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Jeb Bladine: Roles available as human backdrops

Two weeks into autumn, the days are becoming shorter and the mornings more brisk. Holidays approach, but first we have to conclude our biennial political version of “The Hunger Games.”

This year’s sequel is remarkably low key, at least in Oregon. A single statewide race pits Gov. Kate Brown against challenger Knute Buehler, and the excitement is underwhelming.

Brown’s supporters want to extend 32 consecutive years of Democratic governors, featuring a steady decline in public services to finance decades of public pension plan mistakes. Her campaign is a one-trick pony named, “You can’t trust Knute Buehler,” supported by small-print references that few even bother to investigate.

Buehler’s campaign has alternated between attacks on Brown’s lackluster political performance and his own limited plans to solve big Oregon problems. Unfortunately for those who recognize that Oregon needs at least the temporary respite of a Republican governor, he hasn’t captured the electorate’s fatigued imagination.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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The only other 2018 statewide race was decided in May when Val Hoyle became labor commissioner-elect. There’s no U.S. Senate election, our U.S. House campaigns haven’t nudged the political Richter scale and none of the statewide ballot measures has drawn real interest or widespread understanding.

That ho-hum scenario turns our heads to national politics to feed the need for drama. On that front, our president, Congress and media are filling the gulf with their astonishing three-act play surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. It truly is Hunger Games material.

The low point thus far was President Donald Trump’s vile performance Tuesday for an adoring crowd in Mississippi, where he cheerfully mocked the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford about an alleged sexual assault by Kavanaugh while they were in high school. The incident prompted commentary by Megan Garber, staff writer for The Atlantic, about “how easily jokes can be weaponized.”

“They can lighten and enlighten and complicate and delight,” she wrote. “They can also mock and hate and lie and make the world objectively worse for the people living in it.”
In Mississippi, wrote Garber, “The crowd at the rally guffawed. They cheered. They broke out into applause.” She later described other participants in Trumpian contempt as “human backdrops to the president.”

So, we Oregonians may be deprived of dramatic political theater in 2018, but we still can join in the partisan play sweeping across America. Most lead roles are taken, but there still is work available as human backdrops to the president.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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