Senate '08: Jeff Golden is out.

The Ashland Daily Tidings reports that Jeff Golden won't run for the U.S. Senate. A former Jackson County Commissioner and regional NPR radio host, he had been considering a run against Gordon Smith.

In a note sent directly to his supporters - and copied to BlueOregon, Golden criticized a "broken" political system:

The format of today's elections, the 10-second sound-bites, the daily horse-race handicapping of who's up and who's down, the relentless dialing for dollars is the wrong framework for the grassroots work of building powerful citizenship. As a result I have decided not to enter the race for Senator Smith's seat.

What's next for Jeff Golden?

The purpose of my books, columns and radio work over the last twenty years has been to encourage active citizenship as both the surest route to a more democratic country and a surprising source of personal satisfaction. I love that work and will carry it on through a combination of seminars, online dialogue, community workshops, columns and broadcast media. The first step is a new interactive forum at the website REALLY Taking America Back. Anyone ready to trade cynicism for open-minded creativity on behalf of our country s future is welcome there. More than welcome--- we need you.


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    I heard Jeff speak for a few minutes informally at dinner in Grants Pass after the DPO central committee meeting in July. He's obviously a very bright and thoughtful guy and deeply committed to making a positive difference. I know he will continue to be heard from.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    Having lived in Ashland during the 80s when Jeff was active in public radio, and witnessed his public issues involvement, I believe he is a gifted man who has much to offer in public service. My father, who was on the Medford City Council, also thought highly of Jeff. His critique of electioneering is on target. That said it is a large leap to go to the U.S. Senate from having held no elective office. I can imagine that he now believes Jeff Merkley will be the Dem candidate to take on Gordon Smith as Jeff has the backing of the national and state party. Hopefully Jeff will continue to bring his talents and energy to progressive public policy.

  • verasoie (unverified)

    Does this mean he'll be back on the radio in S. Oregon and once again helping advocate for progressive ideals?

  • Scott Jorgensen (unverified)

    It's unfortunate that both Golden and Sen. Alan Bates have decided not to run for the Senate. I think it would have been nice to have a Democrat from Southern Oregon in the race. Now Novick and/or Merkley will have to convince folks in rural parts of the state that they know and care about their issues. Based on a conversation I had with Merkley several months ago when he visited the area, I would suggest that he has a lot of work ahead of him.

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    I must have missed any reference to Jeff running for Senate because this just blew me away. I met him while he was going through a program in Eugene that I was interning with. Dang. I could have been on a first-name basis with a Senator!

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    Bill: Just to clarify...the state party does not take positions in Democratic primaries. We remain neutral until the nominee is decided. And, as far as I know, the DNC hasn't taken a position on this race, either.

    The DSCC, which is controlled and funded by sitting Democractic senators, often meddles in state politics. They raise the money and they decide where it goes.

    I also had the opportunity to meet Mr. Golden in Grants Pass and very much enjoyed talking with him. He was kind enough to give me a copy of his book, which has some very engaging and right-on-the-money (sorry, couln't resist) imaginary speeches. I do hope we'll hear more from him in the future.

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    The DNC hasn't taken a position, and it's unlikely that they would do so. Like the state party, the national party waits until the voters select a nominee to support a candidate.

    The DSCC, however, is another story. It's an independent organization, and like any independent organization, can do whatever it wants with its money, energy, time, and staff.

  • LT (unverified)

    Thank you for this, Jenny:

    The DSCC, which is controlled and funded by sitting Democractic senators, often meddles in state politics. They raise the money and they decide where it goes.

    In the past there have been people (not limited to pundits) who tried to make DSCC a synonym of "the Democratic Party".

    As I understand it, law and party rule make political parties the folks who as pct. people elect their county officers and delegates to state, national, (and cong. district?) bodies to elect officers of those groups.

    It is long past time to have that clarified. If elected officials want to have their own groups which are identified as groups of like-minded elected officials rather than confusing people by claiming to be party organizations, that is fine.

    But if they are not responsible to anyone other than their own membership, they should make that clear and not claim to represent all Democrats. Any group composed of elected officials is by nature open to change as there are new office holders elected and old ones leaving office. If they wish to keep their proceedings secret from the general public, that's fine--they just shouldn't expect us to accept without question any and every thing they do.

    This is what the debate between the heads of DSCC and DCCC and DNC Chair Dean were about. Rahm and Chuck seemed to think they had the right to tell DNC how to allocate resources, and he was just supposed to follow orders. Were they even in the room when DNC Chair Dean was elected, or did they have other things to do?

    Jenny, this debate has been building for long before most of us had ever heard of you. To some extent, Dean's book YOU HAVE THE POWER was aimed at this debate. There are those of us who have given thousands of hours over the decades to the Democratic Party (county, district, state central committees) and Democratic candidates. Many of us dropped out of politics after being told volunteers didn't know anything because the only people who knew anything were "professionals" on a political payroll somewhere.

    I hope we hear a lot more about Golden in the future. As I recall, Golden's book is something along the lines of "politics as if voters are adults". The quote in this post "Anyone ready to trade cynicism for open-minded creativity on behalf of our country s future is welcome there. More than welcome--- we need you" is a great quote.

    As someone who has worked on campaigns where volunteers wanted nothing to do with party politics but strongly believed in a particular candidate, I know that parties are not what they were in my grandfather's time. He and his WWI buddies beat the local county political machine and got more transparency for nominations in those days before primaries.

    Democrats should welcome transparency. It has been made abundently clear that no one can predict in August of an even numbered year what the voters will decide in the primary or general. That some even try to make such predictions might be one reason why the fastest growing party is no party at all.

    Jenny, this is something you should discuss with others you know in your capacity as DNC member. Those of us who are pro-debate, true grass roots veterans might be willing to give it one more shot and work our hearts out for someone we truly believe in. But not because some powerful stranger tells us what to do. And too many of us have been given flak that "real Democrats" don't support a particular primary candidate, or worked very hard on "forgotten" campaigns where "the powers that be" decided there wasn't a chance in the world so why bother.

    Why bother with a political party which says "we know in advance that these people will win and those people will lose". Yes, that topic has been much discussed elsewhere, but Peralta and Gilbertson in 2006 were only the tip of the iceberg going back many election cycles.

    Glad to hear the official statement of neutrality. Democrats do best when they appeal to the common sense and fair play of ordinary people.

    An old friend of mine ( who I met when invited to the local meetings of a college Young Dems group a quarter century ago) had a saying about cynicism. "Scratch a cynic and you will find a disappointed romantic".

    The people who have given their all to a campaign and become disillusioned (by something the candidate did, or by being told they wasted their time on an impossible campaign or that "real" Democrats wouldn't say things like that) are a lot harder to mobilize than young people who have not yet discovered politics.

    As I may have said before, some weeks ago I attended a memorial service for a Democratic and labor activist whose service stretched for decades. Considerable success, knew many famous people, considerable recognition of work well done.

    But spent the last several years in an assisted living facility. The saddest thing was that most in that room full of people there were family members, and residents of the assisted living facility. Only 6 people there from the political/labor activism days.

    There's a lesson in there somewhere. Most of those 6 people were retired, no longer politically active, in some cases just plain dropped out and found other uses for their time. That seems a shame, as each of those people has considerable experience and institutional memory.

    If the Democratic Party is really the party of ordinary people, and not just one of two teams competing for political power, there needs to be a way to mobilize not only those Golden describes as willing to trade in their cynicism, but also those people, once active, who hit a "last straw" moment and found other uses for their spare time.

    Maybe time for some soul searching about whether the current Democratic Party structure (from the central comm. structure at various levels to the groups which are of, by, and for elected officials) really serves the rank and file of the party. Or is it heirarchy for the sake of heirarchy because "we have always done it that way".

    In the case of the Democratic Party of Oregon and Democratic candidates, that statement "we have always done it that way" is factually wrong. Anyone who was active politically in the 1970s or 1980s will confirm that things change over time, and "new and improved" isn't always as great as some may believe.

    No amount of money and technology can make up for enthusiasm of ordinary people. Presidential years often bring in new volunteers and pct. people. Is the established structure of Democrats ready for them?

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    LT, I'm glad that you've finally recognized the distinction between the Democratic Party -- and the various independent organizations that are privately funded and governed.

    Of course, there's this:

    But if they are not responsible to anyone other than their own membership, they should make that clear and not claim to represent all Democrats.

    Perhaps you could share an example? My history isn't as long as yours, but I've never heard the legislative or congressional campaign committees ever claim to "represent all Democrats" in any kind of formal or official way. (That is, excepting the rhetorical flourish "We Democrats...")

    Of course, despite your new-found clarity on the distinction between the party and the caucus campaign committees, you still managed to confuse 'em one last time:

    Why bother with a political party which says "we know in advance that these people will win and those people will lose".

    I'm pretty sure you'd agree that the PARTY doesn't do that. Of course, we've long disagreed about whether the caucus campaign committees do... but I think we can agree that the party doesn't. So please don't confuse the two.

  • LT (unverified)

    Kari, it is true that my political memory is longer than yours.

    Here is my example--mid 1990s (maybe 1997 don't recall the year exactly) running into one of my old friends from my days on state central comm. Someone from a rural county as I recall, and probably ran into this person at in the state capitol. I forget what the issue was, but I was telling her a story of an encounter with someone working on a Democratic campaign the previous year who told me I had no right to express an opinion or ask a question, and this old friend said OF COURSE YOU DO!

    There had been people advocating for Democratic candidates in general and one in particular who were claiming that all Democrats owed unquestioning support to a nominee when many of us had spent years in Will Rogers' Democratic Party--the one which was not organized into a bunch of robots repeating talking points the way Republicans did for years.

    (Let me say right here that the new DCCC chair--Chris Holleren?--sounds like a breath of fresh air.)

    These people the old friend and I were talking about in some cases wouldn't have known the names of the leaders of the DSCC, DCCC or any other caucus organization, and were not in many cases pct. people. They were friends and neighbors who had been involved in politics for years but had bought into the spin that good Democrats did as they were told and didn't ask questions. Am I confusing caucus vs. party by telling of those people?

    One thing the old friend and I talked about was the incompetence of staffers from outside the area or the state saying things like "well, this worked in my last state, therefore it will work here", or telling volunteers that they didn't really know anything (when in fact they knew locations to get things, recognized politically connected people by face and name, etc. )

    Statements like "if I'd been running a seniors to seniors phone bank scheduled to start at a particular hour, I would have had the call sheets all ready to start at that hour " are not about distinguishing between party and caucus. They are about incompetence of people earning a living in politics. And yes, Kari, if everyone you have ever met in politics has been such a hard worker that such incompetence never happened to your knowledge, that doesn't change the fact that such things did happen in Oregon in counties outside the Portland area.

    Kari, my guess is that if you traveled around the state and talked to people who were involved in politics over the last 15 years--and not just in this century--you might uncover many such stories. Just because people in the Portland area didn't experience such things doesn't mean it never happened anywhere in Oregon.

    And I have heard pundits support the views of Rahm and Chuck and disparage DNC Chair Dean (50 state strategy wouldn't work, they knew where the money should go so why was Dean standing in their way?) in a way which implied it is the job of the DNC chair to take orders from the Congressional Leadership. These are the same people who minimize the role of the Association of State Democratic Chairs. My guess is that the DSCC especially would not like to appear at an ASDC meeting and answer questions. I have great respect for ASDC, and don't like to hear it ignored or disparaged.

    But you mistake my meaning, Kari. I know that any level of caucus leadership is not the same as the county, state, or national Democratic Party and it would be interesting to know how many caucus members and staffers at any level are also pct. people. (As I recall, Gov. Roberts was a pct. person while living at Mahonia Hall, but that is atypical.)

    My point was this. People here who are active politically understand the differences. But most people don't. If someone is contemplating changing registration to D to vote in the 2008 primary, are they likely to know the difference between caucus and party? Or doesn't that matter?

    Would you like to explain the differences to them, Kari? Have you ever done so? Or, do you only know registered Democrats?

    If there is a news story "Democratic-----said today,.......", how many people hearing or reading that story will know to distinguish whether the statement came from party or caucus? Was the success of Webb, Tester, Sestak, Walz, et al a victory for all registered Democrats, for the Democratic Party, for the caucuses, for ordinary people? All of the above?

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