Making it sound much more like an indictment than an invitation, historian Arthur Schlesinger wrote of contemporary Oregon: "a pleasant, homogeneous, self-contained people . . . ." You should remember that in large chunks of Professor Schlesinger's constituency, to be either "pleasant" or "self-contained" (let alone both) is a serious liability.
Still, in spite of such bad reviews and even official state discouragement, Americans like Ray Phelps and Jim Hill continue to move to Oregon. According to the recent census, so many newcomers have moved there over the past 10 years that the state is entitled to one more congressman.
Ray Phelps left St. Louis County, Missouri, to become the state elections director in Oregon. Last Tuesday he was studying the early reports from around the state on voter turnout. He had learned from years of close observation that when the polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 40 percent of the voters will vote before 1, another 20 percent will vote between 1 and 5, and the final 40 percent will vote between 5 and 8. So what Phelps saw in the big early turnout Tuesday made him think Oregon might set a record.
Jim Hill was more concerned about the voter turnout in state legislative District 13 in Salem. Hill, a black man with an MBA and a law degree from the University of Indiana, had gone door-to-door in that district as the Democratic nominee for the Oregon House against a popular Republican incumbent. Hill, 33, had worked for Carter in the Oregon primary last spring against Sen. Kennedy, and he had the political bug, bad.
Politics is full of maxims. One of them holds that on any Election Day the country is Republican until 5 p.m. -- that is, until the workers are out of their factories and are free to vote and then to baby-sit so their families can vote, too.
When it was 5 o'clock in Salem last Tuesday, it was 8 p.m. in Washington.
There, we learned later, President Carter -- for whom Jim Hill had campaigned and who had himself been in Portland only 18 hours earlier -- told Jody Powell that he wanted to concede defeat to Ronald Reagan.
The concession was held off for an hour and a half. Then, on all three networks, Jimmy Carter told the country that it was all over, that he had lost.
Within five minutes of Carter's statement, more than one-third of the voters waiting in line at the Lane County courthouse in Eugene, Ore., simply left. Ray Phelps reported Wednesday that the effect was immediate and dramatic throughout the state. It was like a scene from "On the Beach." No long lines, no crowded polling places and no traditional 7 p.m.-to 8 p.m. rush to vote. For Jim Hill in District 13, the result was defeat by 59 votes.
Several hundred miles south in the San Fernando Valley, Jim Corman, 10 terms in Congress and co-sponsor of a national health bill with Kennedy, was in the fight of his life with Bobbi Fiedler, the anti-busing leader of the Los Angeles school board.
Corman, at some real political risk, had cast the deciding vote to get Carter's energy bill out of a deadlocked conference and into law. Corman had endorsed Carter, not Kennedy.
Pleas from Corman supporters to the White House to delay the concession speech were ignored. Corman, whom Bobbi Fiedler had tagged "a puppet of Carter," watched the voter lines disappear after Carter's announcement. Out of over 145,000 votes cast in California's 21st congressional district, Jim Corman lost by 874.
Usually, the Democratic candidate for president does care what happens to other people running on the same ticket with him, especially to candidates who have worked with and for him, who have taken risks for him. That's basic political loyalty -- the kind of loyalty Jimmy Carter had been asking Democratic voters for during October: he ran as Franklin Fitzgerald Truman, imploring a joyless and broke Democratic Party to rescue his presidency.
Before Happy Hour on Tuesday night, Carter learned that the party had not been able to rescue him. The Carter campaign had not been even an "incomplete success."
In 1976, Carter had been fiercely proud of his bootstraps victories. He once went so far as to state: "I'm glad I don't have to depend on Kennedy or Hubert Humphrey or anyone like that to put me in office." That same year, in almost every speech, he proclaimed: "I owe special interests nothing. I owe the people everything."
Nov. 4, 1980, Jim Corman and Jim Hill -- two people Jimmy Carter had depended on -- learned that Carter felt he owed them nothing.