Friday, October 28, 2016

Back in the USSR

While liberals adored the hippie-life that Oregon represented, I was equally impressed with the state's Republican leaders that I had read about back in my California days.

There was the famous governor, Tom McCall--thanks to his concern for the environment, we have public access to the awesome beaches, and the first ever legislation that emphasized recycling.  Yep, a Republican.

Or, there was Senator Mark Hatfield, who often voted against his fellow Republicans, and whose principled policy positions might be considered to be dangerously left by today's GOP standards.  Yes, a Republican.

Now, Oregon has become a deep blue state.  It has been three decades since a Republican was voted into the governor's office.  For almost a decade now, both our US senators have been Democrats.  The statewide offices are almost always Democratic.  I worry that we are becoming a one-party state.

It is not that I have problems with our two senators--not at all.  In fact, I have often tweeted supporting their policy positions.  I have no problems with the governors either.  I am concerned that the lack of strong opposition is not always a good thing.  Maybe it is the logic of thesis and antithesis that drives my thinking.  But, hey, that is good enough grounds for being concerned.

Catherine Rampbell's column, therefore, resonates with me.  She writes there that the GOP's implosion, while a good thing as far as purging the crazies out of the party, can also be a bad development because we might not have the healthy debates that we need to have on various policy issues.
Right now a number of bad ideas booming on the left need a credible, coherent, megaphoned rebuttal. These are ideas that may sound nice and perhaps appear helpful. But pursuing many of them would be, at best, irrelevant and ineffective, a waste of time and resources; at worst, they would be actively harmful to the marginalized groups that bleeding-heart liberals claim to champion.
These are proposals such as bringing back Glass-Steagall, a banking law whose repeal actually had nothing to do with the 2008 financial crisis. Its resurrection is perplexingly popular on the left.
Or banning genetically modified organisms.
Or instituting a $15-an-hour minimum wage nationwide, even though that’s higher than the current median wage in four states and three territories.
Or free college for all, including rich people.
Or arbitrary tax carve-outs for items such as tampons (which constitute a giveaway to rich people, too, and ultimately require raising tax rates on everything else, which can disproportionately hurt poor people).  
You might think that none of these can easily happen at DC because even a weakened set of zombie Republicans at the Senate and the House will put up a good fight.  True.
Many of these ideas have little chance of making it into federal law, given current Capitol Hill dynamics. But inspired states and municipalities are going forward with some of them. Additionally, liberal firebrands such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have made clear their intention to pressure a President Clinton from the left when and where she would have policymaking power.
If only we had responsible politicians and a responsible citizenry, right?  But, that requires rational voters, and we simply ain't.


Mike Hoth said...

As a man from Chicagoland who moved to the Portland Metro Area, I very much understand your worry. It's a necessary one, for when we look at party strongholds there has never been a worse time for them. Chicago is falling to pieces as its citizens continue to elect hardline Liberals. One would think that Chicagoans would try something new when things got tough, but the city has been going downhill for 20 years with no change. Oregon's government has employed the same strategy of "throw money at our problems", and it hasn't been working for them either.

Ramesh said...

The US, I suggest actually needs three parties and not two. One is the hard right consisting of Cruz, Bachmann, Palin and the rest, and yes, if you want, Trump. The other is the hard left consisting of Sanders, Warren and that crowd. Then a Centre which comprises of Clinton, Ryan, Romney, Obama, et al.

That is more representative of who to vote for than the current arrangement.

Sriram Khé said...

I wrote about Oregon because it is consistent with my autoethnography to examine my life. We could make a similar case about the deep red states, too, that are one-party governments. Right?

I am not sure if additional parties will make any significant difference. Then we will have to deal with the perils of coalition governments, in which a minor player can easily make or break a government.

Democracy is an awful, awful mess. But, there is no other way :(

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