The Historical Difference Between Republicans and Democrats

In his “Oregon’s Trails” column this week (“Dirty deeds shaped early Portland, too”), Oregonian writer John Terry reminds us that despite its reputation as a progressive state, Oregon has suffered from its share of corruption and perfidy through the years. It’s a theme that’s been explored by many writers for decades, most notably by Stewart Holbrook in the mid-20th century.

Terry’s column contains a quote for the ages from progressive Democratic governor Oswald West, who took office in 1911 at the age of 37 and championed the initiative and referendum system, women’s suffrage, worker’s rights, and temperance. He wasn’t blinded to the faults of his own party (italics indicate a section Terry cut, presumably for space considerations, brackets indicate Terry’s additions for clarification):

The prevailing prices [for bribing politicians] were four thousand [dollars] for Republicans … and three thousand for Democrats — such prices became common knowledge. As a Democrat I always resented this unjust discrimination and when once I asked a political kale purveyor how they justified the discrimination he said, “As a rule the Republicans occupied a higher social scale.”