By Andrew Becker of Eugene, Oregon. An Oregon native, Andrew worked for the Obama campaign in Texas, Philadelphia, and North Carolina.
While the debate between the gubernatorial candidates has treaded through the education issue here at BlueOregon, we have to fundamentally re-examine this race in more than just one aspect. Education is of course a cornerstone of any Democratic platform. However, there is a much more pressing issue, one which is actually at the forefront of everybody else’s mind. It’s the economy, stupid.
The most intriguing proposal in the entire debate so far is also the one with the least coverage so far: Bill Bradbury’s proposal for a Bank of Oregon. Oregonians, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and everybody else for that matter, are justifiably pissed with the multinational banks which got us into this financial meltdown. While we bailed them out, they refuse to make the loans needed to revitalize the nation’s recovery efforts, instead giving themselves rage-inspiring bonuses of hedonistic proportions. People see this, and almost unanimously agree: “It’s time to stop feeding the mouth that bites you!”
Bradbury’s Bank of Oregon idea is the most important part of this debate because it is real, it makes sense, it will have a healing effect on Oregon’s beleaguered entrepreneurs and spur job growth, and it is progressive in a way that people of any political stripe can agree with it. It’s straight out of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Don’t give your money to the Mr. Potters of this world; Bill’s Bank of Oregon would make loans to Community Credit Unions and local banks for them to loan out so that we finally give the innovators, small and medium sized businesses, and potential home owners the capital they are begging for to make Oregon thrive again. As someone who ran a restaurant in Bandon, Bradbury quickly understood how hard it is to be a small business owner. He created the innovative Small Business Development Centers in 1984, housed at every Community College in the State, and now he is looking for another innovative way to help small and medium size businesses grow, and thus hire people: that is why he is proposing the Bank of Oregon. Not only that, but dividends from Bill Bradbury’s Bank of Oregon is exactly what our state’s General Fund needs, and with the increased economic activity and tax revenue of a rebounded economy, Oregon will once again be a state to show the rest how it’s done.
Oregonians are not afraid of bold leadership like this, they are begging for it. They want a candidate who will denounce the hypocrisies of our time, and they are wary of the same-old politicians. Case in point: early on in the game, Hillary Clinton was all but coronated by Democratic leadership and all the talking heads as the only “realistic” candidate with a “shot at the nomination.” Sound familiar? It should, because that echo resounds through this chamber today, regarding Kitzhaber. Until recently, he appeared to have everything going for him. Yet Novick is right about endorsements: if the endorsements of the Oregon Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, and the Oregon School Employees Association mean nothing, endorsements from the state party’s big-wigs mean even less. The people want substance, not admittedly impressive speeches about how we need to “fundamentally reexamine the issues.” The people can see what matters to them quite clearly, and they know Kitzhaber’s track record (according to the polls, this knowledge has led to very high negative favorability ratings). Just as they knew all about Hillary, this is a time when they are done with the to-be-expected candidates, and want a different direction. Bradbury offers that, and the energy, enthusiasm, and issues-oriented young people (read as: volunteers) that carried Obama from novelty to President are behind Bradbury because he shares that spirit.
Finally, like Hillary v Obama, Kitzhaber has the backing of not only much of the political establishment, but the monied establishment as well. Do we really believe that the favorite-son of large contributions from lobbies like health insurance interests, big-pharma, and right-wing talk radio mouthpiece Clear Channel can make a coherent argument as a choice to reform “business as usual?” To quote a phrase I learned as an Obama Field Organizer in North Carolina during the General, “That dog don’t hunt,” and the voters see that much more clearly than you or me. Bradbury has a third of Kitzhaber’s war-chest, but three times the donor base. Like Barack, Bill has an average donation of $100—from people like you and me, not big-business interests.
Nobody who makes early endorsements wants to back-track or be shown-up. Yet more important than that, as we saw when Obama took center stage more than half-way through the game, is that people will back an inspirational leader with momentum every time.