Look to the West, Democrats

In today's Oregonian, BlueOregon co-founder Kari Chisholm published an editorial, "Look to the West, Democrats." In it, he argues that Democrats should look to the West to find a presidential candidate who can "speak plainly in the language of real America." He argues that a candidate competitive in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada could lead the party to victory. "And in all 50 states, a Western candidate would signal a fresh start."


  • (Show?)

    Good call, Kari. Let's get Kitzhaber out to Iowa!

  • Varner (unverified)

    What about Gov. Tom Vilsac from Iowa, or Gov. Bill Richardson from New Mexico? Personally, I think that a governor makes a stronger Presidential candidate. Especially compared to a House member who has spent the majority of their career in the minority.

    But thanks for urging the D's to look west. It's harder to portray someone from west of the Mississippi is a pointy headed liberal.

  • Emmett (unverified)

    I woke up the day after election day convinced that only a Western Democrat, a Brian Schweitzer or Ken Salazar, could bring us back to the White House. Unfortunately, I think Zell Miller is correct, we have lost the South for the time being, but as Schweitzer, Salazar and several other Western Dems have proven, we can win from the West.

    I think Bill Richardson, a governor, former Clinton appointee and someone with foreign policy experience, seems to be the natural leader if we're talking about Presidential candidates from the West.

  • Kent (unverified)

    What about Kitzhaber? It's been a while since I've lived in Oregon so I don't know exactly where he stands now. He also might not be the sort of natural politician that is needed to run at that level. But I think someone like him would be a very appealing candidate. Small town doctor turned politician, lots of innovative state and local solutions to national problems. Comfortable in jeans and cowboy boots. Etc. I've thought that he might make a good VP candidate too. Or at least run him for the Senate against Smith.

    I live in Texas at the moment and I would disagree that Democrats have totally lost the south. Or at least the southwest and Texas. I think a very down to earth Latino Bill Clinton type could sweep the southwest and Texas too as long as there wasn't a Texan on the Republican ticket. Whites are now a minority in Texas, just as they are in California. I think the recent election results were somewhat distorted with respect to Texas because Bush was a home-town boy. I don't see any other Republicans on the horizon who will do anywhere near as well in Texas.

  • Adam (unverified)

    Great article Kari, it sounded like what I would have wrote myself! I agree Vilsac and Richardson would also be great candidates.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)

    Kitzhaber?!? With his leadership record, Gray Davis would have a better shot.

    Bill Richardson is the best suggestion. A moderate with with great credentials, well respected by both parties.

    Sort of like John McCain. Hmmm.

    What if they ran together on an independent ticket?

    If the Dem's follow through with their retreat toward the left (Dean, et al) and the Rep's continue to consider themselves obliged to the evangelical agenda, a credible independent option for middle America could gain traction.

    At least one can fantasize...

  • moondog (unverified)

    excellent article kari: you captured the gist of my thinking post 2004 debacle. we have to expand the electoral map: we cannot allow the repugs to hang out in pennsylvania, minnesota, wisconsin, etc. with nothing to lose. the demographics favor blue expansion in the west and southwest. we need to win and frankly i've had it with the usual suspects- the clintons, carville, begala, mccaulife ad nauseum. we need dean to be the dnc chair and we need to run richardson in 2008- maybe with obama but he may not be ready. do not despair: as dr.king wrote: the long arc of history bends towards justice.

  • (Show?)

    I think there's something more fundamental to Kari's analysis than just finding a non-Hillary candidate in 2008. The politics of red and blue can be described culturally as the difference between the NE and upper midwest and the south. But I think that NASCAR/metrosexual dichotomy applies far more ably to lands on the other side of the Mississippi.

    It's true that the urban/rura/suburban split is replicated across the country. But culturally, things are a lot different in the West. It's still more or less the case that formal wear in Portland includes jeans. And if you remove the vitriol of the Spotted Owl fallout, land use in rural Oregon is pretty damn green.

    What we have is a social schism as much as a political one. But the social dynamic is different in the west, and western politics may provide a blueprint for moving beyond the metrosexual/NASCAR split.

  • Christy (unverified)

    Nice work, Kari...And such a great idea. Indeed, Arizona, New Mexico, and Montana have Dems in the Governor's House. Nevada has the Senate Minority Leader. You already mentioned Colorado, which should so be blue by 2008. No one is mentioning AZ's Janet Napolitano at all, but she was very high profile during the Democratic National Convention...My Bush-loving Grandma even voted for her. I don't know too much about her, but she is worth noting.

    I think the clear choice, though, has got to be Bill Richardson. The man is tireless! But, I have heard...rumors... as to why he bowed out of VP consideration. These rumors would rule out a run for the White House. Sad, but true.

    Very few people outside of OR know who Kitzhaber is... Wishful thinking, though... And none of our other folks would work, really.

    I would say our next best chance to get an Oregonian in the White House will be Jefferson Smith in 15-20 years(I say that tongue in cheek...kind of).

  • (Show?)

    Thanks for all the props, folks. Alworth's right, I'm talking about a cultural thing as much as a geographic thing. It's not that we need a candidate from the West, but rather an candidate of the West.

    I like Governor Napolitano plenty, but she's a transplanted New Yorker. Sorta like Vera Katz.

    As for Governor Kitzhaber, I think he'd make a fabulous presidential candidate. Hard-core politicos in Oregon are a little too close and a little too jaded to evaluate his national appeal broadly. That said, I'm pretty sure he's completely uninterested. But, wouldn't it be fun?

    Governor Vilsack... an intriguing idea. Not really of the West (except in that absurd way that Easterners think Chicago is "Northwestern".) But he's much more of a middle America kinda guy.

    Governor Richardson... Also intriguing, but I explicitly left him out of the op-ed because he really feels much more "of D.C." - a part of the national party that's done us in.

    The rest of names I mentioned (other than Kitz) aren't ready to run in 2008 - a Governor-elect, a Senator-elect, an Insurance Commish (who's the best of them all), and a Congressman. They're all a few years away, but plausible options...

  • bill deiz (unverified)

    Why do the Republicans get to have all the fun when it comes to running personality candidates cum politicians? Right now they are grooming Gov Arnold for a possible run, if they can get the constitution changed.

    Am I the only one who remembers when the initials RR stood for something besides Ronald Reagan? (Think Robert Redford).

    It is not just having credentials and a resume that wins presidential elections. Personality plays a huge part. Popularity. Image. A man or a woman of the people, or at least who appears to be.

    That's what the Repubs have created/manufactured with their "cowboy" from Texas. GWB. He passes their "someone I'd like to have a beer with" test. John Kitzhaber might fit, too, if he were better known, and actually wanted the job!

    I agree that a viable Democratic presidential candidate could come out of the west. But golly, the Republicans have already figured that one out too!

  • Ken (unverified)

    This was a great read and oh so refreshing to see a different view. I have heard so much about getting the DNC more left or center or whatever. The truth of the matter (in my opinion) is we fell victim to a common truth: too often people vote for who they like, not for who is most qualified.

    Yes, many people voted for Bush because of his supposed values. However, many more voted for him because of this jeans and boots working guy image. The truth is too many people that would agree with the "Kerry campaign" on issues just figured “the man” was an New England aristocrat that drinks his tea pinkie out! Sad but true.

    I only have one item I disagree with Kari’s great writing. While a western candidate would likely unit blue west, I think it would win some minds in the south too. They aren't all that different than us in many terms. They are working people on farms and manufacturing. If you look at the county voting results map you can see a blue line running from Louisiana through the Carolinas. There is room to grow there.

  • (Show?)

    Ken, actually I agree with you -- a Western Democrat would certainly a shift for the party away from Northeastern Liberals and from D.C. Democrats; a shift that might be appreciated in the South, the Fram Belt, and the Great Lakes.

    But I think that's the way to go -- not to try and find a Southerner; there aren't any left, not really.

  • Jarrett (unverified)

    I'm afraid the time for celebrity politicians has arrived.

    As an Oregonian transported against his will to California, I'm sorry to report that Schwartza-whatsit is a perfectly fine governor, DESPITE being not very bright and DESPITE his tendence to say stupid and self-aggrandizing things. He may also turn out not to exist -- rumor has it that he's merely a hologram -- and if so, that doesn't appear to be a problem either!

    Schwarzawhatsit has been a remarkably pragmatic centrist governor, because he's surrounded himself with pragmatic centrists who do the actual thinking. This was also the genius of Reagan, poorly (but apparently adequately) imitated by Bush II. Meanwhile, his celebrity somehow gives him permission to say things that would never be tolerated from a professional politician.

    So let's not expect too much personal genius in our dream candidate. Sure, Redford would be fine. But hey, so would Springsteen, or Will Smith for that matter. I don't care who it is; I care who's behind them

    Admittedly, finding a celebrity with a spotless personal life will be harder ...

  • Kent (unverified)


    I don't disagree with you but the fact of the matter is that no celebrity is going to jump from private life straight to the presidency. They are going to need to make a stop in the governor's mansion of some state or the Senate. Think Ronald Reagan, that pro wrestler in Minnesota, the Law and Order guy Fred Thompson in the Senate, or the Terminator in CA.

    Fact of the matter is that there are no celebrity Dems waiting in the wings to make the next leap up. So if you want to cultivate a celebrity candidate you're looking at a much longer time horizon than 2008.

  • John (unverified)

    Kari: excellent article with a spot-on premise. However, I wonder, do you really thing GWB looked at home in his cowboy boots and blue jeans? Whenever I saw footage of him "at the ranch," he just looked like a caricature of himself.

  • (Show?)

    Great article, K. Totally agree with you.

    I would love it if Kitzhaber would run. He truly would be a "people's" President. I can't see him leaving private for public life again, unfortunately. But the nation's answer to John Kitzhaber is exactly what this country needs and exactly the kind of person that the majority of Americans could and would get behind. No doubt about it.

    Whenever I saw footage of [GW] "at the ranch," he just looked like a caricature of himself.

    Um, he always looks like a caricature of himself. I think he's actually a cartoon. Or a puppet. That would explain the bulge. ;-)

  • Kevin Hayden (unverified)

    The states you describe would still provide little margin for error. The ultimate key is to observe which states are growing and which are shrinking. The first baby boomers, born in 1946, will be 62 in 2008. Which states will reap the mass exodus of retiring boomers?

    I think the right Westerner can do the job. Clearly Washington and Oregon are getting bluer and NM/NV are almost there. It'll be awhile longer for AZ and CO to shift and longer still for TX, maybe 2016.

    But elsewhere, NH, OH, WV, VA, AR and FL are not so far off center. I don't believe in magic formulas, though. I simply believe in candidates who can connect with people, no matter where they're from.

    Since pollsters have constricted the range of candidates to under half the states, the neglected half has grown more angry and polarized. Running a 50 state campaign in defiance of experts is necessary for the health of the country no matter who wins.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    I started to get in my car and the tires were slashed. I said: "Oh, I was driving a bad car. I must go get a different car, and this time pick out a good one."

    My team scored a touchdown and a field goal and the opponent scored a touchdown, and in the fourth quarter the scoreboard operator gave the opponent another touchdown for some reason and my team lost. I said: "Oh, we need a new quarterback. And we didn't execute our game plan well."

    Kerry was running for president and more voters marked their ballots for him, and secret-programmed computers tabulated the undocumented votes and displayed false results -- without Kerry votes, making up BushHitler votes -- false results which the mass media began repeating and said 'that's all.' And everyone on Kerry's team said: "Oh, how we failed. We need a different kind of candidate next time and a new leadership council, with a different message written in the words of our opponents so we can attract them to our side by sounding like them. Kerry was wrong and ran this campaign wrong."

    I believe I heard there are in Ohio 150,000 provisional ballots and 93,000 absentees and tens of thousands of so-called 'shinkage' ballots which have not been counted. Counting them starts today and finishes by Dec. 1, and after that, all the documented votes (70% in Ohio) on punchcards and optically scanned sheets are going to be recounted. and then the Ohio results are going to be announced.

    I believe over 200,000 votes are going to 'mysteriously swing' out of the war criminal's tally and into Kerry's tally, and that Kerry gets Ohio's electoral votes, and is inaugurated in January. It seems to me a mistake to plan for the 2008 election when the 2004 results have not been announced in reality, (only in mass hypnosis media, although some people can't tell the difference, and many people who have internet access and can read Ohio newspapers and watch Ohio TV and listen to Ohio radio, don't even try, and turn on TV and take whatever it says without evidence, whatever).

    Whether or not the 70% paper trail that exists is the bulk of the ballots which were falsely reported, and in the true recount are going to have enough to put Kerry first, we shall see. I don't know but I believe so, from the evidence that keeps collecting. (Today they reported finding a stack of 2600 ballots that were counted twice in one precinct. Another place they found over a hundred named people who voted twice.)

    I do know the election day vote was rigged in Ohio and Florida and New Mexico and Iowa, where I have judged for myself based on a lot of eye-witness reports. I know a criminal slashed the tires (above) and it is not the car's fault; I know the scorer cheated on the scoreboard and it is not my team's fault; and I know Kerry got more voters' ballots marked (or attempted to be) for him and election fraud crimes made up phony votes for BushHitler, and Kerry is not the problem -- was not the loser and did not lose by some "simply"-minded hypnotic instruction that he had characteristics ordinary people "couldn't identify with."

    But then, a written version giving such truth never gets printed in The Oregonian -- so >poof< it doesn't exist.

    People told the truth saying there was no WMDs nor threat in Iraq and >poof< they didn't exist in the media. People tell the truth saying 9/11 was faked and saying how it was faked and >poof< they don't exist in the Bushworship media, (although that is changing rapidly, with Wash.Post and NY.Times lately reporting on the credibility of contradictions to the 9/11 Legend).

    And now people truly say Bush votes in the ballot boxes are like WMD's in Iraq -- they ain't there and he's lying. Again.

    I ask if all the analysis of the Democrats' party and positions which concludes they are broken and have to be fixed, still holds if Kerry is inaugurated? As for a leading Democrat presidential candidate with a Western frame of mind, who I haven't seen mentioned, Sen. Wyden has made some ambitious-looking moves. He was back on the Ed Schultz show today, trying but (IMO) not convincingly to sound somber and serious about the CIA shutdown -- playing up his position on the Senate Intelligence Committee. For '08, Wyden could have the same entry Kerry had -- in a scattershot field, by a process of elimination, the last man standing; maybe nobody's first choice and everybody's second choice. For myself, I have had enough of Ron, who stood right beside Gordon ten feet from me and each of them lied in my face that he knew all the weapons in Iraq and they both heard me dispute that. (I described the where and when elsewhere on this blog. Afterward, Smith barricaded me away and would not engage me; Wyden exchanged a couple of sentences and then passed me on to his main man Josh to pursue it further, which we did.) At some point, who was wrong -- Wyden, Smith, BushHitler, et alii -- better own up to it. By the way, a big problem which matters to a lot of Oregonians I speak with, despite that it doesn't appear much in the BlueOregon distillation of the state and its topics, is the fact that native sons are being killed in Iraq. And there's no reason for them to be there. Just today word reached me again, losing a friend's friend's brother-in-law and I sit here feeling the grief tonight convulsing a home I know. So heavy. So heavy. And, oh gosh, don't our newspaper and TV stations stay on the story -- Bush lied -- and report and resist. Not! >poof< What war? >poof< What deaths? So hey, if our military secures the oil and then comes home and we are all starting to build wind-generated and solar-generated electricity farms so as not to ever need that oil, are we going to be accused of being unpatriotic? A line from this summer that has stayed with me says: A patriot is someone willing to protect his country from its government.

    And a song I don't know that keeps reminding me I don't know it, early Bob Dylan in an earlier misbegotten war: Come mothers and fathers throughout the land And don't criticize what you can't understand Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command Your old world is rapidly changing Please get out of the new one if you can't lend a hand For the times they are a'changing.

    Come senators and congressman please heed the call Don't stand in the doorway don't block up the hall And he who gets hurt will be he who has all There's a battle outside and it's raging It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls For the times they are a'changing.

    Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen And keep your eyes wide the chance won't come again And don't speak too soon for the wheel still it spins And there's no telling who it is naming The slow one now will be later to win For the times they are a'changing.

  • (Show?)

    A western candidate that positions him or herself properly would do very well nationally. There is something to be said for each and every one of the names suggested here. The bench is unusually deep considering two consecutive losses (for those still clinging to 2004 recount hopes, check out the Cal Tech-MIT study here for what I regretably suggest is pretty much the final word). I am heartened by the prospects of a west coast candidate at the #1 or #2 spot on the ticket in '08.

  • (Show?)

    Tim, sssshhhh... Don't tell anyone yet :) but WesternDemocrat.com is on the way...

  • LT (unverified)

    I was bothered by the "retreat to the left" comment about Dean above. I am old enough to remember when "left" and "right" meant something, not one of these fuzzy terms where 10 people defining "left" had 10 diff. definitions. And look at recent events. Are Hunter and Sensenbrenner more to the "right" of Bush/Cheney because the Pres. and VP called them and asked them to support the Intelligence reform bill but they stopped it and it died? Maybe such labels are very 20th century and it is lazy language to keep using them?

    I don't think Dean fits into that "left" mold. I would suggest anyone who does believe that Dean is from the "left" should read You Have The Power and quote from it (giving page #) to explain why he is "from the left".

    Not only that, but I am more and more coming to believe that it was incompetence rather than values which lost the election. I mean not sufficient rapid response, unclear message, Cahill not returning phone calls sort of incompetence.

    I also think that in Oregon the reason there weren't more state rep. victories may be the same thing. If the suspicion (and postings on this blog) are correct that the House caucus/Future Pac operated using a template of how campaigns should be run--and that template was more important than the differences in the 60 diff. districts--no wonder there weren't more victories. Look at the Central Oregon district where Judy Stigler thought she had won and then at the last minute the vote switched. What might have made the difference there?

    As far as Bill Richardson for President, until someone actually runs for president and has to deal with rapid response, microscope on their whole life, whether they come across well in small town crowds, etc. no one knows how they will really do. But having a friend who used to live in New Mexico, I get the feeling some of the locals think he is spending too much time on national politics and not enough on New Mexico. Did that state go red this year?

    I suspect a close examination of Colorado might be a good idea beause apparently they not only elected the Salazar brothers but flipped the legislature to Democratic.

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