Les AuCoin spent 18 years representing Northwest Oregon in the U.S. House, at a time when issues like the spotted owl and forest management were looming large. 

He ran for the Senate in 1992, lost to Bob Packwood, then watched as a sexual misconduct scandal swept Packwood from office three years later.  AuCoin had to let the painful loss go, a practice he used on other disappointments in life. 

AuCoin gives many details of his journey in the book Catch and Release: An Oregon Life in Politics


Quick, name the powerful figures behind the rise of right-wing politics in America.  The Koch Brothers?  Yes, and... James McGill Buchanan. 

Who?  Buchanan was a Nobel-winning economist whose ideas were largely taken up and boosted by the Koch Brothers. 

Historian Nancy MacLean told the story in her book Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America

Carl Albert Center, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82875924

Theresa Howell is a children's book author, with several titles already in print.  Her mother-in-law, Janet Howell, is a state senator in Virginia, and they joined forces on a book. 

It should come as no surprise to learn that it is about women in politics; it's called Leading the Way: Women in Power.  It details 50 women who broke the "glass ceiling" in politics through the years, with the hope of inspiring future leaders. 


These may be trying times for some people, with our political divisions and all.  But it's a boom time for people suggesting ways for us to narrow the divisions. 

Philosopher Peter Boghossian from Portland State University wades into these waters with a book he co-wrote with James Lindsay, How to Have Impossible Conversations: A Very Practical Guide

Climate change?  Gun control?  Politicians?  The authors say these and more can be discussed, if the discussion is approached carefully. 

Representative Greg Walden
Kevin Hume / Herald and News

Republican Greg Walden has repesented Oregon's 2nd Congressional Distrct in the US House of Representatives since 1999. His seat has been considered one of the safest in Congress.

A week ago, Walden announced he would not run again in 2020. This surprise announcement has many observers of Oregon politics scratching their heads.


We get focused on economic issues like the cost of health care and the impact of inequality, but Michael Lerner says we should focus on bigger concerns. 

Lerner--a rabbi, psychotherapist, and social theorist--says most of us want love and respect and connection.  He lays out the vision in his book Revolutionary Love: A Political Manifesto to Heal and Transform the World.  The book gets into what to ask for, and how. 

Lerner has written before about his concerns about the right wing, but he dings the left as well for its failings. 


Think oppression, and you're generally thinking in terms of an "archy;" patriarchy, oligarchy, thearchy, and more.  To these, psychologist Melanie Joy wants to add "powerarchy." 

It takes in the overall system of power wielded to oppress people, and it is the title of her book: Powerarchy: Understanding the Psychology of Oppression for Social Transformation

Among the trends she explores: why people who value freedom and democracy occasionally vote to limit them. 


Anyone who was rusty on the term "whistleblower" got a hearty refresher of late, with a whistleblower taking news of White House activities to Congress. 

The recent occurrences are only the latest chapters in a story as long as the republic.  It's a story political scientist/economist Allison Stanger tells in a new book, Whistleblowers: Honesty in America from Washington to Trump

It reveals details like one of the first whistleblowing cases, a decade before the Constitution. 


A frequent criticism of any political figure with a devoted following is that the figure is at the center of a "cult of personality."  Pay close attention to that word, cult, because Robert Jay Lifton says it's important. 

Lifton should know, he's a psychiatrist and a historian, and from his view, fanatical religious cults and extremist political movements are not far apart.  He explores the concept in depth in a new book, Losing Reality: On Cults, Cultism, and the Mindset of Political and Religious Zealotry


This looks like progress at first glance: 56 women serving in the U.S. Senate.  Oh wait, that's since the country STARTED.  Right now?  Females are more than half the population, and exactly one quarter of the Senate. 

The percentage is slightly lower in the house.  So it's not unexpected that someone would write a how-to book for women thinking of running for office. 

Represent: The Woman’s Guide to Running for Office and Changing the World is the work of actor June Diane Raphael and political operative Kate Black. 


Start a conversation with a political opponent.  Would you even know how to open?  We've gotten very good at pushing each other's buttons, but show limited ability to actually communicate. 

James Hoggan, who comes from a public relations background, gathers wisdom from respected thinkers in his book I'm Right and You're an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean it Up.

The book is now in a second edition reflecting the results and aftermath of the 2016 election. 

Richard Blanco has traveled many miles since his appearance reading his poetry at the second Obama inaugural in 2013. 

And his travels have taken him to Southern Oregon more than once, including his spending time this summer at the Young Artists Institute at Southern Oregon University.  YAI is for high school students to develop their already-demonstrated artistic skills; Richard Blanco will teach creative writing. 

His latest book of poems, out this year, is How to Love a Country


Having the candidate who won the most votes lose the presidency is not just a demonstration of the workings of the Electoral College.  It's also an example of a set of circumstances that provide opportunities for each political ideology, but not spread evenly across the country. 

Political scientist Jonathan Rodden gets into the details in his book Why Cities Lose: The Deep Roots of the Urban-Rural Political Divide.  He shows how events both accidental and deliberate make Democrats and the left stronger in cities, and Republicans and the right stronger in rural areas. 

Fibonacci Blue - https://www.flickr.com/photos/fibonacciblue/30588590810

The deep divisions in American society lead to people avoiding dialogue.  Which is likely to keep the divisions intact. 

So radio producers at KCRW in Southern California set out to hear what regular Americans--not the political heavyweights--had to say about the first two years of the Trump administration, a project dubbed "Two Years: Diaries of a Divided Nation."

The project has been extended, with additional compilations coming in the next two years. 


Much of the negative reaction to Donald Trump comes from Democrats and liberals in America.  But far from all of it. 

Case in point: an Arkansas pastor, lifelong Republican Robb Ryerse, who felt he had to run for Congress to inject some true Christian love into the body politic.  The story is told in the film "True Believer," playing at this year's Ashland Independent Film Festival. 

John T. Bledsoe/Library of Congress

More than one political scientist has observed that American voters often vote for candidates who work against the voters' economic interests. 

Jonathan Metzl is a physician, and comes at the issue from another angle: he says voters' decisions can actually shorten their lives.  He gives examples of policies implemented by anti-government politicians, like denying Medicaid expansions, cuts to social services, and looser gun restrictions. 

These are among the cases Dr. Metzl cites in his book Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland


Any period you can think of as "the good old days," someone else can counter with a portion of society that was oppressed in those times.  Nostalgia doesn't help us deal with the issues of now, says Yuval Levin. 

He's the author of The Fractured Republic: Renewing America's Social Contract in the Age of Individualism.  Levin points to the problems inherent in thinking of ourselves as individuals above all else. 

Alan Sylvestre/OPB

With term limits looming, Kate Brown can't run for Oregon governor again. 

Which means she's got most of four years left to press for the programs she wants to see in Oregon state government, without having to stop for an election. 

The legislature is just getting started on its all-important budget-making session, and the governor is touring the state making the case for her priorities. 

Public Domain

The deep rifts in American society are evident. But how did they develop?

Historian Kevin M. Kruse and CNN political analyst Julian E. Zelizer have traced the divide back to 1974, a year in which the country was rocked by political, economic and cultural events (think Watergate). Their new book, Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974, is based on a popular history course they teach at Princeton. 


The party bosses and the people they got elected used to wield all the power in America.  But we've democratized many processes, through initiative and referendum laws, and party primaries and caucuses. 

Which raises the question: how's that working out for us?  Putting more of the machinery of the politics in the hands of the people produces things like ballot measures legalizing marijuana... but also results like Brexit, in the United Kingdom. 

The idea that the problems of democracy are solved by more democracy gets a critique from Yale University political scientists Frances Rosenbluth and Ian Shapiro, in Responsible Parties: Saving Democracy From Itself