This November, for the first time since Bill Clinton's 1992 victory, I experienced affinity with my fellow electorate, as all but one of my favored candidates won, and every one of the ballot items I voted for passed. From Barack Obama for president down to a yes for a proposition funding public transit improvements, my affinity with Seattle voters is sealed.
I've lived in the Pacific Northwest for just six years. Either I'm in the right place at the right time, or, as some might argue, I'm now living in the wrong place. Judging by the ballot results, too many of my brethren agree with me here in liberal la-la land. The reason the results of this year's presidential election were surprising to Seattleites despite poll indications that Obama would win is because 2004 was so upsetting. You live in the liberal cocoon that is Seattle and are shocked when your fellow countrymen re-elect George W. Bush.
It's fashionable to criticize people like me, who were drawn to Seattle in part because of the liberal political scene. Shortly after moving here, I told an acquaintance it was comforting to see that my neighbors had a "No Iraq War" sign in their front yard; whereas, in slightly more conservative Tacoma, Wash., our "John Kerry" sign had twice been destroyed. The acquaintance then lectured me on the importance of being a voice of dissent in a conservative climate. Easy for her to say. She grew up in the socialist state of Vermont and lived in New York City prior to Seattle.
Apparently, what I should do is go back to one of the red states (by 2004 definitions, anyway) I've previously called home: Missouri, Florida, Texas, or Arizona. Except for a handful of years in California (one being the year of my birth) and about six years downstate in the red area of otherwise blue Illinois, I've spent the bulk of my life in the reds. And another thing: I'm a military brat, so you might say I grew up in the most conservative communities within those red states.
There's a political elitism at work when someone says that liberals should somehow infiltrate red areas, and, like so many religious missionaries, convert the heathens. I learned long ago that this is the wrong tact to take, that instead, one must realize that our states, our towns, our very streets are not segregated ideologically. While attending a Catholic university, I organized a group of students to participate in the pro-choice March for Women's Lives. My 13-year period of vegetarianism began not in the comfort of a college town known for its vegetarian restaurants but while living in a small burg near a military base in the Midwest, where the best I could hope for, culinarily speaking, were bean burritos at Taco Bell. I was inspired by my best friend at the time, a girl who grew up there and had developed a fierce animal rights mindset more or less on her own.
This year, my one local candidate pick who didn't win, Marcia McCraw, is a Republican. But not so fast: She favors gay marriage, is pro-choice, and wanted to promote renewable energy. I'm not the only one who voted for her; our dependably lefty weekly for teens and twentysomethings, the Stranger, endorsed her, and not just to cast a protest vote against our incumbent lieutenant governor, who makes a sort of mockery out of an easy public office, his knighthood notwithstanding. Furthermore, he was one of few Democrats to receive endorsement by the Building Industry Association of Washington, which viciously attacked Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire.
Lest you chalk up my one Republican vote in this year's election to serendipity, here's more evidence that those red states have colored my world purple: a certain right-wing popularity among readers. Furthermore, I'm not a fan of Seattle's sanctimonious liberal coterie. There's the grant-writer who blames TV for the Iraq War. There's the people who give me trouble for owning an "SUV," even after I point out that my Honda CRV is a mini-ute that gets better gas mileage than their hand-me-down grandma sedans. (Contrary to popular belief among Seattleites, a Kucinich bumper sticker does not translate into higher MPGs.) On the extreme end of this trend are the ecoterrorists who torched the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture.
Finally, I confess to a certain affection for libertarians (little 'L' libertarian, distinct from the Libertarian Party) that would make most liberal Seattleites write me off. During my college senior inquiry in American Studies, I came under the sway of arguments favoring a strain of anarchy that was not to be equated with violence but rather with the peaceful abolition of (or practically speaking, reduction of) government.
The problem with a large, powerful government is that the hand that gives can also take away, and government monopoly often means none of the competition that promotes excellence and innovation. An example from my childhood: My parents opted to buy their own health insurance — through what turned out to be a mismanaged HMO — rather than continue to use the free but in their estimation shoddy services provided by military medicine, even though they could barely afford the expense.
The impracticality of the libertarian position gets to me, however. Where government has always played a strong role (education, welfare, scientific research, cultural heritage and history, the arts, etc.), voluntarism would have to step in to fill the void. And that would take nothing short of a full-scale societal revolution (again, of the non-violent sort). When it comes down to it, I'm not convinced people will take care of each other (through social services) and address the things that matter (such as global warming) on a voluntary basis. So I vote with the Democrats.
My libertarian sympathies probably explain the interest in Marcia McCraw. Gone are the days of politicians who profess to being socially liberal and fiscally conservative, as she does. I'd like to think it could work, however, and that we'll see more of it. Yes, even here in the liberal cocoon.Editor's note: This story appeared previously in Blogcritics Magazine.