It's election day. If you haven't already, you know what to do.
It's election day. If you haven't already, you know what to do.
It's been a long time since I've a full biography of Abraham Lincoln - much less can I be sure which one that was, there being so many of them - but A. Lincoln by Ronald White now repays the read quite well.
It wasn't a perfect or ideal Lincoln bio, but it puts the pieces together nicely. Maybe reading it in our present situation gives it some extra flavor.
It seemed to me the second-best White biography of the period; I preferred the too-overlooked U.S. Grant life American Ulysses for its finer-grain detail and willingness to stretch. (I even prefer it over the more recent and hotly acclaimed Chernow book, though that's no criticism of it, either.)
If I have some quibbles with this Lincoln book, it's in two areas. White skims over some areas and subjects that, a number of other writers probably would argue, merit a little closer look. (The Ann Rutledge aftermath and Lincoln's bouts of depression come to mind.) In some other places, White seems to be a little too determined on agenda, notably in the area of Lincoln and religion, which is an ambiguous area where some ambiguity is best probably let alone.
It's a recommended read, though, for putting Lincoln into context in his time. The political and military context is neatly lined out, in some cases in ways I'd not seen before. The story of his first run for the U.S. Senate is more neatly told than usual, and his relationship with the emerging Republican Party, from which he at first wanted to keep at arm's length, is nicely clarified.
It is not an emotional work, and the writing is direct rather than overwrought (something easily done in Lincoln's case). If you've not read a full biography of Lincoln or done so in a long time, the time may be right, and A. Lincoln would be a sound choice. - rs
Wandering around election stats today, I stopped in at Cook's report on partisan indexes but congressional district, and thought it would be interesting to compare the rankings for the Northwest.
A note or two for those not conversant with the PVI (partisan voter index): It uses a set of statistical measures, including but not limited to recent votes for president and congressional seats, to establish a statistical figure to demonstrate how Democratic or Republican a congressional district is.
It's full national map is well worth the time if the subject is of interest. But for those in the Northwest, the rankings by district should give some perspective as to how parts of the region fit together.
Here's how the districts in the Northwest, and some adjacent districts as well, stack up against each other. They're listed in order from most Republican to most Democratic, and those in the middle are those which at least theoretically should be the most competitive.
-25.59 Utah 1 - Rob Bishop (R)
-24.97 Wyoming AL - Liz Cheney (R)
-20.71 Idaho 1 - Raul Labrador (R)
-16.85 Idaho 2 - Mike Simpson (R)
-13.27 Washington 4 - Dan Newhouse (R)
-11.14 Oregon 2 - Greg Walden (R)
-11.04 California 1 - Doug La Malfa (R)
-10.61 Montana AL - Greg Gianforte (R)
-7.63 Washington 5 - Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R)
-6.97 Nevada 2 - Mark Amodei (R)
-3.96 Washington 3 - Jaime Herrera Beutler (R)
-0.31 Washington 8 - Dave Reichert (R)
0.25 Oregon 4 - Peter DeFazio (D)
0.48 Oregon 5 - Kurt Schrader (D)
5.47 Washington 10 - Denny Heck (D)
5.69 Washington 1 - Suzane DelBene (D)
5.70 Washington 6 - Derek Kilmer (D)
9.10 Oregon 1 - Suzanne Bonamici (D)
9.93 Washington 2 - Rick Larsen (D)
20.90 Washington 9 - Adam Smith (D)
23.66 Oregon 3 - Earl Blumenauer (D)
32.69 Washington 7 - Pramila Jayapal (D)
The actual division is pretty clean - that is, districts leaning in the direction of one party do tend to elect people from that party. Where you see a really high PVI for either party, that means the opposition party needs something close to a miracle to win the seat. It happens, but such lightning strikes are rare.
But if 2018 turns into a Democratic wave year, you can see which districts are most worth watching. If this were a Republican wave year, districts like Oregon 4 and 5 and Washington 10 and 1 would be worth watching. In this year, however, two Washington districts - 3 and 8 - are at the top of the list. Dave Reichert in 8 is retiring, and a ferocious campaign may develop there, but we won't know for sure until after Washington's primary election next month. Washington 3 may be safer for Jaime Herrera Beutler partly because she has organized well and partly because Democrats seem not to have put strong enough campaign together there, but that district too should not be ignored.
Not far up the list above them, though, is Washington 5, a district not as firmly Republican as many people think, though Cathy McMorris Rodgers has held it solidly. She has her strongest ever opponent this year, though, and this is definitely a district to watch.
A bit of perspective as we head into campaign season. - rs
The word of the day is kakistocracy. It's a little obscure, since we traditionally haven't had a lot of cause for the use of it. Comes from the Greek, where (as the Washington Post helpfully notes) "Kakistos is Greek for “worse,” so kakistocracy means government by the worst people."
Shouldn't be very hard to figure out why this word is suddenly trending hard, breaking recent records for lookups around online dictionary sites ...
📈'Kakistocracy': government by the worst people https://t.co/9S5trfdY4w
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) April 13, 2018
Although, it's come up before, notably about a year ago. Then it seemed to quiet, and now it's back. Hmm.
Oh, and there's also this.
📈 We're seeing a big rise in 'the tail wagging the dog' tonight. https://t.co/djrt5dR0zI
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) April 14, 2018
Mail by voting is going to go national. The evidence of how well it works keeps adding up.
That's no news to us in Oregon, of course, where it's worked extremely well for more two two decades. It's been picked up in a growing number of places, notably Washington state to the north, and it's been doing well everywhere.
The latest evidence comes from Alaska.
State 49 held local election this week, and Anchorage was experimenting with mail-in voting. Election officials there said they were hoping for a modest boost in turnout.
We don't yet know what the final tally will be, but the boost is likely to be a lot more than modest.
Election day was Tuesday. The Anchorage Daily News reported, "About 80,000 ballots had been received by elections officials at the end of the day Wednesday. More were still on the way. Until now, the most ballots the city had ever received in a local race was 71,099 votes in 2012."
But that's only the beginning. As the paper noted, Alaskans tend to be last-minute people, and a further deluge of ballots is expected to come in over the next few days.
They're voting a lot up there. And more and more states will catch on to this. - rs
Sometimes it's the audience that prompts some reflection.
That's not a comment on Representative Suzanne Bonamici, from Oregon's first congressional district, and who held one of her twice-yearly (two series of them annually in the district's counties) town hall meetings in McMinnville this evening. Her discussion was a straightforward report, from her eye view, of what's happening in Congress at present. There's a lot of caution, watching and questioning, by her description, which sounds about right.
When an audience member asked whether Congress is as dysfunctional as it seems to be, she gave her most noteworthy answer: No, probably not. Yes, there are a string of problems, which have gotten a lot of attention. But while the bigfoot stories clump around, lots of smaller-scale activity goes on, to little notice, underneath. She cited a string of measures she's working on with Republicans, on subjects ranging from job training to tsunami preparation.
That seemed to be of a piece with the audience.
Sometimes, in these town halls, some people get overheated and start stomping out of their proclamations rather than coolly asking questions. Sometimes someone will start to take over the proceedings by going really long-winded, delivering their own speech rather than a concise question.
Didn't happen tonight. Everyone was courteous and to the point, and emotions were dialed down.
That may or may not be typical, of course. And you can speculate over the various possible reasons for a quieter, calmer town hall. It was a mostly Democratic-friendly audience, by all appearances; was the thinking, in part, that we've now just a few months to go to changing the political world in D.C.? (That change might include a subcommittee chair for Bonamici if the House changes partisan control with the next election.)
Whatever the reason, something feels a little different. - rs
Chris Carlson, who writes a regular column here and has penned a couple of books for Ridenbaugh Press (Medimont Reflections and Eye on the Caribou), has a new book coming out. It relates the history of the Hells Canyon federal recreation area; Caxton Press is the publisher. From an Idaho State University release on the book:
Idaho State University alumnus and 2017 Professional Achievement Award winner Chris Carlson has written a new book “Hells Heroes: How an unlikely alliance saved Idaho’s Hells Canyon” that will be available in April.
“It is the story of the politics that went into ultimately providing federal protection to this unique asset in Idaho that many Idahoans aren’t even aware of,” said Carlson, who has spent many days hiking in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area both on the Canyon’s river trail and in the Seven Devils. “It’s one of my favorite places in Idaho.”
Carlson, a long-time Idaho journalist and former press secretary to the late Idaho Governor and Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus, graduated from ISU with his Master of Arts Degree in English literature in 1970. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in English literature from Columbia in 1968.
Carlson said the book is broken into two parts, the first focusing on the efforts of Brock Evans of the Sierra Club who brainstormed on how to get the canyon protected. It was fiercely debated whether the canyon should be a national park or have a different designation.
The second part focuses on how Sandra Mitchell, now the executive director of the Idaho Recreation Council, worked to keep the Snake River in the recreation area open to jet boats and other motorized watercraft.
“The focus is on two fights and two heroes and is an interesting story most Idahoans are not aware of and would enjoy it if they read it,” Carlson said.
Rick Johnson, executive director for the Idaho Conservation League, has written the book’s forward.
Dave Wasserman, who works for the Cook Political Report and offers commentary for several other also-respectable analysis outfits, was really struck by a data point. To the extent, he tweeted, that he had "spent [his] career downplaying" something, and now sees just that thing happening.
Look at the map above (via Gallup) which shows approving ratings for President Trump in polling by state. The exact numbers range are interesting, but what's worth noting here is which states fall into which cohorts - states that give the president approval ratings of 50% or more (not bad), as opposed to 40 to 49% (mediocre) or below 40% (bad).
You'd expect that states supporting Trump would fall into the not-bad group, and many of them do (Alabama, Idaho, Oklahoma, the Dakotas and so on). Then there's the large expected number in the middle group, which almost all consists of states Trump won but, in many cases (not all), not by much.
The third group consists mostly of states Trump lost in 2016 - including places like California, New York, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado and so on - which is about what you'd expect. But look down to the lower center and see which state anchors that group of really-don't-like Trump states.
That's what stunned Wasserman. He noted that for many years he's been throwing the damper on talk about a Democratic rise in Texas. But this map tells a different story.
It's just one data point. But keep a close watch on it. - rs
Last fall, when the sexual harassment complaints against Roseburg (Oregon) Senator Jeff Kruse surfaced, he was accused of “ongoing workplace issues,” without a lot more detail provided. People reacted seriously, but for those of us without knowledge of the specifics - and an unwillingness to prejudge in a time when j'accuse too often seems enough for conviction - a clear assessment was harder to make.
That's not a problem now.
A detailed investigation of Kruse's activities was conducted, and this week the results, 51 tightly-spaced pages worth, were released.
Before this report, we were left wondering what exactly it was he did - and with one small exception, he did not deny the allegations (saying in some cases that he didn't remember) - and so left wondering whether this was serious stuff. Taken together, and in some cases even as individual incidents, this was certainly worth the uproar.
Part of the conclusion read, "there is a longstanding pattern of Senator Kruse engaging in unwelcome physical contact toward females in the workplace, including Senator [Sara] Gelser and Senator [Elizabeth] Steiner Hayward, and that he stubbornly refused to change that behavior after being warned about it in March 2016." There were other people and incidents involved too, but what seemed most especially pertinent was the unwillingness to change his activities and approach. I can understand not reading someone else's mind, or intuiting their preferences; persisting after those concerns were conveyed (in this case even through official channels) is highly noteworthy.
Many of the MeToo cases in recent months have exposed clearly bad behavior, while some have seemed - to me - in a grayer area. The report is recommended reading. It makes clear that Kruse was not operating in a gray zone, and that clarity should help with moving through what is likely to come next. - rs