Desperately seeking normal

Any hope that Oregon may be turning a corner was dashed today with the news that one of the sponsors of the horribly misguided (and thankfully, dead) "right to rest" bill is about to get a promotion in the state Legislature. Yep, second-term representative Khanh Pham is running to replace Senator Michael Dembrow, who is retiring, as a new hack from the east side of Portland.

It's hard to believe. You would think that after her performance over the last three years, she'd be hounded out of office instead of moved up in the power structure. But no.

We so badly need some moderate Democrats to step forward. Okay, I get it, they have to give the government employee unions everything they demand – that was Dembrow's specialty – but do they also have to be far, far left on every social issue, too? Where are the sensible people who wouldn't vote for a Republican under any circumstances but who aren't committed to abolishing the police, enabling addiction and vagrancy, and undoing the concept of private property? Why aren't there any Democratic candidates for whom "business" is not a dirty word?

I asked about Pham back when "right to rest" was still being talked about in earnest. And voters in her district told me they didn't have a choice: The only alternative to Pham was a MAGA. 

This is a recurring problem around here: too few good choices among the candidates to run things. If some normal Democrat would step up and primary Pham, I think they'd have a lot of support. Please!


  1. They don't exist any longer Jack, these "normal" democrats - they've been shouted down and shamed out of existence by the totalitarians. It's over for them. I don't know where this leaves folks like us but those are the facts, sad to say.

    1. Just like "normal" Republicans. The idiots rule. What an embarrassment of a country.

  2. Sane Democrat elected officials are now rare in Portland, and will become even more so. Portland City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez, a conventional Democrat, is under constant attack from the Black Lives Matter/AntiFa faction, who consider him a "crypto Republican" and a "stealth MAGA wolf in sheep's clothing." Demented pro-crime, pro-drug, pro-riot, leftist zealots now run the Portland Mercury, Willamette Week, and Oregon Public Broadcasting (e.g. OPB hired the Mercury's lead AntiFa cheerleader, Alex Zielinski, to be its city politics reporter). Expect a sexual harassment/racist comment/"hostile work environment" (or similar vague unfalsifiable allegations) to be dropped on Gonzalez as the next election approaches.

    1. This is like reading one of those magnetic poetry things you stick on your fridge. Only instead of Shakespeare or Thoreau, it's Q.

    2. I know you hate ranked choice voting, but if you consider the situation you describe above as a problem, maybe you should recall that it’s single-winner/first-past-the-post elections method that reliably produces the state of affairs above, all across Oregon and in most places in the US. The three-member districts with vote transfers creates chances for more moderates in office because it means that we eliminate the primary, which is what tends to reward the extremes. In Portland’s new system, a moderate D does not have to win 50%+1 to get past the primary (which is effectively the general election in Portland). Instead, the disaffected middle can get a seat with just 25%+1 vote in the district.

      Ultimately, no moderates will be elected if none run because they are discouraged by their chances. Electing multiple members from larger districts greatly improves the chances of people to snag a seat, even though they could not appeal to the most extreme partisans. You might be surprised at the outcome — IF moderates will run, and give voters a chance to vote for them. If moderates throw up their hands and say that voters are too stupid, it’s self-fulfilling prophecy.

  3. Thomas Edsall column in NYT today helps make the point — winner takes all drives things to extremes because of the zero-sum (win it all or take nothing and your opponent wins it all).


    Two factors stand out to me. One is that most Western democracies have some form of proportional representation, which encourages more moderation and compromise, relative to a two-party electoral system that collapses a wide range of issue conflicts and cultural differences into a single dimension of partisan conflict. Another is that the United States seems to have a more inflammatory and widely encompassing cultural traditionalism vs. progressivism division. This has become increasingly central to partisan competition since the 1990s, and it has displayed a capacity to absorb a range of issues and policy disagreements (e.g., over Covid-19 measures) into a seemingly high stakes conflict over the cultural character of the nation.
    Those I queried repeatedly cited the role of the two-party winner-take-all system in exacerbating polarization in this country.

    Shanto Iyengar, a political scientist at Stanford, emailed me on this issue:

    The U.S. is a two-party system, making the contrast between the “in” and “out” party crystal clear. In multiparty systems, there is no single out group. Coalition politics makes it possible for partisans to see several parties as part of their team. And since proportional representation means that everyone gets some representation, elections have less of a zero-sum property, a characteristic of conflicts known to exacerbate polarization.

  4. It all starts with how higher education has been destroyed by "critical theory"- originated by the Frankfurt school until they got kicked out and headed for So Cal. A generation or two of cry babies all worked up over hurt feelings has purged anyone that believes in moderation. They see them as weak and in the way.

  5. The problem with ranked choice is that it can produce winners (excluding the nutty three-rep city council districts) from candidates who fluke in from second or third place, especially in contested elections. See the recent election for Alaska's only Congressional representative. It leaves a bad taste in partisan mouths and a hint of...dare we say the word, "rigging."

    The wholly separate election method (single transferrable vote) in the Council elections are entirely experimental and used in no city of any size. I doubt anyone elected with 25% of the vote (and the counting stops at 25% +1 vote per winner) will be able to claim any sort of mandate to do anything. Any recount will be a nightmare since everything is done inside computer algorithms.

    Golly! Just what Portland politics needs--a new way to feel cynical about elections.

    As for "moderates" running...who might THAT be? Can anyone make a list of that rare species?

    Portland's state/local politics is now in the classic machine phase of ethnic/racial balancing and rivalries (I lived in Chicago in the last Daley years as the Irish-Polish-East European-Jewish coalition was being pressured by the blacks and, on the outside but running fast, Hispanics).

    The new charter will simply jet-fuel that trend. Ms. Pham was elected, largely, because the Vietnamese want a piece of the pie, which is about as old as the American republic. Ditto: Rubio, Mapps, Gonzalez...and then throw in Avalos, maybe a Somali, probably someone from the east side Ukrainan cohort. White guys (unless from the gay community) are toast, which is why Wheeler threw in the towel and is now trying to make Mike Jordan the inevitable choice for the new cityy administrator. Good luck with that: racial-cultural politics runs on patronage. Jordan pulls down (your guess is as good as mine) big bucks--his predecessor pulled down around a $half-million--and none of the racial pols will leave that sitting on the table.

    (Shameless self-promotion: I wrote about this in on Substack.)

  6. Speaking as a Millennial, and a person who has been invited to speak multiple times at the Multnomah County Democrats, it's pretty clear: young liberals grew up opposed to the wars, but in the Obama era all the flipped, and it was expected to be a good Partisan Democrat liberal you had to suddenly forget you spent 2003-2008 protesting (for me, I was actually serving in the war). This left millennial liberals with 1 of 2 choices: go further left (Bernie Sanders), or go more centrist libertarian (Ron Paul), or perhaps go alt-right (the very few Trump "drain the swamp" anti-government liberals). But there was virtually no ideological consistency with the mainstream Democrats, especially corporate Democrats. Remember Hillary Clinton using white noise machines to block her speeches to bankers from being recorded? Most young folks in Portland joined the Bernie train and have been riding that ultra-liberal batshit craziness, where they don't even want to understand politics anymore, they just want to assume everything Democratic Socialist is better than anything Trump. There's no room for moderate liberals alongside whacktavists.


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