Saturday, September 6, 2014

'tis the (political) season...

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 
― Margaret Mead

This week we went to a house party/fundraiser for Doug Owens, a who is running for the US House seat being vacated by Jim Matheson against our own local Sarah Palin, Mia Love.  Ms Love made waves in 2012 by being asked to speak at the Republican national convention (to show how "diverse" the party was by having a black woman speak?) and coming within 700 votes of defeating a generally-popular (if frustratingly weak) incumbent.  She was the recipient of zillions of dollars from a right wing super PAC and put it to good use in a solid campaign, and when Matheson announced that he was retiring the SLC lib'rl community gave a collective heavy sigh and thought "and thus goes the last vestige of political sanity in this state" as her Tea Party Expressers would ensure that she would take that seat.

However, with an open seat there's no strength of incumbency, and according to this article:  Doug Owens is  - before the season even began to kick into gear - "only" 12 points down on Love, which in that recently - and woefully - gerrymandered district is not that much, and notably the poll indicates that if Matheson were running again he'd likely win, so theoretically Mr. Owens "only" needs to show that he's as viable as Matheson.   In meeting him, we were impressed; though he hasn't run for office before he's articulate, sharp, no stranger to the political process (part of his career was as a DC lawyer and his dad was a well-respected UT Rep), has views that we believe in/respect, and - importantly - is a Latter Day Saint, which is very helpful in this state.

Not surprisingly, as a progressive thinker, he is not a fan of supply-side economics and the wealth inequity and subsequent social repression that it creates; as he put it:  "I'm not against people getting wealthy!  I'm against the middle class getting pushed down."  And when I asked what his solution would be for what seems to be this endemic problem I liked his response: "Education.  Smarter people make better choices", which from what I have read is spot on (A great read about this is "Deer Hunting With Jesus": and Mr Owens reminded us that one of Ms Love's 2012 campaign promises was to eliminate the US Department of Education and eliminate ALL government-backed student loans and grants.  In an era of infamously-high higher education costs, something tells me that not supporting lower education kids to get smart enough to go to colleges/universities/trade schools and then stifling economic opportunities to actually attend those schools won't really lend itself to a smart population that's able to make wise choices.

Among other things, Mr Owens talked about bipartisanship, but he also talked about "Tea Party Extremists" that were leading out country into a black hole.  I pointed out to him that many candidates love to talk about bipartisanship when it's convenient (on the campaign trail) but then fairly instantly become intractable once in office.  And his response was again acceptable, and indeed may be the only one:  " You just need to work on one person at a time"

Back in 2007 Ash and I had the opportunity to go to a fundraiser in Park City for a rising star in the Democratic party named Barack Obama.  It was $500 a ticket; needless to say, it definitely took a big gulp for our household to be willing to throw down a thousand bucks to fund a (wealthy) national political candidate.  But at the time we felt so disgusted by the too-many Bush years that we grudgingly acknowledged the need for individual financial support of candidates.  In the post-Citizen's United "Corporations Are People" era of unlimited campaign funds and a large chunk of the country harboring values/views that are so fundamentally opposed to our own and lawmakers who attempt to enact policies reinforcing those values I have become convinced that only voting is simply not enough.

I'm not necessarily a guy who volunteers for candidates working the phones, etc (I'm too busy being narcissistic!) but I feel pretty strongly that political "support" is the way to affect change, and the best way to show support is throwing down money for candidates you appreciate.  Owens' pitch  - which included a reminder that he's forsaking his career and putting a lot of pressure on his family to run an admittedly-uphill campaign - convinced us to give him $250, which was 2.5 times what we went there thinking we'd do, even though we don't even get to vote for him (due to the aforementioned gerrymandering).  We have an inkling as to how expensive it is to create effective media and get-out-the-vote campaigns (to affect folks who don't have the also-aforementioned education to even vote, much less make a well-informed vote) and we felt that our $250 is $250 he won't feel compelled to get from a corporation or a PAC, not to mention that the locality will mean it'll have a very direct effect on his campaign.

Recently I've had a few folks tell me that they are effectively so disgusted with "it all" that they are effectively checking out of the political process because it's hopeless and depressing.  For sure it seems like the only political news is bad news, and it could well be that come the morning of Nov 5 we will wake up to even more-depressing news, depending on your pursuasion.  I used to say "if you don't vote, don't bitch", but I have now come around to "If you don't donate, don't bitch."    If you have the money, write a check to candidates you like.  If you have the time, volunteer.  


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