Book Review: Oregon Politics And Government: Progressives Versus Conservative Populists

Oregon Politics And Government: Progressives Versus Conservative Populists, by Richard A. Clucas, Mark Henkels, and Brent Steel

What went wrong? Can we blame the influx of Californians into Oregon over the past fifteen years or so for the sad state of affairs that Oregon finds itself in? This book bemoans a conflict in Oregon between rural and exurban counties with populist conservative worldviews (not so different from my own, I must admit) and urban progressives who operated from a perspective of some parity. Such circumstances do not at present exist in Oregon, and at least this reader thinks that it would be a good thing for there to once again be a situation where urban progressives had to moderate their desires or be able to frame them in ways that could be accepted by rural populists who wanted lower taxes and less ridiculous regulations. 2020 has been a bad year for seeing how urban progressives can run amok by taking advantage of an atmosphere of fear to try to run roughshod off of everyone else, and this book shows that it wasn’t always the case in Oregon, and with some proper development a better future that is more in lines with what this book talks about may be possible where Portland and Salem leftists don’t ruin life for the rest of us in Oregon.

This book is about 300 pages long and is divided into eighteen chapters that discuss various areas where there has been a great deal of debate and disagreement between Progressives and Populists. The book begins with a list of illustrations and acknowledgements and then moves into a discussion of the divided state of Oregon (1) in terms of its politics. After that there is a look at the places and people within the state (2) as well as Oregon’s place in the nation and the world (3). After that there is a chapter on parties and elections (4) as well as one on direct democracy (5), a legacy of the early Progressives of the beginning of the 1900’s, as well as interest groups (6) and the media (7). After that the authors turn their attention to various aspects of the government and its operating and how this has been contested, although not enough in recent years, regarding the legislature (8), where Democrats once skipped town to try to deny quorum and then got mad when Republicans did that not so long ago to them, the weak office of the governor (9), the bureaucracy (10), the judiciary (11), as well as local government (12). After that there are a series of chapters that examine the areas where conflict is particularly fierce between left and right, such as fiscal policy (13), environmental policy (14), health policy (15), social issues (16), and education policy (17), after which a closing chapter provides a discussion of Oregon in perspective, after which there are notes, suggestions for further reading, notes on contributors, and an index.

In many ways, this book fails because it assumes that a given status quo will exist, or that the increase in power of the side the authors favor (urban progressives) will lower the state of conflict within Oregon, which has not been the case at all. If Oregon no longer votes for quirky Republicans for statewide offices, that does not mean that conservative populists are any less present in the state, for all of their political weakness. It simply means that progressive political leaders rule as if their (our) opinions and perspectives do not matter. And such a tack seems very likely to create huge problems for the state at some point, even if it has not happened yet. What sort of revenge will populists have if the power of Oregon’s progressives falters for some reason? This book does not deal with such unpleasant subjects, but it does show that even in its present state, there are still reminders of the importance of populism in Oregon’s tax and governmental structure, for all the harm that has come to our beloved state as a result of the depredations and oppression of the progressives among us.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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