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Posts published in November 2012

Even I didn’t see mandate – but it was

Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

MANDATE: noun (1) an official order or authorization. (2) the authority to carry out a policy, regarded as given by the electorate to party or candidate that wins an election.

That word “mandate” has been popping up in the media since the re-election of President Obama. For a few days, I thought it was not accurate. Most people usually use it only when someone wins by a significant margin. Which Obama did not. But I – like them – was wrong. Except that I DID believe a mandate was given – not just this usual one so often misunderstood.

It would seem some of the ill-thought-through, conservative feedback I got from some readers – the ones telling me “there was no mandate” – was wrong, too. Note that nothing in the old dictionary says a mandate is anything more than just “an authority … regarded as given by the electorate to party or candidate that wins an election.” Doesn’t say “overwhelming” or “lop-sided” or anything else. Just “wins.”

So, seems there was a “mandate” after all. While I’ve not used that word to describe last week’s Obama victory – yet – I do so now. Maybe two or three of ‘em. Not just using the dictionary definition as evidence but because of other votes. For instance, the ones that totaled 332. The old electoral college. The place where 270 wins the pot. That’s the one real political pros keep their eyes on.
To knowledgeable folks, that 332 Obama win is more important than the raw vote total of about 120 million for both candidates and an Obama final victory margin of about three million. A “mandate” the dictionary says. And more.

Pros know the electoral vote is more important when it comes to counting. That’s because they look to see WHERE those votes came from. In Obama’s case, the majority came from large states with large populations and – more important to the pols – large elected political delegations. You can rack up half a dozen small states – Idaho, Montana, Utah, Kansas and North and South Dakota for example – and not equal one Florida or one Ohio or one California. Romney got more states than Obama. And lost.

So, in the political business, Obama got a mandate in the electoral college, too. When you throw in a net Senate pickup of three seats and half a dozen or so in the House, professional nose counters see a tide beginning to turn with a large off-year election only two years hence. Got to get out front.

Now comes a new national poll with even more bad news for Speaker Boehner and that caucus he can’t control. ‘Cause it adds more pressure to that small, well-defined tidal movement now turning against them. When voters were asked – days after the election -who’d be to blame if Congress and the President can’t solve the debt ceiling and sequestration issues, 53% said House Republicans – 29% the President – about 10% to both. (more…)

One-party states?


The question is going to be asked this year: Are Washington and Oregon one-party states? Actually, it's already being asked; a David Brewster piece in Crosscut already asks it (and wrestles with but doesn't totally pin it).

Let's define some terms.

A one-party state is where one party is in near-total dominance, and the other is reduced to virtual non-competitive status. Look at Idaho, where statewide Republican candidates nearly always win in landslides or near-landslides, and where the legislature is upwards of 80% Republican. That's a one-party Republican state.

Not so far from that is California, at least after last week's election. There, Democrats dominate among the statewides and will hold two-thirds of the state's legislative seats. Such gaudy margins may or may not hold, but that has the look - for now anyway - of a one-party Democratic state.

Washington and Oregon are something else.

Democrats do have a definite advantage in them; these states are closer to blue than to red.

They have all the partisan statewide offices in Oregon, and all but one in Washington. They have both U.S. Senate seats. They have control (after this year's election) of both legislative chambers in each state.

But we can't really use the same kind of overwhelming language to describe them.

In Oregon, Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber just barely won in 2010. Republicans do have a U.S. House seat (one of five). The Democratic majority in the Senate amounts to a seat seat above tie, and in the House, which just emerged from a tie, Democrats have a fragile four-seat advantage, which could melt away again as swiftly as it returned this year.

In Washington, Republicans hold four of the 10 U.S. House seats, a point often forgotten after the loss of three open-seat races this time (two of those in districts where the Democratic voter edge is strong anyway). And while they remain a legislative majority, the margins are close enough to put Democratic control in regular jeopardy - and may be in the next session amid semi-revolt from a couple of the caucus members.

Put Washington and Oregon in a different cetegory - Democratic-leaning, but not one-party.

A miss is a miss

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Several readers have indicated they believe there should be an explanation of why the six indices the column forwarded as ones to track before the final vote that would give one a good idea whether there would be a new president missed the mark.

All seem to have a perverse desire to see this humble scribe masticating on crow.

#1. The 80/40 rule which said if Obama took 80% or more of the minority vote then Romney had to take an almost impossible 60% of the total white vote. Preliminary final tallies show that neither hit the mark. Obama took 75% of the minority vote (including an impressive 72% of the Hispanic vote), and Romney came close to topping the 59% plus of the total white vote that Reagan garnered but did not go over the magic 60% mark. What was really deceiving to the public was the impression the media created of a massive turnout by showing long lines waiting to vote at places where there were not as many balloting places as before for budgetary reasons, or, as in Florida, where early voting time was cut in half. Actual turnout totals will not top either the 2008 or the 2004 elections.

#2. Watch how undecided independent women break. Initially they appeared to start breaking towards Romney after the first debate, but the predilection of stupid, white male GOP Senate candidates to start talking about rape and abortion soon brought many of them back to their concern as with other women about access to abortion and protection of contraceptive rights. When the smoke cleared Obama had a 12 percent advantage among women voters more than erasing Romney’s 7 % advantage with men voters.

#3. As goes Ohio - this said no Republican has ever won the presidency without taking Ohio and it still holds true. Polls appeared to show Romney gaining steadily on the President in Ohio but what the polls could not measure was the superior ground game Obama had in Ohio with far local store front offices in key neighborhoods and a far more sophisticated involvement plan for all its numerous volunteers. Romney’s team simply did not believe that Obama could recreate the 2008 coalition nor match the intensity. Not only were they wrong on that they had no idea how much more sophisticated the ground operation Messina and Axelrod had in place was over theirs. When the smoke cleared not only had Obama won Ohio, he took every other one of the key swing states. (more…)

Washington’s women

Washington now has - and I take this from a couple of online sources - the highest-ranking women in the U.S. Senate and House majorities.

That has been the case for a while now in the Senate, where Senator Pattty Murray has been majority conference secretary, 4th-ranking in the caucus, since 2007.

Today, 5th District Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers also became 4th-ranking in leadership, in the House majority caucus (as chair of the House Republican Conference).

Washington hasn't quite yet returned to the heavy impactful days of the 70s and 80s, but it seems to be getting there. - Randy Stapilus

WA Senate: Who’s in charge?

When the Oregon House went 30-30 in the last election cycle - it reverts back to Democratic control after this year's election - there was concern about just how that would be made to work, with the two parties equally in charge, in a time of hyperpartisanship. The answer turned out to be: Not bad at all. Productive, even.

But one of the elements of that was clarity. Aside from brief mutterings about someone maybe flipping parties (which didn't happen), everyone knew the score.

That's the problem right now in the Washington Senate - no one conclusively knows the score, and various people are playing various games. In theory, there's a Democratic majority. But one Senate seat in Clark County is at the moment totally up for grabs and evidently headed toward a recount. And two other Democratic senators are talking about power-sharing.

From Crosscut: "Sens. Tim Sheldon of Potlatch and Rodney Tom of Bellevue are demanding that committee chairmanships not be decided by the majority party and that the leader of the Senate could be from the minority. (Tom is so conflicted/confused that he formerly served as a Republican representative. Despite his antics, there's no sign of a reconversion so far. Or a name change to run next time as Tom Rodney/Prefers Various Parties)."

The Crosscut piece is a good, quick overview of an evolving slice of uncertainty. - Randy Stapilus

Lonely in a crowd

If you added up the population of the six most populous counties in Idaho, you have just over a million people - about two-thirds of all the people in Idaho. Those people cast just about 250,000 votes for Republican Mitt Romney for president.

The single largest county in Washington, King (anchored by Seattle), cast more votes for Romney than those six counties in Idaho did: 252,090 votes, by today's count. And the people who cast them are in a far more concentrated geographical location than those Idahoans.

But how different the psychology. Those Idaho Republican voters certainly don't (generally at least) feel isolated; they know they're in a large community of like-minded people.

So, this, in the Seattle Times today: "Oh, the loneliness of being a Seattle Tea Party Patriot, especially after this last election. All around you: Liberals. Democrats. Obama supporters. People who think Dan Savage is really cool. 'It's getting harder and harder for me. I was at Trader Joe's, and I was glaring at everyone around me,' says Keli Carender, 33, co-organizer of the local group. Carender's glaring took place at the Trader Joe's in the University District, a neighborhood that, for sure, is a bastion of libs."

In society, a lot of things are relative. - Randy Stapilus

Non-traditional Oregon education

Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

While living in Oregon offers us many blessings, two really standout for me.

One was coming up with a Pacific Ocean as a border, then putting it on our western edge. I like that. Thanks to former Gov. Tom McCall, we are one of only three ocean-side states that allow full, unfettered public access to every foot of it. We get to enjoy it a lot. And one side benefit is we deprived Idaho of oceanfront property. At least for now.

The second blessing we Oregonians share is a growing, multi-faceted and extremely valuable community college system. They’re all over the place. And communities adjacent to each of them are better for their presence.

Here – near our little burg-in-the-woods – we have one of those. It’s got a really nifty, compact campus, offers some first-rate classes in relevant subjects, is staffed by what appears to be a well-qualified and diverse cadre of instructors and seems to always be looking for more ways to improve its value to the community.

Part of this last quality is the arrival of a new president who has some real-world experience in his background – in addition to the required educational stuff, of course. But, even before his tenure, our little community educational gem launched a new, two-year degree program backed with considerable financial input from our regional grape growers and wine producers. The first year, students learn the basics of how to grow and care for grapes. The second, they learn the basics of how to make the wine.

Two factors make this a valuable addition to our neighborhood. First, students become skilled workers feeding into the more than 80 vineyards hereabouts – so skilled they can be hired at more than minimum wage and employers don’t have to do lengthy, one-on-one training with each hire. Same for the more than 40 or so wineries.

The other major benefit is, if students complete the course wanting to learn more, our little program is designed to lead into two universities less than 100 miles away that offer even graduate programs in the grape-growing, wine-making subjects. What a deal!
As one who hates the hide-bound resistance to change so present in our higher educational systems, I like the smaller, quicker response these community-based schools can provide. And we may be about to see an excellent example of that. Right here! (more…)

A disconnect


Idaho's 44 counties voted 132 times in all on the three ballot propositions on last week's Idaho ballots, concerning the school-related “Luna laws.” In those 132 contests, counties voted to sustain them 11 times and reject them 121 times. In the case of Prop 3, all 44 counties voted to reject the laws strongly promoted by Idaho's governor, superintendent of public instruction and passed by both houses of the Idaho Legislature.

(Those contrary counties, by the way: Fremont, Jefferson and Owyhee backing Props 1 and 2, and Adams, Boise, Cassia, Lemhi and Madison just on Prop 1.)

That was a stunning result, much the biggest news from this year's Idaho general election, and not even so much the grand total as it was how widespread it was. The big Republican wins on the presidential and congressional side were of course expected, and the Idaho Legislature's remaining exactly as Republican (extremely) was no shock either – at most it might realistically have shifted by a couple of seats or so. Nearly without exception, Idaho elections 2012 played exactly to the norm we've seen for two decades running.

The education issues were no given, however. Surveys and anecdotal evidence a year ago and into this spring seemed to suggest the efforts by the Idaho Education Association and others to repeal the laws passed in 2011 would fail. Idaho voters have no strong history of overturning at the polls what their legislators have enacted. And in this case, the enacting was done by the people elected overwhelmingly by Idaho voters.

Someone asked if there are voters who thought these laws originated from Democrats. That's hard to answer conclusively, but the association between the laws and Idaho's overwhelming governing party could not be clearer. Nor is there much dispute that the laws are an extension of recent Idaho state policy on education, teachers, accountability, outsourcing and more. They tie together coherently.

So this question: Is there a disconnect between voters attitudes on candidates (and their parties) on one hand, and public policies on the other? Or, more bluntly: Are there a lot of Idaho voters who really like electing Republicans, but without closely linking that to whatever those Republicans do once in office? I'm not claiming an answer here, but I think the question is fair. (more…)

A growing credit union

ICCU President and CEO Kent Oram and tellers Rebekah Cote, center, and Dani Neumann inside ICCU’s new Chubbuck branch, the latest of the company’s 19 Idaho branches. (photo/Mark Mendiola)


Mark Mendiola
Eastern Idaho

Idaho Central Credit Union’s November 5 opening of its $2 million Chubbuck branch marks another milestone for the state’s largest credit union as it continues to grow at a robust double-digit pace against strong head winds in the nation’s financial markets.

ICCU’s statewide monthly payroll ranges between $1.5 million or $1.7 million – or more than $20 million annually, says Kent Oram, ICCU president and chief executive officer. Of the nation’s 7,000 credit unions, Idaho Central ranked 164th in assets at the end of September.

Its growth rate stands at about 20 percent annually. By comparison, the national growth rate for credit unions amounts to about 4 percent.

Idaho Central – a state chartered and federally insured financial institution – boasts 40,000 mobile banking users. Between 900 and 1,000 ICCU customers have signed up for “very well-received” mobile deposits that were started a month ago and allow photo copies of checks.

ICCU’s annual loan growth rate has averaged 26 percent as opposed to the national average of 1 percent. Idaho as a whole is doing better than other states in the nation, Oram says adding there are about 60 credit unions operating in the state, down from about 110 to 120 when he started. There were about 12,000 credit unions nationally three decades ago.

The Chubbuck branch on Yellowstone Avenue is not far from ICCU’S five-story, 700,000-square-foot headquarters building near the Interstate 86 interchange, where the company has been based the past five years. That highly visible structure is at 80 percent capacity with 175 employees, Oram says.

Planning for the HQ building started about 10 years ago and construction commenced seven years ago. Some of its electrical, heating and air conditioning systems are solar-enabled.

“People thought it was a hotel for a while. Now, it’s our home,” says Oram, a Blackfoot native who earned a bachelor’s degree from Idaho State University in information systems management. (more…)

What kind of intrusion

Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Whether we have too much government or not enough, do you know how many of such entities we really do have in this country? I didn’t until going through the most recent U.S. Census Bureau report this week. Right now – today – the count is 89,004 local governing bodies! 89,004!

But take heart, my government-loathing friends. That is DOWN from 89,476 in 2007 – the last year the census folks counted. We’re goin’ the right way!

It breaks out like this: 3031 counties – 19,522 municipalities – 16,363 townships – 37,203 special taxing districts and 12,884 independent school districts. Every five years, the feds count ‘em all and it’s the only uniform source of statistics for all the country. Knowing these numbers, the experts can do in-depth studies of trends and provide a universally accepted base for a complete, comprehensive and authoritative benchmark.

So how many of us work for all these “governments?” That would be about 16 million – also down about 1.4 percent since 2010. To relieve your angst about the “size of government,” included in that total are 8.9 million education professionals, about 950,000 in hospitals, 923,000 in law enforcement and 717,000 in corrections. Rest are your old garden variety bureaucrats, I guess. But of course we know, “government doesn’t create jobs.” Yeah.

Now, next time someone accosts you with some “government is too big and intrusive – get rid of a lot of it – damned bureaucrats – etc.” – you can counter with just how many there really are and who they are. Because that angry person likely won’t know.

A respected correspondent accosted me the other day with a claim that government – Democrats in particular as is his wont -was being intrusive in San Francisco by banning large soft drinks. Intruding in our lives as it were. Not sure I’d blame just Democrats, though. The former-Republican-now-Independent Party Mayor of New York City did the same thing with a politically-divided city council. Other communities – Democrat, Republican and some with no party affiliation at all – have, too.

No, the issue is not one political party or another when it comes to government’s reach into our lives. After all, each of those 89,004 governments was elected. So, in a “majority rules” society, most of the people governed – we/us – should be held responsible when something is decided politically. Whether we like the decision – whatever it is – or we don’t. The real issue is that, sometimes, the majority just does things that run contrary to our minority views. It goes both ways. (more…)