Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Yes, We're Just That Way

Interesting little chart (h/t to Matt Yglesias) that goes a long way to explain stuff about my home state.

More than anything else, living here in the Beaver State reminds me of the time I spent in Panama. Like the nation of the isthmus, Oregon is divided into a city and a forest; you either live in the metropolis (about 1.5 million of Oregon's 3 million people live within thirty minutes drive of Pioneer Square in downtown Portland) or you're a fucking rube. Like the Country With The Canal, Oregonians have developed something of a curiously amorphous sense of their identity that centers around NOT being Callifornian and NOT being a Seattleite (although our news outlets seem to think we care deeply about the Seadogs and Marinoids).

But one thing we can claim for our very own: we are the MOST schizophrenic state in the nation. Our Democrats are bluer than blue; we love us some liberality.Give us socialized medicine! Give us bake sales for bombers and avalanches of cash for painters and dancers and musicians! The more socialist the more better for much of Portland as well as some sizeable portions of Salem and Eugene.

BUT...our Republicans are the red and meaty kind. War! Guns! Chastity! Heterosexuality! We love us some Caucasian, Pledge-of-Allegiance-recitin', free-market-havin',Chevy F250-drivin' and Budweiser-drinkin' rednecks out here beyond the urban growth boundries. Get out to places where the trolleys don't run, places like Wheeler County, Ontario, Burns...them's Real Men Places, where Ay-rabs, wimmen and eggheads know enough to STFU 'cause if we want their opinion we'll beat it out of 'em.

This year the ugly schism between Red Oregon and Blue Oregon is playing out in the Smith-Merkley Race. If the election were held in the three metro counties (Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas) Merkley would win handily - even the "security moms" in Beaverton and "meth dads" in Lents are tired of Smith's Bush-bum-sucking ways.But Smith, who is running an even more-content-free-then-usual GOP campaign (including running ads fulminating about Merkley's part in redecorating the state capitol and something about being soft on criminals featuring a rape victim implying that the evil liberal loves him some rapists), is going to sweep every rural country with the possible exception of Josephine (Ashland), Lane (Eugene) and maybe (very maybe) Deschutes (Bend).

The kinda sad thing about this is that anywhere else Merkley would be the centerist candidate. He's just your standard issue TV politician. The guy I liked, Steve Novick, was a real social democrat who would have pissed the GOP off like a gay paratrooper. The State Democrats campaigned against him like crazy because...well, their theory was that he was too far left for the hicks to vote for. Fucketty fuck, guys: Wayne Morse would be too far left-wing for the fucking hicks to vote for. They're not going to vote for Merkley or anybody else to the left of Joeseph fucking Goebbels. Grow a brain, Dems, look at the damn chart. You're going to win in Oregon by getting out the liberals or quashing the conservatives - they're not crossing the line - they're waaaayyyy to far apart.We're a strange little state, and never more so than now. Interesting times. Interesting.

Update 10/15: One thing I forgot to mention - which is pretty amazing when you realize it's central to the social and political reality of Oregon - is that we're WHITE. I'm talking whitey-white, Stormfront-fantasy-white, go-for-days-and-never-see-a-person-darker-than-cafe-au-lait-white. This unrelieved whiteness makes for a very peculiar society, where to be African-American or, to a somewhat lesser degree, Hispanic, is to be effectively invisible. There is NO viable nonwhite political base in Oregon. None. There is no need for any politician running for office outside a Portland municipal post to even consider what a nonwhite Oregonian would think, care or vote.

I read that Bible Spice made some comment about New Hampshire and Alaska being a "microcosm of America" and thought; naaaaahhhh. NH and AK are microcosms of Oregon, fucktard. A bunch of rich white liberals and a bunch of poor, white conservatives. Nice places, pretty country, but "America" in 2008? Not so much. Fortunately places like the BOS-NYC-PHI-DC corridor, LA and Chicago manage to be "America" and generate tons of revenue and social vitality so we can continue to be our wierd-ass white selves.


Lisa said...

Love your pictures (esp. the bikini-clad Rebel), which demonstrate handily that we're all really nuts, y'know.

One hopes for the leadership of a more benificent kind of nuts, but I'm told hope isn't much to hang your hat on. . .

mike said...

”although our news outlets seem to think we care deeply about the Seadogs and Marinoids”

Yeah, but pity more us poor southwestern Washingtonion neighbors of yours who have to put up with Ory-gun radio and tv programming that blather on and on about the Beaves, Duckies, and Vikes!

Great post earler on Hastings, though. Thanks. As an aside, William the Conqueror’s beachhead in England (Pevensey), was dubbed ‘England’s Gate’ by your favorite barracks room balladeer.

FDChief said...

Lisa: Shucks, my sister-in-law never did have any taste in swimwear...

And I like to think that we're just ahead of the curve out here. We'll see what happens if Obama wins in November without 51% of the white vote. I should note that this urban/rural, ethnic/white divide has gone a long way to paralyzing Oregon politics - we just can't agree on much of anything. I hope this doesn't translate nationally, because here we haven't found a leader who can bridge it.

mike: I agree, SW Washington is like Siberia with less glamour. Y'all get Ducks, Beavers and Blazers from one side and Huskies, Cougs, Seahawks and (formerly) Sonics from the other. You need a college team of your own - go, Clark County Community College!!

sheerahkahn said...

I will never look at the confederate flag the same way...ever...again.
I'm sure Stonewall and Lee are rolling over in their graves knowing that that piece of attire is out and about.

mike said...

We prefer to call it Avalon, not Siberia! The big river still has a few salmon and sturgeon despite the pollution from your fair city. There are still a few old growth groves (albeit isolated), but even the second and a few third growth forests are beautiful. I see as much or more clearcuts across the river than I do here.

The only thing that Ory-Gun has going for it is Powell's City of Books, Tillamook, and perhaps the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

pluto said...

I think I now better understand Oregon although the swimsuit picture blasted a few neurons into oblivion.

My state has had a similar issue of rural conservatism being completely out of sync with urban liberalism and it led to quite a few nasty battles over just about everything but we started coming back together again about 2-3 years ago, just in the nick of time as it turned out.

We're facing another billion dollar budget shortfall next year but the politicians are making nice about it and are actually holding some bipartisan discussions to better understand what is and isn't politically possible before the legislative season starts. That is a very welcome change from the slogans, screaming, and shutdowns that we had 4-5 years ago.

Publius said...

Well, I've always said this about Oregon, the seriously weird and dysfunctional state. Totally unlike its neighbor to the south, my home state, California, which isn't dysfunctional at all.

Feel blessed that you've only got two states to contend with, Chief. Californians have four. And California makes Oregon look like a marvel of efficiency. I almost fled to Oregon a couple of years ago, but instead decided to relocate to a South Carolina, a state with a whole different kind of dysfunctionality.

IOTM that most, if not all of the states are pretty damned weird in one way or another. Kind of goes with being part of a weird, dysfunctional nation, I suppose. Actually, if one looks at those blue-red maps of the nation, it may be that Oregon is more typical than you'd like to think.

We do not live in Deutschland, my friend. Polyglot is as polyglot does.

FDChief said...

mike: I loves me the 'Couv, too. Like I say, you guys just need your own sports franchise. You get no respect in the NW unlss you gots a team!

Pluto: we're still in the dysfunctional stage.

Part of the problem is that nobody is willing to talk sense about taxes. We adopted one of those moronic Prop13 property tax limits twenty years ago, and we have no sales tax. So when the economy tanks - like it's going to now - the state goes broke because personal income plummets and that's all we tax. Buttloads of OR corporatons pay - I shit you not - $10.00. Ten bucks. Ten fucking dollars - that's our minimum corporate rate.

Plus we have another idiotic law called the "kicker", where our state treasurer is required to "forecast" estimated revenues for the next two years. Ihis forecast is low of the actual number the state has to "kick back" the "excess". My kicker check last year came to something like one hundred bucks. Ya wanna know how much PGE's kicker check came to? No, you don't.

Anyway, the Oregon sheeple refuse to tax themselves and refuse to consider alteratives to the broken tax setup. We're pretty much fucked, fiscally.

Publius: "Kind of goes with being part of a weird, dysfunctional nation, I suppose." You speak more freakishly like my thoughts thanyou know, my friend. Here I was just thinking this evening: "I wonder if the difference between 1931 and 2008 is that in 1931 there was an America small enough and coherent enough to pull together, to reject the Hooverist Republicans and welcome the leadership of FDR, to hang in there long enough for WW2 to pull the economy back together...and now we're just too big, too incoherent, too polarized, too rich, too soft...maybe we're ALL too much like Oregon to hang together through the cming Hard Times".

I hope not. But I worry for my kids.

pluto said...

I hope not. But I worry for my kids.

We ALL worry for our kids but I think, with some major caveats, that things will turn out reasonably well in the end.

It's our job to make sure that the world they get is as good as possible.

FDChief said...

Pluto: "I think, with some major caveats, that things will turn out reasonably well in the end."

I go between believing this and worrying about the signs I keep seeing that we, as a nation, appear to be as factious and as divided as any time since 1859.

ISTM that, while the is a hard core of left-wing "give me socialized medicine or give me death" characters out there the group is pretty small and without much influence. But there is a hard-core right-wing group, much larger, much more vocal, much better connected, that has been Rushified and Coulterized and Kristolnachtted into believing that NO liberal governance is legitimate. NONE. That anything short of robber-baron capitalism is socialism. That anything short of red, raw war is capitulation.

Take Christopher Hitchens (please!). Hardly a raving Christopathic paleocon or a foaming-at-the-mouth-for-Israel neocon. And yet, he consistently states and apparently believes that anything less than 30 or 40 thousand footsoldiers on the ground in central Asia represents "surrender". There's no compromise there, no nuance, no shading. It's red war with the "Islamofascists" or we're handing them our swords on the deck of His Islamic Majesty's Ship Missouri.

Here we are sliding into something - depression? recession? hard times? - that, under normal, Keynsian circumstances we would have a normal Keynsian answer to: spend money on social services to keep un- or underemployed people fed and clothed and housed. Spend money on job creation to give people work and build infrastructure while we do. Use government influence tariffs, taxes, legislation) to nudge private investment into national job and wealth creation and away from offshoring and tax havens and similar dodges.

But there's a solid 25-30% that WON'T STAND FOR THAT. That would, apparently, rather choose the Marieian/Hooverian/Palinian prescription ("Madam, the people have no bread to eat." "Well, then, let them eat cake!") rather than accept that government has ANY place in the "free market".

That, to me, is a dysfunctional polity. Jared Diamond wrote an interesting book about how societies react to crises. His conclusion, not surprisingly, was that certain societies hardwire themselves in ways that are viable during normal times but fail to react and respond to extraordinary events. I am afraid that we may be approaching this condition. I am too old to worry that much - soon enough I will be safe in my long home to worry about America thirty, forty years from now. But my kids - they will have to live through what, too me, looks like a troubled time. And while they're trying to shoot these rapids, a third of their fellow oarsmen will refuse to row unless everyone rows on the Right side only, ever.