A perfect miniature representation of what the GOP is becoming.
March 1, 2020 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Oregon Republicans are subverting democracy by running away. Again. (SL Vox) In Oregon right now, a handful of white people from the far right are holding the state government hostage.

"No, it’s not another armed occupation of government buildings, like in 2016. This time it’s a handful of Oregon lawmakers who refuse to enter government buildings, thereby holding the business of the legislature hostage.

It ought to be getting more national attention, if for no other reason than it perfectly encapsulates larger national political trends. It is like a snow globe, a perfect miniature representation of what the Republican Party is becoming.

In a nutshell, Oregon Republicans are exploiting an arcane constitutional provision in order to exert veto power over legislation developed by the Democratic majority, on behalf of an almost entirely white, rural minority. Five times in the past 10 months, they have simply refused to show up for work, preventing the legislature from passing bills on guns, forestry, health care, and budgeting. The fifth walkout, over a climate change bill, is ongoing.

It is an extraordinary escalation of anti-democratic behavior from the right, gone almost completely unnoticed by the national political media. Nevertheless, it is a big deal, worth pausing to consider, not only because it is preventing Oregon from addressing climate change, but because it shows in stark terms where the national GOP is headed."

The article addresses the recent history of Republican walkouts in the Oregon legislature, include repeated instances of bad-faith negotiations and process complaints; the effects of unregulated corporate donations on the Oregon GOP; involvement of white supremacy and far right groups; and parallels between antidemocratic practice by Republicans in Oregon and nationwide.

"The situation facing the Oregon GOP mirrors the one facing the GOP at the national level; every chapter of the story above mirrors a national chapter.

In national US politics, as in Oregon, it’s increasingly clear that the population is urbanizing and diversifying and there simply aren’t enough rural and suburban white Christians to constitute a majority anymore. If that demographic — which has now become an intense, all-encompassing political identity — is to maintain its traditional hold on power, it can only do so through increasingly anti-democratic means.

In Oregon, that means exploiting the quorum rule and unlimited corporate money. At the national level, it means exploiting rural overrepresentation in the Senate, the electoral college, voter suppression, the filibuster ... and unlimited corporate money."
posted by Sublimity (33 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
Of course, either party could have done this at any time in Oregon history when it was in the minority. They just didn’t. It was commonly understood, without needing to be stated, that walking out on the job would be a gross dereliction of duty and an insult to Oregon voters.

This isn’t true at all.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 12:07 PM on March 1 [18 favorites]


Indiana Democrats did this many years ago. The Republicans have also done it. It’s become a pretty common tactic.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:13 PM on March 1 [11 favorites]


There's a section in the essay (including excellent use of the word "ensorcelled", I might add) that addresses bothsiderism about this and concludes, "There is simply no precedent for what Oregon Republicans are doing, treating walk-outs as routine, using them to prevent passage of what is a fairly milquetoast set of carbon policies (less stringent than in many other states) and even to set the pace of work in the legislature. Democrats have never done anything like this, anywhere."
posted by Sublimity at 12:22 PM on March 1 [8 favorites]


Democrats have never done anything like this, anywhere.

*cough*

To be absolutely clear, I supported and still support the TX Dems for refusing a quorum. But, if we are going to have this discussion at all can we start somewhere close to the truth?
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 12:50 PM on March 1 [23 favorites]


Is that actually an example of Democrats "treating walk-outs as routine" for all legislative purposes "even to set the pace of work in the legislature" or was it, as the Wikipedia article appears to describe, for the single issue of redistricting?
posted by XMLicious at 1:04 PM on March 1 [10 favorites]


Redistricting--which is to say gerrymandering to benefit Republicans.

That's not what's going on in OR.
posted by Sublimity at 1:11 PM on March 1 [7 favorites]


Two things: One: if you want a better world, you'll have to shut out the GOP. Make it impossible for them to exert power on public policy. And not for a term or two, but for at least ten years, if not twenty. They have shown that, if there's a choice between less democracy and less GOP power, they will choose less democracy every single time.

Two: people like us, the folks here on the blue are the majority. If we register and vote like we are the majority, we can overcome the idiots on the other side. So what is to be done? GO REGISTER VOTERS. Print the forms, stuff them in envelopes, carry them with you, and ask The Question: Are you registered to vote? This simple act CRUSHES DESPAIR (which is one of the principal weapons of the radical right and the GOP–they count on it being a factor in their favor.

The sacred fire of liberty is kindled with a single, tiny spark. You can bring this flame to your community!

YOU BE THE SPARK! GO REGISTER VOTERS!
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 1:32 PM on March 1 [20 favorites]


Is that actually an example of Democrats "treating walk-outs as routine" for all legislative purposes "even to set the pace of work in the legislature" or was it, as the Wikipedia article appears to describe, for the single issue of redistricting?

OP wrote the title for the post in a way which explicitly states a political opinion. OP also has currently wrote 1/3 of the comments.

If OP wants to threadsit, best wishes to them.

If OP wants to hear other people's opinions, let them do so without squashing comments immediately.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 1:37 PM on March 1 [4 favorites]


I think the article has been updated since I read it (before this post) to include a few more details, but when I read it, they didn't talk about the fact that it was only in 2010 (after any of the previous walkouts) that voters passed the current schedule of long/short legislative sessions in alternating years with a limit on the number of session days. So now, each session has a pre-determined end date (Mar. 8 in this case). Which means that the walkouts now actually can prevent bills from getting passed in a given year, whereas previously it would just push out the end of the session.
posted by bread-eater at 1:38 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


This is going to keep happening--as historically it repeatedly has in Indiana--until Oregon changes the quorum requirement from 2/3 to a majority. Most states and both houses of Congress have a majority requirement. This keeps the minority from being able to veto things.

Oregon has an initiative process to amend their Constitution; since it seems unlikely that a change that will stop the GOP from screwing up the legislature would get through the legislature, that seems like their best plan.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 1:40 PM on March 1 [4 favorites]


I remember the Texas Democrats fleeing to Oklahoma being on national news. The routine nature of what Oregon Republicans are doing does seem like an extra step here. But I'd be hesitant to completely prohibit the practice. For one thing, quorum requirements are important to prevent eg. a Mitch McConnel type from scheduling a special session on short notice and not inviting the opposing party, and getting contentious legislation "passed" that way. On the other hand, politicians should generally make themselves available for regularly scheduled legislative sessions, since that is their job that they are paid to do. But I think it would be wise to allow a small number of walkouts even for regularly scheduled legislative sessions for the sort of issues - like the Texas situation - that are really egregious but where the minority party has no other recourse. Like, you don't want to allow it often enough that minority politicians can use a walkout as an effective veto of stuff like what pizza toppings should be ordered, but it's probably a useful failsafe for stuff like, "should we genocide or concentration camp or deport entire subgroups of our population?"
posted by eviemath at 2:03 PM on March 1 [5 favorites]


Except the GOP is on the full pizza topping plan. Democracy requires the grudging consent of the losing party, and the GOP now refuses to be the losing party. I'm not sure what the solution is.
posted by stevis23 at 2:06 PM on March 1 [2 favorites]


Republicans nationwide refuse to see any Democratic government as legitimate, from demanding Obama give up his birth certificate to refusing to even consider Merrick Garland to the current kakistocracy calling for 25 years of Donnie.

Putting party before country, because they're the "real Americans" and we are all just intruding on their turf. See also why the current administration is looking into denaturalizing citizens. It's a profoundly anti-democratic policy and yet the media is still treating it as if both sides are exactly the same.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 2:13 PM on March 1 [8 favorites]


[one comment removed - as with all US Politicking threads, please avoid doomsaying predictions. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:28 PM on March 1 [5 favorites]


I am inclined to see the Vox piece as incredibly silly framing. The fact is that legislative minorities (who are used to losing votes in legislatures all the time) exploit supermajority requirements all the time. This is easy to stop -- get rid of supermajority requirements! The Oregon mess has nothing to do with "white supremacy" at all -- the correct label for the problem is "numerical inferiority." Legislative minorities are no stupider generally than legislative majorities on average; it is a simple fact of life that when you have complex procedures, people will exploit them to their own ends. I am not sure how a supermajority rule can, in theory, be defended; in many cases, the primary cause of this problem could be eliminated by changing legislative rules -- my view is: don't hate the player, hate the game!
posted by PaulVario at 2:36 PM on March 1 [2 favorites]


Two things: One: if you want a better world, you'll have to shut out the GOP. Make it impossible for them to exert power on public policy.

It's not just the GOP though it's those narcissistic and borderline psychotic people who "see" a world in their imagination and want to impose them on others. And it's not just American's or old people or white people or Christians or anything, this exists and has existed everywhere. It's the human condition. Until we figure out a way to neutralize the tendency for people to believe in what amounts to magic and prophets and charismatic preachers, well we will never get jet packs or space travel. It's holding us back as a species.

We've tried to wipe it out before but every movement towards rationality and equality is met by a backlash of Teh Crazy. I think sometime in the future society is going to crack down on this again very, very hard.
posted by fshgrl at 2:45 PM on March 1 [8 favorites]


So, while the Oregon GOP legislators in question are total dickbags (racism being just one of their many faults), the framing of the article and the FPP is weird. Yes, the rural counties that vote Repub are whiter than Portland is, but Portland is itself ridiculously white. (This has been the subject of discussion in several previous FPPs with some great links.) The "disenfranchisement" grievances by the less-populated parts of the state are not primarily about race, thanks to the legacy of the racial exclusion laws that were in place for so long.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:52 PM on March 1 [3 favorites]


It's interesting that the boundaries of new states like what they claim to want to create here are so rarely drawn around areas of economic advantage instead of mostly being about aggregating like minded people. Their statecraft is basically aimed at creating some sort of political holodeck that allows for a complete lack of criticism. Less Bismarck and more (Hannibal) Barca or something.
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:15 PM on March 1 [2 favorites]


Respectfully, I don't think avoiding a quorum ranks even in the top 25 evil things that the Republican Party is doing right now. I say this as a former Republican. This is so relatively innocent that it feels like a throwback to the Bush years.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:22 PM on March 1 [9 favorites]


Yea this is pretty shitty, but having lived in NY while watching Shelly Silver treat the Assembly like it was his personal day planner, I can't really say it feels like some sort of event horizon of corruption.
posted by 99_ at 6:18 PM on March 1


It's not just the GOP though it's those narcissistic and borderline psychotic people who "see" a world in their imagination and want to impose

I have to agree. While the GOP is being...mealy here. Problems are bi-partisan
posted by clavdivs at 7:03 PM on March 1


This is like the filibuster in the Senate, a rule that both parties have used very sparingly for decades. But Republicans have turned both into routine procedures required for almost every bill in order to preserve their power even as they become a minority.
posted by JackFlash at 7:34 PM on March 1 [8 favorites]


Supermajority requirements exist to prevent the personal and economic disruption from the code of laws changing too often and too far. If the (non-super) majority party wants to achieve some of their goals they must to comprise with the minority party. Everyone wins, except those who believe a one vote majority in the legislature means they can justifiably create wholesale change, with little regard to consequences.
posted by Homer42 at 8:59 AM on March 2


The Climate Gap Between Republican Voters and Republican Lawmakers - "Lawmakers in Oregon walked out of the capitol rather than vote on carbon pricing, even though voters seem to support it."
“There is a growing disconnect,” said Kiera O’Brien, president and founder of Young Conservatives for a Carbon Dividend and a former president of the Harvard Republican Club. “Carbon dividends that rebate the money are immensely popular with my fellow young Republicans.”

O’Brien just attended CPAC, the influential gathering of conservative activists and politicians, to bring the message of support for carbon tax to party elders. “The unfortunate reality is that the political system has been ignoring this problem, especially on the right,” she says. “And you can’t just flip that on its head overnight.”
posted by kliuless at 12:41 PM on March 2 [4 favorites]


Dems did this in Wisconsin to try to stop Scott Walker’s union busting. As others have said, it’s a common tactic.
posted by dry white toast at 9:07 PM on March 2


Homer42 Everyone wins, except those who believe a one vote majority in the legislature means they can justifiably create wholesale change, with little regard to consequences.

When the consequences of **NOT** producing wholesale change include human extinction I think it's disingenuous to talk about vague, nebulous, "consequences" to fixing the environment.

Much the same goes with healthcare. An absolute minimum of 30,000 Americans die every year because we lack universal healthcare. What possible "consequences" can justify not creating wholesale change to save those lives?

My cousin is married to her wife only because of a one vote majority in the Supreme Court that created wholesale change. What dire "consequences" made that a bad idea and would have justified keeping her as a second class citizen for decades?

"Better things aren't possible" is a shitty campaign slogan. And a worse philosophy.
posted by sotonohito at 9:36 PM on March 2 [3 favorites]


my view is: don't hate the player, hate the game!

It's not that I disagree with your point, but I'm also going to continue my negative opinions of white supremacists as individual players.
posted by eviemath at 5:22 AM on March 3 [4 favorites]


Dems did this in Wisconsin to try to stop Scott Walker’s union busting. As others have said, it’s a common tactic.

On the surface sure... but really? The article and lots of the commentary in this thread make it clear that this is very much different. Sure the article is a bit quick with running up the drama level. But the Republicans here really have crossed the line (every line) and taken something that was used sparingly and as a last resort and turned it into their main tactic.

And isn't that really the point? Not that they are doing something wholly different, but that they are misusing the existing system in transparently childish and yet cartoonishly evil ways.
posted by cirhosis at 8:59 AM on March 3 [4 favorites]


The majority of the “but both sides” objections in these comments are citing counterexamples that were already addressed in the article. Notably the article claims that the current situation is a substantial difference from past walkouts, in that what we’re seeing in Oregon is the first time a party has staged five legislation-killing walkouts in under a year, i.e. turning an extraordinary measure into a routine practice for subverting the democratic process. Prior walkouts were much more sporadic, and they more often ended with compromise or capitulation by the minority party. According to the article, anyway. Certainly, if that argument is invalid, please by all means explain. But it’s in bad faith to just rehash the counterexamples as if they were completely ignored by the Vox piece in the first place.
posted by xigxag at 10:07 PM on March 3 [6 favorites]


If I skipped a day of work, even if I did so to specifically protest some work thing that I didn't want to be part of, I would get some side-eye and maybe get written up but as long as I was otherwise doing my job well, probably I'd be okay. This is essentially what Democrats have done, in TX and elsewhere, to protest specific issues.

If I regularly skipped work to avoid any work thing that I didn't agree with, if I were doing it over and over again to make sure as little work got done as possible, I would be fired, and rightly so. I was put in that role to facilitate the normal operation of the company, not regularly impede it. Most working class Americans work under a policy that says something like, x number of unexcused absences in a given period, or failure to report to work in general, will be grounds for dismissal.

Why should Oregon Republicans keep their jobs when anyone else in a reasonable employment situation would have been fired long ago?
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 1:05 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


There's a process for that.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:27 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Why should Oregon Republicans keep their jobs when anyone else in a reasonable employment situation would have been fired long ago?

Because unfortunately opposing bills they disagree with is part of the job, and limiting quorums is the easiest way to do that, at least easier than staging filibusters, or finding compromises.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:58 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I think this highlights a related aspect of the GOP mindset:

‘The Hunt’ is a fantasy for the conservatives who want to believe they are victims — not victimizers (Matthew Rozsa, Alternet)

Warning: movie spoilers.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:12 PM on March 16


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