Divided energies

T.A. Barnhart

Saturday's Corvallis Gazette-Times has a story about a couple of local Democrats who are registering as Republicans in order to vote for "moderate" Republicans.  The idea is, by infilitrating the Rs and helping move the party to the center, we will get a less-polarized polity and better government.

The so-called "PEARL Project" claims that over 200 Benton County Dems have switched to the Republican party.  If this is true, it means two things.

First, our local party, despite owning almost every office in the county, has work to do in communicating what we stand for and what we are trying to do.  I know the people who are active in the party, and I know that they, like me, are working hard for the things that matter so much to the majority of Bentonites.  But we have to get that message across more effectively.

Second, the idea that by leaving the party we strengthen government and political dialogue has spread farther than I thought.  In one day, to learn of two separate movements to advocate for progressive politics outside the Democratic Party is disturbing.  Clearly, the Party, at the state and national level, must do a better job of empowering members and returning decision-making power to the grassroots.  We've begun this process under Howard Dean's leadership at the DNC, but it's going to take time.

But leaving the party only makes the problem worse.

The last thing we need in Oregon are more people voting for Republicans of any stripe.  Frank Morse, my own Republican state senator, sponsored SB1000 (civil unions), which was great and marks him as the kind of moderate Republican we could use more of; Morse is the kind of Republican the PEARL project supports.  But Morse's record on the environment, to point out one critical issue area, is abysmal, rating 17% with the OLCV.  We need more of that in Salem?  Republican principles, no matter how moderate, are rarely in accord with what Democrats believe in. 

That's the frikkin' point, people.  If there were no real difference in what we believed, the parties would shrivel up and die, replaced by forms of electoral choice that meant something.  No matter how many people scream that there is no difference, we need only look at our last two presidents to know this is a lie.  The only reason to become a Republican is because you believe in what Republicans stand for, and the last time I looked, that stood in sharp contrast to the values of Democrats.  Just how many pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-union, pro-gay rights, anti-tax-breaks-for-the-rich Republicans are there in America? 

I think people have gotten confused about what "divide and conquer" means:  Those who are divided are not the conquerors; they are the conquered.

  • Gordie (unverified)

    There are large number of moderates who aren't being well-served by either party. This is a key reason the number of independents continues to grow. The PEARL project is is just another strategy to try to drive change. If the fear of moderate Republicans helps drive the Democrats more towards the middle, I'm sure some figure the ends justify the means.

  • LT (unverified)

    No one needs to be registered to a party (unless they need registration to hold a position such as county chair or other party office) except for a period in the spring of an even numbered year.

    I see no problem with looking at the filings in March and deciding which primary to vote in--that was how I chose a party the first time I registered to vote in college.

    And having had intelligent conversations with both Frank Morse and Ben Westlund, I can see how someone would regard them as more interested in the views of ordinary folk than someone like Kate Brown who seems to be more interested in powerful people, closed door negotiations, etc.

    But please The PEARL project is is just another strategy to try to drive change. If the fear of moderate Republicans helps drive the Democrats more towards the middle, I'm sure some figure the ends justify the means.

    Most people in January are not thinking about political strategy. They are thinking about keeping warm and dry, whether their income covers their bills, how things are going with their family.

    I first heard the statement "the fastest growing party is no party at all" in 1996 from a Republican staffer. In many ways, both parties are all wrapped up in their own issues and don't really seem to care about the vast majority of the population which wants well funded schools, actual state troopers out on the highways, adequate health care, etc. and doesn't care how it happens as long as the problems get solved. The idea that "the Democrats" and "the Republicans" (not indiv. elected officials who sometimes disagree with each other, regardless of party) will solve problems is ridiculous. Individuals write legislation, pass budgets, make administrative decisions, and if the whole state was governed from top to bottom by the same party (or if there were half of one party, half of the other) that would not change.

    Those who think 3rd parties or something like the "PEARL Project" will change that are mistaken. The number of people involved in PEARL as quoted above are a fraction of a percent.

    I knew some people in Dec. 1995 who re-registered as Republicans so they could vote for Norma Paulus over Gordon Smith in the GOP special election US Senate primary. Didn't have much effect, did it?

  • Skip in Gresham (unverified)

    I registered as a Democrat in 1963....and have never had any doubts about which party best represented my core beliefs...until 2003.

    The works and pronoucements of Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinch, Kate Brown, and Eric Sten has resulted in me taking a hard look at becoming an independent....probably soon. Those folks are so far afield from what mainstream Democrats expect from their representatives, it's no wonder the independent ranks are growing. I consider myself an Evan Bayh, Joe Lieberman, Vickie Walker, Sam Adams Democrat...but that wing of the party seems to be losing voice and influence.

    Register as a Republican though? Uhhhhhhh...if I ever do, my daughter has been instructed to take over my affairs....senilty will have arrived.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)

    As a moderate myself, I'm not enamored of many of the current Democrats who present their candidacy for the Legislature and for Governor - including our current incumbent. If Kulongoski has no credible opposition in the May primary, I will register as a Republican and vote for the least offensive candidate I can find who supports some of those issues near and dear to me. I not the least bit ambivalent about doing this. I rarely vote the "party line", preferring instead to pick and choose my candidates based on how well they represent those interests that are near and dear to my heart. While this means that I typically vote for far more D than R candidates, I've voted for my share of R's over the years, including several R's for governor. As far as I'm concerned, EVERY D governor since 1986 has been an utter disaster.

    This year, I'm far more concerned about a couple of the non-partisan judicial races than nearly any of the legislative races in my district. In particular, I'm especially concerned about the vacancy on the Oregon Supreme Court from Wally Carson's retirement. While I'm happy to see Carson going, I'll be extremely interested in the choices we have.

    In short, while the defecting D's in Benton County are worrisome, I don't see it as portending as serious a problem as it is made out to be. Most, I predict, will return for the November elections.

  • LT (unverified)

    Is there nothing that Sam Adams and Eric Sten agree on?

    Sorry, but I think Lieberman is pretty close to being Republican on lots of issues. What if the voters in Conn. decide at some point that he deserves a primary challenge? Is that their right, or will you say Conn. Democrats are drifting away from the mainstream if they support a primary candidate against Lieberman who doesn't represent your beliefs? One of my core beliefs is that a free and open debate (open marketplace of ideas which JFK championed). Joe L. doesn't seem to think anyone should voice opinions on issues where Lieberman thinks they should be quiet. That is not the Democratic Party I was once a part of where all sorts of opinions were voiced and the good people were those who had some evidence behind their positions.

    Evan Bayh is interesting--I remember his Dad. But what if Bayh some day makes DLC angry by saying something they don't like? He is the elected official, they aren't.

    I would suggest that anyone who feels that way about the party on the wrong track get involved in 2006 with the candidates you believe in, then spend 2007 researching who you want for president.

    But clarify for yourself whether you dislike everything about Howard Dean or only his statements on public policy. If you wish McAuliffe were still DNC chair, then you may be outside the Democratic mainstream of grass roots activists.

    Presidential campaigns can change the tone/ composition of a political party--I have seen it happen more than once. It may happen in both parties in 2008 as opposing sides battle over ideas.

    What do you think of Gingrich's idea of not having partisan debates in 2008 but having all the candidates in both parties on the same stage? H4e says that would be so that they can't get away with saying far out things without being challenged someone from the opposing party.

  • LT (unverified)

    How can a moderate dislike Carson? Is he too extreme (can't imagine why) or is it about indiv. decisions, or what?

    I think being glad to see Chief Justice Carson go stretches any definition of moderate that I know of.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)

    "How can a moderate dislike Carson? Is he too extreme (can't imagine why) or is it about indiv. decisions, or what?"

    Carson has been on the wrong side of too many recent (starting in about 1996) Supreme Court opinions I strongly disagree with. He may not have authored them, but as Chief Justice, he gets to assign authorship. You'd probably have to be a public employee to understand (and then you'd understand one of the many reasons I loathe the current Governor, and why my current Oregon House Representative - Greg MacPherson - isn't someone I enthusiastically support (I won't vote against him, but I wouldn't contribute a nickel to his campaign either).

  • W. Bruce Anderholt II (unverified)

    Having spent a year living in Pinochet's Chile (in 1985), I developed a youthfully rebellious dislike of U.S. Foreign Policy and registered as a Democrat in 1986 (when I turned 18). I voted for Democrats with one exception (Gordon Smith's first U.S. Senate bid) until the year 2000. Mom and Dad were both Republicans, but they didn't try to dissuade me from registering Democrat.

    I was underwhelmed with the Democrat's stranglehold on Multnomah County (and Oregon generally), but hadn not considered registering Republican until the Florida debacle of 2000. Al Gore had multiple opportunities to bow out gracefully. Rather than acting like a statesman, he seemed more like a disgruntled scion: having spent his whole life preparing for the Presidency (including 8 years of hard labor carrying Clinton's luggage), a 420 vote loss was an unfathomable outcome for candidate Gore.

    Gore's better judgement failed him, and he failed me too. He threw a known political outcome into the unknown hell of multiple jurisdiction court battles. That was Gore's decision, not W's. Ultimately, the demagoguery proved his undowing. I registered Republican a few months later.

    To answer T.A.'s query: I am a pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-worker, pro-gay rights, pro fiscal restraint (I pay too many taxes to object to ANY income tax bracket decreases for anybody), pro individual liberty Republican. My main disagreement with the Democrats (locally at least): they see private enterprise as a tax cow that they can milk as much and as frequently as they want. This cow is tired of being milked. If the Libertarians had a snowball's chance, I might have drifted their direction.

    To put it another way: I distrust that Goverment is "here to help", or that they are the most efficient mechanism to accomplish virtually any task besides public safety and common defense. When I look at Wapato Jail sitting empty, or 2% for Public Art, or "Voter Owned" elections, I am reminded that Government is not the solution. When I look at the treatment Ralph Nader received from Secretary of State Bradbury, I recognize I made the right decision to leave the Demogogues behind.

    Do I agree with every decision that George W. Bush has made? Absolutely not. Could the invasion of Iraq been postponed for several years? Probably. But I shudder at the thought of how Al Gore or John Kerry would be negotiating the complex world we live in. U.S. foreign policy would certainly be more nuanced and less assertive. It seems unlikely we would be as safe as we are today. I will have to hold my nose to vote for Mannix (I much prefer Sen. Jason Atkinson), but I'd vote for Alfred E. Neuman before I'd waste 39 cents on Gov. Kulongoski. Politics as usual is not good enough. We need some new blood in Salem, Multnomah County, and the Portland City Council. It can't come soon enough.

  • LT (unverified)

    Yes, we need new blood in politics. But I hope when Tom DeLay goes to trial there is more light shed on the young people who were sent to try to smash their way in to that one room where the recount in Florida was going on. Having been involved in an Oregon recount, I think our election officials across the state are more professional than what we saw in Florida in 2000. Sorry, no matter what you think of Gore's performance, I think the Florida election was handled very badly by both the Florida election officials (no, procedures were not the same in every county, multiple investigations showed that) and by the national media. Jeff Greenfield's book OH WAITER, ONE ORDER OF CROW goes into that.

    For those of us living outside of Multnomah County, Republicans of the sort in office now have not generally been good for us. I would vote for John Kitzhaber if he ran, or for Ben Westlund if he ran. If both run, we might finally get the serious debate about issues this state has deserved but not gotten for years.

    Atkinson and the others who want to be governor have to rise to the level a Republican friend has set if they want to be taken seriously. This is someone who was a Republican legislative staffer in the 2005 session. He said "no one gets my support for Governor until I have seen their vision for the next ten years AND the steps they intend to take to carry it out".

    Fiscal restraint means being out in the open about budgets, not doing deals in closed rooms behind the scenes. It means discussing whether we need all the tax breaks currently in place (2nd homes, for instance). It means "Here are the line items we can afford to cut, here is why, here is a way we could do these things and still save money <statewide health insurance for all school employees, perhaps? AND then lining up the votes by hard work rather than by "vote for this without asking any questions or you deserve to be verbally attacked". It means if there are 2 plans to cut capital gains, you support the one with a mechanism to pay for itself, not the one with the name of a major lobbying group in the masthead of the bill. It means maintaining a good credit rating for the state even if it means (gasp) debating whether the kicker makes sense in 2005. Don't tell me "the voters have spoken". The world has changed since 2000 when Measure 86 and Measure 88 had the lowest margin of victory of any of the measures that passed that year. As I recall, one of the multiple special sessions during the recession did something to Measure 88, so why can't we have an open public discussion of Measure 86? And are kicker supporters really saying that those who registered to vote (new to the state, or recently become old enough to vote)after 2000 have no right to an opinion because the voters spoke in 2000 so it is just their tough luck?

    And don't make me laugh at the idea that Republicans currently in office handle complexity well. There was the mystery money crowd, there was the bucket plan where money would go into one bucket and when it reached a trigger point would slurp over into another bucket. And both of those were promoted by Dan Doyle, who is currently getting lots of fresh air and exercise on a prison work crew. He couldn't handle his own finances, but as long as he was beloved of the anti-taxers he was called fiscally conservative?

    Not to mention the Speaker's "51% of the income tax revenue and no one is allowed to ask questions about the details" plan for school funding. Not to mention how breaking up Ways and Means prolonged the session, and members were paid per diem for rolling recesses.

    Yes, we do need new blood in politics--adults willing to discuss details publicly.

  • (Show?)

    Strikes me that this problem is exactly why we need the One Ballot initiative. After all, if all candidates are on the same ballot - and anyone can vote for them - then people can be free to register their true preferences.

    Let's imagine that I'm a liberal Democrat in a Republican district in Oregon. One problem with the current system is that if I really want to vote for Sally Moderate over Jim Right-Winger in the GOP primary for state senate (because the winner of the primary wins the election), but also really want to vote for Larry Lefty over Sam Sell-out in the Dem primary for Governor -- well, that's not possible under the current system.

    Under the One Ballot primary, all voters will have an opportunity to vote for any person they want on their primary ballot.

  • (Show?)

    One problem with the current system is that if I really want to vote for Sally Moderate over Jim Right-Winger in the GOP primary for state senate..

    Not a problem, Kari. Register Republican...and you can vote for whatever flavor of Republican you want.

    By the same token, I'd just as soon not have Republicans voting on who my party's candidates are. Otherwise, pretty soon it doesn't feel like my party anymore.

  • (Show?)

    Once again, Frank, let's go over this: If I want to vote for a Republican in one primary race and a Democrat in another - there's no way to do that. I can't fill out half my ballot, re-register, and then vote the other half.

    Also, let's work on getting this simple idea past everyone's mental filters: Under One Ballot, the parties may still nominate or endorse any candidate they want using any restrictive process they want - except the May primary election... That election is for picking the top two vote-getters to proceed to the November run-off.

  • (Show?)

    Kari, it's the "Democratic" primary -- not the "general" election. it could be replaced with a nominating convention, and may end doing so if the primaries are forced to be opened. the purpose of a primary is to nominate party members as candidates for office.

    party members.

    why should outsiders get a say in that? i'm sorry if the Dems are weak in some counties and people get stuck with awful Rs in office. we get plenty of that in Linn County next door. the answer is not to vote for "better" Rs (or make it easy for Rs to mess with the Dem primary). the answer is to strengthen the Democratic Party in Linn County -- and that's exactly what they are doing.

    nightmare scenario: Kelley Wirth remains on the ballot (she has not removed her name yet) and 5,000 Rs vote for her in the primary. this becomes the essence of One Ballot.

    One Ballot means we just double-up our general elections. how useful is that?

  • Fred Sutherland (unverified)

    The point of the Pearl Project, as I understand it, has not been represented here. It is to vote Republican in the primaries, but Democrat in the general election. The idea is to keep the extreme right wing influence on the Republican party limited. I think that is a valid goal for improving the political climate in Oregon.

  • W. Bruce Anderholt II (unverified)

    Fred: is the Pearl Project intended to support the least electable general election candidate, or the most electable? If it is intended to support the most objectionable Republican, then it doesn't pass the smell test. I googled it and didn't see any relevant hits.

    Voting for the worst candidate in either party seems anti-democratic, as does the idea of encouraging "moles" to infiltrate the other party. I infer from the above post that is not their intention.

  • (Show?)

    Once again, Frank, let's go over this: If I want to vote for a Republican in one primary race and a Democrat in another - there's no way to do that...

    Since I've never voted Republican, Kari, let me apologize for not empathizing with your dilemna.

    I have to say, though, that it sorta sounds like sleeping with your wife one night, then sleeping with someone else's wife the next. I've found that being faithful --and monogamous-- is much more rewarding.

    The point of the Pearl Project, as I understand it, has not been represented here. It is to vote Republican in the primaries, but Democrat in the general election.

    Ah...how clever, Fred. And we should similarly have Republicans voting to help determine Democratic Party candidates?

    Why have parties at all, then...if the Great One Vote Happy Fizzy Party will give us, well, I'm not sure what, but I'm sure it will be cool.

  • LT (unverified)

    Skip or any other Evan Bayh fans might be interested in this:


    January 8, 2006

    Armor must be sufficient, Bayh says Senator: Top brass should be fired if they are denying protection needed by troops By Maureen Groppe Star Washington Bureau January 8, 2006

    WASHINGTON -- Top military officials should be fired if soldiers are being denied armor that could save lives, Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., said from Baghdad on Saturday. Bayh, who is traveling in Iraq and Afghanistan this week, was reacting to media reports about a secret Pentagon study showing that most lethal torso wounds to Marines could have been prevented with better body armor. Neither Bayh nor Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., who also is on the trip and whose son is a Marine intelligence officer serving in Iraq, said they were aware of the Pentagon study reported by The New York Times and Washington Post on Saturday. Both said Congress and the administration should react swiftly if it's true. "Heads ought to roll, and they ought to be up at the highest echelons if this turns out to be true and they don't do anything about it," Bayh said. Bayh has argued for better equipment for troops, particularly for armored Humvees, which are made in Indiana and armored at a plant in Ohio. Bayh unsuccessfully attempted last fall to increase by $360 million the amount of money in a defense bill for armored trucks and Humvees.


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