Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Is (rural) Oregon's 15 minutes of fame over?

Perhaps the only surprise about this week’s election was it took at least 13-15 minutes before most news organizations officially declared Barack Obama the winner over Hillary Rodham Clinton in Oregon’s Democratic primary.

With the majority of precincts reporting late election night, Obama claimed 58 percent of the vote versus Clinton’s 42 percent. This gave Obama 1,961 pledged and super delegates, against Clinton’s 1,779.

While Obama came just short of claiming victory of the party’s nomination, since he needed 2,026 to cinch the nomination, the math supports that he will be the one that squares off against John McCain.

McCain has already sealed his place with 1,501 delegates when he needed 1,191. He coasted easily to 85 percent of the votes over Ron Paul’s 15 percent in Oregon’s Republican primary.

For the agricultural community in the West, this signals it’s time they seriously evaluate what the next president will mean for their farms and ranches.

Whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat in the White House, putting aside whatever traditional allegiance the farm community feels for a specific party, which candidate will likely impact them the most?

Now is the time to nail down what are the agricultural platforms, and responses to certain issues. Forget the staggering millions of dollars that have been spent on advertising with 30-second clips of promises, or the rock star gathering of more than 70,000 cheering on their candidate in Portland. What are these candidates vowing will be their priorities?

It has been fortunate that the race has lasted so long for one reason: All roads led to Oregon for the candidates as they continued to fight each other. Small towns and cities in this state that never or rarely saw presidential candidates before now could claim they were part of the campaign trail, and they made a difference.

Or at least it appeared that way. Although it was expected to be a record- breaking number of more than 1 million votes in Oregon, that’s still only a bit more than half of registered 2.02 million voters in the state, and a long way off from the almost 73 percent that took part in 1968.

Democratic voters participated more and broke records, with 68 percent of 867,000 registered Democrats voting this week.

While Oregon has been in the center of the political spotlight in recent weeks, it’s too bad that it’s so rare that they are allowed to make a difference: Being this important to an election race once every 40 years or so is unacceptable and cries out for change.

Too often, under the primary system, the battle is over long before the elections are held here.
Hopefully, when the next round squares off between the inevitable Obama and McCain, the candidates won’t forget Oregon and the other western states.

After all, people in eastern Oregon won’t forget that Obama said he’d like to come back for the Pendleton Round-Up.

Hopefully, these presidential candidates will remember the small towns they saw here, the farmers and ranchers they met, and the stories they heard as people sought solutions and answers to challenges they face.

People in rural communities are looking for change. They are clinging to hope. But they will demand and deserve action, and not just goodwill promises made during the heat of an election race.

No comments:

Ag in the West social media watch

Capital Press videos on YouTube

Our most popular videos