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About East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current | View Entire Issue (June 29, 2019)
Saturday, June 29, 2019
Some free advice for life
ur daughter, Annie, recently grad-
uated from high school. For her
and the dozen or so fellow class-
mates — such are the numbers at Gris-
wold High School in beautiful Helix — it
was a time of genuine celebration with
friends and family.
For the second year in a row, we were
lucky enough to have a contingent of some
of my favorite relatives from the Wil-
lamette Valley come and partake of the
festivities at the Helix Rodeo. The fact
that they are related to the co-valedicto-
rian of this year’s crop of students (yes,
I am a very proud father) gave them rea-
son enough to stay for an extra day or
two over Memorial Day weekend, which,
in my opinion, is about the most pleas-
ant time of year in rural Eastern Oregon
because it falls between our two seasons
of mud and dust.
While they were in the area, I took
my cousins on a number of “tours” to
show off our Briar Patch (anyone remem-
ber Br’er Rabbit and the tales of Uncle
Remus?). My cousins are all slightly older
than me — a couple of them are even
approaching that mysterious station in life
I’ve vaguely heard about called “retire-
ment” — and, hence, are in the stage of
contemplation about what really matters in
life. As we traversed gravel, and even dirt
(there’s a big difference) roads through the
rolling hills and sparsely populated ter-
rain of my “neighborhood,” we exchanged
opinions regarding success, well-being
and happiness — important things for
recent high school graduates to consider.
I always start with my personal three
• Work hard.
• Be honest.
• Have fun — in that order.
In my opinion, we Americans are all
too likely to focus too much on having fun
before our work is complete. In fact, when
I used to drop the kids off at school when
they were too young to drive the 7 miles
themselves, I simply admonished them
to work hard and be honest and, barring
unforeseen catastrophe or calamity, the
rest would fall into place.
Strive for perfection — even though
you’ll seldom attain it. Don’t be someone
who doesn’t give a stinky large rodent’s
posterior and leaves behind a sloppy job
not well done that someone else has to fix
or clean up.
Remember names of folks upon whom
you depend and treat them with the respect
they deserve. Foremost on this list in my
experience would be the hired help who
do the “grunt work” — the secretary who
knows where everything is, and the neigh-
bor’s dog, because he is an astute judge of
a person’s true character.
If you go through a gate that was closed
when you came to it, close it after you pass
through. Sometimes, this might even mean
using the fence-stretcher on the back of the
flatbed. In short, leave stuff like you found
it, especially if it’s someone else’s stuff.
Learn how to change a flat tire and
send an email. For anyone who knows
me, they will readily affirm that I am far
more adept at the former than the latter.
But, to a limited degree, even I have made
an attempt to become minimally func-
tional at tasks required in modern times
— though not necessarily willingly. The
inability of one to change a flat can be
blamed on simple irresponsible parenting.
In short, care enough about your kids to
teach them things that are important.
While it is important to know when to
keep your mouth shut, it’s best not to keep
information or secrets from your spouse
or your banker. Each of them holds your
financial future in their hands and, if they
choose, can make your life really difficult
if they have a bone to pick.
Always carry matches and a shovel.
In a more broad sense, be prepared. You
never know when you may have to start a
fire — or put one out.
Write things down, but don’t always
keep score. I believe record-keeping is
imperative; everything from when your
grandparents were born to balancing
your checkbook. However, don’t keep
exact “tabs” on how many rounds you’ve
bought the neighbors or vice versa. Most
people have a pretty fair assessment of
who (or who isn’t) packing their share of
I would never purport this to be
enough guidance to get through the next
seven or eight decades after high school,
M att W ood
FROM THE TRACTOR
it’s just some free advice. And remember,
(usually) you get what you pay for.
Matt Wood, a community columnist
for the East Oregonian, lives and farms
The S word, the F word
and the ballot
hat did you think of
the bunch of socialists
you just saw debating
don’t drive me away
could never in a million years vote for Don-
calize it so one gets the impression they want to
ald Trump. So my question to Democrats is:
undermine capitalism altogether.
Will there be a candidate I can vote for?
Third, Democrats are wandering into dan-
gerous territory on immigration. They prop-
According to a recent Gallup poll, 35% of
erly trumpet the glories that immigrants bring
Americans call themselves conservative, 35%
to this country. But the candidates
call themselves moderate and 26% call
can’t let anybody get to the left of them
themselves liberal. The candidates at the
on this issue. So now you’ve got a lot
debates this week fall mostly within the
of candidates who sound operation-
26%. The party seems to think it can
ally open borders. Progressive par-
win without any of the 35% of us in the
ties all over the world are getting dec-
moderate camp, the ones who actually
imated because they have fallen into
delivered the 2018 midterm win.
The progressive narrative is dominat-
ing in part because progressives these
Fourth, Democrats are trying to
days have a direct and forceful story to
start a populist vs. populist campaign
tell and no interest in compromising it.
against Trump, which is a fight they
It’s dominating because no moderate
cannot win. Democratic populists
wants to bear the brunt of progressive
talk as if the only elite in America is
fury by opposing it.
big business, Big Pharma — the top 1%. This
It’s also dominating because the driving
allows them to sound populist without actually
dynamic in this campaign right now is not who
going after their donor bases — the highly edu-
cated affluent people along the coasts.
can knock off Joe Biden, the more moderate
But the big divide in America is not between
front-runner. It’s who can survive the intense
the top 1% and the bottom 99. It’s between the
struggle between Elizabeth Warren, Bernie
top 20% and the rest. These are the highly edu-
Sanders and others to be the surviving left-wing
cated Americans who are pulling away from
alternative. All the energy and competition is
everybody else and who have built zoning
on the progressive side. Biden tries to bob and
restrictions and meritocratic barriers to make
weave above it all while the whole debate pulls
sure outsiders can’t catch up.
The party is moving toward all sorts of posi-
If Democrats run a populist campaign
tions that drive away moderates and make it
against the business elite, Trump will run a
more likely the nominee will be unelectable.
broader populist campaign against the entire
And it’s doing it without too much dissent.
educated elite. His populism is more compelling
First, there is health care. When Warren and
to people who respond to such things. After all,
Kamala Harris raised their hands and said that
he is actually despised by the American elite,
they would eliminate employer-based health
unlike the Democrats.
insurance, they made the most important ges-
Finally, Democrats aren’t making the most
ture of the campaign so far. Over 70% of Amer-
compelling moral case against Donald Trump.
icans with insurance through their employ-
They are good at pointing to Trump’s cruelties,
ers are satisfied with their health plan. Warren,
especially toward immigrants. They are good at
Harris and Sanders would take that away.
describing the ways he is homophobic and rac-
ist. But the rest of the moral case against Trump
According to a Hill-HarrisX survey, only
13% of Americans say they would prefer a
means hitting him from the right as well as the
health insurance system with no private plans.
Warren and Sanders pin themselves, and per-
A decent society rests on a bed of manners,
haps the Democratic Party, to a 13% policy
habits, traditions and institutions. Trump is a
idea. Trump is smiling.
disrupter. He rips to shreds the codes of polite-
Second, there is the economy. All the Demo-
ness, decency, honesty and fidelity, and so ren-
ders society a savage world of dog eat dog.
crats seem to have decided to run a Trump-style
Democrats spend very little time making this
American carnage campaign. The economy is
completely broken. It only benefits a tiny sliver.
case because defending tradition, manners and
civility sometimes cuts against the modern pro-
Yet in a CNN poll, 71% of Americans say that
the economy is very or somewhat good. We’re
The debates illustrate the dilemma for mod-
in the longest recovery in American history
erate Democrats. If they take on progressives
and the benefits are finally beginning to flow to
they get squashed by the passionate intensity of
those who need them most. Overall wages are
the left. If they don’t, the party moves so far left
rising by 3.5%, and wages for those in the low-
est pay quartile are rising by well over 4%, the
that it can’t win in the fall.
highest of all groups.
Right now we’ve got two parties trying to
Democrats have caught the catastrophiz-
make moderates homeless.
ing virus that inflicts the Trumpian right. They
take a good point — that capitalism needs to be
David Brooks is a columnist for the New
reformed to reduce inequality — and they radi-
cans, point by point, with parties
almost everyone would classify as
right-wing authoritarians — par-
ties like Hungary’s Fidesz, which
has preserved some of the forms of
Wait, you may protest, you
democracy but has effectively cre-
didn’t see any socialists up there.
ated a permanent one-party state.
And you’d be right. The Demo-
cratic Party has clearly moved left
Fidesz has cemented its power
in recent years, but none of the
by politicizing the judiciary, creat-
ing rigged election rules, suppress-
presidential candidates are anything
ing opposition media and using the
close to being actual socialists —
power of the state to reward the
no, not even Bernie Sanders, whose
party’s cronies while punishing
embrace of the label is really more
businesses that don’t toe the line.
about branding (“I’m anti-establish-
ment!”) than substance.
Does any of this sound like some-
thing that can’t happen here? In
Nobody in these debates wants
fact, does any of it sound
like something that isn’t
of the means of produc-
tion, which is what social-
already happening here,
ism used to mean. Most
and which Republicans will
of the candidates are,
do much more of if they get
instead, what Europeans
One might even argue
would call “social demo-
crats”: advocates of a pri-
that the GOP stands out
among the West’s white
omy, but with a stronger
nationalist parties for its
social safety net, enhanced
bargaining power for work-
to crash right through the
ers and tighter regulation
guardrails of democracy.
of corporate malfeasance.
They want America to be more like
naked voter suppression and strip-
ping power from offices the other
Denmark, not more like Venezuela.
party manages to win all the same
Leading Republicans, however,
— these practices seem if anything
routinely describe Democrats, even
more prevalent here than in the fail-
those on the right of their party, as
ing democracies of Eastern Europe.
socialists. Indeed, all indications
Oh, and isn’t it remarkable how
are that denunciations of Demo-
crats’ “socialist” agenda will be
blasé we’ve become about threats
of legal persecution and/or physical
front and center in the general elec-
tion campaign. And everyone in the
violence against anyone who criti-
cizes a Republican president?
news media accepts this as the nor-
mal state of affairs.
So it’s really something to see
Which goes to show the extent
Republicans trying to tar Demo-
crats as un-American socialists.
to which Republican extremism has
If they want to see a party that
been accepted simply as a fact of
really has broken with fundamental
life, barely worth mentioning.
American values, they should look
To see what I mean, imagine the
in the mirror.
media firestorm, the screams about
But that won’t happen, of course.
lost civility, we’d experience if any
Whoever the Democrats nominate
prominent Democrat described
— even if it’s Joe Biden — Repub-
Republicans as a party of fas-
cists, let alone if Democrats made
licans will paint him or her as the
that claim the centerpiece of their
second coming of Hugo Chávez.
The only question is whether it will
national campaign. And such an
accusation would indeed be some-
what over the top — but it would be
It might not, or at least not as
a lot closer to the truth than calling
well as in the past. By spend-
ing decades calling everything
that might improve Americans’
The other day The New York
lives “socialist,” Republicans have
Times published an op-ed that used
squandered much of the accusa-
analysis of party platforms to place
tion’s force. And Donald Trump,
U.S. political parties on a left-right
who was installed in office with
spectrum along with their coun-
terparts abroad. The study found
Russian help and clearly prefers
that the Republican Party is far to
foreign dictators to democratic
the right of mainstream European
allies, is probably less able to play
conservative parties. It’s even to
the “Democrats are unpatriotic”
the right of anti-immigrant parties
card than previous Republican
like Britain’s UKIP and France’s
National Rally. Basically, if we saw
Still, a lot will depend on how
something like America’s Repub-
the news media handle dishon-
licans in another country, we’d
est attacks. Will we keep seeing
classify them as white nationalist
headlines that repeat false claims
(“Trump Says Democrats Will Ban
Hamburgers”), with the information
True, this is just one study. But
that the claim is false buried deep
it matches up with lots of other evi-
dence. Political scientists who use
inside the article? Will we get cov-
erage of actual policy proposals, as
congressional votes to track ide-
ology find that Republicans have
opposed to horse-race analysis that
only asks how those proposals seem
moved drastically to the right over
to be playing?
the past four decades, to the point
I guess we’ll soon find out.
where they are now more conserva-
tive than they were at the height of
Paul Krugman is a columnist for
the Gilded Age.
Or just compare the Republi-
the New York Times.