Time for rural Oregon to make a good impact

As we near the end of a turbulent year, we’ve just experienced a critical juncture in our community, our state and our nation’s journeys: a big election.

Unless President Trump pulls a spectacular and convincing legal rabbit out of the hat, we have a new president and our first female vice president, both of whom pledge to try to get along and are asking us to do the same.

Whether or not you voted for this ticket, and many in our community did not, it’s time to reassess where we are.

It’s doubtful that many reading this would disagree that we are a divided nation. We’re certainly not the first to note that, not by a long shot. And we all blame each other for that.

We’re not going to assign blame at this point. We’re all guilty, even if we didn’t start the bad blood.

So here are some things to think about as we move into a new era in our history.

Someone has to turn the other cheek. It may be true that Republicans and other conservatives relatively gracefully resigned themselves to the Obama Administration for eight years, and it may be true that people on the left evidenced very little grace in the face of President Trump’s bull-in-a-china-shop style of diplomacy.

But how is everyone responding now? Getting along requires all of us to withdraw the fingers that are pointing pretty much every which way except at ourselves.

Mr. Biden’s acceptance speech Saturday night had the misfortune of interrupting the TV broadcast of the season opener for the University of Oregon football team, which didn’t do anything to endear the whole election process to football fans who were already trying to find something positive to focus on.

That said, the president-elect offered up some words of wisdom: “The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a decision. It’s a choice we make. And if we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate.”

He was talking about our leaders in Washington, D.C., but what he said applies on the street as well.

The rising interest in the political process, fueled by TimberUnity and visible in the local Trump rally procession of vehicles two weeks ago and again on Saturday on the Columbia River Interstate Bridge has been unprecedented in recent decades.

And it could be a very good thing, if these individuals with calloused hands and backbones strengthened by honest labor continue to let Salem and Washington know that they’re paying attention.

The Democratic supermajority in the Oregon Legislature during the past two years has not helped the democratic process in our state. Republicans can blame themselves for failing to maintain a consistant presence in political races, especially in urban politics, in recent years.

But that doesn’t change the fact that legislators who pay little mind to the voices of concerned citizens, let alone to their colleagues on the other side of the aisle, on issues such as cap and trade and a myriad of other taxes and laws they’ve slid through the door of the governor’s office, pose a problem to us, the people.

That doesn’t mean all those laws were bad, but the process hasn’t been good.

As The New Era goes to press, there are questions whether the supermajority will stay intact, as several seats have been too close to call. An increase of two seats for the Democrats in each house would have given them a three-quarters majority, which, as a Willamette Week report put it, “would render worthless the Republican tactic of walking out to halt the passage of progressive legislation.” The Oregon Constitution requires that three-quarters of members be present to form a quorum.

Apparently, citizens have taken note of the strong-armed, dismissive tactics employed by the majority party which answers to urban interests. And even if the blue wave materializes, the majority should be on notice that citizens, particularly rural citizens are paying attention now, more than ever.

The fact that 400,000 more Oregonians were registered to vote in this election than ever before, and as of Friday afternoon, 81.4 percent had been recorded as having cast ballots, is good news. That’s not a record – yet, but it’s up there.

Fact is, we’re participating and that’s the first step to getting politicians’ attention.

Rural residents need to think about how we can draw firm lines in the sand, but do so with grace and a willingness to connext in Salem. After months of rioting and violence by people who accuse others of abusing the innocent, it’s important to realize that Mr. Biden is right: We can state our cases and negotiate without being inconsiderate boors.

Even if they have liked a lot of what President Trump has accomplished, many Oregon residents need to think now about what it’s going to take to make our voices heard in the capitol, and how we can educate and influence the legislators within those walls.

Locally, we have a brand new representative in Jamie Cate, who, though a political novice, has intelligence and business savvy that, we believe, could play very well in Salem, to our benefit.

And we have a seasoned veteran senator, Fred Girod, who gets it, who knows what the issues are here in the hinterlands.

Now it’s time to start planning strategy, to start doing business.

Hopefully cooperatively, strategically and with good grace.