Occasional comments about business and politics in Portland, Oregon, mixed in with stories from our city's colorful if not always compliant past.
"May God save the country, for it is evident that the people will not." -- Millard Fillmore
Come January America will still have its energetic and inventive people and the products of their hands and minds: its farms, its factories, its universities, its cities, its natural resources, its trading partners, and its constitution. The nation survived Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, civil war, Warren Harding, the Great Depression, the Cold War, and George W. Bush. It will survive the next president also.
Once upon a time the United Hotel Company needed to hire a new president. It narrowed more than a dozen applicants down to two and called them in for a final interview. "What's your experience in the industry?" they asked the finalists, though they had read their resumes.
The first applicant, a woman, replied, "I''ve spent more than 30 years working in hotels and the hospitality industry. I worked my way through college serving tables in a restaurant. When I graduated, I took a job in customer service at a hotel, then was promoted to run the catering department, and later became the sales manager. I was out of the industry for 8 years because my husband ran a hotel chain -- he was the first CEO in 50 years at that company to turn a profit -- and I moved with him to support his career. When he retired, I was selected to be the senior finance manager at another hotel chain, which I did for eight years, and then for four years was the director of communications. Also, so you can know what else I've done, here are 10 years of my income tax returns."
The second applicant, a man, said, "I've never had a job at a hotel, but I know all about them because I stay in hotels and I have my weddings catered in hotels. I've figured out some great ways to avoid paying my hotel bills. I know all about how to stiff a hotel, so you should hire me because I can stop other people from stealing from you. You need an outsider to teach you about fraud. And if the business goes downhill I know all about how to reorganize it, because I've taken six of my own companies into bankruptcy. I'm the best you're ever going to get, and if you don't hire me it means the system is rigged to favor the insiders. By the way, your receptionist's cute. I know people who own hotels in Russia - let's do a merger."
The hiring committee hotly debated which candidate to hire. The committee was almost evenly divided, so it scheduled a final discussion and vote. On the big day, one member was busy with other things, and didn't attend. The members who showed up talked for a while and then voted. The second candidate won by one vote, despite his inexperience, his bankruptcies, and his attitude, because he was a man.
This, of course, is a fable, and would never happen in American business, where decisions are based on merit. Whether it happens in American politics depends on your ballot.
In a conversation with a fellow political aficionado about the upcoming presidential election, a thought occurred to me on how, if Donald Trump appears to win a narrow majority of the electors, the Republican party establishment might nevertheless elect a party stalwart such as Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, or John Kasich. The event that would kick off the party's search for a constitutional loophole will be if Secretary Clinton wins the popular vote but Mr. Trump wins the electoral vote. Let's suppose that the Trump-Pence ticket wins 275 or so electoral votes in November.
Except that it won't: the electoral vote isn't counted until mid-December when the electors meet in their state capitals to cast their vote. Imagine that the national Republican party persuades six of Mr. Trump's electors to cast their presidential votes for some other Republican, for example, Mitt Romney. The actual electoral tally will then be 269 for Mr. Trump, 264 for Secretary Clinton, and 6 for Mr. Romney. Mr. Trump still wins, doesn't he?
No, he doesn't. A majority of the electoral vote is 270. No candidate having received 270 or more electoral votes, the House of Representatives will then choose among the top three finishers in the electoral race: Mr. Trump, Mrs. Clinton, and Mr. Romney. Each state gets one vote. The Republicans currently control more state delegations than do the Democrats, and the Republicans in the House must then go on record as to whether, in their opinion, Mr. Trump or Mr. Romney is better suited to be President. Considering how the Republicans in Congress are distancing themselves from the Trump portion of the campaign, they may be reluctant to stand on the House floor and cast their votes for him. In that case, Mr. Romney could become president despite not having been on the ballot in any state.
In fact, the delicious dilemma into which the House Republicans will be placed is so great that if the popular vote does not produce a clear winner, for example, if elections difficulties in one state give us another 1980, it would be tempting for one Democratic elector to vote for Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan so that if the electoral race isn't conclusive, the House has a second Republican available. I can't imagine any Republican delegation casting its state's vote for Mrs. Clinton, but I can see them grasping at a way to avoid their party being under four years of Mr. Trump's leadership.
John T. Molloy came to public attention 40 years ago when he published "Dress For Success," a volume on what men should wear to the office that he based not on his opinions but on 15 years of testing and research, and declared himself "America's first wardrobe engineer." He followed his first book up with "The Women's Dress For Success," "Live for Success," and "Why Men Marry Some Women And Not Others," all, like his first book, based on research and statistical analysis. The titles of his books don't convey the full nature of his half-century of research and testing, which broadly deals with how Americans react to symbols of success and failure in clothing, speech, and manners. He's applied his knowledge to advising political candidates on how to dress and speak.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump haven't hired Mr. Molloy (one of them should), but he has some free advice for them anyway. I recommend reading his entire post, which you can find at this link. He says Mr. Trump has made a mistake in referring to his opponent as "Crooked Hillary," because he is turning off large sections of the country that are turned off by New York City rudeness. Here are two snippets of his advice.
First, his advice for Secretary Clinton:
If I were advising Hillary I would tell her the minute Trump called her “Crooked Hillary” to become indignant and walk off the show. Most people particularly in the Midwest and the South would agree with her reaction. The reason I would give her such advice is Trump needs the debates to win, in fact, I’m sure he and his team are counting on them. If Hillary can avoid debating when she has a substantial lead she wins hands down.
And his advice for Mr. Trump:
If on the other hand I were advising Trump I would have him apologize for using such language before the debates started. I would have him say something to the effect it was all right in the primaries but a debate for the presidency should have and will have dignity and decorum and he will refer to his opponent as Mrs. Clinton, Hillary or candidate Clinton. That would force Hillary to debate and give him a shot at the presidency since I believe he is a better debater than Hillary and has all sorts of information about Bill and Hillary that he can use to his advantage.
Saying that both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump are terrible prospective presidents is like saying that two drivers are both irresponsible because one of them has had a series of hit-and-run accidents, a few DUI convictions, and a reckless driving charge, and the other one regularly gets tickets for overtime parking.
The presidential primaries are now over -- only the District of Columbia remains on the schedule -- and the Democrats have selected Hillary Clinton to run against Donald Trump. She won a decisive majority of the pledged (popularly selected) delegates. Senator Sanders and the superdelegates should honor the public's choice.
The Democratic campaign focused mostly on policy issues and despite a few rough elbows, was remarkably civilized. The Republican campaign, by contrast, seemed to have as its main purpose to identify and then eliminate every person with the temperament and experience to serve. In selecting Mr. Trump it accomplished its purpose admirably.
The question now is how many of Senator Sanders's supporters will vote for Secretary Clinton in November. I see the Sanders supporters in two camps: one group includes the protest voters and the other group consists of the policy voters. Through some very rough math, based largely on the difference in the results between closed-primary states where only registered Democrats vote, and the open-primary states where independents could choose a Democratic ballot, I believe that about 1/4 of Senator Sanders's voters are protest voters and about 3/4 are policy voters.
Many of the protest voters will vote for Mr. Trump, not because they agree with his views, but because to vote for him is to say that the system is fouled and needs not just minor repairs but a major overhaul, one of the points that Senator Sanders made through the primary campaign. The protest voters don't support Mr. Trump's solution (if indeed he has one), but they are so strongly opposed to the political establishment that they will vote for the anti-establishment candidate whether he be left, center, right, or politically undefinable.
The policy voters, on the other hand, will almost all vote for Secretary Clinton over Mr. Trump. How could they not? Consider, for instance, foreign policy. Senator Sanders was the most pacifist of the candidates; Secretary Clinton has a track record of being quick to advocate force. On that ground one might favor Sanders over Clinton, as I did. But I don't see how anyone could conclude that Secretary Clinton is more bellicose than Mr. Trump. (I'm a little surprised that Mr. Trump hasn't set off a foreign policy crisis already, and he's not even been nominated yet.)
Or consider immigration. Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders hold similar views on immigration: provide some amnesty and a pathway to citizenship and legal status for the law-abiding majority. Mr. Trump, on the other hand, appears to oppose this nation admitting any immigrants that he can't marry, and his policy seems to be to build a wall, with nothing more. I think it would be fun to build a wall -- Banksy could make it a tourist attraction -- but only if the nation simultaneously adopts a process to let people in through the gates. Why should the workers on whom American agriculture depends have to pay smugglers to get them through the desert to their jobs? Mr. Trump offers rhetoric but no answer. Anyone who agrees with Senator Sanders on immigration can't possibly agree with the position that Mr. Trump espouses. (The spouses themselves are lovely.)
Is Hillary Clinton the perfect candidate? No. Is she likely to push major reforms through a hostile Congress? No. But is she more dangerous to the economy, to foreign relations, to education, and to equal rights than President Trump would be? No, no, no, and no. I'm not enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton as president, but I'm open to changing my mind, and I intend to vote for her in the general election.
Last month I modeled the remaining primaries in the Democratic contest for the nomination. My model represented not what I expected the outcomes to be, but how quickly Senator Sanders would have to attract supporters away from Secretary Clinton in order to finish the primary season 200 delegates ahead. I assumed that if the two candidates were about even in pledged delegates, the superdelegates would maintain their strong preference for Secretary Clinton, but that if Senator Sanders finished with a substantial lead in pledged delegates, enough superdelegates would switch their preference to nominate him.
Ten primaries and one small caucus (Guam) have been held since I modeled the contest. In those 11 contests, Senator Sanders won about 50 fewer pledged delegates than my model required. At this point, he has 1488 pledged delegates and 781 remain to be chosen, so if he won every remaining pledged delegate he would have 2269 pledged delegates, 40 short of the 2309 required for the nomination. (In the unlikely event that he wins all the remaining delegates, the superdelegates would undoubtedly nominate him.) Secretary Clinton has 1767 pledged delegates and needs 542 more pledged delegates (69% of the remaining pledged delegates) to win the nomination without superdelegates.
With the additional 11 contests now decided, what is required for Senator Sanders to win the nomination? In my view he must not only equal Secretary Clinton's pledged delegate count, but must surpass it by a wide margin. I've reduced the victory condition to be that he finishes with at least 150 more pledged delegates than Secretary Clinton, which may be enough of a margin for him to sway the superdelegates. He's currently 279 delegates behind, so to finish 150 delegates ahead he must win 605 of the remaining 781 delegates -- 77% of the remaining delegates. He would then finish with 2093 pledged delegates and she would have 1943.
If he wins 60% of the delegates in all remaining states except California (unlikely but possible) he will receive 144 delegates, and will need to win 451 delegates in California. The hitch is that California sends only 475 pledged delegates, so to win 451 of them he will need to hold Secretary Clinton to less than the 15% threshold that is required to receive delegates. That is so unlikely as to be effectively impossible. If he were to win 75% of the California vote and 60% of the vote in the other remaining states, he will finish the primary season with 1989 pledged delegates, she will finish with 2047 pledged delegates, and the superdelegates will rightly cast their votes to nominate Secretary Clinton.
Barring a catastrophic event, it is no longer possible for Senator Sanders to win the nomination.
Ron Wyden is running for a fourth full term in the Senate. Among the most liberal of the senators, he was a voice against deep involvement in Iraq and more recently has been speaking out against the government's Google-like desire to know absolutely everything about everyone. He is the 14th most senior senator and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee; if the Democrats take control of the Senate he will become the chair. His challenger, Medford city councilor Kevin Stine, is a serious candidate with a future in politics who has not advanced a good reason for Oregonians to change senators. Democrats should renominate him.
Four Republicans want the chance to challenge Senator Wyden in November. Only one has held meaningful elective office (another is a precinct committeeman). Faye Stewart, who is the chair of the Lane County Commission, is the most practical and experienced of the four Republican contenders. Besides his terms in elective and appointive office, he has firsthand experience in the lumber industry from his family's connection with the former Bohemia Corporation and civic involvement. (Stub Stewart State Park, near Vernonia, is named after his great-uncle.) Two candidates make a virtue of their lack of political experience, and the third wants to be our "constitutionally conservative" Senator, a phrase which reminds me, uncomfortably, of the ill-informed claimants to the office of "constitutional sheriff." Mr. Stewart describes his accomplishments in office; the other candidates don't seem to understand the role of a Senator. I recommend a vote for Mr. Stewart.
Over at the House, in the 1st District incumbent Suzanne Bonamici is challenged by Shabba Woodley, a political newcomer who did not file a statement in the Voter's Pamphlet, but whose website does describe issues that Congress can help. I would like to see Mr. Woodley strive for the state House, but he is not ready to run for Congress. Rep. Bonamici should be renominated. Three Republicans filed for the 1st District nomination, Jonathan Burgess, Brian Heinrich, and Delinda Morgan. It's hard for me to recommend one of them, because not one of them submitted a Voter's Pamphlet statement. Mr. Heinrich and Ms. Morgan do have campaign websites -- I couldn't find one for Mr. Burgess. Mr. Heinrich seems an engaging enough fellow, but Ms. Morgan's website does stake out positions on how she would vote if elected. I can't say that I find her positions logical -- she wants to cut taxes and also stop borrowing to finance federal spending -- but she is trying, however awkwardly, to grapple with the issues that Congress faces. She is the best of the Republicans' choices to lose to Rep. Bonamici in November.
In the 3rd District, Earl Blumenauer is unopposed in either party, a sensible decision by all of the would-be candidates for his seat. The hyperenergetic congressman has for years seemingly been able to be in the Capitol and in Portland at the same time, a feat that few challengers could match. I suspect that he's cloned himself.
In the 5th District, incumbent Democrat Kurt Schrader faces a strong challenge from Dave McTeague, who served 5 terms in the Oregon house and was later the executive director of a small state agency for 18 years. He is capable and competent, but so is Rep. Schrader. The district would be well-served with either man in office. Dr. Schrader is among the more liberal Congressmen on both domestic policy (repealing the Citizens United decision) and foreign policy (opposing increasing our ground troops in the Middle East), and is well in line with Oregonians. The 5th District is finely balanced between Democrats and Republicans, and in my view Dr. Schrader is more likely than Mr. McTeague to carry the centrists in the district. Mr. McTeague has aligned his campaign platform with that of Bernie Sanders, which gives an easy way for voters to choose: Democrats who support Senator Sanders and who would not vote for Secretary Clinton in the general election should vote for Mr. McTeague. Democrats who would vote for Secretary Clinton in the general election should support Dr. Schrader for another term.
Four Republicans have filed in the 5th District. Three submitted candidate statements. They reflect, sadly, the weakness of the Republican candidate bench in Oregon. None has held elective office. Colm Willis, an attorney, states that he is a "limited government, Constitutional conservative who will defend our freedoms and stand up for our rights." He also wants to "cut taxes and stop deficit spending," two great tastes that do not go well together. Another candidate, Seth Allan, says that the federal government "owns 53% of Oregon's land which is more than they can properly manage." If elected he will work to transfer those lands to state and local governments or to sell the lands to private parties. No one who has been to Josephine County or Curry County can possibly believe that those local governments have the wherewithal to manage even more land than they own now. I find his platform inspiring and completely impractical. That leaves Ben West, a mortgage banker who is about to receive a degree in nursing. Although parts of his platform are politically infirm, his candidate statement does give the impression that he understands that the role of government includes providing services to people who cannot help themselves, and for that reason I invite Republicans in the 5th District to vote for Mr. West.