The US Supreme Courts line of cases protecting virtually unlimited election spending (and likely soon to make unlimited campaign contributions protected free speech) has greatly empowered party and candidate financiers. A relatively small number of large corporations, unions, and wealthy donors are a distinct financial base within each major party. And a Party’s financial base is as important as the voting base. Because while money will automatically create a viable candidate (See Monica Wehby) and thus votes, a voting base won’t automatically create a large enough financial base to win an election.
So, it’s fair to now say that each major party has a distinct and powerful voting base and a financial base. And the edge the Democratic Party in Oregon has is that it’s financial base and voting base have greater issue overlap than the Republican financial and voting bases.
The Oregon Democratic financial base is clearly unions and more specifically public employee unions. And the Democratic Party is very clear that it’s number one issue is the well being of employee’s. Preferably union employees, and more specifically public employees. Whether the issue is PERS, public spending on construction projects or schools, tax increases to pay for these services, government oversight or control of the land use process, the financial base and voting base of the Demcratic Party are generally in sync on major issues and policies. Consequently, there is little tension within the Party and it can act very cohesively with less internal disruption or conflict between the two bases.
In comparison, the Republican financial base is more interested in a libertarian capitalism. Less government regulation and low taxes, while it’s voting base is more animated by social issues . Though low taxation and less government regulation are important as well for the voter base their blood boiling issues are immigration, gay marriage, abortion, and religious policies such as prayer in school and evolution. And, while disagreements between the Democratic financial base and voting base are more related to relative importance of a particular policy, the differences between the Republican financial and voter base are more often about the policy itself. Businesses want immigration reform. And think being anti gay is bad for business.
That’s not to say that the financial and voting base of the Democratic Party has perfect overlap and the Republican Party has no overlap. But if you were to compare a Venn diagram of the financial base agenda and the voter base agenda of each major party, and weight the differences for relative importance, I think the Democratic Party would have more overlap on more important issues. And the Republican Party would have more serious issue disagreements about more divisive issues.
The problem this presents for the Republican Party become apparent in contested primaries where one candidate is backed by the financial base and one is backed by the voting base. Two cases in point are the Conger v Wehby US Senate primary race and the Post v. Jensen House District 25 primary. These two races will test the willingness of the financial base to upset the voting base. Today Blogger Bruce McCain on Oregon Oracle reported that two members of the OR GOP financial base – Loren Parks and Andrew Miller – just formed an “independent” expenditure committee to go negative on Jason Conger. Should Wehby beat Conger, the question is how much damage will the financial base have done to Wehby’s support among the Republican voter base.
Compare those Republican Primary contests with the Democratic Primary in House District 42 where 5 Democrats are seeking their party nomination in a heavily Democratic district that will have no Republican opposition in November. I’d be shocked if that race got dirtier than a bit of “more liberal than though” finger wagging.
Whatever the reasons for the lack of issue overlap between the Republican financial and voting base is (and I have my personal explanation) it is an inherent weakness in the Oregon Republican Party. Until it’s addressed it makes the OR GOP appear weak, always on the verge of being at war with each other, and at times hypocritical.
That’s not a club many people want to join.
– Rob Harris –