennial redistributing process to gerrymander not only Congressional districts, but affect the election of the Chief Executive as well. During the 2012 election, some Democratic leaning states with Republican governors and legislatures actually considered this as a means to give an advantage to Mitt Romney. Luckily, this did not happen.
Those who defend the current system are wed to its essential federal nature, and its origins as part of the compromises that led to the ratification of the Constitution. Refer to your Federalist Papers. Candidates who win the presidency must appeal to multiple regions of the country. They argue that going to a popular vote system would encourage candidates to go to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, etc. and ignore rural America. This may be true, but as it stands, candidates don't go to New York, California, or Texas at all. They are in the bag. All you hear is Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and some limited combination of other states. It is as though the rest of the country doesn't exist. A candidate could theoretically win the electoral college by winning just 11 states, and not receive a single vote in any other state.
In truth, it is inertia that drives us forward, and an amendment process that is made deliberately onerous. Two upside down elections in one generation are enough to persevere through these obstacles. In Congressional elections, the principle of one-person one-vote has been laid down by the Supreme Court as the basis for redistricting and reapportionment across the states. It already serves as the basis of Senate elections. Electing the President and Vice-President by popular vote will extend this principle to all of the elected positions in our federal government, and will leave our elections less subject to questionable legitimacy.
There are two ways to change the system. In the first, the House and the Senate would vote by 2/3 or more to propose a Constitutional Amendment. 3/4 of the states would then need to agree before the change would become part of the Constitution. Needless to say, this is an almost impossible climb as smaller states that are disproportionately advantaged by the current system would balk. The other would be to have a nexus of states totaling 270 electoral votes or more legislatively mandating that their electoral votes be allocated to the winner of the nationwide popular vote. Although not ideal, this would still have the desired effect of electing a Chief Executive that enjoys support from a majority of Americans who vote on election day, and each vote cast would have equal weight no matter what state it was cast in. Other states would then have no choice but to get on board. It is a form of blackmail, but blackmail with a good end as its objective.
Will perfect candidates be elected in a perfect system? No. However, the legitimacy of those candidates will not be subject to question and challenge the way George W. Bush's and now Donald Trump's clearly can (and should) be. Donald Trump blew past the electoral barrier of 270 by three states and 36 votes, while George W. Bush won by solely a single elector. Yet Hillary Clinton currently is outpacing him by 700,000 votes nationally, and growing. This is a wider margin than even in the 2000 election. This has to change, so no partisan on either side of the political spectrum will have to wail under the anguish of seeing a loser win office. Remember, 130,000 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have left us with President Kerry, and George W. would have won the popular vote. In a divided country, this is all too possible and, as we now know, likely.
This must end. The electoral college must end. Petition your state and national leaders to amend the Constitution and replace the electoral college. Now.
So that happened. We have now lived through the most shocking upset in modern American political history, if not all of our 240 years of history. Donald Trump overcame a 3 point Clinton advantage in polling averages to win Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin to claim the Presidency with a convincing electoral college total but a minority of the total popular vote nationwide. Donald J. Trump will become the 45th President of the United States. It may be hard to read, and harder to believe, but it is real. We need to accept it.
Faced with any unexpected result and challenge, the only thing we can control is our response. It is important that we do. There are lessons to be learned. Let us head them.
1. The same Congressional prerogatives that allowed President Obama to be stymied over the last six years will still exist over the next four. What might seem worthy of derision in one circumstance morphs quickly into something to be praised and cherished when the shoe is on the other foot. Thus is the majesty of the Constitution. It is an equal opportunity limit on executive power. President Trump will be limited by the need for Congressional cooperation and compliance just and President Obama was. Many Republicans do not believe in elements of President-elect Trump's agenda. There is likely to be tough sledding ahead.
2. Anything worth achieving is worth fighting for. President Obama's two victories almost made it seem to easy to make forward social progress. Hillary Clinton's loss reminds us that in order to affect the kind of change we wish to see, we must become it. In becoming it, we will set the stage and lay the groundwork for the victories that lie ahead. Trump's victory is a last gasp, albeit a successful one, of an America that is fading into the rear view mirror. It will very likely be a one term presidency considering his age and the lack of support he commands from even his own political party. His administration will provide the interregnum for the Democratic Party to undergo the internal transformation and realignment that the times clearly demand. Hillary Clinton is the last gasp of the old order. The same is true of Republicans. It will be interesting to see how they manage their internal divisions while supporting the Trump agenda. Loss is a necessary pre-condition of victory. Learn the lessons and prepare well and change will come once again.
3. The Democrats should not do in opposition what Republicans always do - reflexively oppose. They should take the opportunity to do what a principled opposition should do. Each issue should be addressed and debated on its merits, constructive amendments offered, and agreement given if the President proposes reasonable legislation and policies. Where he does not, opposition is warranted. We desperately need to re-establish the principle of a loyal opposition, and lead by example.
4. The chances of Democrats re-taking Congress in the next two election cycles just skyrocketed. It will likely take two cycles because of a difficult Senate map in 2018 an uphill climb of 25 seats or so in the House. Such a takeover would be a necessary precondition of electing a Democratic President in 2020. While this may be thinking way ahead, it is consistent with historical patterns only broken in 1998 during the Clinton impeachment and 2002 following 9-11. Seeing over the horizon to the next battle is necessary to recover from the pain of loss we have just experienced.
I have many more thoughts, and I will share them in the coming days. I want to begin here because framing one's repose to an agonizing loss is a prelude to recovering from it. We cannot fool ourselves into believing this is not a loss - it is. Much of what we believe in is about to come under the full assault of the plutocracy cloaked in the guise of populism. It will not be pretty. However, our response must make us worthy of winning the electoral battles that remain across the not so distant horizon. The arc of history will still bend toward hope.
At some point, one has to put their best guess out there, and it just so happens that 538 caught up to my best guess today. Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine will win 323 electoral votes, with the possible exception of losing Maine's 2nd Congressional District, which would lower their total to 322. Clinton and Kaine will pick up North Carolina but lose Iowa and Ohio from the Obama 2012 result. Ohio might surprise me.
The Democrats will pick up a minimum of four Senate seats in Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, while retaining Nevada to eke out a very small Senate majority. House Democrats will pick up 16 seats, yielding a House of Representatives with 231 Republicans and 204 Democrats and making Paul Ryan's job of herding cats more entertaining than it is now.
Donald Trump will not give a concession speech, and will instead gin up his supporters to form a movement that will continue to raise hell within the Republican party and dampening the GOPs drive to re-invent itself as a party of the sane. Hillary will inherit a divided country and rely heavily upon relationships developed while she was a Senator to affect incremental forward progressive movement. Her win will be none-the-less historic, and the first meeting between President Clinton, Chancellor Merkel, and Prime Minister May will be sight to behold as women hold more real geo-political power than at any point in the history of the world.
Check back in 24 hours. If egg is on my face, I will take pictures. ;)
It is fairly evident that Hillary Clinton is going to be President of the United States, and that her margin in the electoral college is likely to be convincing. The only question is how convincing. It is also evident the Democrats will have a good night in Congressional elections. The only issue is how good a night they will have. The question then becomes: What will governing look like in the next administration, and how will it differ from the Obama administration?
Domestically, Hillary Clinton is very likely to have a more dynamic and constructive relationship with Congress. She served as a Senator for eight years, and still has relationships with more than half of that body. Many Republican senators had good one on one relationships with her, and will hear her out more than President Obama. His aloofness is real, and his time in the Senate was not long enough to form the relationships that she still has. Therefore, one can conclude that she will be more hands on in the legislative mix, and will be more willing and capable to cut deals to achieve progress. 50% of what you want is better than 100% of nothing.
In foreign policy, she is more likely to be assertive. I imagine the Clinton-Putin face offs are going to be legend, because if her tangos with Trump are any indication, she can and will hold her own. With North Korea more menacing than ever, Russia on the march, China being aggressive in the South China Sea, and ISIS and Southwest Asia always in turmoil, this will not be an uneventful four years. In my view, we are hiring the right person for the right time.
Will she have a long legacy, or is she leasing the White House for four years? That is a very open question, and I have no answer. History suggests that getting re-elected in 2020 is a daunting proposition after three consecutive Democratic terms in the White House - a first since the time of FDR. However, if she is both strong and successful, she may earn an extension on her contract. Both the Democrats and Republicans yearn for the next generation of leaders, and they will likely define the realignment that seems to already be underway. In any case, it will be interesting.
May we live in interesting times.
Let me begin with preface. I intend to vote for Measure 97, and I believe that Oregon's tax system is unstable and out of whack. Basic services are underfunded, and the system as it is is dysfunctional, unstable, and entirely too reliant upon income taxes. I support a sales tax, and find it to be the most rational solution to Oregon's funding imbalance, especially if other taxes are lowered. Measure 97 is an attempt to rectify these issues, albeit an imperfect one. What we now know as Measure 97 is almost certainly doomed to fail. I have believed this since it was first proposed in late 2013. I would be overjoyed to be wrong.
The Oregon Education Association began organizing and laying the groundwork for what is now Measure 97 in late 2013. Local Associations were encouraged to begin signature gathering and organizing for what has become the Measure 97 effort. From the beginning, I was reticent to participate and engage with this effort. My reasoning was two-fold. First, any time the Association engages in overtly political activity, we automatically alienate a significant minority of our membership. That alone should give pause, because in any effort that an organization devotes itself to so completely, it should ensure that an overwhelming majority of its membership is on board. My second reason for reticence is a simple knowledge of Oregon's political history. We are a progressive, low tax state. In other words, Oregonians love progressive policies but they don't like to pay for them. I have seen nothing that indicates that this dynamic has changed.
Polling now indicates that Measure 97 is failing, and not by a small margin. This was entirely predictable. Once business and industry marshaled their resources and public relations machine to oppose it, the shift in the polls was sure to come. All one has to do in Oregon is insinuate that something is a sales tax and it is sure to fail. A short course on Oregon political history will make clear to those who dispute this that they are in error. This was predictable in 2014, when then governor Kitzhaber headed business and unions off from their bi-annual pissing match. It was a service to the state. It is also true today. If Measure 97 passes, it will be the biggest surprise of Election 2016. Even in a presidential turnout year with a depressed Republican electorate, this is a steep uphill climb.
So why the ire in my tone? Is it not important to at least try? To a degree, yes. Labor has proved its ability to organize and get this on the ballot, and bring the issues into the public realm. That is a qualified success. However, we have also reinforced a stereotype about ourselves that we like to feather our own nest. Despite the clear fact that services in this state are severely underfunded, the issue is one of perception. Perception is reality when it comes to elections. What we have heard from leadership is mostly happy talk that belies the reality we will wake up to if this fails. We will be a worse position than we would have been had we done nothing.
Most importantly, and here lies the rub, Measure 97 has forced every politician in Oregon to take a public position as they run for election. From Kate Brown all the way down to the lowliest state representative, those public positions are an issue in the ongoing campaign. Votes will likely be lost, and winnable races made far more dicey, as a result of the predicament that labor has put progressive candidates in. If any progressive politicians lose their races as a result of Measure 97, there will be blood in the water and hell to pay next year when public sector unions come hat in hand to Salem asking for higher taxes to stave off severe budget cuts that are presaged by the current budget outlook. It will not be pretty, and the influence of labor will be severely eroded. All because we bit off more than we could chew.
I hope that I am wrong, and that I eat crow on November 9. I will be happy to do so in this space, but I fear that will not be necessary. My reticence has only increased with time, and my read on the political scene in 2014 seems spot on in 2016. I feel for my colleagues that have devoted their time and energy to this cause, for it is a good one, but they have been betrayed by leadership that is long on happy talk and short on comprehension of the reality of our state. I hope it doesn't set back the important movement that labor is and rightfully needs to be in this state.
I am acutely interested in the domestic and international political scene. I am a pragmatic progressive, with an interest in clean government and innovative political reform. I like to opine on issues both international and domestic. I am rarely conventional in my thinking.
Politics, Government, and Society