Values Voters

According to Ballotpedia, even after the Oregon District 5 Senate seat, long held by Democrats was taken over by a Republican this November, Democrats still control 63% of the State House and 60% of the State Senate. Exactly how much of the legislature do Democrats need to control before they enact some real change? I’m asking because some are blaming a third-party candidate for costing the Democrats the seat to a Republican claiming that somehow protecting the environment or enacting social justice reform will be harder now.

In 2016, then incumbent Arnie Roblan, a pro-gas Democrat, was seeking reelection to the district five Senate seat, a seat he won handily in 2012 against Republican Scott Roberts. Unopposed in the primary race, Roblan faced a tough general election challenge from Republican, Dick Anderson. Roblan eked out a win with a margin 48.24% to 47.68% for a razor thin 349-vote lead over Anderson from the 62,995 votes cast. A Libertarian candidate, Dan Souza garnered 4.08% for 2,568 votes leading many conservatives to accuse Souza of being a spoiler and throwing the race to Roblan.

The same accusations are now being wrongly hurled at Pacific Green Party candidate for senate district five, Shauleen Higgins after Democrat and Coos County Commissioner Melissa Cribbins lost her race for the district to Anderson.  More on this, but it is amazing or more accurately appalling that both the major corporatist parties just assume they are entitled to votes for no other reason than whether they play for the red team or the blue team. Democrats and Republicans each view the other as the political anti-Christ but voting progressives are no longer able to distinguish any discernable or meaningful differences between the two parties.

Even before public-records revealed Cribbins’ undeclared ex parte communications and emails revealed her very cozy relationship with Jordan Cove lobbyists and executives, she was openly pro-gas. She accepts contributions from Jordan Cove backers, pro-gas lobbyists and from timber companies that want to privatize the Ellliott Forest making her very distasteful to progressive voters. Yet many die-hard Democrats warned it was better to “hold your nose”, “suck it up” and just swallow that bitter pill because anything is better than electing a Republican. The most powerful weapon we have is our vote and to just give it up on the promise that once a corporate shill is in office, we can flip them is just ludicrous. Seriously, how has that strategy worked out so far?

For almost 250 years, two parties have dominated and presided over the continued decline and erosion of the working middle class, our environment, the climate and allowed record levels of poverty, racial and income inequality, joblessness and homelessness. Republicans and Democrats have together increased protections for corporations while trouncing on the rights of whole communities. They have engaged in and incited needless foreign wars and most recently declined to pass an urgently needed stimulus bill to help struggling families suffering due to an out of control pandemic in order to “play politics”.

Higgins, a Lakeside city councilor looked at the choices for this race and knew she couldn’t vote for either candidate and so she bravely did the only logical thing and joined the race. Unlike her opponents she refused corporate donations, a requirement to obtain a Pacific Green Party nomination. She openly denounced the proposed Jordan Cove LNG project, promised to protect the environment while working toward sustainable jobs and even after suddenly taking ill still managed to garner more than 4% of the vote from a hospital room based upon her honesty and values. There is no way of knowing whether Cribbins would have received enough of Higgin’s 3000 plus votes to prevail over Anderson but if we had RCV (Ranked Choice Voting) statewide people could vote for more than one candidate per race and rank their choices by order of preference. If a candidate wins a majority of first preference votes they are declared the winner. If not, the candidate with the most second preference votes then moves up. This way no one would have to hold their nose again and both of the major parties would be forced to vet their candidates more closely to be sure to win.

Benton County enacted the RCV voting system and perhaps, if Cribbins wants to regain some trust with the liberals in her district, she might introduce such a measure here in Coos County.

Don’t be an accomplice in failure

It has been a half century since the first Earth Day and likewise since the enactment of the National Environmental Protection Act and the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Since that time CO2 levels have risen at an unprecedented rate and exceed 410 ppm, 50% of US waterways cannot sustain healthy aquatic life, 25% of the bird population is gone and Americans are subjected to thousands of toxic chemicals every day through the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat.

Made legal by our so-called system of environmental protection and designed to support commerce over sustainability this has in turn led to huge wealth gaps, social injustice, environmentally caused illness and record levels of houselessness, poverty and unemployment.  All of this has been presided over by the two corporatist political parties.

Peer reviewed studies indicate that climate change increases both the risk and impact of a pandemic. Now, rapid changes in our climate directly attributed to non-sustainable resource extraction and industrial practices have literally set the West Coast on fire.

The extent of the long-term health and economic impacts are predicted by well-known economists, including Yanis Varoufakis and Richard Wolff, to lead to a prolonged depression if not a complete collapse of our financial system as we know it. Tribal loyalty and adherence to the two major parties has failed and failed catastrophically.

We are in fact a failed state. Would any voter want to be complicit in such a failure of leadership by voting to maintain the status quo?

Today, one third of Oregon is controlled by real estate investment trusts owned by out of state shareholders.  Operated as monoculture tree plantations, these farms employ harmful aerial spraying that contaminate Oregon’s waterways. Studies of past Oregon wildfires has shown that plantation tree farms burn hotter than natural old growth forests and unlike real forests that burn in a mosaic pattern and recover, tree farms, on the other hand, ignite like flamethrowers, forming “firenados” that jump roads and rivers.  

We are witnessing the resultant loss of human life and property as a direct consequence of a conflagration ignited by climate and these ill-thought forest practices in Oregon, California and Washington creating a perfect storm for disaster.

Supremacists arrogantly scoff at the notion our environment, our climate, the whole ecosystems we all depend upon for our very survival as a species should be entitled to the same legal protections as humankind. Nature and all its living, breathing embodiments, is regarded as chattel, enslaved to mankind, mere property under our current system of law.

Nature is now demonstrating in full force, in a voice so clear only the most obtuse can possibly ignore the folly of this belief system.

While both the Democrats and the Republicans have done their best over the years to quash true democracy by standing in the way of third parties, we do still have choices. First, of course, is the cosmic question of whether to continue to legitimize the two parties that guided our dissent into this abyss? Doing so, unfortunately, perpetuates the same thinking that created these problems in the first place.

The next choice is to reject both parties and reregister to vote or at the very least reject pro-gas, corporate sponsored candidates like Melissa Cribbins and Dick Anderson.

State Senate District 5 constituents have an alternative candidate who opposes non sustainable fossil fuel projects like the proposed Jordan Cove LNG and gas pipeline that will use eminent domain to seize private land. Nominated by the Pacific Green Party, Lakeside City Councilor Shauleen Higgins will refuse corporate campaign donations and work to improve our system of law to recognize the rights of communities to protect themselves to higher standards than state and federal regulatory agencies.

Pacific Green Party candidate, Nathalie Paravicini is running for Oregon Secretary of State. The secretary of state sits on the Oregon Land Use Board and is instrumental in determining how the State’s forests, including the Elliott State Forest, are managed.

For 244 years we’ve given this grand two party experiment a fair shot and it isn’t working. It’s a hard slog to change a political system but one sure way to fail is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Don’t be complicit. Vote for change like your grandchildren’s lives depend upon it, because they do.