the whitestick papers

looking at politics from a different perspective

Well, what did you expect?

with 8 comments

The annual Dorchester Conference, which took place this last weekend (2-7 Mar 10) is touted by its promoters as the longest-running Republican event of its kind in the country.  With this being the 46th edition, that’s probably true.   On its website (, it says it’s “Where politics is fun…” and, to many of those attending, that may be the case.

Not so much, apparently, with a number of the folks attending this year.

First, there was the issue of excluded Republican Primary candidates for Congress and Governor from scheduled debates.  And the “Tent Show” – a talent show that tries, usually with little success, to poke fun at events and individuals – was reportedly bad enough that several people were insulted enough to leave while it was going on.  In blogs , on Facebook and through Twitter, there’s been a steady stream of  comments ranging from the disappointed to disgusted and angry over what took place.

Well, what did they expect?  Dorchester was, after all, originally started as a counter to the “too conservative” Oregon Republican Party.  It’s not an official Republican event and, in fact, few if any of its leadership are involved in, much less leaders of, the county, state or national party organizations.  For the most part, the Dorchester conference and the Oregon Republican Party have been at odds and, except for the media, no one really pays much attention to the topics they discuss or the straw poll that so seldom predicts the Primary outcome.  Sure, candidates go to it, but bear in mind that’s kind of what candidates do – go to every possible event so they can gain name recognition.

To understand why it has a pretty much a moderate-to-progressive attitude, all you need to do is look at its history  Many Oregonians today have only a vague recollection of the founder of the Dorchester Conference, former US Senator Bob Packwood.  During his stint in the Senate, Packwood was often the target of a conservative challenger in the Primary because he was – and is – a unashamed progressive.   Until he was forced to retire because of his manhandling of women throughout his career, he fought conservative efforts and ideals from both inside and out of the GOP.

One of the clearest memories I have of my one and only time as a registered participant is of Senator Packwood’s keynote speech.  After plugging all the noteworthy efforts of past Republican leaders from Oregon (most of whom we’d consider progressives), he encouraged us to follow their example and show leadership by following the goals and values of the abortion crowd.  To my mind, it seemed pretty much the opposite of what leadership actually means, but maybe that’s just me.

The Dorchester Board, past and present, consists almost exclusively of Oregon’s “country club Republican” set.  So, when Tea Party folks swelled the registration to reportedly record-breaking levels, they didn’t really see the problem they’d have with “politics as usual,” even if it was supposed to be in fun.   It seemed perfectly reasonable to them to exclude conservative candidates because they were supposedly “unviable”; they saw nothing wrong with taking pot shots at the Tea Party, conservative leaders and spokesmen and at the ideals and values Constitutionally-minded folks hold dear.  From their point of view, they were being satirical, but there;s a fine line between satire and mocking.  Not too surprisingly, they crossed it.

There have been efforts to change Dorchester into a more conservative event almost as long as there’s been a Dorchester Conference.   I encourage all those who want to attend so a conservative perspective is given to do so.  But as long as moderates and progressives plan, organize and run Dorchester, and as long as Non-Affiliated, Libertarian and even Democrat folks are able to register and participate, it won’t be a Republican event, much less a conservative one.

Please, fellow Oregon conservatives, if you feel so inclined, join the “fun” and promote our agenda at future iterations of the conference on the Oregon coast.  But, for the sake of your sanity and blood pressure, don’t expect Dorchester to be anything other than what it is.


Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

9 March 2010 at 12:35 pm

8 Responses

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  1. Everybody gets made fun of. When tea partiers can’t take it, it shows they are new to politics.

    Politicians must have VERY thick skins. Time to grow some.


    9 March 2010 at 9:28 pm

  2. Dorchester is a private event so they have the right to exclude any candidate that they want. However, I don’t agree with the decision to exclude Doug Keller.

    Christiana in Forest Grove

    9 March 2010 at 11:20 pm

  3. Oh, give me a freaking break! You need to get either a sense of humor or some thicker skin. Just because the tent show pokes fun at those in the spotlight doesn’t mean they’re some kind of liberal-progressive event or organization.

    I don’t know why your boy Keller wasn’t included in the CD-1 debate, but Bill Sizemore wasn’t in the gubernatorial debate because he isn’t a serious candidate, has no chance at the Republican nomination, and will only ensure four more years of Kitzhongoski if he goes third party (again). I don’t seem to remember you or anyone else supporting Sizemore in the straw poll.

    Dorchester is and always was a non-partisan event, open to anyone who wants to show up and pay money. But do you remember the SEIU having a booth? The Democratic Party? Now, I’ll admit that since grad school my memory’s not what it used to be, but I don’t seem to recall abortion coming up during Packwood’s speech. Although, if you wanted you could have spent all your time at the Right to Life booth.

    Or are they secretly a communist front group too?

    Brendan Monaghan

    10 March 2010 at 1:13 am

    • There was one lone Sizemore vote on the straw poll. Who cast that vote? I have no idea but it was probably done as a joke.

      But saying that.. Declaring a candidate not serious. Or declaring that a candidate has no chance of winning by any group or individual and has influence on where a candidate appears is dangerous ground. Ultimately it is up to the voters to decide who is fit to go on beyond a primary.

      I am not accusing you of doing that. But Sizemore, despite being too broke to defend himself in court (recent Oregonian article) is still in the race. I will BET you that he will get a very small number of votes if he remains in to May 18th. Not enough to get him elected.. but there are always dreamers out there.

      Frank Martin

      11 March 2010 at 8:55 am

      • Frank – just so it’s clear, I don’t support what Dorchester did or, speaking more broadly, of their goals or actions in general. I’m getting a hint from what you and others who have commented have said that you may think that. I protested the Dorchester board’s exclusion of Doug Keller from the CD1 debate – even if he is the underdog, I’d be willing to bet he’s polling better than John Lim is in the Governor’s race, and the latter did make the cut. The decision was arbitrary and inappropriate. I’d have done the same about Bill Sizemore if I’d known even though, like you, I don’t think he has a real shot at the nomination.

        Since it’s one of the nominally “Republican” events in Oregon’s annual calender, I did register once – in 2004. That experience was enough to make me swear off wasting my money on it ever again. Table discussions that are either mundane or intended to undercut conservative values, a tent show that mocked conservatives and Christians and a keynote address that suggested we lead best by following were enough to make me want to never go back. It wasn’t that I was offended so much as I considered it a waste of time and money.

        I have, however, been a volunteer at the ORP booth several times in recent years. It allows me to network with people (which is one of the good things of Dorchester) and, as a state party leader, something I feel is sort of a privilege and responsibility. In that sense, it’s like what I do every year at the Oregon State Fair and at other public events.

        The point of this post is not to defend the Dorchester board; far from it. It’s to help those in the Tea Party movement understand the history and mindset of the folks running it, and that it’s neither all that friendly to conservative values nor does it necessarily reflect the thoughts and attitudes of the Oregon Republican Party.

        Jeffrey S. Smith

        11 March 2010 at 9:25 am

  4. S’Okay Jeff.

    Never thought anything otherwise.. in fact your comments have been more kind than some of the Other little emails and notes I have received since Dorechester.

    I too thought the Keller Exclusion was improper.. and I root for one of his opponets.

    If I go next year or in future years.. I will be more observant and more warry to giving the Country Club Republicans who support the movement there at Dorechest any more of my money or support than I have too.

    Frank Martin

    11 March 2010 at 2:54 pm

  5. Thick skin is not the issue. If you were seeking support from a wide swath of the public, would you do a stage demonstration with blatant mockery of the group who’s support you were seeking? Poor way to lay out a welcome mat. This is hardly a display of an “open tent” party (pardon the pun).


    17 March 2010 at 9:54 am

    • Randi – thick skin isn’t necessary; no one should have to suffer ridicule of the sort that was handed out as humor at Dorchester. But the point of the article isn’t that Tea Party folks should have a thick skin; it’s that you need to recognize what you’re walking into.

      You wouldn’t expect BlueOregon or other leftist blog to give you a fair shake. You don’t expect Bill Mahar to do anything other than mock the Tea Party Movement. Although nominally Republican, Dorchester is a bastion of the progressive and moderate wing of the GOP and, like other progressives, thinks of the Tea Party movement as something to be belittled or dismissed as the irrelevant rantings of the great unwashed.

      Let me repeat a key line of my original post: “But as long as moderates and progressives plan, organize and run Dorchester, and as long as Non-Affiliated, Libertarian and even Democrat folks are able to register and participate, it won’t be a Republican event, much less a conservative one.” It does not, and never has been, a reflection of the thoughts, attitudes and ideals of the Republican Party. Please, don’t paint the ORP with Dorchester colors.

      Jeffrey S. Smith

      17 March 2010 at 10:54 am

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