They say “write about what you know.” Whenever I try to do that, I write long. Maybe the saying isn’t meant for op-ed essays, which must always be more than 600 words but less than 800. I wrote a draft yesterday about City Club debates and Jim Torrey’s qualms, but it was nearly double the necessary length. And that was leaving out all sorts of fun parts.
On the issue of “gotcha” questions, I wanted to tell people about the best one I’ve ever heard. Steve Novick accused his opponent of willfully misrepresenting him during an interview, then asked, “When you said that, did your pants catch on fire?” (Try answering that question and retaining your dignity!)
On the issue of fairness, I wanted to suggest forcefully that the League of Women Voters should update their charter and recognize that treating all candidates equally may not be the same as treating them all fairly. We’re all created equal, but that doesn’t mean we all end up that way. People who collect 25 signatures on a sunny afternoon so they can see their name on a ballot are in very few ways equal to those who mount serious political campaigns. Treating them as equal is unfair to those who have done the hard work.
For pure wonkery, I wanted to alert observers to the unique strategy that must be employed to win 50%-plus-one in the May election, thus preventing a run-off in November. Each candidate is essentially running against the vote total of every other candidate combined. No matter how much you win by, if your votes don’t surpass 50%, your strongest opponent shares the ballot with you in November, ruining your summer plans.
On the issue of inclusiveness, I wanted to regale readers with stories from MayorSearch, a Pageant and Talent Show that I cooked up with Kim Still at Saturday Market in 1996 and 2004. Where but in Eugene could we have mayoral candidates dressed in overalls singing “Old Man River” (Jim Torrey, 1996) or tap dancing (Nancy Nathanson, 2004)? Then Kim reminded me that The Register-Guard completely ignored MayorSearch from its event listings, no doubt to preserve somebody’s dignity.
My method is to cook up a draft by Wednesday noon, and then let things simmer all day and night. By early Thursday, I can usually see with fresh eyes where I’m entertaining only myself, and the places where things don’t really connect without the help of the voices in my head. I try to remove the former and fill in the latter, in time for the newspaper’s editors to have their fun with it all day Thursday.
I’ll post the finished product first thing tomorrow, along with a link to whatever corrected version the newspaper posts on its site.