Editor note: This article was first published in an edited version in the Seattle Times on February 6, 2018, titled “It’s up to Western states to rescue our democracy.” Here below is the unexpurgated version with its original title.
By any measure, the western third of the United States did not vote for Donald Trump in November 2016. We voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton — and thus for continuing the policies of President Barack Obama.
In the five states abutting the Pacific Ocean — Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington — Clinton clobbered Trump by over 5.1 million votes and beat him by a massive electoral margin of 78 to 3. Including the Mountain States in the mix, she still won by over 4.6 million votes and by 98 to 30 electoral votes. No matter how you count, this minority president (who lost nationally by 3 million popular votes) finished a distant second on our side of the Rockies.
The western United States did not vote for the partisan train wreck that has gripped the nation’s capital. Nor did we vote for an authoritarian president ruling by decree who attempts to bar Muslims from entering the country and wants to waste billions of taxpayer dollars building a wall along our Mexican border.
We did not vote to reject or dilute the popular, effective environmental policies established under eight previous presidents dating back decades to the origins of the Environmental Protection Agency. Nor did we vote to withdraw the nation from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement.
We did not vote to throw open our pristine national monuments to oil and gas exploration by dramatically constricting their boundaries. Nor did we vote to allow drilling for oil in waters off our Pacific Coast or in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
We did not vote for a racist president who calls Africa a “shithole” and some white supremacists “very fine people.” Nor did we vote for a candidate who denigrated women and belittled a Vietnam War hero.
We did not vote for an impudent man who disdains scientific evidence — and thinks the “truth” is whatever he happens to tweet each morning. Nor did we vote for someone who butchers the English language so exhaustively that it has become nearly impossible to find common ground with our fellow citizens.
We did not vote for a potentially treasonous tyrant who admires Vladimir Putin and other dictators, threatening democracy around the world. We reject much of what has happened this past year and is now occurring in the nation’s capital.
Therefore, as democracy ebbs in the rest of the United States — except perhaps in a few New England, Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern enclaves — it has become our patriotic duty to rescue it. The Western States in particular, from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast and Hawaii, need to step forward as the bulwark of democracy if we are to rescue the American Republic in which it began over twenty-four decades ago.
Fortunately, this rescue process has begun. California has chosen not to help federal customs agents round up undocumented immigrants — as have most counties in Oregon and Washington. Local and state governments from Bellingham to Longview to Oakland have halted or impeded the hundreds of trainloads annually of coal and oil that fossil-fuel companies headquartered in Texas and Missouri want to push through our neighborhoods, polluting our air and water so they can garner untaxed profits in Asian markets.
Meanwhile, the governors of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington have joined those of eleven other states in the US Climate Alliance, pledging that their states will continue upholding US commitments in the Paris accord. And Oregon and Washington are working to join California in putting prices on greenhouse-gas emissions to counter federal inaction.
The western United States — especially the deep-blue Pacific Coast states — are beginning to coalesce into a distinct polity acting independently of the federal government, forming a powerful economic bloc that cannot be ignored. California, Oregon and Washington, taken together, constitute the fifth largest economy in the world, and the Western States the third largest, encompassing much if not most of the nation’s mineral wealth and high-tech industry.
And we make up a far more politically coherent entity, in stark contrast to the deeply polarized nation east of the Rockies. If democracy is to survive in the United States, the rescue process will have to begin here.
Maybe it already has.