Saturday, March 8, 2014

The end of the Oregon GOP?

Oregon doesn't get many earthquakes, but it did get hit by a big one today.

The 50th annual gathering of Republicans at the Dorchester Conference in Seaside saw attendees endorse a ballot measure to support gay marriage.

Now, 10 years ago, Oregon Republicans turned out en masse to enshrine a gay marriage ban in the state constitution.

Today's vote is a stunning turnaround.

Granted, the Dorchester Republicans aren't as socially conservative as the GOP at large. In fact, former Sen. Bob Packwood formed the conference in response to the drubbing that extremist Barry Goldwater endured against LBJ.

But, all Republicans in the state threw their lot in with the social conservatives more than 30 years ago and haven't won the governorship since. This fact is crucial because, until then, only two Democrats had won the governor's race in a 100 years.

The Oregon Republican Party used to be the progressive party in this state in terms of race relations and land-use issues.

But, that was a generation ago.

The Republican brand, in Oregon and nationally, is suffering from the correct perception that it endorses hostile attitudes toward minorities, women and homosexuals.

Now, Republicans are realizing that they're losing out on a ton of money because of its attitudes towards gays. So, by endorsing gay marriage, Republicans hope they can stanch the bleeding of losing the younger voters, but, more importantly, they hope to receive a ton of cash from gay Republicans.

Of course, this recent shift towards a more tolerant, if fake, attitude toward gay marriage meant that the social conservative wing of the GOP, along with Tea Party types, had to stage their own well-attended gathering this weekend in Clackamas, the southeast exurb of Portland.

This division within the Republican ranks means that Oregon Democrats will win any statewide election this year and, most likely, in 2016 when a woman should win the presidency for the first time.

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