Over the weekend, a canvasser left us a door hanger in support of Obama: “Vote for change. It’s easy.” And here in Oregon, you get the feeling that it is, in fact, easy. We vote by mail-in ballot, starting as early as October 17.
This system has been in place since I moved here from New York City seven years ago, and they’ve got the kinks pretty well worked out. Although I dearly miss the communal aspect of heading to the polls on Election Day, I have to admit that the Oregon system seems quite straightforward and free from drama in comparison to the rumors and concerns we hear from other states.
Outside of a couple of ballot measures – always with the ballot measures in the Northwest – and one hotly (and nastily) contested U.S. Senate race, I would say that “calm,” “straightforward,” and “drama free” accurately describe the 2008 election in Oregon, at least in the greater Portland area where I live.
According to recent polls, Oregon is tracking 57% for Obama and 38% for McCain. And only 3% “undecided,” which somehow makes me feel better. As David Sedaris brilliantly noted in his recent New Yorker column titled “Undecided”: “I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention?” But I digress…
Unmistakably blue this year – at least as pertains presidential politics – Oregon has seen no recent visits from the Obama or McCain camps, or even from their more noteworthy lieutenants. (We’re not complaining, Oregon did have a rare moment of national political glory during the Democratic primaries, delivering Obama his largest crowd to that point (70,000+) and helping to solidify his delegate lead.) I do get e-mails from the Obama campaign describing Oregon as a crucial battleground state, but not much else echoes that. It’s clear at this point that the campaign is marshaling volunteers to help place more calls from Oregon to get out the vote in true battleground states.
Oregon is an interesting conundrum, and I would argue a microcosm of America as a whole, boasting a clear and sometimes polarizing division between the more dense urban areas and the idyllic pockets of what Sarah Palin deems the “real America.” Oregon has seen extensive population growth and transformation over the last 10-15 years. Like Washington to the north, Oregon has been transformed by a steady influx of people – and money and values – from other states.
Ultimately, although Oregon is politically diverse, it clearly does not qualify as anything approaching a swing state this year. And to an extent, one might argue that this is an important indication of how little traction the McCain-Palin ticket has.
Independent and conservative voters in the West would seem as likely as anyone to embrace a uniquely Western Republican ticket and the “maverick” mindset, but that’s where people surprise you: they are really not that simple. And while it’s been slower to hit here than many places, Oregon is definitely feeling the impact of the collapse of the housing market and, with increasing severity, the job market.
In Oregon, like New York and the handful of other uncontested states, we continue to work diligently to get out the vote.
We express quiet but steady support for our candidates through lawn signs, bumper stickers, blog posts and mail-in ballots. We anxiously digest and dissect the latest polling data and analysis from the swing states. And we wait, with a mixture of optimism and apprehension, for November 4.
Jennifer Kelley, who does account strategy and management for high-tech companies for CMD Agency, lives in Portland, Oregon. A proud alumna of Columbia University and New York University, she moved out of Brooklyn with her husband Colin on 9/10/2001.