What next for Oregon Republicans?

Editor's note: This is the first of two editorials addressing Oregon's two principal political parties. Today, Republicans; Sunday, Democrats.

The Grand Old Party is in disarray after an unexpected shellacking on Nov. 6, a result that has caused many in the party to say it's time to find more common ground with the American people or risk becoming irrelevant.

Don't look now, Oregon Republicans, but you've got the same problem, perhaps to an even greater degree. If the GOP in this state isn't willing to moderate its message and stop being the party of "no," it may become the party of "no way" for too many Oregonians.

Let's review recent history:

  • In 2012, registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 190,000 voters, while the GOP saw its lead over unaffiliated and "other" voters shrink to only about 92,000. That D to R disparity is all the more striking when you consider that a decade ago, the difference was less than 50,000.
  • The last Republican presidential candidate to take Oregon was Ronald Reagan in 1984, 28 years ago.
  • The last Republican governor elected was Vic Atiyeh in 1982, 30 years ago.
  • The last Republican secretary of state elected was Norma Paulus in 1980, 32 years ago.
  • The last Republican attorney general elected was Dave Frohnmayer in 1988, 24 years ago.
  • Both U.S. senators are Democrats.
  • Four of five U.S. House members are Democrats and have been for most of two decades.
  • The Oregon House, Senate and governor's office are all controlled by Democrats.

The standard response to those facts is that Oregon is held captive politically by the more populous and more liberal Portland and Willamette Valley areas. To that we say, get over it. Portland and the Willamette Valley are part of the state of Oregon and people there have the right to vote just as we do. And they are increasingly less inclined to vote Republican.

While Republicans complain about the Portland liberals, they should be more concerned about the state's moderates, who look at the Republican Party and see little in the way of moderation. Consider the state party's platform, which reads like something out of the '50s.

The Oregon Republican Party opposes gay marriage, Death with Dignity and abortion; discourages sex education in schools; says schools should emphasize the 3 Rs; puts business welfare ahead of environmental protection; supports the death penalty; opposes amnesty and public services for illegal immigrants and opposes vote-by-mail.

Many people would agree with at least some of those stands. But taken together, they sound like the call for a return to the good old days. Hardly a progressive, forward-looking document and hardly a marketing tool for building a new and more diverse party.

To build that party, Oregon Republicans need to step back from the "no taxes" mantra and support government services that deserve support, while holding firm to demands for accountability. The Oregon GOP needs to stop telling people how to live their lives — who they can marry, when they can die and what to do with their bodies — and stop treating the Latino community like an enemy of the state.

The Oregon GOP needs to recognize that the state's success does depend on a successful collaboration of public and private efforts and find ways not to create less government, but to create better government. That's an effort all kinds of Oregonians could rally behind.

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