The Trump era seems only to have exacerbated the Oregon GOP’s embrace of its most extreme constituencies. Just a few weeks before the riot at the Capitol, for example, Representative Mike Nearman — a Republican from the deep-red Oregon House District 23 — was caught on a security camera opening a backdoor to let armed anti-lockdown protestors into the Oregon State House in Salem while lawmakers were in session, which led to the assault of numerous journalists and police officers. Three weeks later, two Republican state senators threw their support behind an effort to publicly name private citizens who filed complaints against businesses that were violating coronavirus restrictions, arguing that “these kinds of people need to be known, publicly . . . they have no right to anonymity.” (Citizens Against Tyranny, the official organization formed to lead the endeavor, lists the names of complainants online, describing them as “filthy traitors” in blood-splattered font). And in the past two years, the state party and its affiliates have wasted their political capital with five failed efforts to recall Governor Kate Brown, rather than organizing and running serious campaigns to return to power.
In the meantime, Oregonians are suffering under the increasingly poisonous legislation passed by Brown and her allies in the unchecked Democratic supermajority. “We have a governor that’s shutting down our businesses without any financial support for them or the working families that they employ,” says Cheri Helt, a moderate Republican who served in the Oregon House of Representatives before being unseated by a Democratic challenger as her suburban district moved left. “And so here she is, she has free reign — and instead, we’re fighting masks. Why aren’t we fighting for our small businesses? Why are we talking about being anti-vaccine? I mean, when did being anti-vaccine become a Republican principle? We’re allowing these fringe groups to run the party, and the price that we’re paying for that is the Democratic supermajorities that are expanding government exponentially.