The best thing about a democracy is that the people get exactly what they want in the makeup of their government. The minority can grouse and complain about their wishes being ignored. The elitists can harrumph that the voters didn’t know what they were doing. And the conspiracists can fantasize about black helicopters and government infiltration. But, in the end, the majority determines the outcome of the election and, thus, the future of Oregon.
In this instance my side lost. There are simply more of “them” that there are of “us.” When the analysts sit down with their slide rules and calculators, they are going to discover certain basic and undeniable facts. First there are more Democrats that there are Republicans in Oregon. The Democrats turn out a larger percentage of their voters than do the Republicans. The Democrats exercise greater discipline with their voters – that means that there are fewer Democrats who defect and vote Republican than there are Republicans who defect and vote Democrat. But the real key is the migration of Independents to the Democrats. In Oregon, at least, it appears that Independents are not just those who are fiscally conservative and socially moderate/liberal, but a growing number are just people who don’t like political labels but are definitively liberal in their political views.
I mentioned last week the results of a Davis, Hibbitts & Migdahl, poll showing that twenty percent of Portland’s voters are conservative, twenty percent moderate, forty percent liberal and twenty percent ultra liberal. That means that sixty percent of Portland’s voters identify themselves as liberal to ultra liberal. And yet, the voter registration in Portland shows that only fifty percent of voters are registered as Democrats. But, when it comes to actually voting, sixty-six percent of Portlanders voted Democrat in 2002 and nearly seventy-two percent voted Democrat in 2004. That means that seventy percent of the Independents voted Democrat in 2002 and ninety-one percent of them voted Democrat in 2004. It appears that that trend continues in 2006 although the exact number will not be known until final results are published.
While that phenomenon is not as pronounced in other regions of the state, it still is very instructive – simply because Portland so dominates statewide elections. There really are more of “them” than of “us” – a lot more. That is a disappointing reality for those of us who believe in smaller, more efficient, less intrusive government. That is a clarion call for those who wish to locate, grow or continue their businesses in Oregon. And finally, it is instructive to those who live outside of the Portland Metro area – while this may be a “red” state; it is dominated and run by a “blue” city.
So, congratulations to Gov. Ted Kulongoski. Ultimately, he was the biggest winner of the election. The Republicans put forward a quality candidate in the person of Ron Saxton. He can best be described as a fiscal conservative and a social moderate/conservative. His campaign emphasized a need for change, reflecting the sentiments of an overwhelming majority of Oregonians who thought the state was headed in the wrong direction. Saxton emphasized improving the efficiency of government to ensure that a larger portion of tax dollars ultimately reached citizens in the form of benefits. But Oregonians elected the status quo represented by Gov. Kulongoski. Gov. Kulongoski is an honest and decent man and I wish him the best in his second term.
Congratulations to the legislative Democrats. They retained control of the Senate and gained control of the House. With voting control of both houses and a Democrat governor, there is no reason that the full agenda of the Democrats cannot proceed. The corollary of that, however, is that the Democrats must now except the full responsibility of the outcome of the legislative sessions. The Democrats have expressed their intention to increase the tax burden on business and I assume that they mean it.
Congratulations to the public employees unions. They provided the primary financing of not only Gov. Kulongoski’s campaign and the Democrat legislative campaigns but they were also the primary contributors to the campaigns to defeat Measure 41 – the middle income tax cut – and Measure 48 – the spending limits. Near the end of the campaign they began to funnel money out of the Measure 41 and 48 campaigns to help defeat Measure 40 – the regional selection of appellate judges. I have warned before of the growing influence of the public employees unions in Oregon. In fact, I suggested that this campaign would be a referendum on the power of the public employees unions. I was correct and they won – big time. This election confirms their strength, and, now, their control of both the governor’s office and the legislature as well as the initiative process.
Congratulations to the pro-abortion crowd who managed to protect their coveted abortion on demand position – even for minor children. While thirty-nine other states require parental notification before an abortion can be performed on a minor, Oregon stands in the distinct minority that allows a doctor, a teacher, a guidance counselor, a boy friend, or any person other than a parent to make a decision to abort the child of a child.
And finally, congratulations to the Portland lawyers who financed and directed the defeat of Measure 40 – the regional election of appellate judges. In doing so they have ensured their continued dominance of the selection of judges to Oregon’s appellate courts.
Tuesday, November 7, was not a good day for conservatives. Whether it was a good day for Oregon is a chapter yet to be written.