What’s the Matter With Oregon?

A long time ago, I went to college in Oregon, at the fine little undergraduate institution that I now lovingly refer to as Lewinski and Clark College, since Ms. Monica of the Immaculate Stain left her mark there too. Back in those days, Oregon voted Republican in most presidential elections, and had a Republican governor. Little was I to know at the time that Vic Atiyah was to be the last Republican governor.

It has now been 30 years since Oregon elected a Republican governor, and it is a sign of the weakness of the Oregon Republican party that it is struggling to run competitively against a boring and scandal-plagued incumbent, John Kitzhaber, who has presided over perhaps the worst state rollout of Obamacare in the nation. Right now it looks like Kitzhaber will be re-elected. It doesn’t help that the Republicans’ once highly touted Senate candidate, Monica Wehby, has run a mistake-riddled campaign against the equally mediocre incumbent Senator Jeff Merkley. As Casey Stengel said of the 1962 Mets, “Can anyone here play this game?”

Forget, pace Thomas Frank, Kansas: what’s the matter with Oregon? Even aside from the Obamacare fiasco and Kitzhaber’s ethical problems, the state has been in relative economic decline for more than two decades, with an unemployment rate consistently above the national average and income growth lagging the national average. Its public school performance is dismal, without the usual excuses of a large low income or minority population. Yet no one seems to connect any of these difficulties to the dominance of one political party.   Perhaps you’ve taken in an episode of Portlandia? Believe me, as a frequent visitor to Portland (the city where young people go to retire), it is indeed a documentary.

An old pal, Rob Kremer, has together with some pals produced a sharp 30-minute video exploring these and other aspects of Oregon’s sorry story entitled “The Oregon Myth.” Below is the first two-minute segment of the whole thing. If you have time and it piques your interest, you can watch the whole 30-minute version here, or check out the home page for TheOregonMyth. (P.S. I’ll be visiting Portland the week after the election to find out how it all shook out.)

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