Writings and observations

Two more items from debate in the 1st

ONE. The 1st district debate, involving three Democrats and three Republicans, saw relatively few direct shots between candidates, and most of those were between two Republicans, Rob Cornilles and Jim Greenfield. (Greenfield considered Cornilles as insufficiently faithful to Republican principles.)

The main shot from a Democrat to a Republican, and it may have been the only one in the 90-minute debate, came from Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian to Greenfield. The subject was corporate profits and benefits and labor outsourcing; Greenfield argued that businesses including corporations need as favorable a tax and regulatory environment in the United States as they could get, to keep them here. Avakian said that (his words were fairly close to this) that the difference between Greenfield and himself is that Greenfield wanted the mass of corporate profits – and profits among major corporations are trending high, and the Fortune 500 is sitting on a mass of unspent money – and overall income, to go into the pockets of Americans, while Greenfield wants them to go into the pockets of multi-national corporations. (Greenfield did not seem to want to reply.)

It was a very well taken turn of phrase. Many Republicans have for years spoken of taxes as money taken “out of the pockets of Americans” and given over to the government. Avakian’s construction shows that the imagery can be put to effective use to make other points as well.

TWO. Cornilles told a story with a moral that seemed to come out of nowhere, and it merits a note here.

During the debate, he held up a business card from a cafe in Forest Grove. He said that afternoon he’d been walking downtown (presumably campaigning) and stopped in. On a Sunday afternoon, the place was empty – no customers. The owner rushed forward from the back of the cafe, expressing delight that a customer had shown up.

Cornilles didn’t report whether he became a customer, but did say the talk turned to politics, and he asked the owner what his biggest business problem was. “Taxes,” the owner replied.

The Republican candidate was making the point, of course, that taxes impinge on the ability of people to run their businesses. But after hearing his description of the cafe, we expected the owner to say that his biggest problem was a lack of customers. For any business, that would ordinarily be first and foremost. Taxes may be an irritant, but no customers, no business.

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