Jun 06 2014

Why Richardson can’t win

Published by at 7:58 am under First Take

harris ROBERT


In poll after poll, Oregon voters identify the economy and jobs as the most important issues to Oregon voters. And Dennis Richardson’s supporters are adamant that we should focus on his ability to handle the State budget and Kitzhaber’s fiscal failures and incompetence.

Meanwhile Democrats want to focus voters’ attention on Richardson’s positions that are more conservative than those held by a majority of Oregonians. Mainly:

1. Guns. While most Oregonians do believe in the personal right to keep and bear arms, most don’t advocate arming school teachers as Richardson does. In most people’s book that moves him along the second amendment supporter scale from a gun rights position, to the gun nut fringe.

2. Gay rights. Not just anti gay marriage. Richardson was an adamant opponent of even civil unions. And he has stated his belief that singling out “preferential” treatment of gays is wrong because it’s based on ones behavior. Clearly putting him in the camp of people who believe being gay is a choice. Michelle Bachmann territory.

3. Abortion. Richardson is an adamant opponent of a woman’s right to chose.

Richardson supporters argue that our biggest problems are economic. Taxes and spending. That Richardson’s positions on guns, gays, and gestation are irrelevant, and that his opponents are really missing the big picture. His ability to manage our State government. They are wrong.

Two counter points.

First. We all know very well that in the general election, the “Three G’s” are going to be used to get out the Republican base and churn up their inner outrage dial against Kitzhaber and Democrats in general, thus admitting that the three G’s are a potent and important issue for many. You can’t have it both ways. Don’t ask me to ignore the man behind the curtain while taking your supporters on a private tour behind that curtain and treating it like a conservative voting booth where who knows what kind of promises are being made. Now, if Richardson will publicly disavow any interest in these issues, and state that he will entertain no law, statute, bill, discussion or policy regarding these issues, I’d start to take his candidacy seriously.

Second. What if there was a very economically sound Democrat running who also believed that everyone should be required to compost and do curbside recycling. That only smart guns should be allowed in Oregon, and that people should all be required to give blood once a month. None of these positions could ever be adopted by our State legislature, but I bet centrists and independents –and even many Democrats – would all have a pretty hard time voting for that person, regardless of our confidence in their ability to handle the Oregon economy and government budgeting.

I could even add a fourth issue to the big three G’s. Climate change. Which many, including me, believe is a litmus test for intellectual honesty versus crass partisan pandering. Dip the climate change test strip into the beaker of scientific facts and see if it comes out positive or negative.

The bottom line is this. If a candidate doesn’t have common sense or holds too many beliefs that are too far out of the mainstream, most of the vital center independents aren’t going to vote for him or her. We don’t care if the candidate has a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago. If he or she also believes magic crystals can heal cancer – even though we know that treatment will never be included on the OHP list of cancer treatment priorities above chemotherapy – we’re not going to tick their box. Because we will lack confidence that they will be able to make sound judgments about what’s good for all Oregonians, and what is the proper role of government, in other policy areas. Including economics, budgets and taxes.

Unfortunately for the Republican Party, an apparent requirement for admission into their executive and federal nomination club includes a rigid adherence to the social mores that prevailed in1955, and disbelief in the science of climate change (even from scientists like Dr. Monica Wehby-very sad)

This growing schism between Republican Party orthodoxy and evolving societal norms could be a deep, though manageable wound that will heal with party turnover, tough love and patience. Or, it could be what slavery was to the Whig Party. An infected wound that alienates the most modern thinkers in the Republican Party, leaving the Oregon Republican Party ruled by a base it fostered and encouraged simply to increase voter turnout.

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