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Opinion >  Syndicated columns

Sue Lani Madsen: Seattle, practice on us ‘backward thinking people’

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 19, 2020

Dear Deep Blue Seattle,

We noticed your namesake newspaper has an “assistant managing editor for diversity, inclusion and staff development.” This kind of super-woke title makes us chuckle in the reddest county in Washington. At Lincoln County’s three weekly papers, managing “inclusion” means making sure you don’t leave anyone out when publishing the turkey raffle winners. But we know that’s not what you meant.

Naomi Ishizaka, the one with the woke title, addressed her recent Seattle Times editorial to the “blue, upper left corner of the U.S.” and asks, “What are we going to do about the other half of the country that does not see the world the way we do?”

Before flying over Eastern Washington to tackle the rest of the country, you can practice on us. Lincoln and King are political polar opposites. Whereas 73% of voters in Lincoln County supported President Trump’s re-election; 75% of King County voters went for Biden-Harris. Look at the map by county and Washington is a red state, outside of the crescent touching Puget Sound. Whitman, Walla Walla and Clark counties are light blue anomalies influenced by university towns and refugees from Portlandia.

We forgive you for thinking King County is the center of the universe. It’s an easy mistake to make with over 2 million population living at a density of 871 people per square mile. Lincoln County only has seven incorporated towns ranging from 228 to 1,724 people each, according to 2018 numbers, and an average of 4.4 people per square mile. You are indeed the elephant in the room, as the saying goes.

Must resist … it’s so obvious … but just too tempting to change that elephant to a Democratic donkey. First lesson in communication. Rednecks like us value being able to tell and take a joke on oneself to being woke.

So here we are, your very own laboratory for practicing how to talk to us “backward-thinking people” that make up that half the country you’re so worried about. All you have to do is breach the Cascade Curtain and drive 4 hours east.

King and Lincoln are on opposite sides of the state median in every demographic category. We are older, whiter, less likely to have four-year degrees, with lower median household and per capita income. We have a higher poverty rate. We are also more likely to be homeowners versus renters at a rate of 79% compared with King County’s 57%. That’s a less surprising statistic when the median value of owner-occupied housing is $153,000 in Lincoln County versus $493,500 in King.

Your biggest shock seems to be the increasing support from women and minority voters for President Trump and other Republicans. “Most disheartening,” you say. Experts had you convinced demography was destiny. When “The Emerging Democratic Majority” was released in 2002, political pundits predicted the population shift to a more multiracial nation would keep Democrats in power for a century.

Even Republicans believed it. In 2015, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Allen West drew the largest Lincoln County crowd for a Lincoln Day dinner, filling a local high school gym. He was asked about the future of the Republican Party given the experts’ forecast of doom. He answered as “the only person in the room with a permanent suntan” that principles would win out over playing identity politics.

In July, West was elected chairman of the Texas GOP, where the Blue Wave was supposed to overwhelm suburban districts. It was taken for granted the growing Hispanic population would follow its demographic destiny. Instead, Texas has remained solidly red. And some Hispanic counties along the southern border which solidly supported Clinton in 2016 narrowly stayed blue or flipped red.

Just a suggestion, Seattle, but telling voters their support for Trump is “the equivalent to condoning homophobia, racism and xenophobia” is not a winning strategy. You’re playing to old, tired, false stereotypes. Oh sure, there are a few outliers who might fit the caricature, but they’re not taken seriously around here. It might make you feel better to marginalize half the country and the reddest county in the state, but it won’t help you convince anyone you have a better platform.

And it definitely won’t help pull us together. If you want to get out of Pugetopolis for a little fresh air to get acquainted, just let us know. We’ll put the coffee pot on. Just don’t bring us any home-grown apples.

Sincerely,

The Reddest County in Washington

Contact Sue Lani Madsen at rulingpen@gmail.com.

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