You Gotta Like Republicans … for Now!

OK, you won’t read this until after the Oregon primary results are in, and I’m submitting these notes on the Monday before the election. As I’ve mentioned before, turnout in Oregon’s primary will be another opportunity to read the tea leaves in this sci-fi political year as we move toward November.  

Are we Nationalists or Socialists? Demographics count (so to speak). Who and how many will Trump draw in the Republican primary? Are they first-time voters or first-time Republicans? Is there significant Hillary “fatigue” with Dems? Will zealots still “feel the Bern”? How will women vote? Students? Minorities? To find out the answer to these deep philosophical political questions, dear reader, I must confess — I dressed up like a Republican and headed out to a coastal golf course.

When it comes to golf, my theme song is “I Scare Myself!” by Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks. But I never imagined that last week I’d be standing at the tee of the 13th hole smokin’ a doobie with a Republican who not only thinks Donald Trump has a fightin’ chance of being president, but who also believes that Hillary Clinton is a war criminal for shutting off her cell phone and abandoning our U.S. embassy in Benghazi — seriously! 

Even now, I’m still not sure this whole scene actually happened! But I was there, so technically I guess it did. That’s probably why we were smokin’ the doobie in the first place. I vaguely remember that we were doing serious social research on the beneficial aspects of sativa versus indica as the preferred sub-species of marijuana as it benefitted our personal golf skills. By the second toke on the 16th hole, I proposed a PR-golf school ponzi marijuana scheme that, even in sober retrospect, might have some legs. 

Sharing a golf cart in this meditative state with my new Republican BFF caused me to reflect on how 25 years has changed the tone of partisan political discourse in our state. For longtime readers who are aghast that I could speak nicely about Republicans, let me remind you — I was the minority whip in my House and Senate caucus in each of my five sessions in the Legislature. In order to count votes, one needs to talk to the other side and trust the result, whether you agreed with it or not. 

Republican house leaders like Ray Baum, Bob Repine and speaker Bev Clarno (who didn’t mind warning us that she had plenty of experience with sharp knives on her central Oregon sheep ranch — castration being a fairly new feminist threat at the time) treated us minority Dems with respect and a sense of humor. In the Oregon Senate we had a notorious bipartisan wrecking crew made up of Republicans Tom Hartung and Randy Miller and Democrats Ryan Deckert and Rick Metzger. We met regularly for beers. We called ourselves the Buttface Caucus, sadly named not after the popular amber ale at Salem’s Ram Brewery, but after Randy Miller himself.  

But the point is: We were polite. We never told him this to his face. And we had a rule that the first person who brought up an actual vote had to buy a round. We talked about our families, sports and those knuckle-dragging uncouth representatives of both parties in the other chamber.

I reminded my new BFF that I knew and admired two local Republicans since I first met them back in the early 1990s, Dave Frohnmayer and Jack Roberts — genuine, smart, politically wise and funny men. Jack agreed to meet with me recently to discuss his termination as director of the Oregon Lottery. Ironically, it was a Democrat, John Kitzhaber, who offered Jack the job in 2013. Without getting into the murky details that led to Kate Brown’s decision to replace him, I asked Jack why he didn’t accept the governor’s offer to resign. His response was straightforward: “I served at the pleasure of the governor: If she’s not happy, I don’t serve.”  

Jack said he felt he had nothing to hide, no reason to resign, and he enjoyed his job. He’s a stand-up guy. I wished him best of luck in his next pursuit and told him how much I had appreciated his unsolicited letter of support for my PERS work back in 2003 that cost me my Senate seat.

But enough sentimentality … November lurks. Nationalism vs. socialism might be the issue. Looking forward to the Republican convention. Stay tuned. Hey! Quit bogartin’ that joint! Fore!