I wrote yesterday about President Joe Biden’s upcoming trip to Oregon, the state where I happen to reside, in an effort to prevent the traditionally “blue” state from flipping to Republican. Today, POLITICO has published a deep dive on the situation on the ground in Oregon, which appears dire enough to have sparked presidential intervention.
“The president’s midterm travel schedule so far this year has been sparse,” POLITICO wrote, “consisting largely of raising cash for Democrats and setting up big-picture themes for the party, while mostly campaigning closer to home.”
However, the situation in Oregon has “compelled Biden to do something rare for him so far this cycle: headline a grassroots volunteer event with Democrats.”
Oregon Could Become a Swing State
Oregon has not elected a Republican to governor since 1982; Oregon has not elected a Republican to statewide office in twenty years. Accordingly, Oregon Democrats were, understandably, operating with complacency. But the political environment is changing – and Democrats are beginning to recognize their shrunken margins.
“Suddenly, everyone figured out we have a real governor’s race out here,” Jake Weigler, an Oregon Democratic strategist, said. “People are waking up and thinking that losing could actually happen.”
The White House, in an effort to avoid losing a reliable Democratic stronghold – where polls indicate the gubernatorial candidates are neck and neck – approached the Democratic candidate Tina Kotek “to arrange the presidential visit in support of her campaign.”
“Whenever the president shows up, it wakes people up. They know it’s an election,” Kotek said. “Just for enthusiasm, I think it’s great.”
“Once on the ground in Oregon, a Biden adviser said he was expected to focus on kitchen table contrasts between Democrats trying to protect and expand health care and the social safety net and Republicans intent on dismantling it” POLITICO reported. “Biden world takes some solace in the fact that Oregon has close gubernatorial elections and believes that the hurdles facing Kotek can be overcome, mainly that the money her challengers have thrown at her won’t match the issue set that aligns her more closely with statewide voters: cutting prescription drug costs and backing paid sick leave.”
Can the GOP Re-establish a Northwest Stronghold?
Oregon represents the GOP’s best opportunity to re-establish a stronghold along the Pacific coast. The Republican candidate, Christine Drazan, released a statement relating to Biden’s upcoming visit: “the D.C. political class is in full panic mode.”
The wild card in the race is Democrat-turned-Independent Betsy Johnson. “Both Kotek and Drazan have competed to try to tie Johnson to the other, with Drazan often selling her opponents and the outgoing governor as a three-headed-monster of sorts,” POLITICO reported. Meanwhile, Kote attacks “Drazan and Johnson over gun control and abortion rights in the state.” But the common wisdom holds that Johnson is pulling more support from Kotek’s ranks than from Drazan’s. It makes sense. Johnson was a Democrat – she would naturally attract more moderate Democrats than moderate Republicans.
“I think in the end, Betsy [Johnson] probably pulls more from moderate Democrats than Republicans,” Greg Walden, a former Republican congressman from Oregon, said. “And that helps [Drazan].”
But Democrats, despite their astounding lack of self-awareness, can’t just blame Betsy Johnson for siphoning away voters from Kotek. Voters are fed up with liberal initiatives, which have manifested themselves in Oregon, as thoroughly as just about anywhere else. The outcomes of those liberal initiatives – defunding the police, decriminalizing the personal possession of drugs, full-on accommodation of homeless camping – may look ideal on paper, but have played out in reality in ways that significantly degrade the quality of life for the average citizen.
Gun violence is up exponentially. Public transportation is too sketchy to use. Homeless camps are everywhere. Meth addicts walk the street in a daze, mid-day, urinating and defecating where they please. HR departments have become so woke as to seem satirical. I will mention that despite being a liberal with ties to the public defense community, I believe “compassion” has its practical limits. And right now, Republicans are the party signaling a willingness to operate within the confines of compassion’s practical limits. Although, Republicans seem comfortable operating without any compassion whatsoever – slashing social safety nets, outlawing abortion, and upholding mass incarceration. Republicans are a lousy alternative – but for many voters, the status quo is becoming unacceptable.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass.