Oregon: Please Do Not Let Nicholas Kristof Become Governor

Of all the options Oregon has to replace Kate Brown in 2022, why go with a carpetbagging white guy from the Old Oregonian club?

Screengrab from Willamette Week showing Nicholas Kristof on the right trying to burnish his rural image. Please, Oregon, do not let this man become your next governor.

The biggest problem with Oregon is the fact the state has become a one-party fiefdom ruled by corporatist Democrats who stay in power by playing urban progressives off rural conservatives.

[UPDATE 10/13: Kristof is clearly running. And though I lean progressive, I will actively oppose his candidacy and will never vote for him. It is absolutely insane that a journalist with no governing experience whatsoever thinks he deserves to govern a state he doesn’t even work in. Oregon is in desperate need of competent leadership, not a hack journalist who has no concept of what this state needs to survive the coming decades. Oregonians, please, JUST SAY NO TO NICK]

Nicholas Kristof — who looks to be hoping to move from his perch at the New York Times to the Governor’s office — is exactly what Oregon does not need right now.

Another old hand with the right connections who can be trusted to keep state government dismal, run by cronies subservient to the national Democratic party and the few big companies that haven’t fled overseas.

Look, any white man seeking a position of power right now should be smacked down hard. Full effing stop. We’ve had our shot at leadership and we’ve royally screwed it up.

I mean, c’mon — look at Afghanistan. How many Americans and people who risked their lives to protect Americans were abandoned in Kabul because Joe Biden was scared of fighting the Taliban to secure their safe evacuation?

Even the side that isn’t catering to committed blood and soil American fascists are too craven for words. No wonder people are so angry at their leaders.

We ought to be.

The future-focused leadership Oregon, America, and the entire world desperately need right now does not come from Harvard-educated old white guys like Kristof.

They are literally the people actively destroying the planet with their outdated faith-based ideas and eternal conflicts.

Their ilk are why Oregon is just about the worst Blue state, with vaccination rates and Covid stats running substantially worse than its neighbors Washington and California, shoddy education scores, and lower property values.

Despite Oregon’s left-leaning reputation, racism runs very deep here — Oregon was founded on indigenous genocide, letting farm families like Kristof’s amass fortunes through dispossession, as well as the formal exclusion of Black settlers — until they were needed to build ships during the Pacific War.

When they weren’t needed anymore their neighborhoods were gentrified and highways were built through them. Many police in Portland are every bit as bad as the ones in Wisconsin who killed George Floyd.

Oregon is a lily-white state, though thankfully that is changing fairly fast these days. But don’t get me started on how Latinx Oregons are treated by the state.

Racism is a big part of why the state government is so utterly shambolic. I’ve worked in state government — you want a dismal, depressing experience, take a job in one of the bureaucracies in Salem.

Nearly every agency is led by good old boys from the old Oregon family club. People who trace their ancestors to folks who came down the Oregon Trail and later formed mobs to force the indigenous onto reservations. Most sent their children to four-year experience universities like Oregon State University or University of Oregon with football teams subsidized by student tuition dollars, a few — the true Oregon elite — sent their children off to Harvard, Yale, or Princeton.

Nicholas Kristof wants to play-act the native Oregon son — clearly he’ll hope to pass himself off as a centrist who understands rural Oregon. Total BS— no longtime New York Times columnist knows or cares about rural anywhere.

New York Times readers are positively desperate for stories about rural America that fit a set of tropes. The sparsely-populated places of their own country are orientalized the same way Africa and Asia have always been.

If anyone at these national outlets truly understood or cared, there would be a perpetual laser-focus on the slow destruction of rural America in the national media.

This is absolutely crucial to the rise of the violent alt-right, just as the constant drone strikes and accidental deaths of civilians sustained the victorious Taliban.

Not that most of these soldier-cosplaying cowards attacking state capitols are truly rural folks— most of the pop-country loving, big truck obsessed “rural” types are actually suburbanites desperately co-opting the culture of rural America while twisting it beyond recognition.

But the fount from which they draw their misplaced rage is the very real death of rural America, the subordination of all the people who live there to diminished tropes for the consumption of northeast elites and their followers.

Kristof is one of those fake progressives who gets accolades by telling stories about rural places for wealthy people who want to feel better than someone else. That’s why he writes for the New York Times, one of the most self-serving rags in existence.

Selling phony stories to rich people dressed up as concern for the welfare of the poor.

It’s patronizing, insulting, and exactly the kind of “leadership” Oregon does not need.

Look, my dad was born in this state (Klamath Falls) when his dad was — after serving in Southeast Asia fighting the Japanese attacks on India — working at a logging camp. I grew up in far-Northern California which is basically rural Oregon — everything between about Sacramento and Salem really ought to be its own state.

I hunted and fished with my family on both sides of the state line. Oregon is as part of my identity as California, where I was raised and educated.

My spouse and I moved to Oregon’s Willamette Valley from the Bay Area in 2008 because we thought a smaller place would be one where we could have a greater impact — plus, western Oregon is simply gorgeous and parts of her family settled here too, so it made sense.

Sadly, the past thirteen years have been extremely disappointing on many fronts. There is so much incredible potential in this place, and better yet it’s way cheaper to live than the Seattle or San Fransisco metro areas, unless you insist on living in downtown Portland.

We were able to buy a home the year after moving up. Unlike most couples our age, we’ve been able to take advantage of all the benefits of home ownership by buying an inexpensive older home in need of repairs and fixing it up nice.

But getting a good job in Oregon is hard. There aren’t many high-quality companies here — in large part because state government is almost amateur: a part-time affair. Lobbyists own state government, and the Democratic Party nationally drives everything that happens here.

It wasn’t always this way.

Once upon a time, Oregon was actually a stellar example of bipartisanship. Suburban sprawl is better controlled here than anywhere in Pacific America because about 50 years ago the Republicans in the rural counties joined with Democrats in Portland to establish land use rules that protected farms from being swallowed up by development.

Instead of California, where Los Angeles basically begins at the Grapevine and ends somewhere around the Marine base at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego, get just five minutes outside of any town and you’re neck-deep in green country.

That spirit is pretty much dead because Oregon has become so bound to the national two-party nightmare the only Republicans left are pro-Trump crazies who want to lug guns around and pick fights with Portlanders.

The New York Times is an integral part of the mess we’re all in — a writer for it carries no credibility with me whatsoever.

Of course, I also have substantial academic training in policy so I admit — I like a competent legislator or business leader or someone with executive experience as my governor.

Over the past decade I’ve had to watch Oregon flounder around stuck without being able to do a damn thing about it.

As a result we’ve got housing shortages, fires burning up forests, too many racist police, a positively craptacular K-12 education system, no truly high quality research universities, and rapid population growth over-taxing the local infrastructure.

While expensive Seattle and San Francisco still have a bajillion innovative startups, what used to be the Silicon Forest is basically the Republic of Nike. State agencies are controlled by the corporations they’re supposed to regulate.

It’s fixable, but only if you’ve got a coherent, long-term vision that is adaptable enough to be radically re-worked when events outpace expectations.

I’ve worked with development literature from around the world, I know how to do green development right, how to tie the need for revitalizing rural places to the pressing challenges of climate change.

But getting Oregon’s elected officials to pull their heads out of their partisan behinds long enough to accomplish anything meaningful is damn near impossible.

This state desperately needs visionary leadership — and not from some hack whose claim to fame is working in New York and winning prestige awards.

Oregon does not need yet another well-connected wealthy white dude pretending to be anything other than a shill for the national Democratic Party.

Only rarely do I get strong gut feelings about politicians. But when I do — Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Joe Biden all make it churn — I’m almost always right.

Take that as a fair warning, Oregon.

Besides, you have much, much better options than Nicholas Kristof.

Tina Kotek, who also announced she’s running, even though I don’t know much about her is on paper approximately 200% better than Kristof.

Here’s someone who has actually worked in Oregon for years though she wasn’t raised here. She’s actually been elected a few times and served as speaker of the State House.

There’s a professional who might actually deserve support. Who actually understands how to pass legislation. Who might be able to achieve something.

Many Oregonians are suspicious of Portland liberals, but the truth is Portland is the biggest voting bloc in the state. For Oregon to work, the rural-urban divide must be bridged — the only way to get anything done is to get both Portland and small cities across the state to work together.

White dudes won’t be able to get this critical job done, because they always sell out the most vulnerable people. Those who come up through “elite” schools like Harvard (elite because they give students access to rich people with connections, unlike a public university) can never be trusted to actually understand people’s problems enough to feel obligated to solve them, whatever it takes.

All they really care about is their resume and legacy. Also making friends who will write nice things about them in the history books.

They must be scorned and their works ignored.

I feel strongly enough about blocking a hack like Kristof from getting anywhere near the governorship that if Tina Kotek or another decent progressive wanted my help, I’d actually back them with policy, strategy, and messaging support.

I’ve got a couple graduate degrees in public policy, published scholarly and public work, and actually have some new ideas most folks don’t hear because most of the people who go into policy latch onto solutions that are already well-developed then push them at the exclusion of others.

So if you aren’t some east-coast elitist trying to play himself off as some kind of rural oracle and want some help coming up with ways to make this state better for everyone — feel free to send an email. Brokenwagonpublishing at gmail will eventually catch my attention.

I’m so tired of watching Oregon suck and all its potential be squandered by self-serving halfwits.

This place could be so much better. It should be so much better.

The urban-rural and progressive-conservative divides can be bridged. Hell, I’m a walking example of how that’s possible — how many people have you heard of who took his shotgun to his apartment in downtown Berkeley so he could hunt ducks to cook for his Chinese friends?

If you’ve got the time and interest, I’d be happy to tell you how to get it done. :)