Oregon At The Crossroads - A Path to Sanity and Sustainability by Blair Bobier
I’m a reasonably intelligent person, bullish on the bedrock democratic principles that are the foundation of our national character—individual liberty, separation of church and state, commitment to the commonwealth of society, etc. I agree with Thomas Jefferson in his assertion that an educated population is the best defense against tyranny. I pay vigilant attention to the issues and events of our evolving society and, being a lawyer by training, I base my opinions of those issues on the principles of justice, including the “spirit” of the law as well as the “letter” of the law. Recently, I have decided to enter the political fray with the intention to force debate on issues of real and lasting consequence to us all.
Why would a reasonably sane person run for public office in this age of scandal and scrutiny? Putting the “issues” aside for a minute, the reasons for me to do so are plentiful. I love Oregon. To me, it's the most beautiful place in the world. I'm motivated by my love for Oregon and the vision of what it can become. I envision a future in which communities thrive with bicycles, pedestrians and happy, healthy kids playing outside. I love majestic forests with towering, ancient trees. I want to see pristine rivers filled with salmon again. I envision valleys with clear blue skies (OK, at least part of the year), because trains, trams and other public transportation reduce our unhealthy reliance on automobiles.
The vast majority of Oregon’s citizens agree with these nice sentiments. But the point I want to make here is that these are more than “nice sentiments” that everybody can agree with—these are the basis for sound public policy. Moreover, the question I want to pose here is why have the governor and our state legislature chosen to ignore the obvious, opting instead to continue squandering Oregon’s commonwealth for the private enrichment of the very wealthy few?
In this article, I want to chart a new course for Oregon, though I prefer to call it a “path.” I intend to present a short and by no means comprehensive critique of the political status quo in our state, and I will follow that up with a clear, intelligent merging of majority public sentiment and possible public policy. This isn’t rocket science. Rather, it is a path of essential dignity and sanity. If you will excuse a little exercise in political venting here, this is NOT the path of “Republicrats”—as I see it, two corporately-financed wings of the same political monster, dedicated to selling out the public interest for private gain. I therefore want to introduce a relatively new political party in this article, the Pacific Party. The path that I speak of is that of the Pacific Party.
The Last Pioneers? Oregon is a mythical, magical land located precisely between equator and pole. People have been coming and settling here for a long time in search of security, sustenance, community and beauty—in search of a home. The earliest people crossed the Bering Strait in the first human migrations to this extra-ordinary place. Later, pioneers crossed the continent in wagons, or sailed round the Horn. More recent arrivals have come via planes, trains and automobiles.
After all these generations of pioneers, will ours be the last to drink clean water filtered by ancient forests? Will we be the last to know native, wild salmon? Will we be the last to enjoy clean air and wide open spaces?
These are not rhetorical questions posed by a politician. These are substantive questions that must be asked and answered if we are to develop the insight and courage to put our future onto the path of sanity and sustainability. Anyone so cynical as to trivialize or dismiss such issues deserves our deep skepticism and even deeper questioning regarding whose interests they serve and what their real agenda is.
The Green Pacific The Pacific Party could be characterized as Oregon's green party. I'm proud to say that I participated in its founding. We drew our inspiration from the Green Parties in Europe (and later in the U.S.) who organized around four basic principles: non-violence, grassroots democracy, personal & social responsi-bility, and ecological wisdom. The catalyst for our creation came during the Gulf War, when Democrats and Republicans fell over themselves to bomb a third world country back to the stone age because our country lacked a rational energy policy. We knew we needed an alternative voice to represent “us,” to represent peace and sanity. Out of deference to green organizers who, at the time, didn't want to get involved with electoral politics, we chose the name "Pacific," both for its bioregional connotations and because it means "peaceful." In 1996, we ran public citizen Ralph Nader for President. Here in Oregon, Nader and his running mate, Winona LaDuke, received the highest percentage of votes of any state, on the Pacific Party ticket.
My own journey “If you remember the sixties, you weren't really there.” —I. Dunno
I remember the sixties, vividly, never having touched anything stronger than milk and cookies at that time—I was nine when the decade ended. Yet I remember the excitement of change, the aura of possibilities. I remember young people rebelling against the frightening powers of the military, the national guard, and the police, sometimes by sticking flowers into the end of rifle barrels. It probably wasn't until years later that I learned of Abbie Hoffman's attempt to levitate the Pentagon, but that decade left me with the impression that anything was possible.
For years, my political life was motivated by Republican presidents. Nixon's downfall at the hands of Woodward and Bernstein led me to study journalism in college. Reagan's dismantling of this country's environmental protections led me to Oregon and law school at Lewis & Clark. Bush bombed Baghdad and I worked with others to start the Pacific Party.
Democrats vs. Republicans Unfortunately, John Kitzhaber has turned out to be the most recent proof that there isn’t much of a difference. Governor Kitzhaber has stood by idly while our public lands are logged and destroyed for private profit. I've been amazed to discover how few people realize that private companies log our national and state forests. These forests provide us with the purest drinking water in the world. This clean water is the basis for a number of industries in Oregon, including the billion dollar fishing industry, high-tech industries, and tourism and recreation. What's worse than the destruction of public lands for private profit is that we, the taxpayers, subsidize this destruction. It’s been documented in the public record, and a recent GAO report confirmed it just this spring. Logging road construction and timber sales on public lands are money-losing propositions. Why doesn’t the public seem to notice these things?
I think that John Kitzhaber unofficially announced his campaign for re-election when he signed a bill to recriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. In an effort to look "tough on crime," the Governor is willing to scapegoat and lock up hundreds of thousands of peaceful, otherwise law-abiding citizens. It’s bad public policy because it invades people’s privacy. It criminalizes an activity in which there is absolutely no victim rather than punishing specific behaviors that threaten or harm innocent people. The state of Oregon estimates the cost of this measure at an additional $1.2 million dollars. That doesn’t begin to tally the human suffering and social fracturing caused by such laws.
John Lennon wrote "I'm sick and tired of hearing things from up-tight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites. All I want is the truth. Just give me some truth." Well, the truth is that a change toward sane public policy is possible. And the truth is that the road we're on now, a highway to hell paved by Democrats and Republicans alike, leads to a bleak future.
Third Party Potential Throughout our history, "third" parties have played a major role. The Republican Party actually started out as a third party. Third parties have been responsible for major innovations inclu-ding social security and securing for women the right to vote.
Some people feel that voting for a "third" party candidate is a wasted vote. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truly wasted vote is one cast for a candidate you don't believe in. The problem with voting for the "lesser of two evils" is that it leads inevitably to voting for “the evil of two lessers.” If a Democrat or Republican knows that, because of party affiliation, you'll vote for them no matter what, they have no reason to listen to your concerns. What difference does it make? You'll vote for them again anyway. And again. And again. And things will never change.
Voting is not just a privilege, it's a responsibility. People struggle, even die for the right elsewhere in the world. Make your vote count by contributing to a spiritual and political evolution. Walk a refreshing green path with the Pacific Party and me. The future begins right here in the present.
Blair Bobier is the Pacific Party’s candidate for Governor of Oregon. He also serves as Executive Director of the Northwest Democracy Insitute, a non-partisan, non-profit organization committed to all citizens having a voice in government. To learn more, visit the Pacific Party website at www.pacificparty.org, or call 503.238.1856.