By Congressman Earl Blumenauer. Learn more at EarlBlumenauer.com.
Tuesday marked the culmination of 12 years of work to realign the political process with our goals and aspirations for a government that would be the partner we need for today’s issues.
The election was the highpoint of my political career. The hope expressed and the emotions displayed by tens of thousands of people in Grant Park election night were also in evidence in a small coffee shop in Northeast Portland as I met with African Americans about this election. The reports from around the world (not the least of which came from my own daughter in the Peace Corps in Mozambique) signal a dramatic shift toward better relationships with other nations whom we’re going to depend upon for partnerships to meet our economic and security challenges.
My personal experience with the new president and his team gives me absolute confidence in his abilities and for our Country’s future. People understand there will be challenges ahead and that problems long in the making will not be reversed overnight. There is a new direction that helps us harness the energy, goodwill and the strength of the American people. The Obama campaign has added a new dimension in our capacity for governance, beyond the sheer number of people involved. The capacity to communicate, inspire and engage can help with the difficult tasks ahead.
I will have more colleagues in the House and the Senate who are not just Democrats, but people with good values, extraordinary political skills, common sense, and a human touch. Working with many from across the country was a source of optimism beyond the numbers; this election will fundamentally change the dynamic in both bodies. The newcomers are a diverse group representing every part of America. They are committed to change and sensitive to the environment. Despite the hyper-partisan election atmosphere their interest in reaching out to build bridges makes me optimistic about being able to do our job.
My focus for the next 50 months will continue to center on rebuilding and renewing America, as a vehicle for political reform, economic recovery, and environmental protection. In the House and the Senate, are many new allies that understand these challenges. The movement ranges from the Sierra Club to the Garden Club, Labor, Business, the professions, local government, and our neighborhoods. A powerful coalition is being created of people who have a vision of livable communities based on sustainable principles, both cost effective and energy efficient. My goal will be to tie those elements together into rational policies at every opportunity.
In Oregon, the election returns were dramatic. The Obama victory was a statewide effort with the most diverse, energetic, and talented coalition I’ve ever encountered. It boasted a spirited campaign that ultimately provided a narrow but decisive victory for Jeff Merkley who will use his personal commitment and political skills to be an effective Senator for Oregon. Kurt Schrader will prove an able replacement for Darlene Hooley who has done such a good job representing the 5th Congressional District. Kurt will be one of the few people able to hit the ground and maintain that high level of representation from his first days in office.
I am profoundly impressed with the talented array of newcomers to the state legislature. Oregon will be facing extraordinarily choppy waters with the budget problems as a result of the economic downturn. Governor Kulongoski in his “legacy session” will be given the strongest legislative line-up and best opportunity since Gov. Tom McCall. As someone privileged to be a part of that amazing experience in the 1970’s I have a sense of what can be.
Oregon voter’s skillfully tiptoed through a minefield as they dealt with this year’s harvest of initiatives, many from the discredited political operator Bill Sizemore. People made some difficult financial choices, particularly for education given these troubled times. They rejected the most destructive proposals, even those that promised tax reductions for some. What could be more telling than upper income voters resisting the cotton candy of an income tax cut that would have had devastating impact on education, health, and public safety? The Oregon voter was deeply engaged as they waded through often negative, shrill, and deceptive campaigns to cast votes that supported a vision of a better state and a healthier political process.
I hope that you will continue our strong engagement and commitment to these issues here in Oregon
I invite you to join me at the City Club December 5th, either in person or to listen on OPB’s broadcast, for a presentation I am making about the intersection of the political dynamic with the current economic turmoil. Entitled “Beyond the Bailout,” I am inaugurating a process of working with Oregonians to reform policies at the Federal level to address this fiscal crisis in terms that will enable us to strengthen the economy while meeting our energy and environmental demands. “Fiscal Fitness” is going to be the watchword and I hope we’ll be able to share ideas and work together as we fight to change the direction of the economy while we rebuild and renew America.
Thank you so very much for the interest and support this last year. I look forward to beginning an intense 50 months with a new administration, a stronger congress, and citizens more engaged than ever before.