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Posts Tagged ‘Dorchester

Well, what did you expect?

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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

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