Tag: portland

The Electoral College vs Popular Vote

The dirty secret about Oregon Aglink the magazine is that the deadline for my column is weeks before you’ll read it. Coming up with fresh column ideas can be challenging, especially in today’s world when a hot topic has the shelf life of a snow flake in Phoenix. Take this column, for example. While we’re not a political organization, it’s hard not to have politics at the top of mind during election week. This morning the entire conversation revolves around the protests throughout the country because Donald Trump was elected president.

While the weak minded are focused on vandalism and physical and mental intimidation, many scholars are pointing to the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Their form of protest is to demand change away from the Electoral College that determines who wins a presidential election. They want the popular vote to determine the winner.

On the surface, I can reason with that frustration and even welcome the rational. I just whole heartedly disagree with it.

In order to appreciate the reasons for the Electoral College, it is essential to understand its historical context and the problem that the founding fathers were trying to solve. They faced the difficult question of how to elect a president in a nation that:

  • Was composed of 13 large and small states jealous of their own rights and powers while suspicious of any central national government
  • Contained only 4 million people nationwide, or basically the population of Oregon
  • Concerns were rampant that states with larger population bases would create a dictatorship

Why were these questions discussed? Let’s look a little deeper. Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts represented 41 percent of the population in 1776. Can you begin to see how founders in the other 10 colonies were a little leery of the bigger colonies? This was especially true of the largest colony, Virginia, which represented nearly 25 percent of the nation’s population. The founding fathers were determined to find a more equitable system that allowed all 13 colonies equal input.

It’s a system, by and large, that has worked well.

The popular vote, which is used in most state-wide elections? That’s up for debate. Especially in States such as Oregon that have primarily one metro area.

In 2016 Oregon surpassed 4 million people who reside in the Beaver State. Roughly the same population as the original 13 colonies combined. If we pretend that Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties are the equivalent of the three highest populated “colonies,” we find that these three counties represent 44 percent of Oregon’s population. Multnomah County is our “Virginia,” representing nearly 20 percent of the population.

Dennis Richardson was just elected Secretary of State in Oregon. He is the first Republican to win a state-wide election since Jack Roberts was elected Labor Commissioner in 1994. In most cases the Democratic candidate has won with relative ease, primarily because they dominate the three counties previously noted. Democratic principles are usually stronger in metropolitan communities, whereas Republican principles are usually stronger in rural communities.

This is why rural interests are not represented well in state-wide elections. For the purposes of an example only, Hillary Clinton took 52 percent of the popular vote in Oregon and Donald Trump took 41 percent. Rightfully so, she earned the 7 electoral votes from Oregon. However, if you look at the county-by-county breakdown, Clinton took only 8 of 36 counties in Oregon.

What’s my point? Oregon has a significant urban-rural divide. Most of that anguish is built around local politics, often forced upon rural communities by their urban neighbors. What if Oregon had its own version of an electoral college where each county had a larger say in how an election turned out?

I realize this is never going to happen, and even if it was entertained it would be skewed to where the larger population base would still have a greater say. However, if such a system did exist I do believe that our state-wide officials would probably give a little more than the current lip service they give our rural communities. Stronger dialogue would occur that would create solutions rather than build larger chasms between urban and rural populaces. And, that’s something to think about.

 

 

 

Geoff Horning, Executive Director

The State of Portland, and the Oregon National Park

geoff horning oregon aglinkHere’s the good news. By the time you read this column it will only be a couple more weeks before all the political vitriol will come to an end for another cycle. While I’m sure we’re going to elect the perfect President in November (sarcasm people), I’m far more concerned about some of the political posturing happening right here in Oregon.

Oregon has long been a bastion of activist activity. Some of it has been good for the environment and the economy, but much of it has been an over reach by an urban community out of touch with their rural neighbors.

Having grown up in Reedsport, I was surrounded by a proud community with a strong local economy thanks to International Paper and a robust forestry industry. Almost overnight I witnessed fear and anger as eco-terrorists entered the community, spiking trees and heralding the plight of an owl that nobody had even heard of. Some 30-odd-years later the Spotted Owl still hasn’t recovered, the Barred Owl thrives and a once proud community sits in economic shambles.

Many of those activists who strolled into town to demonstrate were from Portland, Eugene, Seattle and other urban destinations. Thankfully it was before the internet, or I could only imagine how many more would have come into town without a lick of forestry experience and told all the locals who spent generations caring for the forest everything they were doing wrong.

Reedsport is hardly the only rural community in Oregon that has been uprooted by larger urban populations who think they know better than the locals. It’s just one example that happens to hit close to home. While most in Oregon are currently debating the damage that will occur with the passing of Measure 97, my past history has me keeping a close eye on the furthest corner of the State and a push by activists to turn a large section of Malheur County into a Designated Monument.

Look, I’m okay with conservation. I believe it’s not just a good thing to do, but it’s our obligation to ensure a balanced ecosystem for future generations. I love to fly fish for trout and spend a lot of my “pleasure” time doing so. In fact, just a couple weeks ago I spent a week in the backwoods of Yellowstone, dancing around grizzly bear to fish one of the best trout fisheries in the world, the Lamar River. I LOVE National Parks.

Yet, I’m mortified that a legion of activists, mostly from other parts of the country thanks to KEEN Footwear, are making headway in turning the Owyhee Canyonlands into a Designated Monument. If successful this effort would significantly impact local ranchers from grazing their cattle. Why are they pushing for this designation you ask? The primary reason noted by the activist community is “it’s important to have areas like this for people to explore and love.”

Here’s the thing. They already can! Not only is this area designated as public lands that people can enjoy, there are also 5 National Parks or Monuments that already reside in Oregon, totaling 207,360 acres. There are more than 85,000 acres within 153 State Parks in Oregon. That doesn’t include the public lands along the Oregon coast, or the National Forests that reside throughout Oregon. That’s a lot of area for people to “explore and love.”

This designation will basically accomplish one thing, which is to restrict the cattle industry from thriving in a region that is already struggling to economically survive. Such a designation would devastate an entire area with no benefit to the greater society. It’s like watching my childhood manifest itself all over again. This time, though, I hope common sense prevails.

Denim & Diamonds is next month. The highlight of the event for me is the awards ceremony, but the purpose of the event is to raise money for our Cultivating Common Ground campaign. Engagement and education of our urban neighbors is our only option. We still have plenty of room, and we’d love to have your support. Every penny helps. Otherwise, we’ll soon live in the State of Portland, while everybody just visits the Oregon National Park.

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Geoff Horning, Executive Director

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