By DON VOWELL
The morning news reports that Republicans have elected a new state Republican Party chairman. Speculation is that unceremoniously bounced chairman Suzanne Gallagher’s failure to attract financial support from Republicans at the national level was her downfall. She has been replaced by Art Robinson. Mr. Robinson, notable for losing twice to U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, has nonetheless been able to attract funds from national Republican groups, even with his own set of controversial views. Fund-raising appears to be priority number one.
There was never any mention of sober introspection regarding the possibility that Republican failure to attract a winning majority of voters in statewide elections is due to their positions on the issues.
If the party is right—that money is the deciding factor in an election —then that speaks badly for the party and the electorate. If the party is wrong, then it means they are wrong, but will keep adding to the horrible waste of campaign ads.
Both Democrat and Republican leaders will eventually notice that successful white businessmen are a minority in Oregon, and growing smaller as a group. The time when legislation is passed by and for this privileged set in their exclusive playground is nearly gone. It looks like Democrats have been quicker to respond to that reality and have made a more visible attempt to include a changing electorate.
I don’t know what happened in the meetings where Suzanne Gallagher lost her position. It is thought that her ideological positions on controversial social issues—read immigration, gay marriage, and abortion—were scaring off national Republican groups from sending money. Why invest in a quixotic campaign that can no longer find a majority?
So now we have Art Robinson. Robinson is behind the Global Warming Petition Project which seeks out scientists supporting the idea that human intervention has little effect on global warming. At different times he has also suggested that one way to dispose of nuclear waste would be to sprinkle it on the oceans, and has described public education as child abuse. It looks like Oregon Republicans are comfortable with controversial views as long as they aren’t the sorts that interrupt the flow of cash from national organizations.
Mr. Robinson’s term will be viewed as success or failure measured by the amount of cash he can attract from out-of-state funds, whatever their source.
So what do we want as Oregonians? Should we elect candidates from a party so out of step that they are unable to raise funds from people who actually live in Oregon? Are you happy with a party embracing the notion that elections are about fund-raising rather than being right on the issues?
I am certain I will be accused of attacking Republicans while excusing Democrats. If money is the current decisive factor in elections it is because both parties and the whole electorate, you and I, have made it true. If having more money were to fail as a campaign tactic, then it would be less true. I hope that happens.
(Don Vowell lives in Keizer.)