The news that the Oregon Republican Party had elected Art Robinson to be its new chairman probably touched off wild celebration at the headquarters of the Democratic Party of Oregon. But we can only speculate, because the Democrats managed to curb their enthusiasm, at least publicly.
In a statement posted on the Democrats' website, Party Chairman Frank Dixon wrote, "We welcome Art to the public debate on the critical issues before Oregon."
Dixon continued: "We know that Art holds strong views on climate change, public schools, and public health matters. We welcome the debate on these issues, and look forward to exploring the differences in views between the Democratic Party and Republican Party in Oregon."
Strong views? That's putting it mildly. Here are a few:
- Robinson made a name for himself in the late 1990s by touting the so-called "Oregon Petition," which he claimed carried the signatures of thousands of scientists who rejected the notion of human-caused global warming. The National Academy of Sciences issued a statement saying, "The petition project was a deliberate attempt to mislead scientists ... (it) was not based on a review of the science of global climate change, nor were its signers experts in the field of climate science."
- Robinson has repeatedly called for abolishing public schools, which he has called "tax-financed socialism" and "the most widespread and devastating form of child abuse and racism in the United States."
- Robinson has variously said radioactive waste from nuclear reactors should be diluted and sprinkled over the oceans, incorporated into the foundations and insulation of homes, or mixed into drinking water in Oregon, where it would "enhance our resistance to degenerative diseases."
Let's be clear: The individual who happens to head either of the major state party organizations has relatively little personal influence over the outcome of elections. Most voters probably could not name either party chairman.
State party officials are chosen by a vote of local party officials, who start by becoming precinct committee members, usually running unopposed for the volunteer positions. This allows those with relatively extreme views to wield more influence than they would if they represented the views of more mainstream party members.
GOP officials say they are optimistic Robinson can attract contributions for the state party the way he did in his two unsuccessful campaigns for Congress against Rep. Peter DeFazio. Even if he can, it remains to be seen whether legislative and statewide Republican candidates will want to be associated with his unorthodox views.