Politicians talk a lot. You can take their measure partly by paying attention to how little some of them actually say. In my view, the “Betsy” campaign has been notable in that regard. Rarely has an independent had so much money, so saturated the extremely expensive media market, and yet said so remarkably little about where she stands. It is this observation that formed my first impression of Betsy. I knew nothing about her before her ads began to run. Later research did little to reassure me. For those who are interested, there is a revealing article which can be found at https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/oregon-next-governor-could-machine-133000311.html.
But for now, I want to focus on what Betsy has actually said. She poses herself as a no-nonsense person dedicated to saving Oregon- a “can-do” type that will get things done. In other words, not a career politician. Her railing against “politicians” creates the false impression she is somehow new to the game. Wrong.
Betsy grew up in a political family (Republican). She was first appointed to a government job in 1990, was first elected around 2000, and has been playing politics ever since. She probably could not have won in either a Democratic or Republican primary (and that should tell you something). She probably wouldn’t be running now if her keen nose for politics had not told her that frustration over Covid, coupled with the fact that the Republicans nominated a real whacko, created a unique opportunity to steal the governorship.
Like Trump, Betsy is an opportunist and divider. She thinks she can win by splitting the middle. She says she will take “the best ideas” from both sides. But for all her talk of “straight talk” and all her time on air she has said very little about what the “best ideas” really are. Her record suggests she is rather far to the right (guns, put downs of “wokeness,” connections with insurrectionists, etc.).
The amount of money she has raised also points to some pretty special connections. Is it a coincidence that her stable of contributors in a list of GOP mega-donors? This brings me to the next point. Betsy implies in her ads that she is just another ordinary Oregonian struggling to get by. Again, the record fails to support that idea. She apparently inherited some big money and hasn’t gotten poorer since.
Betsy has made the issue of homelessness one of the center pieces of her campaign. She claims she will solve the problem but doesn’t really say how (let alone how, we will pay for it). By giving the title “The Silence of the Shams” to this article, I surely didn’t mean to suggest that Betsy is a serial killer. By the same token I am almost sure that when she called Portland the “city of roaches” she didn’t mean that all residents were really roaches. Maybe she just meant the homeless inhabitants of Portland’s tent cities were roaches. Maybe she just meant that dirty, homeless people attracted roaches… I just don’t know.
Betsy’s message on one point is pretty clear—she will clean the problem up! I can easily imagine what this might mean. On one hand, it might involve some sweetheart deals for real estate investors; on the other hand, it might mean just pushing the homeless off into some forgotten corner. Either way, her rhetoric doesn’t reassure me that it will be a very compassionate solution. Anyway, labeling Oregon’s major city the “city of roaches” doesn’t seem like a good way to correct the fairly negative impression that the rest of the country has formed about our state. How does that attract business or reduce our divisions? Given her long years in office, maybe Betsy is part of the problem.
From her refusal to reveal her tax returns on, Betsy seems strikingly Trumpian. For all her talk about “telling like it is,” the result is misleading, abrasive, and evasive. She is not the kind of person we need in terms of leadership or governance. Oregonians should not be taken in.