You may have been reading that Oregon senators who have kept the Senate from meeting were “not doing their jobs.” That’s the wrong way of looking at it.
In fact, these sentors are doing what they were elected to do, which is to prevent bad bills from becoming law. That is their job, and they are doing it.
One of the bills they oppose would, among other things, promote the medical mutilation of children confused about their sex. (The euphemism is “gender-affirming care.”) Another would do an end-run around last year’s initiative on firearms while the initiative’s constitutionality is being challenged in the courts.
Boycotting the Senate is the only way the Republican senators have to stop such bills in a one-party state government and in a legislature dominated by Democrats unwilling to make any compromises at all.
What about democracy, you ask. Shouldn’t the majority rule?
Democracy needs checks and balances if it is to work, and it needs protections for the minority view. Without checks and balances, democracy can quickly become hard to distinguish from tyranny.
Last year’s Ballot Measure 113 is an example. It was approved by a big majority, and its aim was to remove the ability of the minority in the legisature from getting in the way of the majority’s steamroller.
Under that change in the state constitution, the senators who now have more than 10 “unexcused” absences will be barred from running for re-election to what would be be their next term.
They are willing to pay that price, though not having to serve in this kind of one-sided legislature may come as a relief to them. And if they really miss it, even under Measure 113 they can run again for the following term. Chances are their supporters — a majority in their districts — will remember their fight to stop bad bills and vote for them again.
In the meantime, the voters that elected these senators the last time will have to choose somebody else. But unless the districts have changed drastically since the last election, they’ll send people to Salem similar in outlook to the senators they replace.
That could lead to a long stalemate during which the legislature can’t function. (Not exactly a disaster, either. The legislature meets far too often as it is.)
All this could be avoided if the leaders of the majority were less determined to enact their party line no matter how much it offends politicians and voters on the other side. (hh)