Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 11.06.2008



Lots of reasons to whoop and holler this week as voters send a clear message nationally and locally that they are ready for dramatic and genuine reform. It’s time to abandon mid-20th century thinking and move forward into a more peaceful, prosperous and eco-friendly future. The ideological battle is over and it’s time to get to work on the devilish details of creating a better world, a better nation, a better city. Here’s our take on the election results, assuming that the numbers will hold as we go to press Wednesday morning.

Mayor Kitty Piercy’s presumed reelection (if her 1 percent lead holds) is a validation of her commitment to working for the future by planning for the realities of limited resources. Look around: Very little about Eugene is truly sustainable, and Piercy, much more than Jim Torrey, is trying to change that. She needs our support to move her agenda ahead, and she also needs to be urged to do even more: to take stronger stands on land use, transportation and other issues of livability. She now has, hopefully, four more years to help us catch up with cities that are embarrassingly more green than Eugene.

Rob Handy has a tiny lead over Bobby Green as we go to press. A Handy victory would bring big changes to the dynamics of the Lane County Commission. The commissioners deal regularly with land use and transportation issues, and Handy would be a progressive swing vote. Green is knowledgeable and good on social issues, so if he loses, we wish him well. 

Eugene measures supporting 4J and LCC passed easily, showing once again that Eugene is all about education. We were worried about the LCC bond measure since the last LCC funding effort failed. but voters apparently recognize Lane’s growing role in bolstering our region’s economy. Eugeneans also showed their strong support for the independent police auditor, and surprisingly, for street repair.

Gordon Smith is narrowly leading Jeff Merkley as we go to press, but we’re still hoping delayed returns from Lane and Multnomah counties will turn the race. A Merkley win would be huge for Oregon and for Congress. Merkley’s got what it takes: He’s respected by his colleagues for being solid, dependable and consistent. We have watched him develop into a strong, confident candidate, and he would be excellent in Congress.

The Obama campaign has been remarkable, unlike anything we’ve ever seen, not only in size but also in its intelligence and consistently professional tone. Obama has been an exceptionally solid, strong, disciplined candidate, with little turmoil in his campaign. Most large political campaigns are fraught with infighting and disorganization. Not this one, and that bodes well for an Obama administration. 

Hundreds of thousands of new activists, many quite young, have cut their teeth on this campaign. Their enthusiasm and experience will hopefully carry over to energize other activism. Years of work lie ahead in reforming our antiquated systems for health care, environmental protection, energy, taxation and the economy, immigration, foreign policy and national defense.

New technologies helped drive this campaign, far surpassing what we’ve seen before. Not only did Obama and fellow Democrats raise staggering amounts of money, but they also had fun doing it with mass emails, YouTube videos and outrageous and creative websites. How do you pull off a pep rally conference call with 20,000 campaign workers? The Obama campaign did it.

This two-year campaign for the White House has generated a healthy examination of racial and gender issues in our nation. Stereotypes and conventional ideas have been challenged and broken down, both in public and around kitchen tables. The discussions comparing Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin have been fascinating. Obama’s speeches on race have elevated our national debate, and his personal story has opened the eyes of many to the nuances and complexities of today’s increasingly multiracial America. But not all is well on the equality front: Several states passed anti-equality measures that harm the LGBT community. Still, we hope that the change at the top will soon lead to better results for same-sex couples.

Where did the Iraq War go in this election? National surveys before the election indicated only 10 percent think the war is a top priority (economy was number one), but Iraq was still a strong factor in emotional support for Obama. And the growing price tag of the war had to be a factor among many of those worried about the economy. Likewise the environment has been largely ignored or simplified in this election. But hopeful enviros have lined up behind Obama, based on his promises of a new green economy and federal funding for green energy.

Democrats are inheriting a staggering mess on multiple fronts: economic chaos, two unwinnable wars, environmental damage, climate change and more. Republicans retained a lot of seats in both chambers and we can expect a degree of conservative backlash, a digging in of heels, obfuscation and passive aggression. But Obama has shown skill in bringing people together across ideological lines. He could not have won otherwise.

This is not the end of the Republican Party, but it is a new beginning for Republicans to regroup, reorganize and begin their strategy to regain power in 2012 or 2016. The electoral landscape has changed, perhaps forever. Who would have thought, even a few months ago, that Virginia and Indiana would go Democratic?

But for now, the political and emotional rollercoaster ride is over. Congress will likely meet and begin work on a new agenda before Obama is sworn in Jan. 20. For now we have some time to prepare for the holidays, reconnect with loved ones, clean the bird cage, take walks in the rain and revive our spirits for the coming battles.