Hanging Together

It turns out that there may be no such thing as a casual political conversation. The other night I asked our server in a local pub, a competent young woman, if she was registered to vote. In the ensuing exchange, she said of a certain elected official, “We sent him to Washington and he has not done anything for us.”

This sentence happens to be very close to a direct quote from an attack ad currently being aired throughout Oregon. That TV spot, part of a multi-million dollar campaign currently in heavy rotation on Fox, CNN and other outlets, is paid for by a Koch Brothers PAC and is aimed at U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley.

The question I had asked the server was about Senator Alan Bates, who is running for reelection to the Oregon legislature. But it is easy to get the two senators confused because Bates is also fighting against a big infusion of ultra-conservative, out-of-state money.

“Oh,” I said, “you’ve been watching television.”

I guess I sounded snarky because my comment made our server pretty angry. (Yes, guilty as charged.) She let me know that her statement reflected her considered opinion and had nothing to do with television. Furthermore she did not need health insurance and never would be able to afford it even if she wanted it. No one in government listens to her opinions and we really don’t need much government anyway. There was more, but you get the idea.

This reminded me of something I had heard from Alan Bates himself earlier in the evening. (Alan was in Ashland looking for money to fight against that right-wing cash campaign that sees him, correctly, as occupying the swing seat they need to split control of Oregon’s Senate and paralyze state government for the indefinite future.) Alan pointed out that one of the differences between red states and blue states (or, in Oregon, red and blue counties) is that the red (i.e. liberal, progressive, Democratic, whatever) places have much more successful economies than blue ones.

Huh? You mean that those hard-nosed fiscal conservatives are actually economic failures? Well, yeah. Look at Alabama. Look at Josephine and Curry Counties.

Here’s the logic. Economic success depends on healthy, well-educated workers, along with a few other factors like public safety. When we short-change public education, price ordinary people out of access to health care, dismantle the Sheriff’s Department, etc., we set ourselves up for unemployment and poverty.

So yes, Virginia, we need some government, which is just us investing in our own future success as a community. At least, that is what leaders like Alan Bates, Jeff Merkley and Peter Buckley believe. I’m voting for them.

Our waitperson certainly will not, but we agreed to disagree.