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How Will Democrats Respond When Republicans Don’t Fight Fair?

July 11th, 2019 by dk

Maybe this will be the year that Democrats recognize that Republicans won’t hesitate to bring a gun to a knife fight. Ideological battles between the parties have become alarmingly asymmetrical, and “false equivalency” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Oregon’s Republican state senators left town last week, because that was their only way to stop a cap-and-trade system designed to combat climate change. Voters gave Democrats a supermajority in both state houses, but Democrats in the Senate are two votes shy of a quorum.

This is not the first time politicians have bolted to subvert the system. Democratic lawmakers fled Texas in 2003 to block a redistricting bill, but the similarity — false equivalency — ends there.

Oregon Republicans used this same tactic two months ago, returning only after exchanging pledges with Democratic leaders. Democrats promised to rescind scheduled floor votes for gun control and stricter vaccination requirements. Republicans promised not to walk out again. Only one side met the obligations that were described publicly in mid-May.

When Gov. Kate Brown tried to enforce the deal by sending state police to bring Republicans back to Salem, Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) didn’t mince words. “Send bachelors and come heavily armed,” he said.

Right-wing militia followed Boquist’s rhetorical lead, when they planned to descend onto the state capitol in protests that could have turned violent. Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) canceled a Saturday session because of credible threats of violence.

Republicans refused to renounce violence. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The Republican Party suggested that Democratic leaders canceled the session out of “a fear that Republican voters might show up.” Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. defiantly claimed his party was “fighting for democracy” by refusing to participate in democracy — dressed as firefighters, acting as arsonists.

This narrative is a familiar one on the national level, suddenly coming home to Oregon. Again, the equivalency is worse than false. It’s become dangerous, imperiling the systems both parties take an oath to uphold.

Both parties take advantage of rules that allow gerrymandering, but only Democrats support initiatives to end the practice. Only Republicans raise billions to control the next census tallies, or commission white papers on how to disenfranchise citizens who might vote against them.

All presidential press secretaries dissemble on occasion, putting their boss in the best possible light. But only Republicans have virtually eliminated formal press briefings, yanked press credentials from unsympathetic networks, and put reporters in pens where they can be derided at public events for peddling “fake news.”

Both parties work to confirm federal judges who share their political leanings, but only Republicans refuse to hold hearings for 11 months to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. Only Republicans prefer judges who are more young than qualified to fill a lifetime appointment.

Every politician explores his or her opponent’s vulnerabilities, but only a Republican could ask Russia for assistance and not lose his party’s support.

On the biggest issues — climate change, economic solvency, election integrity — total collapse will end both political parties equally. But only one side seems determined to hasten that end.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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