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Obama - Is Oregon the Bellwether for the Nation or Just a Bunch of Latte Liberals?

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Last night I found myself screaming at the television. What the commentators seemed to be saying was "Well, yeah, those folks out in Oregon, those mostly white folks out in Oregon, they did vote for Barack Obama, but, you know, they're the exception in this country because they're just so weird. They're so liberal out there in Oregon. You can't use them as any kind of barometer for anything about what could happen in the real election."

Not true.

I wanted to do a reality check. So, I checked in with Kari Chisholm of www.BlueOregon.com, which is the premier political blog in this state.

[Thom Hartmann]: Did you catch the coverage, did you see what I saw, did you hear what I heard last night?

[Kari Chisholm]: Actually I was out, running from election party to election party. It was our primary here and I had a lot of friends running for office so I missed the coverage, but I've got to tell you, I saw a lot of it in advance. New York Times, National Public Radio referring to Oregon as a largely white but affluent state, which is about as incorrect as you could possibly get.  Portland is an affluent city, but Oregon in general is certainly not an affluent state. It is a working class state. Our average annual income in Oregon is $2,000 a year below the national median. Three years ago we were the number one state in the country for hunger. I don't want to bad mouth my own state here, and we've taken huge strides in combating that but this is certainly a working class state where the economy has forever been based on natural resources.  You know, we had a timber economy for a lot of time, for a lot of years.

[Thom Hartmann]: And a fishing economy and both are collapsing, and this is a state that is experiencing some real economic distress.

[Kari Chisholm]: Yeah.

[Thom Hartmann]: Not unlike Ohio. I mean, we're not the rust belt, we're the wood and fish belt I guess, but we're having crises here.

[Kari Chisholm]: Yeah, you know, it is a very white state, that is true, and Portland - they call it the People's Republic of Portland sometimes. To me  what's so disappointing is we've got national media who are coming to Portland and they're hanging out in our very excellent coffee shops and they're not getting on the road and going out and seeing the rest of Oregon.

[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah, and the subtext to this in my mind is, frankly, racist. You know, it's a failure on the part of many of these commentators and perhaps an intentional failure on the part of the more conservative commentators, to even understand what they mean when they say 'liberal'. Or else they're back to using the old pejorative definition of the term, you know, the bleeding heart liberal. "Oh well, they just vote for that guy because they want to embrace everybody because they don't understand how the world works". You know, all that kind of nonsense. And in fact Oregon, and you and I had this conversation on our local show, on AM620 KPOJ here in Portland, the day before yesterday. Oregon in general - including Portland - is about the most average state in the United States. So much so that companies do their test marketing here.

[Kari Chisholm]: That's right. You know, we get strange products in our fast food and strange new combinations of soda pop. We get all kinds of strange products here that they are test marketing in part because there was a study done abut a year ago, we're the most typical state in the nation in all sorts of demographics. Our racial profile actually matches the national profile. Our socio-economic profile matches the national profile, although just a little bit below average. Our urban-rural mix roughly matches the national average. And that's true both in the commercial world and also in the political world. Oregon is a place were political activists, especially conservative ballot measure activists, test drive a lot of ideas, because we have such a wide open ballot measure culture and we have one major media market -- Portland, Oregon -- and so it's fairly cheap to try to affect the outcome of elections here. Oregon is a swing state. Al Gore only won the state in 2000 by 7,000 votes. John Kerry was campaigning here right up to the end to win it.

[Thom Hartmann]: He only won by 4 points.

[Kari Chisholm]: We have fairly consistently gone for the Democrat but that is a lot of work by a lot of folks.

[Thom Hartmann]: And we have a Republican Senator and we have a Republican Member of Congress.

[Kari Chisholm]: We're the only state on the West Coast with a Republican US Senator and we will, by the way, defeat Gordon Smith this fall with Jeff Merkley who won the Democratic primary last night.

[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah, congratulations to Jeff, a great victory.

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)

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