Now and Then
In a recent Financial
Times op-ed, entitled, “Lessons in Darwinism for the western
world,” Geoffrey Moore lays out the big picture.
U.S. companies have enjoyed ‘home-field advantage’
throughout the 20th century. They dwelt in the most vibrant economy, drew
upon the most mobile and best educated workforce, enjoyed the most plentiful
sources of capital, and sold in the most attractive market for goods and
services. If a company wanted to be significant, it had to win in the
U.S. market—and they were there first.
Now we are into the 21st century and it is already
clear that the home field advantage is crossing the Pacific. In this century,
China and India look to be the great canvases upon which economic successes
will be painted. They will have the most vibrant economies, the most mobile
and best educated workforces, the most plentiful sources of capital, the
most attractive markets for goods and services. If Americans and Europeans
want to win in the 21st century, we must learn to play better in away
With the Oregon Primary taking place this month, now is a good time to
examine whether there are some cracks appearing across our broad leadership
The Federal Level
What we know now: Polls show that had Americans known before the war
that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, they would not have
supported the war. This intelligence failure gives the Bush doctrine of
preemption a black eye both domestically and with our allies—those
from “Old Europe” and from Asia. We also know that the Iraq
War has put a hold on needed domestic reforms, including both Social Security
reform and tax reform. America’s new leader in ’08 will face
pent up demand for domestic reform and leadership.
What we don’t know: Americans frustrated with the war’s length
worry, as Bill O’Reilly is fond of doing, that it might last as
long as the Civil War or World War II. But the Iraq War may be more like
the Vietnam War, which lasted more than a decade and was a surrogate for
a larger war. Surrogate wars can take longer than major conflicts. While
we can’t close the book on preemption as a security strategy, its
benefits, if any are forthcoming, will most likely come to fruition long
after Bush has left office.
The State Level
What we know now: For the last 25 years in Oregon only one political
party has been able to produce candidates that could win statewide. Thankfully,
that era may be coming to an end. Whether it is because of Ron Saxton’s
rightward turn on education, land-use reform, and immigration, or some
unknown force stirring in GOP politics, for the first time in two decades
Oregon’s Republican Party is off its knees. In the future, Oregon
will remain a blue state, but it will more closely resemble Massachusetts
in its politics than the “one-party” Left Coast. In Massachusetts
conservative leaders like Bill Weld or the current governor Mitt Romney
are routinely elected as the state’s chief executive. This is good
news for Oregon, but bad news for Ben Westlund’s independent bid
in November. It is also good news for U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, who, with
a revitalized Oregon GOP, might have the statewide political cover to
take fiscally conservative positions in Washington in the future.
What we don’t know: Who will be Oregon’s next governor? Will
it be a reelected Ted Kulongoski freed up in his second term from the
numbing, suffocating public employee unions and their resistance to all
things relevant to the future? Or will it be a Republican, completing
the first step in rejuvenating the party? Either way, the outcome of November’s
election promises better leadership than the last 16 years.
The Local Level
What we know now: The merger of the Association for Portland Progress
(APP) and the Portland Chamber of Commerce into the Portland Business
Alliance four years ago appears to be a failure. When it was proposed,
one Portland business owner who runs an international business warned
that the coming merger would not work because the APP (a collection of
downtown landlords and utility leaders) would swallow up the small business
voice of the former Portland chamber. That warning is proving to be true.
Both Jim Francesconi’s campaign for mayor, and now Ginny Burdick’s
recent campaign for city council, both heavily supported by the PBA, have
reinforced the perception in the minds of PBA leaders that candidates
running in Multnomah County can only speak in “progressive”
code and never on business principles—this, despite the loss of
30,000 jobs in the downtown core in the last ten years. Too scared to
voice the language of your mission is no way to run a business organization.
The center cannot hold. The organization might just collapse because of
its own timidity.
What we don’t know: Who will be the leaders to rebuild a more traditional
Portland Chamber of Commerce, and give business a real voice in helping
shape the Oregon’s future.
BrainstormNW - May 2006