Whenever a Democrat wins a close statewide race in Oregon, we hear Republicans grumbling that those damn liberal elitists in Portland and Multnomah County gave the election to him. Sometimes, if they’re in a really bad mood, they’ll say they “stole” the election for him.
But Evan Manvel, writing on Blue Oregon, makes an important point: Without votes from all over the state, John Kitzhaber wouldn’t have won.
Kitzhaber’s final margin over Republican Chris Dudley was less than 20,000 votes. “Kitzhaber wouldn’t be headed to Mahonia Hall if not for the 19,000-plus voters in Douglas and Klamath counties who supported him, even as those counties went for Dudley overall,” Manvel writes.
Likewise, although Dudley easily carried Deschutes County, Kitzhaber picked up more than 24,000 votes here – more than enough to put him over the top.
Manvel continues: “In the newspaper, we’ve seen graphics that portray the state in bright red and blue counties, with no gradations of purple. … While these all hold an element of truth, they hide a greater truth: In every county in Oregon, there are people of all persuasions. There are a whole lot of rural Democrats, and a bunch of urban Republicans, and a horde of independents.”
There are logical reasons why we tend to think in terms of red-vs.-blue, urban-vs.-rural, eastside-vs.-westside, Manvel says – one of the big ones being our two-party, winner-take-all election system, which tends to obscure the subtle shades of difference and sharpen the contrasts.
“Yet there are compelling reasons to shift how we report and think about the results,” Manvel writes. “When we’re reminded of our similarities, we’re more likely to succeed in working together. When we think of those who disagree with us as our neighbors instead of far-away strangers, we can have conversations we might not otherwise have.”