Frohnmayer: End the political rancor
Dave Frohnmayer wants Oregonians to get along better.
The University of Oregon's president explained why in his 'Oregon Blueprint,' which he presented at the meeting of the Lake Oswego Rotary Club Monday at Lakewood Center.
'I'm calling for a return for the politics of bipartisanship and cooperation that made Oregon great until the 1970s,' he said.
That would be a drastically needed change from the atmosphere of ill will that Frohnmayer says has dominated American political discourse in the early years of the 21st century.
'Partisanship is a disease that is killing this state,' Frohnmayer said. 'It's the political equivalent of road rage and threatens to leave us a tangled wreck.
'With every attack ad, with every angry talk show program, with every ballot measure, we get sicker. Extreme partisanship casts a shadow over our capacity to face needs.'
A shift to a bipartisan approach is necessary, Frohnmayer said, to meet the huge challenges Oregon now faces, such as creating stable funding for K-12 education, health care, restoring funding for higher education and adjusting to the changing demographics of society.
Of the latter issue, Frohnmayer noted that the only population increase in Oregon was due to the growth of the non-white population.
'One-third of Americans are now from a minority group,' Frohnmayer said. 'We can embrace this trend or divide and lose.'
Frohnmayer also expressed concern over the shrinking middle class.
'Three times as many people flirted with poverty in the last decade as did in the previous decade,' he said. 'The days where you could go out into the forest and get a job that would support a family, with health benefits and a pension, have dried up and blown away.'
One of the worst aspects of 'the new tribalism,' Frohnmayer said, are ballot measures sponsored by out-of-state interest groups that push measures that prevent legislation being shaped in the deliberative process by elected representatives.
'There is profit in this,' Frohnmayer said. 'People can be exploited. Our initiative process has been hijacked. This is being done by people who don't have to balance a checkbook the way a legislature has to do it.'
As we lower our voices, Frohnmayer said, we can explore ways to increase the cooperation that can achieve a more effective government. To get Oregon's political process back on track, he offered some proposals:
n One house of the Legislature being elected on a non-partisan basis.
n Open primaries, 'which would mute the zealots of both parties and recapture the center, which has been under-represented.'
n Withhold signing initiative petitions until you are absolutely certain what the measure means. 'That would prevent out-of-staters from turning Oregon into a political gamepiece.'
n Have state representatives live in different parts of Oregon so they could better understand the particular needs of an area and 'buy into the notion that we're all in this together.'
'This is not beyond our grasp,' said Frohnmayer, noting such successful efforts as the Chalkboard Foundation, Bill Gates' efforts to increase literacy and Rotary International's reduction of polio all over the world.
Even some politicians are showing how bipartisanship can bring beneficial results. Frohnmayer pointed to Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith, Congressmen Earl Blumenhower and Greg Walden, and right in the Lake Oswego Rotary Club with former political opponents Greg Macpherson and Jim Zupancic, who now share the club office of sergeant-at-arms.
'Oregon is a paradise we might lose,' Frohnmayer said, 'but it's a paradise we might save.'