Thanks to Blue Oregon, I now better understand how my state can be so politically contradictory.
A nifty analysis of the state's voters ("Oregon: Swing State or latte-drinking Prius-driving lesbian commune?") casts light on how we can swing both ways.
[Personal note: this Salem resident does drink lattes and drive a Prius. However, I'm not a lesbian.]
It turns out that liberal Oregonians are really liberal, and conservative Oregonians are really conservative. Based on exit polls from the 2004 presidential election:
So the liberals in Oregon are as liberal as any in the country, whereas the conservatives are as conservative as any in the country. This is how you wind up with the weird political soup wherein Oregon has decriminalized marijuana but has also passed a gay marriage ban, or how it allows assisted suicide but also has one of the nation's lowest effective tax rates.
So what we have here in Oregon are voters on the left and right who are as extreme as those in any other state. Thankfully, in this progressive's opinion, the liberals outnumber the conservatives – resulting in a political climate that is moderately leftward leaning.
The average Kerry voter nationwide had a Liberalness Score of 6.20 -- just slightly left of center. However, in Oregon, the average Kerry voter was a 7.17. This, as it happens, is the highest score in the country; the Kerry voters in Oregon were more liberal than the ones in Vermont (7.11) or even the District of Columbia (6.97).
Meanwhile, the average Bush voter nationwide had a Liberalness Score of 2.58 -- pretty darn conservative. But in Oregon, the average Bush voter was a 2.01 -- very conservative. And guess what? That is the lowest Liberalness Score for Bush voters anywhere in the country. The Bush voters in Oregon were as conservative as the ones in Tennessee (2.02) or Utah (2.15).
This keeps things interesting in Oregon, to say the least.
My wife and I were heavily involved in the campaign to pass Measure 49 in 2007, which fixed the excesses of Measure 37 (approved in 2004), which was a response to Oregon's passage of pioneering "green" land use laws in the early '70s.
At hearings and meetings on Measure 49 we'd see rabid environmentalists sitting side by side with equally rabid proponents of unregulated development. Measure 49 staked out some common ground, but it was a battle.
Oregonians, after all, go to extremes.
On the plus side (assuming extremism is a negative), we grow some quirky political characters in the deep blue and deep red cultural soil of this state.
Portland is poised to elect Sam Adams as the first openly gay mayor of a major United States city. He's currently on the city council, along with Randy Leonard.
Willamette Week, an alternative weekly in Portland, recently put up an unedited interview with Leonard that is hilarious. The guy can always become a standup comedian if he tires of politics. I loved Leonard's riffs on how Adams is faking being gay because that polls well in Portland.
Yeah, but not in most of the rest of the state. Remember: we go to extremes. Have a watch. And a laugh.
Randy Leonard's Raw Interview from dalas verdugo on Vimeo.