dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog random header image

Wydening the Gap in Partisan Politics

February 5th, 2012 by dk

United States Senator Ron Wyden knows two things about first impressions. They are made very quickly — your first five steps into a room matter most — and, even after representing Oregon in Washington, D.C. for three decades, he’s still making them.

So he strides confidently into an upstairs hall at the Siuslaw Valley Rescue & Fire Station, already wired with a cordless microphone and talking with constituents from his very first step. Wearing a sport jacket but no tie, he launches this town hall meeting 20 steps before reaching the podium.

He thanks an 11-year-old for leading the room in the Pledge of Allegiance, acknowledges the elected officials in the room, talks for just a couple of minutes, and jumps quickly into questions. The room is full but slightly under its stated capacity of 125. Good thing, because the fire marshall’s office is downstairs.

The first question sounds imprecatory, colored by a talk radio tone, “Most of us in the room are over 65 and worried about Medicare. Why are you conspiring with Congressman Paul Ryan, that poster boy of the radical right, to change it?”

Wyden steps forward, and extends his arms. Both his feet and his hands convey that he is not afraid and not to be feared. After 605 town hall meetings — at least one in every Oregon county, every year he’s been in the Senate — he knows how to respond when somebody is upset or angry.

He starts by describing how helping seniors has been the passion that has filled his adult life, ever since his childhood dream of playing professional basketball was tragically cut short by not being good enough: “What I lacked in height, I made up for by being slow.”

From there he reframes his initiative with Rep. Ryan as a commitment to keep Medicare affordable and universal “for all time.” He defends what he calls “principled bipartisanship.” He wants to have constructive conversations between lawmakers that are no less civil than “the one we’re having together right now.” He comes back to this point — and the gentleman who made it — over and over, weaving each question together. It feels like a living room conversation and it leaves a good first impression.

Wyden’s Oregon Town Hall Meeting No. 606 goes according to plan.

Later, in a conference room downstairs, Wyden again strides into the room unannounced and has the first word, extending his hand and flashing a smile. He doesn’t take the seat at the head of the table, choosing instead to sit beside me, with his aide across the room. He splays his limbs the way basketball players do during a time out, allowing oxygen to flow more quickly.

We’re chatting about his bold brand of bipartisanship that started with Gordon Smith, but since has included such strange bedfellows as Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Robert Bennett. He’s nodding and agreeing — oxygenating — until I utter the word “voucher.” He bolts upright, borrows my pen, and role plays with me what’s wrong with vouchers. He prefers “premium support,” insisting the difference will lead to “guaranteed affordability.”

Wyden’s style of bipartisanship doesn’t slice and dice the alternatives until nobody can recognize the original ingredients. Congress has become so adept at “cutting the baby in half” that the sausage factory of lawmaking has become a giant blender. The puree out of the spigot satisfies no one.

Wyden is willing to allow governing philosophies to compete. He’ll compromise on policies. He won’t compromise his convictions.

If vouchers (or premium support) for private insurance are allowed to compete with the single-payer “public option” that is traditional Medicare, maybe we’ll learn which plan is better, once and for all. “For all” is the key phrase — as in “for all Americans” and “for all time.”

Reaching across the aisle is getting harder. The partisan gap after each election seems to widen. But then there’s Oregon’s senior senator, Wydening that gap in his own way.

The blender analogy makes the senator smile. Then there’s a knock on the door. A car is waiting to get him to Reedsport by 4 o’clock, in time for No. 607.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs here. Details of the Wyden-Ryan plan are at

Tags:   · · · 1 Comment

Leave A Comment

Are you human? *

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 jacksmith Feb 6, 2012 at 9:34 am

    REALITY!! And A Fix for Unemployment, Homelessness and Hunger

    In addition to fixing healthcare the right way we need a NewDeal. We need a permanent and updated FDR WPA (Works Progress Administration). A Full employment act requiring the government to provide a job for everyone able to work that wants to work at a living wage or better. At safe, meaningful work where they live. Guaranteed by the US government. With free or very affordable excellent healthcare and free or very affordable education and training for advancement or just personal enrichment.

    ( )

    ( Gov. Peter Shumlin: Real Healthcare reform — )

    ( Health Care Budget Deficit Calculator — )

    ( Briefing: Dean Baker on Boosting the Economy by Saving Healthcare )


    As you all know. Had congress passed a single-payer or government-run robust Public Option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one, our economy and jobs would have taken off like a rocket. And still will. Single-payer would be best. But a government-run robust Public Option CHOICE! that can lead to a single-payer system is the least you can accept. It’s not about competing with for-profit healthcare and for-profit health insurance. It’s about replacing it with Universal Healthcare Assurance. Everyone knows this now.

    The message from the midterm elections was clear. The American people want real healthcare reform. They want that individual mandate requiring them to buy private health insurance abolished. And they want a government-run robust public option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one. And they want it now.

    They want Drug re-importation, and abolishment, or strong restrictions on patents for biologic and prescription drugs. And government controlled and negotiated drug and medical cost. They want back control of their healthcare system from the Medical Industrial Complex. And they want it NOW!


    For-profit health insurance is extremely unethical, and morally repugnant. It’s as morally repugnant as slavery was. And few if any decent Americans are going to allow them-self to be compelled to support such an unethical and immoral crime against humanity.

    This is a matter of National and Global security. There can be NO MORE EXCUSES.

    Further, we want that corrupt, undemocratic filibuster abolished. Whats the point of an election if one corrupt member of congress can block the will of the people, and any legislation the majority wants. And do it in secret. Give me a break people.

    Also, unemployment healthcare benefits are critically needed. But they should be provided through the Medicare program at cost, less the 65% government premium subsidy provided now to private for profit health insurance.

    Congress should stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money on private for profit health insurance subsidies. Subsidies that cost the taxpayer 10x as much or more than Medicare does. Private for profit health insurance plans cost more. But provide dangerous and poorer quality patient care.



    This is what the American people are shouting at you. Both parties have just enough power now to do what the American people want. GET! IT! DONE! NOW!

    If congress does not abolish the individual mandate. And establish a government-run public option CHOICE! before the end of 2011. EVERY! member of congress up for reelection in 2012 will face strong progressive pro public option, and anti-individual mandate replacement candidates.

    Strong progressive pro “PUBLIC OPTION” CHOICE! and anti-individual mandate volunteer candidates should begin now. And start the process of replacing any and all members of congress that obstruct, or fail to add a government-run robust PUBLIC OPTION CHOICE! before the end of 2011.

    We need two or three very strong progressive volunteer candidates for every member of congress that will be up for reelection in 2012. You should be fully prepared to politically EVISCERATE EVERY INCUMBENT that fails or obstructs “THE PUBLIC OPTION”. And you should be willing to step aside and support the strongest pro “PUBLIC OPTION” candidate if the need arises.

    ASSUME CONGRESS WILL FAIL and SELLOUT again. So start preparing now to CUT THEIR POLITICAL THROATS. You can always step aside if they succeed. But only if they succeed. We didn’t have much time to prepare before these past midterm elections. So the American people had to use a political shotgun approach. But by 2012 you will have a scalpel.

    Congress could have passed a robust government-run public option during it’s lame duck session. They knew what the American people wanted. They already had several bills on record. And the house had already passed a public option. Departing members could have left with a truly great accomplishment. And the rest of you could have solidified your job before the 2012 elections.

    President Obama, you promised the American people a strong public option available to everyone. And the American people overwhelmingly supported you for it. Maybe it just wasn’t possible before. But it is now.

    Knock heads. Threaten people. Or do whatever you have to. We will support you. But get us that robust public option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one before the end of 2011. Or We The People Of The United States will make the past midterm election look like a cake walk in 2012. And it will include you.

    We still have a healthcare crisis in America. With hundreds of thousands dieing needlessly every year in America. And a for profit medical industrial complex that threatens the security and health of the entire world. They have already attacked the world with H1N1 killing thousands, and injuring millions. And more attacks are planned for profit, and to feed their greed.

    Spread the word people.

    Progressives, prepare the American peoples scalpels. It’s time to remove some politically diseased tissues.

    God Bless You my fellow human beings. I’m proud to be one of you. You did good.

    See you on the battle field.


    jacksmith – WorkingClass :-)