Can our political unions last? – Hasso Hering


A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Can our political unions last?

Written May 8th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
One good thing about being a dog is that election results -- here or abroad -- don't matter a great deal.

One good thing about being a dog is that election results — here or abroad — don’t matter a great deal.

Normally we in Oregon could not care less about voting results a continent and an ocean away, but today I’m wondering that the outcome of the British election in Scotland says about the future of Britain or any country — like ours, for example — trying to accommodate starkly opposite politics.

In the voting on Thursday, the Scottish National Party won 56 of the 59 seats that Scotland has in the British Parliament. That was a stunning result, a gain of 50 seats! The party advocates Scottish independence from Britain, and on social policy and spending issues, it leans to the left of even Labour, which it all but wiped out in Scotland.

In England, meanwhile the Conservatives managed to confound the predictions based on polls by gaining seats. They will have a slim majority in the House of Commons, with 331 out of 650 seats.

So now what? Scottish voters narrowly rejected independence in a referendum last September, but now they have overwhelmingly voted for the independence party. Judging by what I read on the BBC’s online site, some observers are wondering whether this foreshadows a split in the union despite the outcome of the vote last fall.

People in eastern Oregon and other rural parts of our state¬†have some idea of how many voters in Scotland feel. They are disconnected from the center of power and unable to influence overall policies because they are always in the minority. That’s the kind of sentiment that keeps the dream of a State of Jefferson going in northern California, quixotic though it is. And it’s what sometimes has people in Eastern Oregon wishing they could join Idaho instead.

Who knows? If the polarization of American politics continues to get worse, we may face big changes a few years or decades from now. It may be that the political differences between states — or regions within states — become so great that they lead to a breakup of long established unions, and a rearrangement of boundaries as well. (hh)

2 responses to “Can our political unions last?”

  1. Bob Woods says:

    Your analysis of the Scots vote could go a lot deeper.

    The Scots, along with others, hated Millibrand, the Labour leader. Labour took a shellacking in Scotland where they lost most of their seats which went to the Scottish Nationalist Party. That does not necessarily mean that Scots have decided to bolt the UK in force.

    Cameron won, partly because he promised a referendum on staying in the European Union in two years, which pandered to the small UKIP party (Anti-immigrant and anti-EU) who made a last-minute effort to tell their voters to vote for the Conservatives..

    Yet the Scots are strongly PRO – European Union, especially the Scottish Nationalist Party who took the seats away from Labour which is also a pro-EU party.

    The Liberal Democrats, who had been partnered with the Cameron Conservatives in the government also got hammered, and are now out in the cold.

    Yes, a breakup of the established order causes confusion. Factionalization and the inability to compromise causes gridlock. But right now the Conservatives in the UK have an actual majority, so they will be able to comfortably govern for some period of time.

    Here? The lesson to be learned is that to govern you need a person that people can put some faith in and who is not tearing apart the country. If the infighting and internal argument occurs within parties, the ability to maintain a coalition of divergent interests becomes exceedingly difficult.

    Remember that Cameron did NOT run on dismantling the government. Cameron strongly supported the National Health Service and maintaining government provided social safety nets. He did NOT run like a Tea Party Conservative.

    Maybe American conservatives will take note. But I sincerely doubt it will happen.


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