GOP has opening to regain strength
Nationally, Republican Party views on immigration are changing. Failed vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan calls it a need to “expand our appeal.”
In Oregon, a widely distributed statement by Democratic Party Chair Meredith Wood Smith pronounced that Oregon’s GOP “needs better values.” Her fellow Democrats might urge their leader to be careful what she wishes for.
Yes, the Republican Party must modify its values to regain political strength. But that doesn’t mean Oregon Democrats should claim, as did Smith, that they “share the values of Oregon.”
Oregon Democrats clearly share the values of Multnomah, Washington and Lane counties, where they enjoy a combined plurality of about 227,500 registered voters compared to Republicans. In Oregon’s other 33 counties, registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by about 40,000 voters.
Multnomah County is so overwhelmingly Democratic that in statewide elections, the rest of Oregon becomes almost irrelevant. Nationally as well, many large cities are politically blue islands surrounded by more rural populations infused with the values that Smith called extreme.
In reality, many GOP members embrace a political philosophy that we call “Independent Republican,” drawn from both major party platforms. They resist certain of the party’s unyielding cultural, environmental and economic policies falling outside the realm of moderate voters. But with equal passion, they rebuff Democratic policies that penalize business and individual achievement, over-engineer social programs and jeopardize public services through undue compensation of the government work force.
Values that define the Republican Party leadership are personally defensible for individuals, but combined, they don’t present a winning party platform in today’s society. We need those values in our state and in our country, but personal moral codes and partisan party politics should not turn the search for solutions into gridlock. Democrats control the Oregon House and Senate, all statewide offices and six of our seven congressional delegation seats. Yet, despite that dominance, Oregon remains a place where widespread fiscal conservatism still could unite a new majority of voters.
Give the Oregon Democratic Party credit for being politically focused, highly organized and careful not to bite the hands that feed it. However, 60 percent of Oregon’s registered voters are not Democrats, allowing the GOP an opportunity to fortify its political strength if it can balance its core values with intelligent, pragmatic politics.
While waiting and watching, we can hope the two parties – in Oregon and Washington, D.C. – find ways to work together in the interests of all Americans.
Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@news register.com or 503-687-1223.