In 1982, when Vic Atiyeh was governor, the Oregon Legislature had liberal Republicans from Washington County, Ashland and Salem. There were conservative Democrats from Grants Pass and Klamath Falls.
Those days, and those bridge-builders, are gone. Now, the ideological lines, and the geographic lines, are sharper. The division is worse in Congress, where studies now show that just about the most conservative Democrat is more liberal than the most liberal Republican.
Talk radio, Fox News and ungodly amounts of outside money have changed politics. Now, congressional Republicans fear attacks and primary challenges if they’re seen dealing or even speaking with Democrats, and Congress can’t carry out basic responsibilities, like producing budgets or voting on presidential nominations.
But while party lines like World War I trenches have paralyzed Congress, the Oregon legislature, even with deeper divisions, manages to function. In last year’s special session, to reform PERS and find some more money for schools, Democrats and Republicans worked together. Each of the different parts of the deal had a different coalition behind it, with the leaders of both parties supporting the whole thing.
It’s not an ideal situation. It’s not even 1982.
But in the Oregon legislature, Democrats and Republicans still talk together, and sometimes even work together. In today’s politics, that’s something.
NOTE: This commentary appeared on KGW-TV, 7/26/14