Nick Kristof
Nick Kristof Ilya S. Savenok / getty images

Nick Kristof, the longtime New York Times opinion columnist, is probably running for governor of Oregon. From an OPB report yesterday:

On Tuesday, Kristof officially formed a political action committee, a move that will allow him to raise money and hire staff ahead of a likely official announcement of his candidacy.

...Beyond his fame as a Times columnist and author, Kristof in recent years has moved back to the Yamhill, Oregon, farm on which he grew up, and he’s been working to reshape it into a vineyard and cider orchard.

If he does launch a campaign, it’ll be in the Democratic primary, taking place May 2022. Based on his rhetoric and other reporting on the possible run, Kristof seems to think he can walk a middle line that will appeal to a majority of Oregonians: He’s a liberal in the true 2021 sense of the word, a champion of half-measures and white male saviorism. He has experience as both a New Yorker and a rural Oregon farm-dweller. He’s an old cishet white guy with good intentions, and damn it, when has one of those ever steered anyone wrong?

But let me back up a little, because I’m not writing this article to comment on Kristof’s politics. I’m writing it with a simple ask of you, Reader: If I, Blair Stenvick, ever run for governor of Oregon, please do not vote for me.

Kristof and I are both journalists who love to share our opinions, so I think I can understand his impulse to become a politician on some level. If your job is to observe and research the world’s problems and then tell people how to fix them in the neat margins of a column space, then the notion that you have all the answers is a seductive one. In fact, the chance to let off some steam and tell people how things ought to be in a weekly Times column or a daily Good Morning, News post is a main selling point of the job. After all, it surely isn’t the money, respect, or job security.

When you’re doing your job as a journalistic commentator in its highest form, you’re drawing new parallels, expanding the Overton Window, opening people’s minds and also ensuring them they aren’t alone in their frustrations with the status quo. When done at its most hacky, however, you’re ranting at people, making leaps and assumptions that gloss over reality, casting yourself as omniscient genius, and generally just pulling real “Sir, this is an Arby’s” shit. I think Kristof is probably capable of the former, but like anyone who gets paid a six-figure salary to write exactly one column a week at the national paper of record (no, I’m not bitter), he’s also done a whole lot of the latter.

And the thing is, we really don’t need another fucking sir-this-is-an-Arby’s political leader. We didn’t need one before Donald Trump, or before Arnold Schwarzenegger won the California recall, or before a B-list actor named Ronald Reagan took office and dismantled the social safety net. We certainly don’t need one now.

It’s easy to argue that Kristof at least has more expertise than those men, considering his job requires him to stay up on the news of the world. But you know who he doesn’t have more expertise than? Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek or Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read, both of whom are already running in the Democratic primary. Ask yourself: What does Kristof have that those two lack? The answer: A national profile, and a mountain of yellowing newspaper columns about how the world should be.

I think that if Kristof genuinely cared about launching a career in public service, he’d run for mayor of Yamhill, or a seat on the New York City council. But this potential campaign isn’t about that—it’s about his own ego. It’s about expanding the margins of his opinion column so wide that they envelop an entire state, one he hasn’t lived in full-time for decades.

So anyway, where was I? Oh, right. If I ever get the notion that my Good Morning, News, blurbs qualify me to be the top executive of Oregon, please don’t vote for me, even if my competitors are a couple of boring career politicians. Trust me, it’ll be better for both of us.