Metropolitan areas that are mostly represented by democrats, especially Portland, have become a dominant political power in Oregon. Our informants argued thatthe voice of the conservative population from largely rural areas cannot reach the political decisions, and the bills that are pushed through by Democrats largely affects rural communities. As an insider who observed state politics, interns had a deeper understanding of Oregon politics than the average voter. To explore these two conceptions, this data section presents two themes. One is liberal myth of Oregon, and the other one is urban-rural division.
Liberal myth of Oregon Many interviewees said that Oregon is generally perceived as very liberal state, however, our informants argue that this misconception is a result of the over-representation of metropolitan areas, such as Portland, in politics. One informant said that Oregon as a whole has a much more conservative population than is generally assumed. Informants perceive Portland, and other urban areas, as dominant voices in state politics that can push bills through the legislature. Many interviewees were aware that Oregon’s reputation is inaccurate.
When asked about Oregon political culture, Hugo, who was an economics major affiliated with the Democratic Party, answered: Oregon political culture? I think the Oregon political culture is not as homogenous as people think it is. There’s definitely an urban rural divide but this notion that OR is some politically leftist hideout is I think inaccurate. I think there’s a lot more political diversity within Oregon than people realize. Especially- it’s more of 45-55 state not a 75-25 state and I don’t think people get that sense especially across the nation when they think about Oregon as “those lefties over there.
Hugo finds that Oregon is not a largely liberal state; saying that there is a higher proportion of conservative population than exaggerated assumption, so that the conception of Oregon as whole liberal is not precise. He stated that “it’s more of 45-55 state. ” In fact, according to the Statistics of registered voters as of February 29, 2016 Oregon. gov suggests that the number of registered voters for the Democratic Party topped that for the Republican Party in 16 areas out of 36. But that the number of registered voters in the Republican Party was larger than that of the Democratic Party in 15 areas.
There were 5 districts that had the same number of registered voters for the Democratic and Republican Party. The total number of voters registered for the Democratic Party was 1,051, and that for the Republican Party was 658. If we are to turn this number into proportion there were 0. 55 of Democratic-registered and 0. 35 of Republic-registered. There proportion were calculated as excluding all of those who were non-affiliated. This statistics gathered by Oregon government supports his claim, although the proportion of those affiliated with the Democratic Party was less than his argument.
This quote is important because it is against the general notion that Oregon is a state of leftists, and also corresponds with the finding from literature review that Oregon as a largely liberal state is an exaggerated conception. When asked about Oregon political culture, Cornelius, who was politics major and affiliated with Democratic Party, said: I think that there’s this misconception and it happens in both Oregon and Washington, where people say oh well those states are just liberal, they’re crazy liberal….. But it’s really just Portland and Seattle that make it so.
Right, you know. It’s, there’s a lot of really, you know, in the eastern parts of Washington, in eastern Oregon, you know it’s largely farmers. I mean you saw the Bundy standoff. It’s, it’s farmers and ranchers and rural folks. Who you know not necessarily like they hate democrats but like rural folks and ranchers are going to tend to vote Republican. He rejected the idea that Oregon is liberal as a whole and stated that “it’s really just Portland… that make it so. ” This means that Oregon is not liberal as a state, but Portland makes Oregon appear to be liberal.
In fact, districts that are surrounding Portland are represented by the Democrats in both the Senate and the House of Representative as of February 2016 (Oregon. gov). On the other hand, eastern and largely southern part of Oregon are represented by the Republicans (Oregon. gov). This proves Cornelius’ claim that Oregon is not liberal as a whole but Portland area has the large liberal populations. Sandy, who is a politics major and affiliated with independent/democratic said something interesting that suggested the cause of this overgeneralization of Oregon as a liberal state.
Sandy stated: I guess it’s just like in the state a lot of the like differences that both the House and the Senate are dictated by Portland, Salem and Eugene. That’s cause that’s where the democratic demographics comes from, so that means if when you look at it geographically that is only probably ten percent of the whole, the state so the rest of the state is essentially red. Sandy claimed the legislators in the House and the Senate were predominantly represented by the Democrats who were from Portland, Salem, and Eugene.
It was already discussed that Portland area is represented by the Democrats in both the House of Representative and the Senate. In addition, the Democrats do have a majority in both the Senate and the House of Representative. The percentage of the Democratic legislator in the Senate is 60%, and 70% in the House of Representative as of February 2016 (Oregon. gov). The word ‘dictated’ by Sandy is somewhat over-exaggeration, however the Democratic Party certainly has a dominant power in decision making when bills reach the floor of the legislature.
Sandy also suggested that geographically about 90% of the state is conservative . The House: 35vs25 70% Democrats The senator: 18vs12 60% Democrats Statistics of registered voters by February 29, 2016 In a total of 36 districts, there were 16 districts where the number of registered voters of democratic topped that of republican, 15 districts where the number of registered voters of republican topped that of democratic, 5 districts that had tie number. Urban-rural division Several interns talked about how powerful the Democratic Party seemed in decision making in the legislature.
They talked about how the majority of candidates were Democrats, and they represented the interests of liberal districts such as Portland and Eugen, and how this affected rural people’s lives. One of the bills that our informants talked about was the bill that raised the minimum wage. For example, the minimum wage bill was cited as a bill that was pushed through by the Democrats. that the Democrats, who were claimed highly likely to represent urban communities by our informants, had been the majority in the legislature was discussed by many of our informants.
Lance, who was politics major and affiliated with Republican Party, said: t seems almost unfair and unrealistic that so much legislation pushed through within the last 10 years has really stemmed from two big metropolitan areas which is Portland and Eugene. So, it’s kind of heart-breaking. It’s my own people who are at fault for it, at the same time because we are electing people who don’t see their charge as defending all of Oregon……. Just to see how big and powerful these two areas in Oregon have become and now representing these people, seeing the effects that they have on them because I’m the one who sees it coming from my district….
This quote is saying that Portland and Eugene have the most political power in Oregon, and the Democrats who represent these two areas can push through bills that they want to pass in the legislature because they are in the majority and have been for some time. This quote is important because if what Lance said is true, it is not true that Oregon is in a category of moralistic political culture which was discussed in literature review. Many interviewees talked about the minimum wage bill and expected it to have a big impact on rural communities. Hugo stated:
It’s interesting with the minimum wage debate to see how the counties most impacted by the change in min wage isn’t Portland. It’s all the rural counties where it’s all Republicans who have no say in what their minimum wage is gonna be because it was all decided by basically Portland democrats who wanted to see minimum wage changed so they made it happen. But the impact is going to be disproportionately high in rural farming communities even though it’s gonna lower it’s gonna be felt more there and the negatives are probably gonna be felt more there than in Portland.
According to Hugo, the minimum wage bill was pushed through by Portland democrats, and Republicans who represented rural communities could not do anything about it. However, the bill might have a greater impact on rural communities than on urban communities. The Oregonian reported that in the floor debates on the minimum wage bill in the Senate, Jason Brandt, president and CEO of the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association and spokesman for Defend Oregon Jobs stated that “it will kill jobs, harm consumers, force school and government service cuts and hurt Oregon farmers and small businesses” (Oregonian).
This statement supports Hugo’s claim. In addition, The Guardian stated that “a statewide survey conducted recently for Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) found that voters… were divided over the tiered minimum wage increase, with 48% in favor and 46% opposed” (theguardian, Minimum wage). The exact impact of the minimum wage bill on rural small businesses remains to be seen. Nate, whose major was politics and civic communications and political affiliation was Republican, also talked about the possible impact of the minimum wage bill.
When he talked about the minimum wage bill, he said: …this is classic example where.. because Oregon is one state, and the vote is carried by the greater number of people, on the issues that affect entire State, the people who live in those urban communities benefit much more than those in rural communities. For instance the new minimum wage bill that just passed, which raised the minimum wage to nearly 15 dollars an hour over the next few years, sounds great in theory.
Um having read through the bill myself and actually analyzed the policy and potential impacts, it actually hurts rural communities disproportionately to the benefit on urban communities. Because small family businesses are much more common than big chains in rural communities, these small businesses can’t afford pay the new minimum wage and at the same time, it creates a tiered income structure. So the urban communities have a higher minimum wage than the rest of the state.
Nate argued that the minimum wage bill would benefit urban area, harm rural communities, and create a more significant difference in incomes between urban and rural areas. The minimum wage bill is a bill that: raises base minimum wage to $13. 50 per hour by July 1, 2022. Establishes higher minimum wage ($14. 75 by 2022) for employees working within urban growth boundary of Portland metropolitan area and lower minimum wage ($12. 50 by 2022) for those working in 18 non-urban counties. Oregon. gov, STUFF MEASURE SUMARY The bill does not state the minimum wage will be equal.
There will be limited higher minimum wage for urban areas, and limited lower minimum wage for rural areas. Theguardian stated that “workers outside of urban areas are more likely to end up in low-wage position” (theguardian, Minimum wage). Therefore the minimum wage bill indeed creates a tiered income structure. This tiered income structure deepens urban/rural division and benefits Portland in terms of gaining more economic power. Conclusion As gathering and analyzing the information we obtained from our interviewees, Oregon political culture started to appear as more diverse than as a liberal utopia.
Among the registered voters, the proportion of those who were affiliated with the Democratic Party was 0. 55. Although this statistic cannot be decisive factor to say Oregon is not an entirely liberal state considering the fact that there is a significant amount of non-affiliated population, still it is a significant data that tells us Oregon is a liberal utopia. This diversity in politics created an urban-rural division. The liberal population are concentrated in urban areas where population density is largely higher than rural areas.
As a result, there are more politicians who represent urban areas, and they tend to be Democrats since urban areas are where the liberal population are concentrated. Consequently, in the legislature, 70 % of the seats in the House of Representative and 60% of the seats in the Senate belonged to the Democratic Party as of February 2016. This allowed the Democrats to push through the bills that were brought into the legislature. This predominant political power of urban areas especially Portland in the legislature consists in the economic success.
Historically Portland has been the central of Oregon economics. Thus there are a lot of job opportunities in Portland, which attracts many people. This is why Portland has disproportionately higher population density. As a central of the Oregon economic, Portland gained huge network not only with outside of the state, but also within the state. Thus it is the economic success that fuels the social capital to expand. These two capitals bring many people to urban areas. As a result, Portland gained strong political capital too in the light of democracy.