By Peter Sage
Jeff Golden looked and sounded ready, able, and progressive.
If understanding problems and issues thoroughly matters, and if being able to articulate potential solutions matter, and if having positions on these things that are in sync with Democratic voters want matters, then Jeff Golden had a very, very good night.
But maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe people just want someone new.
Yesterday this blog described a difficult night for Athena Goldberg, made especially so since the joint appearance positioned her next to Jeff Golden, and Golden looked and sounded competent and knowledgable and self assured, and Athena Goldberg did not.
I am fully aware that is "just my opinion." People can and will disagree. I am trying to be objective here, and transparent in my observation and judgement. The disparity in readiness levels was not even close.
Golden was ready for the big leagues. He is in the big leagues. Watch it yourself, or read a transcript of Jeff Golden, answering a question in the wheelhouse of Goldberg and Bell. Compare it with the transcript of Athena Goldberg's answers to two questions, printed in yesterday's blog
Jeff Golden is good at this:
Transcript, from beginning to end, minute 19 on the video:
Golden: "I’ll start off by saying there are a lot of issues we are not taking care of in Salem. This is an exception. We, we deserve to be proud of what is happening in Oregon the last few years in health care. This is the great gift of Doc Bates to the state—I’ll also add the name of Doc Kitzhaber, the two of them created something no other state has. We are the most wellness centered health care system in the United States right now. And we have an opportunity to do much, much more. And, and focusing on wellness is, in fact, one of the large pieces of bringing down costs—there’s no one piece that does it all, as compared with chasing after diseases after diseases after they develop, which is how the rest of the country does it.
So let’s use this as a building block in two ways. The first is to expand the set of services that come under the umbrella of coordinated care. Athena talked about that some and I think that’s critically important. Last week I was talking to school employees, and one of their top concerns was the violent acting out of young children more and more. That’s a safety issue for school staff. I’m not sure exactly what the answer is, but what if we creatively brought that in, that problem, underneath the umbrella of the coordinated care umbrella and supplemented the counselors and mental health folks who have been laid off from schools the last few years. That’s a coordinated care problem. There are many other examples.
Number two is, this is the building block, could be, to single payer health insurance. There are school board administrators and members who are really interested in exploring—bringing—their employees into the coordinated care system, the second set could be public employees generally. The third, fourth steps could be any Oregon business who wants to buy into the coordinated care matrix, bringing unit costs way down because so many people are involved.
This is a terrific opportunity. We could be the state that leads the United States in single-payer health care, exactly like Saskatchewan led Canada to single payer health care. We could do this here, and ideas are formulating right now to get it done."
Does being ready and able mean Jeff Golden will win? No.
Jeff Golden impressed some people in Ashland on Tuesday evening, and Athena Goldberg disappointed some people, but that forum changed few votes. The forum can be seen as a document or piece of evidence. It shows the proficiency level that Jeff Golden has on matters of public policy for decades. Attendees did not see some "special performance." They saw Jeff Golden in pretty much everyday life, except he put on a necktie and ironed shirt for the evening.
That makes him the superior candidate in terms of preparation, but being good and experienced has its downside. Golden is not a blank slate. Golden has nuanced opinions which he has developed and shared for decades. Many people have had opportunity to realize they disagree with Golden on something or other during the decades.
Jeff Golden is Jeff Golden. Athena Goldberg might be whatever you want in a candidate.
Reflect on Barrack Obama's victory in 2008. He was widely accused of being simply an attractive and charismatic Rorschach Test. Voters ascribed to him what they wanted to see, what they hoped for. Obama communicated that he was a calm, compassionate, thoughtful liberal who wanted to bring the country's red and blue states together. His speeches were not careful litanies of policy positions. That was good enough. Voters wanted "Hope and Change", a kind of mystery gift.
In this election Athena Goldberg is the mystery gift box. Golden is the gift that is open and transparent and very good to a lot of Democrats--but not a mystery. Jeff Golden's policies project hope and change, but he personally does not. We have heard him on TV and radio for years: earnest, progressive, sincere, mellow, and known.
Golden had a very strong evening. He earned votes. But his victory in May will come--if it comes--because decades of being Jeff Golden pays off in votes from people voting for the sure thing they are content-enough with, rather than the mystery bag. He has not just earned votes. He has earned the GOTV program that will get him those votes.
And Athena Goldberg--especially as she presented herself Tuesday evening, rambling and incoherent--is no Barrack Obama. Not yet, anyway.
[Note to readers: I am unclear who I expect to vote for in this election. I am not a "cheerleader" for any candidate. This blog attempts to look closely at political skill, political messaging, and at what motivates voters. I am often most critical of people I generally like, including Obama, Kate Brown, and people I end up voting for. The world does not need more cheerleaders. It does need people who attempt to see clearly what is happening in America right before our eyes. It helped me see what I did not want to see, Trump's success in motivating 62 million people to vote for him.]