Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Exciting things are happening at Portland State University. If you've driven through downtown anytime in the past five years, you've seen buildings springing up as the university colonizes the area south of Market Street. PSU has come a long way from its modest early days when, fresh from its Vanport exodus, it moved into the abandoned Lincoln High School (now Lincoln Hall).
While enrollment at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University has edged up slowly, PSU's has exploded, making it the largest Oregon university. City and state leaders, looking north to Seattle, have big hopes that PSU may one day become a major engine for economic growth, and administrators estimate the university's economic impact at more than a billion dollars annually. In 2006, the school completed a $114 million capital campaign and is now in the middle of building a six-story, $71 million student recreation center. By every measure, PSU is striving to join the big leagues.
So why, then, is PSU so cheap with its most valuable asset, its faculty?
Last summer, the Oregon Legislature approved an 18 percent increase in PSU's budget, but the university has so far failed to offer the faculty a reasonable salary adjustment. After nearly a year of negotiation that led to a period of mediation, on April 17 the faculty union finally decided to declare an impasse, paving the way to a potential strike. We have good reason to be angry:
- PSU faculty are paid just 77 percent of the national average, putting them in the bottom 10 percent of the nation.
- Due mainly to high workloads and poor salary, more than 300 faculty members have left PSU since 2003.
- PSU faculty earn 9 percent and 7 percent less than their colleagues at UO and OSU, despite the higher cost of living in Portland.
- PSU gets by with fewer full-time professors (50 percent) than OSU (80 percent) or UO (73 percent), which saves the university money over and above its already paltry outlay for regular faculty.
- Since 1991, student enrollment has increased by 70 percent, while Portland's cost of living has increased by 54 percent.
A university can have a beautiful campus, sparkling new buildings and a great football team, but if it wants to be considered among the finest schools in the country, it must have exceptional professors. These are the professionals who do groundbreaking research, keep the best and brightest students in the state, and join with private and public partners to enrich a city.
No one wants the faculty to strike -- not the students, the administration, the new incoming president or members of the union. The faculty have requested of a 7 percent salary increase in each of the two years of the current biennium. That wouldn't bring us anywhere near the national average, but it would be fair and reasonable. It's simply not possible to become a world-class university by offering third-rate salaries and benefits to professors.
PSU needs to do the right thing and offer its faculty a decent contract.
Jeff Alworth is a unit representative for the American Association of University Professors and a member of Portland State University's research faculty.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
In Oregon, the traditional Dem wins some (but generally not all) of eight counties--Multnomah, Washington, Hood River, Columbia, Clatsop, Lincoln, Lane, and Benton. Obama won Multnomah (2004 Kerry vote: 72%) and Grant (percent white--97, 2004 Kerry vote: 19%). This guy has serious crossover potential.
Obama - 20 counties.
Clinton - 13 counties
(2 with no results)
Whites - Obama 57%
White Dems - Obama 54%
White women - Obama 50%
Earn less than $50k - Obama 53%
Catholics - Obama 51%
Total: Obama 58%, Clinton 42% (76% reporting)
I'm going out on a limb and saying it'll be fifteen in Oregon. It exceeds all reasonable measures, but I'm in an expansive mood.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Click on the purty picture for details:
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Swing State Pick-up
In this scenario, you select a state where you are weak and find a candidate to shore up votes. The calculus is obvious, but this is often a mirage. The assumptive fallacy lies in the idea that voters for the local Senator/Governor will vote for the same candidate when s/he's on the bottom of the national ticket. But those crossover voters who back the candidate when s/he's running for senator or governor may not be as inclined to back Obama as president. In fact, historians argue that the only time this really panned out was in 1960, when LBJ put Texas in Kennedy's column and was the difference. So the theory is questionable. Still, it's awfully tempting, particularly given Obama's need for some juice in Ohio.
Candidates: Ted Strickland, Ohio gov, Ed Rendell, Penn gov, Claire McCaskill, Missouri Sen (bonus points, woman; see below). Longshot: Bill Nelson, FL Sen. I don't know that Strickland will bring votes over. Could be that someone like Jim Webb would actually appeal to the Ohioans Obama needs better than Strickland. Same with McCaskill and Nelson. Rendell I love because he's a great guy. But Obama's winning Pennsylvania easily in any case.
Another common gambit is the gap-filling veep, the guy or gal who helps round out the administration. In Obama's case, that means cred with Appalachian working-class whites or foreign policy/military background. The upside is that selecting such a person reassures the electorate that you have the bases covered (see Bush/Cheney). The downside is that it highlights the weakness at the top of the ticket.
Candidate: Jim Webb, Virginia Senator. His whole career has been made in the foreign policy sphere, and he seems to have little interest in anything else. He has the uber-cred among Appalachian whites, and has even written about them. With a son in Iraq, he rounds out the pro-troop, anti-war ticket. Downside is that he's a bad campaigner and a bit unvarnished.
There's a lot of talk of finding a sop to Hillary-backers (like the super-dud Evan Bayh, whom I disrespect enough to exclude him from swing-state contention), which I'll touch on. But in my mind, a woman would better meet the aspirations of Hillary-backers than some random affiliated pol. The upside is that it might more ably unify the ticket and bring women back in. The downside is that it may hurt among men.
Candidates: Kathleen Sebelius, Kansas gov, Claire McCaskill, Missouri Sen. McCaskill has been one of Obama's most outspoken supporters and is a tough and talented campaigner. I like her. Sebelius, whom everyone puts in front of McCaskill, is measured and slightly boring. And no way is Kansas in play. Dark horse: Susan Collins (see below), Republican senator of Maine.
Now that I've discredited this notion, I'll make a pitch for Ed Rendell, one of her most ardent and effective surrogates. I doubt any Hillary-voters outside of Pennsylvania will feel mollified by the selection of a surrogate, but Rendell is a character and would be an asset to Obama. He'd eat whomever McCain picks alive in debates.
This is a long-shot and for good reason. The GOP name is so badly damaged now that it's hard to see how it helps Obama. Except this: the strength of Obama's message is in his ability to come across as post-partisan. The selection of the right Republican could undermine the wayward swing voters who are sidling toward McCain.
Candidate: There's really only one I'd personally choose--Sen Susan Collins of Maine. Bloomberg's not really a Republican, and really amps up the "elite" charge; Chuck Hagel was against the war, but is a political arch-conservative; Colin Powell is too badly associated with the Bush administration and running two black men seems like a serious gamble. So Collins, the more liberal of the two Maine ladies, could be a winner. Maine politics is all about post-partisanism.
This brings us easily the worst idea of the campaign. Hillary gets Obama not a single vote he doesn't already have. All the folks who are saying they won't vote Obama in the general are either just angry now and will come back into the fold, or weren't going to vote for Hillary, either. (In WV, where Hillary made her biggest claim to the white working-class voters, the Democratic registration in '04 was 59.4%, but Bush won by 13%. In other words, these primary-voting Dems are general election Republicans.) On the other hand, she probably loses Obama millions of votes because she brings all the baggage from the Clinton years to the campaign. She undermines his post-partisan argument. She has no appreciable experience advantage, despite her claims of 35 years of experience. And she's not going to deliver him a state he wouldn't otherwise get. (Arkansas will not vote Obama even if Bill is on the undercard.) A horrible, horrible idea.
For the erstwhile Edwardians, now mostly clustering with the Obamaniacs, giving John the nod seems like the decent thing to do. Maybe so, but it's not smart. Like Clinton, Edwards brings you no votes you don't already have. Even in the Carolinas, his home states, he's less well-liked than Obama. He has played the working-class card well, but as a rich trial lawyer, he is not culturally the mill worker his father was. If you want to appeal to those voters, go with a Webb or Rendell. It's also probably the case that he doesn't want it. Apparently the reason he was waiting so long to endorse was because he thought Hillary was going to win and he wanted a position in her administration. He'll be happy to work in Obama's too--maybe as AG.
Who would I go with? Rendell or Webb. Both shore up the hale and hearty white guy side of the ticket. Rendell will campaign tirelessly, Webb reluctantly. Both will crush their Republican counterpart in debates. Both are likeable and serious.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
There are two debates this year. One is the usual debate--who can lead the country better, and who has the better policy positions. The second is one Obama has introduced and championed, and one that
Unfortunately, I can't embed the video here, but if you follow this link, it will take you there. If you can't bear the three minutes, this is an abbreviated version.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
In our dichromatic city, the seasons become contests of will. Our spirits are miserly and competitive, hording their tenure and releasing them only with a final, defeated breath. Never willingly do they relinquish dominion; only with a fight. For weeks they battle, and the seasons are held in uneasy stalemate, weather swinging wildly or paralyzed into stasis, as if by magic. The weather spirits of Oregon are brawlers, cutthroats, and thugs and the only language they know is a ballled-up fist.
The best contest of the year—the heavyweight championship—pits Winter against Spring. The dark lady manages her regime with a legion of clouds. For months, they lock arms and huddle over the sodden town, muscling the sun out of the sky. Winter does not punish the citizens with cold, but the presence of her minions, like police from a lost Communist state, bully us with constancy. They are there always, like microphones in the wall; we don’t have the stamina to pay constant attention, but we chafe at their intimidation.
Sun negotiates with the winter spirit for only the barest moments’ reprieve; almost immediately the clouds return, shoving those of us who were bidden out back indoors. “Nothing to see here; let’s move it along.”
But the clouds don’t control their own destiny. They can’t help but condense from time to time, and they water the earth. This is their doom. Spring resides in the plants, and she is nurtured by the wet. With the daffodils that push up, gamely into the damp and cold, she rises in February to begin her battle. Winter, who oppresses us with her clouds, watches as her success blossoms into rebellion below.
Winter, who is chided in December by the spirits in more hardy climates for her leniency, laughs back at them months later. In places like Chicago and New York City Winter is more punishing. But by April, those stern Winters are making plans for an orderly transition; in Portland, our cold spirit smiles and peels the blooms off cherry trees and watches them mold and rot on the cold mossy ground. She has saved her energy and carries on.
It is on days like today that the battle turns.
Spring bribes the clouds to go on vacation and conspires with the sun to deliver a single day’s vitreous blue sky. She seizes the moment to breathe warmth across the earth, and there is an audible crack as Winter’s hold is broken. We wander outside as if waking. We see color and smell life. We stop to look at each other and as we feel the sun’s caress on our cheeks, we stop to make offerings to the spirit of the season, whose victory is at hand. Winter has not thrown her final punch, and we know that she is only re-gathering her strength. Tomorrow clouds and rain will return.
But there is no authority in their solidarity now. In the last days of an empire, the soldiers know revolution is at hand. We have been roused, and the trees and plants and crows—especially the crows—know that we cannot be turned away. Soon it will be her turn to recede into the stones of the earth and bide her time until the fire starts to burn out of the October sky. Autumn awaits her.
After the battle comes the tranquility of warmer days. It was an entertaining battle, as always, but we are happy it’s over. Sleep well, Winter; it is time now for us to get out of our stuffy houses and into the garden again.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Politico's Amie Parnes e-mails from Obama's visit to the House floor, where he was mobbed instantly.
New York Rep. Yvette Clarke, in theory a Clinton superdelegate, asked him to autograph the cover of today's New York Daily News, with the headling "It's His Party."
Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Clinton supporter from Florida, gave him a big hug. Even Republicans were star-struck. Ileana Ros Lehtinen of Florida crossed the aisle to say hello and brought three children — in town for a school safety patrol trip — with her.
Obama, meanwhile, bowed to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
Winding down, winding down.
What makes these pols interesting? They are up for election (as are all members of the House), they're junior members (read: haven't attained huge institutional advantages of incumbancy), and they're in swing districts.
As I mentioned yesterday, the reason Hillary's having a hard time making the case to SDs is because they, unlike gullible voters and media, aren't buying her line about being more electable. Obama has so far shown that his name is far more of an asset in these reddish-purple districts, and since it's their arses on the line, they are going to choose the candidate they think helps them the most. If they begin to endorse Obama, that will be most telling.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
JB from Portland asks, "What about the super delegates, Jeff? Is there any significant chance the Clintons will call in their longtime political connections and get the nomination that way?"
Thanks for the question, JB. You point out a fear I had back in January, but which is no longer in play. It's true that the Clintons built up huge institutional power among national Democrats, but this power is predicated on Clinton juice.* Once she is no longer the power broker of the party, they'll line up behind he who is--in this case, Obama.
NC will probably go down in the histories as the electoral straw that broke Hillary's back, but in my mind it came two days earlier, in Louisiana. It was there that Democrat Don Cazayoux beat Woody Jenkins in a seat that had been held by Republicans for 34 years. The Republicans spent a million dollars trying to link Cazayoux to Obama, running ads with Jeremiah Wright in an effort to swing the election back to Jenkins. It followed Bill Foster's win in Denny Hastert's old seat in Illinois, a race in which Obama played an active role in promoting.
The Superdelegates are looking at a few factors--who will help them win in '08, particularly in red districts and who will build the party for the future. It doesn't hurt that Obama has also used his PAC to give far more money to superdelegates since he came to Congress in '04 than Hillary. On balance, there's nothing in it for SDs to back Hillary, and every reason for them to back Obama.
Moving on, DE from Portland asks, "Jeff, what is your take on the FL/MI mess? I see that as the biggest threat to Obama winning the nomination now...am I wrong?"
It's no longer much of a threat. There are three dimensions the race will be measured against--popular vote, states won, and delegates. Part of the struggle with FL and MI had to do with how they figured into these dimensions. Obama didn't want to grant Hillary ill-gotten delegates, and he was particularly worried about the popular vote. With the big win in NC, that's all academic. Obama can afford to be generous and settle in these states and still be assured of winning the popular vote and pledged delegate contests.
Obama currently has a pledged delegate lead of 166. Assuming Hillary wins 60% of the remaining pledged delegates, she'll trail by 123. Even if we assume the least favorable outcome for Obama with regard to Michigan and Florida (proportion of the actual vote), he'd still be ahead by 70 or so pledged delegates. The popular vote follows a similar scenario. She can get close, but there just aren't enough big states left to make up the 200,000 vote hole she's currently in (including MI and FL plus the uncounted caucus states).
So no worries, DE, Michigan and Florida are no longer a concern.
*Mind out of the gutter, please.
A bold headline from the NYT: "Pundits Declare the Race Over."
Very early this morning, after many voters had already gone to sleep, the conventional wisdom of the elite political pundit class that resides on television shifted hard, and possibly irretrievably, against SenatorHillary Clinton's continued viability as a presidential candidate....(The NY Post, as always, was a little more obvious.)
The thought echoed throughout the world of instant political analysis, steamrolling the Clinton campaign’s attempts to promote the idea that her victory in Indiana was nonetheless an upset in the face of Mr. Obama’s heavy spending and his campaign’s predictions that he would win there, or that she could still come back if delegates in Florida and Michigan are seated.
What a big 5% that was in NC. Had Obama won by nine, he'd have garnered nearly as many delegates, would still have a commanding lead in the popular vote, and would still be roughly where he is this morning. But by getting a 14-point win, he's now all but the declared nominee. None of that, of course, has anything to do with Clinton. She woke up today not a lot worse off than she expected--which means she's still a very long shot away from the White House. Perceptions may have changed, but the math not so much.
(You could say that what really happened was the two-month vacation from reality has ended. Winning primaries somehow allowed the Clinton campaign to create a bubble of optimism that kept the math at bay. Last night the bubble popped.)
So what will she do? She has three options, but the third--the nuclear option--is merely hypothetical. The first option is to suspend her campaign before Puerto Rico. Too many of her volunteers have worked too hard for her to rob voters in WV, Kentucky, Oregon, South Dakota, and Montana of their chance at relevance. But she could admit to having read the writing on the wall.
The second option is to concede after Puerto Rico, in a graceful, party-uniting gesture, perhaps even with Obama on hand. (Even a closed, mournful affair would be adequate to begin uniting the party.)
What she won't do is exercise the nuclear option, despite people's worst fears. Clinton is a street fighter, a tough candidate who wasn't afraid to take hard shots to win the campaign. But there's absolutely no evidence that she's not, in the end, a team player. She has worked diligently for eight years as a senator and is one of the most reliable Democratic votes, having stuck with her party over 94% of the time since 2001. At 61, she's not at the end of her career--a cabinet position, a Supreme Court seat, a veep nod, or Senate Majority Leader are all potential futures. I'm sure the comment threads will light up with criticism for the way she ran her campaign, but by November, when Obama's the president-elect, all will be forgotten and forgiven.
For Clinton, the end of this campaign is now manifest, and what remains is a classy exit. She will play the most pivotal role in the remaining weeks of the primary, and has almost as much influence over the results in November as Obama. If she fights for Obama as hard as Dean did for Kerry, the party will enter the general with enormous enthusiasm and unity. I expect to see her do the right thing and look forward to seeing the Democrats finally turn their energy outward, at the woeful candidacy of John McCain.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Thanks for asking, JDL. More than the interesting question, I appreciate that you actually regard my answer as something worth solicitation. (I know a couple of psychiatrists who can help you with these types of harmless delusions.)
The short answer is no, it will not. Here's the conventional wisdom:
- If Obama sweeps, Hillary is more or less a dead duck, but
- if Hillary sweeps, Obama is potentially fatally wounded, yet
- these two scenarios are academic, since they'll split the states and we'll grind on to West Virginia (current trend: Clinton by 134%).
So, what about perception? The battle here is for superdelegates, the only folks who can alter the course of events. Hillary's plan has been to so badly tarnish Obama that the SDs turn to her as the last grasp at winning. I suppose this could happen. We're in uncharted territory, so it's hard to make any reasonable predictions. But it seems like an incredible longshot, for these reasons:
- Obama is expanding the party by millions; Hillary will shrink it down. It's in no one's interest to opt for the weaker long-term prospect;
- Obama will lead in states won, delegates, and the popular vote, meaning that to steal the election from him would recall Bush v. Gore;
- Obama's a black man, and screwing him at the finish line is a far harder thing to do than if he were just a random bubba Southerner, like Hill's husband; and most importantly
- Hillary's strategy may cause Obama some damage, but it's clear that it's hurting her every bit as much. She can hardly argue that she's more able to withstand McCain when she drags the highest disapproval into the general and when 60% of Democrats think she's a liar. Finally, she doesn't make Dems feel good about themselves, and if they have to take a damaged candidate into the general, they'll take the black guy who isn't slimy and live with the results--which even in the case of a loss lead to a strengthened, unified party.
And here's a bonus, random thought as we start to hear tales from the polling booths. I am getting mighty tired of the "I know what will happen in this election because my [fill in the relative], a [fill in the party affiliation], says s/he is planning to vote for [pick one: Obama Clinton], and this is so unusual since he's an old white coot who has never voted for [a woman, a black man]." Variations on this include the "won't vote for" version, the "is excited for the first time in their life" version, and a few others. Look, in any losing campaign, lots of people go against their bloc. Blacks vote for Clinton, working-class, bigoted whites vote for Obama, and so on. Anecdotes are powerful because they give voice to a surprising counterfactual, but they should never be considered data.
Sometimes an old coot's just and old coot.
Monday, May 05, 2008
But this is a fun fantasy prediction if you want to be in a good mood until tomorrow evening.
Friday, May 02, 2008
Thursday, May 01, 2008
There have been relatively few Hoosier polls, for reasons unclear to me. Pollster lists 14 going back to February, but let's throw out everything before Pennsylvania. That leaves seven. Hillary leads in five, Obama two, though the trend is definitely toward Clinton. The current aggregate of those polls is Clinton 48.2%, Obama 43.4%. They're all over the place in terms of undecideds, which makes me suspicious. Since SurveyUSA has done a pretty good job of estimating things, let's use their recent poll as a baseline: 9%.
(Worth noting: the aggregate of the polling done in the two days prior to Pennsylvania showed a 7.5% gap. A strong finish by Hillary? Bad polling? An undetected racist undercurrent? Pick one.)
More bothersome is NC. Four polls were conducted right before Pennsylvania, and they gave Obama a sizeable 15-point lead, 52.5 - 37.5%. In the polls since then, the lead has been cut in half to 49.3 - 41.7%, a lead of 7.6%. Below are some of the intra-pollster trends, with Obama leads in recent polls compared to ones 2-3 weeks ago.
InsiderAdvantage: +15, -2, 17% differenceThe big question will be polling over the weekend and into Monday, because this Wright thing was smack in the middle of the plummeting poll numbers. Upshot: not great.
Rasmussen: +23, +15, 8%
SurveyUSA: +10, +9, +5, 5%
ARG: +11, +10, 1%