With the coronavirus consuming so much attention, we shouldn't lose sight of another major threat to Oregon's wellbeing: the fifth walkout of Republican state legislators in just two years.
Why? Because the GOP hasn't been able to win elections in this state.
Normally the party that lacks control of a political body, like the Oregon House and Senate, sucks it up and accepts that elections have consequences. Which is nicely summed up in two images included in a February 29 Vox story, "Oregon Republicans are subverting democracy by running away. Again."
You know, it really doesn't matter why Republicans have walked out those five times, preventing the legislature from doing its business because the Oregon constitution has a crazy requirement that 2/3 of the members of the House or Senate have to be present for a quorum.
(Most state legislatures require a mere majority.)
So those Republicans are getting a paid vacation in Idaho, or wherever they're hiding out. They don't want a cap-and-trade climate bill to pass in the 2020 session, just as they didn't want a similar bill to pass in the 2019 session. Since they succeeded last year, it isn't surprising that they're using the same walkout tactic again this year.
It's a terrible blow to democracy.
Oregon Democrats had a successful election in 2018. They campaigned on passing a bill to reduce our state's carbon pollution, and voters chose to give Democrats a very healthy majority in both the House and Senate. Yet rather than try harder to win elections, Oregon Republicans have taken the crybaby approach and walked out.
Having written those words, I just had a mild case of PTSD. When she was young, my daughter and I would play Monopoly. I painfully remember how, a number of times, I'd have her on the edge of bankruptcy when she'd tip the board over, sending pieces flying, and yell "It's a tie! Nobody won!"
OK, that's sort of acceptable when you're 12 years old. But grown men and women shouldn't make a habit of doing what amounts to the same thing by tipping over the ability of the Oregon legislature to function by going on a taxpayer-paid walkout.
Below are some excerpts from the Vox piece. If the walkout extends past the end of this year's short legislative session, I hope that Governor Brown will keep calling a special session every single day until the Republicans return to do their job, or the November election happens and voters hopefully punish the Oregon GOP by electing more Democrats.
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 second main GOP talking point is that, instead of simply voting the bill through the normal way legislatures do, Democrats should send it to voters as a direct ballot referendum.
It’s clear enough why this would serve Republican purposes. It would kick the can down the road and give them months to access billions of dollars of oil money to crush the referendum, just as oil billions crushed ballot initiatives in Washington and Colorado in 2018.
What I don’t understand is why this proposal is being taken seriously, by anyone, for even a second. It is facially absurd. The rules of the democratic process are written down in black and white. Democrats played by them. They campaigned — on cap-and-trade, among other things — and got a large majority of votes. So they are developing a bill and now they’re going to pass it. That’s how democracy works.
Republicans don’t just get to arbitrarily decide, as a defeated minority, how the majority’s bills pass, or what form they take. Their enormous sense of entitlement notwithstanding, they don’t get to rewrite the rules of democracy on the fly as it suits them, from bill to bill.