The Lesson of Oregon: People are willing to pay for good government.
Corporate media propagandists spewed so much hot air about the supposed lessons of the Massachusetts special election that it's a surprise global warming wasn't measurably impacted. But don't expect much analysis about the lessons of the Oregon special election.
It's not only that corporate media types think of Oregon as a small and distant land, it's more that the results of the Oregon special election don't fit the media's concocted narrative. But while there are countless ways to interpret the results of a personality-driven Senate campaign, Oregon was about issues, and the results tell us a lot about the mood of the voters, on the issues. And despite an economy that is still staggering, and despite an unemployment rate that's a full point above the terrible national rate, Oregon voters, by a significant margin, chose to raise taxes to ensure government services. That's the lesson, and it needs to be emphasized: voters will willingly raise taxes to pay for government services.
So much media spin is about the failures of government. Not only the failures of particular political parties and particular politicians, but of government itself. It's an insidious underlying theme. Promoting it is one of the defining motives of the Republican Party. And it's no wonder Republicans do such a lousy job of governing, given that they don't even believe in the role of government to serve the people. To siphon the people's money into the coffers of their corporate owners, sure, but not to help improve people's lives. The latter is the Democratic Party's job. That's why the more we prove the value of government, the better Democrats do, electorally. While the Republicans try to frame it as Big Government vs. Small Government, it really should be about Good Government vs. Bad Government. This is the large picture that so many are missing. This is the forest that's always endangered by the buzz saws bearing down on the trees.
The odious Grover Norquist best defined the Republican attitude, when he said he wanted to shrink government to the point that he could drown it in a bathtub. We saw the result, in the drowned of New Orleans. Inadequate levees, inadequate public transportation, inadequate emergency response, inadequate emergency rescue and shelter- the horrors of the Katrina catastrophe could have been greatly mitigated, if not eliminated, had government been there to do what government should do. For many, in this country, New Orleans was the wake-up alarm about the Bush Administration, but it really was about so much more than that. It was about the necessity of government to serve the common good.
The problem, on a national level, is that people rarely see the positive effects of government, in their daily lives. So much of our national budget goes to military contractors and other forms of corporate welfare, and so relative little to human entitlements. Now that corporations have become people, perhaps it's time to start leveling the field. Corporate welfare reform is one approach, but the other is to remind people of the good that government can do. Last night, The Oregonian cited one Democrat who knows how to frame an election result:
House Speaker Dave Hunt said he and other supporters "have been hopeful from the beginning that Oregonians would be committed to strong schools, access to services and a healthy business climate."
When members of the Legislature return to Salem next week for a special session, Hunt said state leaders will be "very much focused on job creation."
That's what the special election was about, and despite the usual well-funded efforts by the likes of Oregon's only billionaire, Nike's Phil Knight, the aggressive disinformation campaign against Measures 66 & 67 didn't work. By a large margin, Oregon voters rejected the lies, and embraced the idea that government can serve the people. And it helps that Oregon's democratizing mail-only balloting inspires people to take the time and make the effort to research the facts, because nothing is more important to progressive, liberal, and Democratic Party causes than having an informed electorate.
On the national level, the lesson is simple: show people that government is on their side. Not Big Government, Good Government. And health care is a critical opportunity to make such a case. And despite a muddled message and too little effort to sell it, a public option remains significantly more popular than the current proposed plans. With Democratic Congressional leaders now saying they will take the time to work out their differences, it's time, again, to push them to get it right. A public option is popular. More importantly, a public option would help more people and save more lives. And politically, whenever people sought medical care, they would experience the value of government, in their own lives, in the most personal manner. And they'd get the message. And out of such are new paradigms created.
The lesson of Oregon is that people are willing to make sacrifices to ensure they will have quality government services. Give them a public health care option, and they will appreciate it. They will appreciate government, and they will appreciate the Democratic Party.