Monday, May 15, 2006

Westlund: Vote All You Want; We'll Make More (Signatures)!

Some guys I know think the perception among men is that if you admit liking reality shows you are either a "friend of the theatre" or totally remote-whipped at home. Being whipped is more of a venal sin, so to avoid the other fate it's customary to place your "happenstance glance" of the latest episode of The Bachelorette in the context of some enormously masculine enterprise, like rebuilding your water heater to run 5 degrees hotter.

So back in the days when Survivor first came on TV, I would hear it across the room while Mrs. Joe watched it, and as I...uh, scaled my barracuda catch from the weekend before. Or I'd hear it as I looked for a towel after washing off the F150. And I came to be familiar with a camera-ready dude named Colby, who won all the challenges and presented himself as Jack Armstrong in general. Remember, the first season was won by an obstreperous gay guy, which was fine and all but not (yet) what the networks were hoping to sell. But this Colby guy--Mark Burnett could barely keep his tongue in his mouth.

Colby was a terrific competitor and a hell of a guy, maybe just a touch on the simple side. Not simple in a derogatory way, just a little uncomplicated. But he placed high value on loyalty and decency, in a game in which 1 person gets a million dollars and #2 gets $100,000. Rather than bring into the final round an opponent who by comparison would almost assure him the million, Colby took the person he thought deserved to "come in 2nd", a midwestern housewife named Tina.

And there was his fundamental error, putting one in the bag before the sale was made. It was not all gentle altruism on Colby's part; as the winner of most challenges and the "leader" of alliances, he felt confident he would be judged the superior player. But he also needed an emotional pitch, and by showing his "love for the game," he could impress the jury that he was really not about the money and power, but about the process and the relationships along the way.

But something happened--people realized that Tina wasn't just bumbling along and being carried; she was in fact shrewdly taking sides very quietly, and shifting alliances always at the right time, always under the cover of someone else's coup idea. Colby had misjudged the challenge he faced, and--thinking he had money in the bank--made a charitable gesture for show. When Tina won the million, the golden boy looked, despite claims of 2nd place joy, a little foolish.

My God, man. What on earth does that have to do with Ben Westlund?
Although Westlund, currently the State Senator serving Deschutes County, needs 18,368 valid signatures to place him on the ballot in November, he is encouraging people to vote in their party’s elections on May 16th.

“There are local candidates and issues counting on you to vote,” Westlund said, “If you aren’t satisfied with your choices for Governor, you can always write my name in on your ballot in the primary and vote for me on your ballot this fall.”

Westlund is confident he will gather the necessary signatures on his petitions by the August 29 deadline from the 460,000 independent voters and those who do not participate in the primary elections.

“We have enough momentum not only to gather those signatures, but also to carry on through November. We have over 300 volunteers and 900 contributors helping us get on the ballot. We will be there in November.”
Certainly Westlund is not making a sweeping gesture in the name of democracy, so that the race for Multnomah County auditor can receive its proper noble blessing. He may earnestly feel this is a simple resolution of the confusion, but I don't doubt that it's also an attempt to rise above for the voters the weekend before ballots go in. Do what you need to do, Ben seems to be saying, we understand party habits are hard to break. Don't worry about us; we'll get qualified real easy without you.

So why bring up Colby? Westlund thinks he has one in the bag--that he's a lock for the general election. Maybe he does; most pundits agree it should be a reachable goal. By waiting until the end of the primary as he states to get really serious, he's going to need almost 300 per day, and none of those can be from partisan primary voters. Since it's a new rule, no one has ever tried to qualify for office under such strong restrictions. After all, fewer than 500,000 are registered independents, a much smaller base to work from than usual petition drives. And it will cost plenty to purge ineligibles. So all of the pundits saying he's a lock really don't have much in the way of empirical data to support them.

But Westlund is so confident that he'll make the ballot that he's trying to throw a devil-may-care attitude into the mix before the primary: go ahead and vote your troubled mind, then come back to me with your vote in November. It is, as was with Colby, a charitable gesture for show. Is Westlund making a $900,000 mistake? We'll have to see. And I say that as sure as I sit here, regreasing my chainsaw.