NBC5 Special Report: Political Controversy in Oregon Part 2

Medford, Ore. — It’s a presidential year and all eyes are on Washington, but closer to home, the microscope is focusing in on Oregon’s local public officials. As one commissioner is in the throngs of an ethics complaint investigation, another pleads no contest to DUII. And a federal criminal investigation into former Governor John Kitzhaber continues, a year after his resignation. So as voters head to the polls this year to re-elect or consider new leaders, NBC5 news takes a look at the long history of controversy in Oregon politics and what it means for you.

“One is one, two is a coincidence, and three is a pattern,” Rogue Community College Political Science Instructor Michael Torguson says, “and we’re getting more and more of the 3 pluses where people are starting to wake up and say wait a minute, this is not the government I signed up for.”

Controversy and scandal in American politics is nothing new, just ask Rogue Community College Political Science Instructor Michael Torguson.

“You have Nixon, teapot dome, the xyz affair.”

And controversy in Oregon is no different.

“You go all the way back to Bob Packwood, the junior senator from Oregon for 24 years. The only problem was, in his office he was busy chasing women around his desk.”

So have the scandals become more prevalent, or have we become more aware?

“Every person has a phone, and every phone has a camera, video editing software and the ability to publish to the internet.”

A recent pew research survey shows American’s trust in the federal government is the lowest it’s been in a half century. In 1964, 77% of Americans said they trusted the government always or most of the time. Today, only 19% agree.

“They want to believe that they are these larger than life individuals who have pure motives and morals and will do the right things always, but we can’t wait for them to screw up,” Torguson says.

We spoke with Southern Oregon University Social Psychologist Dr. Emily Reeder, who says it’s a natural human reaction to enjoy other people’s pain.

“Schadenfreude is a natural human emotion where we delight in other people’s suffering or failures,” Dr. Reeder says,”schadenfreude is the inability to feel empathy and so instead we feel this pleasure from kind of their failure.”

Schadenfreude is ever-present in politics, where voters identify more with people in their political party.

“So if we identify as a democrat and we see a republican candidate fail, or suffer in some way, we enjoy that more than if it were someone from our own party because they’re part of our group, and vice versa.”

However, if a member of our party fails, it’s more disappointment than enjoyment, and Philosopher Prakash Chenjeri says those feelings have been ingrained in us for centuries.

“Pharaohs for example and even the kings were often seen as representatives on earth of God so naturally our expectation is that they will behave differently,” Chenjeri says.

And when they don’t, Chenjeri says we’re reminded of how human elected and public officials are.

“We can be understanding, but that doesn’t mean we don’t hold them accountable, after all we pay their salaries.”

Coming up Thursday we’ll have some of Oregon’s congressional leaders weigh-in on the topic, and we’ll let you know what you can do as citizens to best vet your candidates.

 

 

Kristin Hosfelt anchors NBC5 News at 6 with NBC5 News Director Craig Smullin. Kristin is originally from the Bay Area. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcast Journalism from San Jose State University.

She comes to KOBI-TV/NBC5 from Bangor, Maine where she was the evening news anchor. Kristin has won multiple journalism awards including Best Feature Reporting in the State of Maine.

When Kristin is not sharing the news she's hunting down the best burrito, hiking a local trail or buried in a Jodi Picoult novel. She's also a Green Bay Packers shareholder! If you see her out and about she'd be happy to tell you how a California girl became a Cheesehead.

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