Up Close, with Peter Sage

Fox Strategy. Hedgehog Strategy.

Jeff Golden and Julian Bell have done their homework. 

Do voters really value informed, independent thinkers?  Foxes know lots of things.  Hedgehogs know one big thing.  

Jeff Golden and Julian Bell are foxes, and know the issues.  Athena Goldberg is a hedgehog, who knows one big thing.

Candidate Forum at Medford Library

The Southern Oregon Climate Action group held a forum Wednesday night at the Medford Public Library.  By now there is a pattern in format to these forums.  An audience of politically active people. A moderator and time keeper.  Introductory speeches.  Answer questions in a minute or two. 

[This one was unusual in having candidate Curt Ankerberg, a Republican.  He is an outlier among the candidates on the stage last night.  Brenden Kelly, a write in candidate, also attended. This blog will write about them another day.]

Some things are as expected. Kevin Stine, a Medford City Council person, spoke extemporaneously and comfortably, making clear his positioning as a reliably left, working person, in tune with the positions of activist groups. He announced his support for Jamie McLeod-Skinner for the Democratic nomination for Congress. She is the popular, safe choice among activists, and the endorsement reflects both McLeod-Skinner's position as a reliable choice, and Stine's for associating himself with it. Stine's path to victory would come from being the predictable, potentially electable choice, it would come from having shaken hands door to door with thousands of people, and it would come from being considered in sync with conventional progressive environmentalist thinking.

Today's post will look at three other candidates: Julian Bell, Jeff Golden, and Athena Goldberg.  Each of the three of them seem to have political branding each is settling into, two foxes and one hedgehog.

Julian Bell, the emergency room physician, is a candidate in transition.  He began his political life as the "way-out" Ashland climate activist, but that image is changing as he continues to demonstrate growing political skills. He came dressed in a suit jacket and tie, and he spoke comfortably about climate change as the organizing principle for his comments on forest issues, water issues, health issues. Bell had been credible as a climate activist and citizen two years ago, but not as a generally credible candidate for governor. He was one-issue. Now he presents himself as an informed political communicator on multiple issues. He cites data. He comes across as utterly committed, but with commitment based on thorough knowledge of his material.

Jeff Golden is at the top of his game, continuing to re-affirm his brand as clearly the most informed and nuanced communicator of the candidates, comfortable with his positions and comfortable communicating them. Wednesday night he made the point that being effective in Salem is not simply about voting "yes" or "no" in a final vote. By the time things get to a final vote, it is too late, he said.  Making a real difference requires sufficient command of the material, including its history and nuances and unintended consequence. He made this point while showing both command of the material and the ability to frame it. He speaks in complete sentences and organized paragraphs, and does so extemporaneously and in real time. One can picture him talking with peers in the State Senate, being persuasive and effective, or explaining policies on national television news shows. Forums like this show off Golden's strengths.

Golden and Bell likely have appeal to the same kinds of voters, ones who want committed, highly informed people who can vote their convictions and understand the implications of their votes.  

Doesn't everyone want that?  Not necessarily. 

Athena Goldberg has a strong potential of winning the Democratic Primary, an estimate I make based on her ability to have gotten endorsements from upstate political organizations and unions and from comments I hear from some voters. It is the "year of the woman" and she is a new fresh face. She presents herself as intelligent engaging, and good hearted.

I had described her performance at a joint appearance in late March, and I wrote that she had not yet done her homework, and I displayed a transcript of some of her talk.  I fully expected her to have raised her game.  

Athena Goldberg's answers are disorganized and non responsive. I recognize this observation may seem harsh or biased.  In fact, my wish is for her to be as good a candidate and elected official as she can be. But rather than defend my conclusion I will show my evidence and let readers decide for themselves. The forum was videotaped.

Go to: https://www.facebook.com/pg/SOClimate/videos/   On the left side of the page click the tab for "Videos."


Minute 36, the question:  Substantial changes are occurring in federal agencies regulations and policies that impact environmental protection in Oregon.  If elected, what would be your response to these actions?

Minute 43, Goldberg's response:  "So, clearly we can’t trust our federal government to keep our land protected and safe. We need a strong voice at the capital, a voice that is a natural call to action.  And I’m personally very concerned about the quality of our water management, which we don’t discuss a lot, and I—I--feel deeply about.  And I hope that what we will do as a community is choose a representative like Pam Marsh, who has been an environmental advocate at the state senate level.  I would like to partner with her." 

Minute 45, the question: "What is your approach to increasing water conservation?

Minute 51, Goldberg's response: "So, I think we need to start with making sure our water is clean. Uh, I am very, uh, concerned that whatever means we take to conserve water we don’t first address the problem that I have, which is that people that work in farms, or in other agricultural industries, are inadvertently or unknowingly potentially exposed to pesticides, which then leak into our water system. That concerns me because, again, that only impacts really those of us who have to work for a living.  And really, what that looks like, that it ends up shortening a worker’s life. So that they die, at 47. That concerns me.  So there are a lot of ideas about water metering and things of that nature which have some valid points, but ultimately I want to make sure that it’s an environmental choice that includes social justice."

These answers may not hurt her.  Maybe she she knows enough.

Goldberg communicates the "hedgehog" message, that she knows one big thing: that she is compassionate and a nice person, and that she is willing to seek help from other reliable, experienced people.  Perhaps she is letting Bell and Golden be the class valedictorians, while she reveals that she respects good people like Pam Marsh and the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. They will show her the ropes. 

Do I really mean to say that Athena Goldberg's comparative lack of preparation is an advantage?  Possibly, yes.

It likely has appeal to upstate political professionals including the AFL-CIO, NARAL, the League of Conservation Voters, and the state Democratic Party. Jeff Golden has firm, internalized individual beliefs based on personal knowledge, and he wants to be free of influences. Golden--and Bell, too--will not take direction; they will shape direction. That makes them powerful but less predictable and tractable.

Goldberg is communicating that she would get advice from good, familiar sources, so she communicates she has a clear grasp of the one, big important thing.  People you trust will guide her. 

"If you trust Pam Marsh you can trust Athena Goldberg" may be the unspoken message of Goldberg's presentation.

Sarah Golden