There’s a popular bumper sticker on the west side which admonishes viewers to “keep Portland weird.”

Not all Oregonians want to be identified as weird, but they have a long-standing reputation for being independent and don’t mind being considered, well, just a little bit different.

This week, the state distinguished itself from the crowd once again when it bucked a national tide and retained all four of its Democratic representatives as well as Sen. Ron Wyden. It now appears that even John Kitzhaber has eked out a victory over Republican Chris Dudley.

Republican Rep. Greg Walden, who represents Umatilla County as part of his 2nd Congressional District, remains the only exception. It was a victory for the Democratic party on a night when there was little to cheer about, but it remains to be seen if it can be considered a win for those who populate the west side of the Beaver State.

If the operation of the U.S. House of Representatives is true to form under Republican leadership, however, Eastern Oregon is the big winner in this election and the Willamette Valley is sucking tulips.

 Our Rep. Walden, a highly-regarded member of the House and an individual with a growing backlog of seniority, had already been tapped for leadership in the minority caucus. Now that Republicans are in control, we could expect he will gain even more influence. And that recognition came rather quickly.

Within hours of the Republican landslide in the House of Representatives, Walden collected his first reward — a new job as chief operating officer of the party’s transition to power. The announcement was made Wednesday morning by Rep. John Boehner who is expected to become the next speaker of the house replacing Nancy Pelosi.  

Republican leaders said that Walden will be chairing a committee charged with reviewing all House procedures and structures with an eye toward “being able to get to work immediately on the priorities of the American people.” In a body with 435 members, it’s no small feat to stand out from the crowd.

The new appointment came on a night when the popular congressman, whose 70,000-square mile district is one of the largest in the nation, easily earned a seventh term in the House. The assignment is a sequel to work Walden was already doing on behalf of Boehner.    

Meanwhile Representatives Earl Blumenauer, David Wu, Peter DeFazio, and Kurt Schrader might find themselves becoming familiar with some of the perks and venues available to house members since they won’t be particularly busy in the legislative process—at least not at first.  

Tragically, that’s how the House of Representatives has historically worked and under the reign of Nancy Pelosi the exclusion of the minority party reached new levels—or depths as the case might be. Veteran capital observers suggest it isn’t quite the same in the senate where members of both parties seem to wield a measure of authority on both sides of the aisle. Senate members in the minority party actually get to have legislation considered.  

Not so in the house where the majority party governs without any particular regard to the thoughts, interests, or will of the minority. That isn’t a phenomenon invented by the controversial Pelosi. It was in place long before the San Francisco power broken arrived in Washington and Republicans were equally notorious for the exclusion of minority ideas.

In fact, the rules of the House are set up to allow a majority to do almost anything it votes to do in that body. While the rules are complex and often difficult to follow, a unified and determined majority, even a razor-thin one, can pass whatever legislation it chooses. With the complex filibuster rules in place in the Senate, it’s a little harder to command such a dominant level of control.   

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looked to change the House rules so as to even further disenfranchise the minority. And, in doing so, disenfranchising everybody who lives in a GOP district. Their votes simply wouldn’t count. She didn’t completely achieve her aims, but she set the stage for a situation which now plagues her own party. 

Walden, like most of his counterparts in the House, must surely be bitter about what he experienced in recent years. But he has been there long enough to also remember what it was like when the shoe was on the other foot.

 With a Democratic president and a slim Democratic majority in the Senate, the country now once again has a two-party system and it will be a challenge for all three parts of the equation to find a way of working together effectively.  While voters were obviously unhappy with what wasn’t happening in the nation’s capital, it is fair to assume most of them voted for solutions, not paralysis.

In his new role, Walden and his powerful colleagues have an opportunity to demonstrate what democracy in action ought to look like and what it’s like when government actually listens to those it serves.

 We’ve missed that in the last few years.

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