While other blue walls crumbled in the 2016 election, the one along the Pacific Coast rose even higher – and wasn’t even paid for by Mexico.
Hillary Clinton piled up three landslides in the West Coast states, carrying California by 30 points, Washington by 16 and Oregon by 11. She carried the coast by nearly 5 million votes, while Donald Trump won the entire rest of the country by about 2.5 million. Clinton’s majority in Oregon, the smallest West Coast state, was nearly double Trump’s combined margins in the larger decisive states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
At least we made ourselves clear.
Our differences aren’t just a matter of presidential preference. With last month’s election, the three states are now a bong bloc, a thousand-mile stretch of legal marijuana, joined by our neighbors Nevada and Alaska. This sets us apart not only from most states, but maybe from the incoming administration, the one we rejected.
Last April, long after Washington and Oregon voted for legalization and began establishing our new economies, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s choice for attorney general, told a Senate hearing, “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized…” After all, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
Considering that marijuana is still a federally illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act, the good grown-ups of the Trump administration will have all the authority they need to remodel the green crosses now decorating the streets of Oregon.
And marijuana isn’t the only heat signal.
All campaign, Donald Trump sneered at the idea of climate change and global warming, suggesting it was a hoax churned up by the Chinese to cripple American industry. (Lately, he’s said his mind is “open” on the subject.) He has pledged to pull out of the Paris Agreement, the major international treaty signed by 193 nations to limit greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere.
This is not how the West Coast sees the world, or its temperature. In fact, we’ve been pioneering our own international agreements on the issue, and the new administration won’t be removing us.
In 2013, the governors of California, Washington and Oregon joined the premier of British Columbia to create the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy, a commitment to cut carbon emissions and advance renewable energy. In June 2016, the governors, the B.C. environment minister and the mayors of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver met to form the Pacific North America Climate Leadership Plan to advance clean energy.
Two days after the election, California Gov. Jerry Brown promised, “We will protect the precious rights of our people and continue to confront the existential threat of our time — devastating climate change.” In Oregon, environmentalists, legislators and a spokesman for PGE declared that the state’s carbon reduction policies would continue unchanged.
On the West Coast, possibly, there’s something different in the air.
There’s certainly something different from a presidential campaign driven by resentment of foreigners and immigrants, and fueled by the allure of a trade barrier against Asia and a 30-foot – 40-foot? – barrier against Mexico. Out here, we tend to look more out toward the rest of the world than back toward Idaho.
The West Coast’s signature industries – Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Nike, Microsoft and even the relatively old-industry Boeing – are international by definition, both in market and (in various ways) workforce. While audiences across the country were roaring at Trump’s attacks on immigrants and chanting “Build the Wall!”, high-tech forces all along the West Coast were pushing to increase the skilled immigrant quota.
Cities across the country have declared their refusal to cooperate in a Trump round-up of undocumented immigrants. On the West Coast, immediate rejection came from the mayor of Seattle, the mayor-elect of Portland and the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department – and in California and Oregon, opponents cited state laws against cooperation. According to a New York Times map last week, most West Coast counties have rules against cooperating in a round-up. The governor and legislative leaders of California issued immediate rejections of Trump’s values, and the leaders of the Oregon House of Representatives pledged to “protect and preserve equal opportunity, fairness, and respect for everyone in our great state.”
For decades, Oregonians have looked suspiciously at California. But a moment like this reminds us that we actually have a fairly similar outlook, compared to, say, Kentucky.
Or Trump Tower.
We’re not about to hitch a ride on the California secession movement – that argument was settled at Gettysburg – but Donald Trump’s America seems a less comfortable home for a region that values tolerance, openness, internationalism and environmental survival. The West Coast has racial strains, and a sharp (and maybe sharpening) urban-rural divide, but it may be that its people are in general less afraid – less afraid of change, less afraid of the future, less afraid of the rest of the world, less afraid of each other.
But maybe just a bit afraid of the next president.
NOTE: This column appeared in The Oregonian, 12/7/14.