Why is Portland so liberal?
The 60s, Vortex, Senate Bill 100, an Owl
In the late 1960s Eugene Oregon became Oregon’s cultural hub. It had become a part of the counter culture by this time. Ken Kesey had graduated in 1957 from University of Oregon in Eugene. He and his “merry pranksters” would go on to become a more memorable piece of the counter culture movement.
The national counter culture movement as we think of it is really something that starts closer to the middle of the decade and doesn’t really end until the early 1970s. It was a “rethinking” of American culture in the era. A deconstructive energy of the WWII era norms and thinking in the shadow of the Vietnam war. But here in the Pacific Northwest, this deconstruction was taking place in a nutrient rich bath of Kropotkin and Spooner anarchist ideals laying all over. From the logging roads to Everett field they began soaking in them.
In order to understand the counter-culture that takes hold in Oregon, one must look not at its national similarities (civil rights, 2nd wave feminism, etc.) inasmuch as the divergences.
The emergence of a Malthusian or anarcho-primitivist strain of conservation. This isn’t what most of America thinks of as environmentalism. This line of thinking explicitly identifies people as a problem to be managed. It’s philosophical infrastructure underpins major pieces of Oregon legislation: Oregon land use laws in SB 100. Which is then wielded like a cudgel against people by groups like 1000 friends of Oregon. From wealthy developers all the way to regular home owners.
3rd wave feminism. It’s hard to explain how profound an effect this has had. Whereas 2nd wave feminism has come to be embraced at all. 3rd wave has not. The critical difference for Oregon is that it leads to the creation of ideas, particularly in law enforcement, that make enforcement of order and property rights difficult. Drug abuse is not to be treated with coercion but strong incentives.
The divorce of labor from socialism. While this happened everywhere, no place more so than in the greater PNW. In one generation, the millers and loggers were displaced out of the movement they largely founded. Replaced largely by public sector unions.
California and Californication. No state has had greater impact on Oregon then its southern neighbor. People have been moving to Oregon from California for over 40 years. Largely in reactionary panic to “fake” California. Have a look at this Blitz-Weinhard ad from the 70s.
In 1967 the first act of political violence from the culture arrived in Oregon. Again starting in Eugene. One bombing in April at Naval and Marine ROTC location, one bombing in November targeting the Air Force. And this is just the beginning
In 1968 the Democratic party primary, which would come to be the most bruising and bloody primary of the postwar era would come to Oregon. One RFK vs Eugene Mccarthy for the May primary. They campaigned up and down the the Willamette Valley. RFK came to Eugene, and almost started a riot . Long gone was the age of Camelot. This was the RFK who had it out to nail Jimmy Hoffa. The progressive left was not happy he was here.
In this turbulent, nutrient, rich bath. The conservationism routed in protecting the wilds of America for big game and fish, championed by one Teddy Roosevelt, diverged. Convinced by the threat of worldwide thermonuclear extinction that humanity itself was a threat, the new unnamed breed took a very different turn. Resurrecting terms like wild space, encroachment, they added terms like renewable, sustainable, and recycling.