Eric Shierman: Art Robinson for ORP Chair

by Eric Shierman

Art Robinson has announced he is seeking to chair the Oregon Republican Party. For more than a month now I have been watching all manner of internal ORP debating about how to move forward after the devastating electoral losses that still keep GOP Facebook groups aflutter with earnest dialogue. I have noticed a consistent theme: the ORP desperately needs a new chair that can both unite all the various factions of the party’s base into a common unified purpose while at the same time growing the size of that base. It seems rather clear to me that Art Robinson is the man for the job.

He certainly holds the skill set traditionally considered crucial to succeed in this job. Many see the state party chair as primarily a fundraiser-in-chief. In Robinson’s race for Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, his attempt to do the impossible, toppling Peter DeFazio from a safe seat representing the People’s Republic of Eugene, Robinson proved himself to be one of the ORP’s most successful fundraisers, a remarkable achievement for a district that was never really in play. Far from being the kind of sacrificial lamb DeFazio has become used to goring every two years since 1986, Robinson literally gave the left-wing Democrat a real run for his money.

I’m not so sure however that Robinson’s success came from his fundraising. Robinson is an extremely effective public speaker who showed a remarkable ability to appeal to new voters outside the ORP’s usual demographics while at the same time motivating established activists of his party’s base to work hard for him. In 2008 DeFazio won 82% of the vote. In 2010 Robinson shocked Oregon’s political establishment by winning over 43%. Getting that percent of the vote from that district required an ability to sell the message of limited government to new voters, many of whom were enrolled in the University of Oregon. The rematch Robinson and DeFazio held this year involved a massive surge in Democratic turnout and thus a lower percent of the vote for Robinson, but the most interesting take away remains the fact that in a terrible year for Oregon Republicans, Robinson actually won more votes in 2012 than in 2010 even though the population of his district remained flat over those two years. This is what the ORP needs, a chair that can help win over new votes, even in down years.

Ever since the progressive movement replaced party authority with primary elections, and years of campaign finance regulation have removed party “soft” money from the commanding heights of electoral finance, Republicans don’t need their party chairs to be the head of some kind of a politburo; Republicans simply need a state party chair who will be an inspiring figure for all their activists from every corner of this state. Republicans need a chair that actually shares the values of its base but who can also articulate those values in a persuasive manner to newcomers. Therefore, Art Robinson is just what the ORP needs.

Eric Shierman lives in southwest Portland and is the author of A Brief History of Political Cultural Change. He also writes for the Oregonian’s My Oregon blog.


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  • Just Sayin’

    I know Art and I like Art. But … Art is a nutjob. For the GOP’s sake, I hope you’re joking.

    • wilson-kelly

      Art is a nut job? And you like him? Well, that does it for me! I AM THROWING MY SUPPORT BEHIND ART! I have seen enough electable, compromising, work across the isle types rolled out of the GOP to last me a lifetime. Art must have some uncomfortably straight, honest, actual conservative ideas. Bring on the nut jobs! The GOP in itself is looking like a ‘nut job.’ Sorry to point out the obvious.

  • 2old4that

    I know Art and I like Art. I am glad to see a man with
    principles and integrity step up for ORP chair! Sure beats what we had the last 2 yrs!

  • Les

    Reagan didn’t see him that way, JS, and neither do his research peers. He and his family personify the American dream of independence, personal liberty, entrepreneurial spirit, moral fortitude and community commitment. He has spent the last 5 years sacrificing for the Republican cause and Tea Party principles. I think we are very fortunate that he is willing to stay the course.

    • 3H

      What do you mean by moral fortitude?

  • zlazer

    This must mean that he is NOT going to run for the House again—you CANNOT do both.

  • Bob Clark

    Sounds good. All the GOP can do at this point is to stick with the fiscal conservative brand and individual freedom brand. Maybe the party should become more agnostic on things concerning the bedroom and other social issues. Nationally, the party really got sunk time and time again by some Southern GOP talking about women reproductive issues. It was like watching the New York Jets fumble the ball away inside the red zone time and time again. Immigration is another area needing improvement. And I don’t mean throwing kids out of school when their families have established themselves as vibrant members of the community. By the way, Reagan had a hard time on this issue, and acquiesced. You can’t win all the battles, but you need to stick to the fiscal conservative theme (after Bush 2 destroyed it) and the limited government (self reliant people) brand.

    There was a real battle in Multnomah within the GOP this year, pitting the mainstream GOP folks against the Ron Paul rebels. I hope we can mend the fences as Ron Paul’s brand has gained significant following among younger voters. The most interesting issue to me about Ron Paul’s brand is the question of its limits placed on military and national security apparatuses/assets. Somehow I don’t think a limited military is suited for the United States.

    • Les

      I think that what you are saying, Bob, is on track. I do think that you may have misunderstood the RP Military debate, though. As REagan demonstrated with the USSR, nations are broken economically by military largess and endless wars. We have arrived at that tipping point now. No Conservative wants a weakened National Security, but our Banana Republic CIC is now slicing our Navy in half – not good at all.

    • Lois

      Well said, but I take issue that the battle within the ORP was just the “Ron Paul rebels” against the mainstream GOP as there are some long-time Republicans who are not happy with the direction the ORP is going.
      The principles that Ron Paul articulated can stand by themselves, they don’t need his name connected to them. Many of the “rebels” have supported and voted for other Republican candidates in the past and many will continue to support Republican candidates. It is the issues—not the man.

      • LiberRepubliCrat

        I couldn’t agree more, Lois. As a long time (over 40 years) activist in the Republican Party, one would think I would be considered pretty “mainstream.” However, I was demeaned, marginalized and degraded by the ORP for my support of Ron Paul. I cannot even begin to articulate how it infuriated me, and it says a lot about our current “leadership.”

        It IS the issues, not any one person, and the issues aren’t going anywhere (unlike the current regime, hopefully). The best I can say about the current “leadership” in the ORP is that in my many years of involvement, I’ve seen worse.

  • LiberRepubliCrat

    While this is an excellent article, it neglects what I believe to be a
    significant point. It is extremely likely that the very conservative
    Dr. Robinson didn’t win the election only because the ultra
    “progressive,” Statist Mr. DeFazio pulled every dirty trick in the book
    (some illegal), with huge financial support from both union and
    corporate backers who had a vested interest in buying his re- election.

    While it’s a near certainty DeFazio will be censured for his despicable
    behavior, of course that will come way too late to impact the results of the 2012 election. For Robinson to have performed as well as he did in the face of DeFazio’s dishonest, scorched- earth campaign shows as little else can that his limited- government fiscal conservatism is very appealing to Oregonians in general, and that he is incredibly effective in getting his message out.

    The ORP is imploding, and has become it’s own worst enemy. I see Dr. Robinson as one of a very, very few people who may be able to stop the destruction, pull the base together and (gasp!) even grow the party.

    • sol668

      Really, you think draconian cuts to social services, so the wealthy can have more tax cuts after 3 decades of just such appealing to Oregonians? Honestly, 66 and 67 passed easily…The GOP in Oregon today bares no resemblance to the GOP of McCall, Packwood and Hatfield, a GOP that was successful…and you think somebody who argues that public schools are child abuse, and oil companies should be tax exempt has a prayer of turning around your fortunes in this traditionally progressive state? Come on!

      • LiberRepubliCrat

        Really, you think Oregon is “traditionally progressive?” You must be very young, very naive, and/or from California. Oregon is traditionally conservative/libertarian. Until 1988, the only Democrat to win Oregon since World War II was Johnson. Even in 2000 Gore barely squeaked by Bush— it was 47% to 47% in the popular vote. From Statehood to FDR, Oregon only went Democrat in TWO Presidential elections. Come on! Learn some history before you run your keyboard. I enjoy a good discussion, but not with ignorant keyboard warriors.

        • Sol668

          Yes traditionally progressive…did you know Oregon had some of the first labor laws in the country, the first land use laws, some of the earliest environmental regulations… publicly owned beaches…I think its YOU who have a distorted view of our history….the republicans of Teddy Roosevelt’s era, bare exactly zero resemblance to the radical RW of today…you’re probably one of these guys who thinks you’re still the party of Lincoln which is laughable….McCall, Packwood, Hatfield, these GOP leaders from Oregons past couldn’t win in a GOP primary race today…..and calling me a Californian when my family has been in this state for three generations…now that is just insulting!

        • valley person

          Republicans used to be the more progressive political party.

  • DavidAppell

    Good — please put Art Robinson as the chair of the Oregon Republican Party. Please, please, please. There is nothing that could make Republicans more relevant, more comical, more absurd, than to elevate Robinson to such a position. Please please do it.

    • DavidAppell

      I meant, of course, irrelevant. But the message is the same: please elevate Robinson to a position of leadership!

  • valley person


    • Sol668

      Seriously Eric the GOP remains ensconced firmly in their bubble….I’d like to say I’m happy about the GOP choosing irrelevancy in Oregon…sadly I actually believe that a relevant, rational real opposition to single party rule in Oregon is vital to our well being as a state…..I’m a moderate, I favor gun rights, expanded logging, and tougher negotiations with public employee unions….and there is no way this GOP will ever win my vote.

      • HBguy


        • DavidAppell

          So the question has to be, why would a party choose to remain just as extreme, if not become more extreme, in the face of such a defeat as last month?

          I can’t figure this out, which makes me think my intellectual conventions are failing here. There seems to be something going on beyond mere politics….

          • valley person

            You are making the mistake of thinking rationally about something that is irrational. Republicans have basically become a tribal group, with rituals and incantations. No taxes, Guns = liberty, No apologies, abortion is murder, etc. They get together every few years, roll out the parchment, recite the stuff from rote and find a suitable candidate. If they lose, and lose again and again, its because the rest of us haven’t learned the program.

          • HBguy

            Maybe its the same reason people talk louder when they try to communicate with someone who speaks a different language, then think the other person must be stupid because they STILL didn’t understand.

          • sol668

            Simple David..the modern GOP doesn’t really care about outcomes….they are ideologues little different in their attitude than the most strident communist…there’s is a moral quest…I’d like to think that modern conservatives actually believe that their ideas mean a better life for the American people, but I’m not convinced of that….as they argue largely from a moralistic perspective rather than from quantifiable results….

  • sol668

    Well it appears that the lesson the GOP here in Oregon has taken away from their electoral defeats in 2012, is a simple one…”We’re too liberal”…good luck with that

  • bartles

    If you thought this year’s electoral losses were devastating, wait til you see what the future holds — if the Oregon GOP does anything so mad as elect Art Robinson as its chair.

  • DavidAppell

    Language such as Shierman’s “the People’s Republic of Eugene” does not serve his cause well. Many on this blog often criticize the extreme left when they make similar comparisons. This kind of thinking was partly responsible for Eric’s party’s shellacking last month. Has he learned anything?

    • valley person

      To be fair, many Eugenics also proudly call themselves the people’s republic. And what is really wrong with a city belonging to its people? Should it be the Nike Republic instead?

      The real problem for Eric and his party is that it is liberal places like Eugene, Portland, San Francisco, New York, etc where the future is being written and created, not in Springfield (apologies to Rupert) or Cave Junction or Oklahoma City for that matter.

      This is because in post industrial world education, research, scholarship, and creativity matter more, and brute force matters much less than in the Ozzie and Harriet world the Republican party has never grown out of. They need to figure out how to win in Eugene or they will continue to sink, dragged under by their dying old rural constituents.

      • DavidAppell

        Fair enough. If you look at the places where knowledge (and business) are being advanced in America, they are usually places conservatives despise: San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, NYC. Very little gets accomplished in the deeply red states, and what does happen, like in North Dakota at present, is usually resource extraction and not the creation of new industries and new ways of thinking.

        • valley person

          Deep red states poach a bit of talent and capital from the creative blue states. Why fund a Berkley or MIT when you can just poach?

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