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The Blue Wall & Empire’s Decline

NYT reports on how the West Coast is becoming a solid wall of Democratic blue, and what the national effect of that might be. [1] Excerpt:

It is the stuff of liberal fantasies: a vast, defiant territory, sweeping along the country’s Pacific coastline, governed by Democrats and resisting President Trump at every turn.

A single election in a wealthy Seattle suburb on Tuesday could make that scenario a reality, handing the party full control of government in Washington State — and extinguishing Republicans’ last fragile claim on power on the West Coast. The region has been a rare Democratic stronghold on an electoral map now dominated by vast swaths of red, and Republicans’ only toehold on power there has been a one-seat majority in the Washington State Senate.

The prospect of such far-reaching autonomy for Democrats, who already hold all three governors’ offices as well as both houses of the legislatures in Oregon and California, has infused extraordinary energy into what might have been a low-key special election. The race is on track to draw more than $9 million in campaign spending, a record-breaking sum for Washington State. National environmental and abortion rights groups have mobilized, business associations and oil companies have poured in money, and a former vice president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., has intervened on the Democratic side.

Sharon Nelson, the Democratic leader in the Washington State Senate, conveyed the party’s grand aspirations in an almost Trump-like phrase: “A blue wall,” Ms. Nelson enthused, “from the Canadian border to the Mexican border.”

Leading in the polls and anticipating victory, Democrats have sketched an aggressive agenda on issues where strong consensus appears to exist in the party, including new laws on gun control, contraception and environmental regulation. Ms. Nelson said she had met with the speaker of the Oregon Statehouse about enacting policy across state lines. The three states’ Democratic governors have spoken regularly about policy collaboration, and over the summer began coordinated talks on climate change with foreign heads of state.

RTWT. [1]

What caught my eye about this was reading it in light of Oxford historian Chris Wickham’s book about Europe after the fall of the Western Roman empire [2]. Wickham points out that the collapse of the Empire in the West was not a sudden event. Because so many of the barbarian leaders were largely Romanized anyway, many of the people living through it in the sixth century were not fully conscious that things had changed so radically. That would not become apparent until later. Meanwhile, political life became highly localized. Wickham:


In the end — by 650, in every one of the post-Roman kingdoms — they would cease to think of themselves as Roman, but, rather, as Frankish or Visigothic or Lombard. “Romans” were, by then, restricted to the eastern empires, to the non-Lombard portions of Italy (above all Rome itself), and to Aquitaine, the ex-Visigothic part of Gaul, where the Franks settled least. By then Romans were seen as belonging in the past too; bit to took that long for people to recognize that the empire had really gone in the West.

I wonder if future historians will look back to things like the Blue Wall, and other episodes of increased hostility and fragmentation in American life, as early signs of the decline of the “Empire,” so to speak. As John Podhoretz pointed out on Twitter, the Constitution reserves to Congress the right to regulate interstate commerce. It will be interesting to observe how nervy West Coast states get in the face of perceived provocations from the Trump White House and the GOP Congress.

109 Comments (Open | Close)

109 Comments To "The Blue Wall & Empire’s Decline"

#1 Comment By JWJ On November 6, 2017 @ 3:45 pm

My political bias out front. Strong small-government conservative.

Personally, this type of leftist state control of three states on the West coast could actually help the US. Our problems, in terms of divisiveness, gets worse when the federal government takes power (and our representatives let them) and attempts to have a one size fits all policy for the entire country. It really gets worse when judges (who should be impeached) legislate from the bench

Federalism and the 10th amendment are there for a reason. Just adhere to them.

There should be no federal minimum wage, no federal abortion rules, no federal rule saying men are women based on a declaration, no federal drug laws, etc., etc., etc.

CAORWA can ban internal combustion cars; raise their state minimum wage to $50/hr (or higher); ban all electric generating power except hydrosolarwind; create state-run healthcare systems; let all felons out of prison; increase the tax rate to 90%; grow government to levels of power that would make the government bureaucrats in CAORWA as happy as can be; etc., etc., etc.

CAORWA could NOT make it illegal to use a particular pronoun; could NOT let illegals vote; could NOT make adhering to the leftist religion a condition for running for office; could NOT ban guns; etc., etc., etc.

I think that CAORWA would make mistake after mistake and hurt their subjects, but I could be wrong about that. The citizens in the rest of the US could watch and learn from CAORWA on what to do and possibly what not to do.

#2 Comment By MM On November 6, 2017 @ 4:38 pm

“All three of the western states are really only blue at the coasts with the eastern 2/3 leaning more red than blue.”

This is certainly true in California, where the natural resources and agriculture are to be found. Those areas also happen to be largely federal land.

But it is ironic to see highly progressive politicians suddenly embrace states rights and nullification strategies, when such things were literally crushed in red states (see Arizona) by the federal government during the Obama years.

But California is uniquely situated in the world: 6th highest GDP compared to other industrialized countries, arguably the most politically left-wing except for China, and with the highest income inequality and supplemental poverty rates, also compared to other industrialized countries.

Secession will never happen, but if it did and federal spending ceases, inequality and poverty would only go higher in the Golden State.

#3 Comment By Michael Cain On November 6, 2017 @ 5:08 pm

Seven years ago I started forecasting a peaceful partition of the US in 50 years. Call it 43 years to go now. The east-west dividing line will run down the center of the Great Plains. California needs the rest of the West for water and power, among other things. The rest of the West needs things California brings through scale: markets, capital, ports and so on.

It’s not hard to find the beginnings of a unifying Western identity among the political class if you look for it. It’s not simple red/blue. There are things that cut across that political line, and will be more in the future.

#4 Comment By swb On November 6, 2017 @ 7:23 pm

Actually the west coast has not changed, the rest of the country just went into crazy/reactionary mode when things did not go their way. When you look at the way the population is distributed in the west vs. the central states, the west has a lot of large urban areas that simply overwhelm the relatively small population in the rural areas. There are “conservatives” in rural areas of these state that are just as crazy as any of your Trumpers, they just can’t impose the conservative crazy on everyone else because they don’t have the pull that rural Ohio has. This will only accelerate as the economy in the west continues to draw in the highly educated and ambitious young that want to be successful from those rural areas that have decided to go back to the dark ages economically as well as socially. The west did not force people to move here, the growth has its own set of problems we have to deal with, the rural midwest (and south) itself drove those people out. Those that move are more like the immigrants that made the Midwest prosper in the old days than they are like the Midwesterners of today.

The Midwest/south has exactly the same set of internal drivers between the rural and urban parts of the states, but their electoral distribution is controlled by the rural conservatives and they are going to drive your state into the ground if they can, i.e. Kansas etc. The west simply gets the cream of the ambitious types that see the dead ends in their own state and just don’t see any reason to waste their time. Combine that with the influx of ambitious immigrants that the conservative hate and we do pretty well economically. As it sits right now, we provide the federal tax subsidy that keeps the lights on in those red states while your state representatives do what they can to make your lives worse.

Getting back to the analogy of empire, we are not succeeding, you all are determined to drive off the cliff while saluting the flag and ignoring the oncoming ground. Given the last election, it appears that you also decided to fill up the back seat with gas and light up a big old cigar so you could show us all how real Americans do things. Any you want us to ride with you? Not going to happen.

#5 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 6, 2017 @ 9:44 pm

The east-west dividing line will run down the center of the Great Plains. California needs the rest of the West for water and power, among other things. The rest of the West needs things California brings through scale: markets, capital, ports and so on.

Cancel your fantasy right there. Two or more regions with diverse or diametrically opposed politics will be forced to coexist in one polity because they economically need each other? On that criterion alone, cancel the separation. We’ve already got that in one big e pluribus unum.

Incidentally, Senator Henry Clay anticipated one reason that the federal government could not let the southern states “go in peace.” He declaimed that the population of the vast Ohio and Mississippi drainage basin (and now you could add the Missouri) would never agree to any flag but the American flag flying over the Crescent City. Like it or not, we’re stuck with each other.

There should be no federal minimum wage…

There is a federal minimum wage because most commerce, and most employment in commerce, is now interstate if not international in character… and that, like it or not, makes it a constitutionally legitimate matter for congress to regulate.

#6 Comment By muad’dib On November 7, 2017 @ 7:33 am

Governor Brown was quick to ask the feds for 7.4 billion to offset the wildfire costs. I didn’t hear any independent talk along with the request.

Texas was equally quick to ask for Federal help after Harvey despite the fact that almost the entire Texan republican congressional delegation voted against giving NY & NJ help after Sandy…

Senate Approves $36.5 Billion Aid Package as Hurricane Costs Mount

WASHINGTON — As the costs of this year’s hurricanes continue to rise, the Senate gave final approval on Tuesday to a $36.5 billion disaster relief package that includes a bailout of the financially troubled National Flood Insurance Program.

The Senate voted 82 to 17 to approve the bill, with all of the no votes coming from Republicans.

The package is the second to clear Congress in two months, and lawmakers say that much more money will still be needed as the nation grapples with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

#7 Comment By JWJ On November 8, 2017 @ 1:22 pm

Siarlys wrote: “There is a federal minimum wage because most commerce, and most employment in commerce, is now interstate if not international in character… and that, like it or not, makes it a constitutionally legitimate matter for congress to regulate.”

You and I are going to have to disagree.
“To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;”
These 16 words are not complex. This is NOT a difficult sentence to understand.

From another author: “Congress has the authority to regulate trade between the states; or in other words, the process of goods and services moving from one state to another. Not the products themselves. Not the process of creating those products. Just the act of the products moving from state to state. That’s it.”

This is my fundamental point of view. Two sovereign citizens should be able to come to an agreement on how much one pays the other (assuming no coercion) without a federal government having any say in the matter.
In no way can any judges “penumbra” makes this a “constitutionally legitimate matter for congress to regulate.” Now, we as citizens have allowed the courts and congress to assert power far beyond what is constitutional under the commerce clause. But in no way shape or form is setting a wage by the federal government constitutionally legitimate.

Now if you’re point of view is that you are a subject of the federal government, then I guess the federal government has the right to set a minimum wage. This federal government that you are a subject of also, I would assume, have the “right” to set basically EVERY wage in EVERY job cause “most employment in commerce, is now interstate if not international in character… and that, like it or not, makes it a constitutionally legitimate matter for congress to regulate.”

#8 Comment By John On November 23, 2017 @ 8:26 am

Politics in today’s world is so uncertain, there was far more stability with Jimmy Carter, Franklin Roosevelt and dramatic change with John F Kennedy. Bill Clinton in my opinion was a great president as was Barack Obama. Barrack Obama gave stability through extremely difficult time and now with President Trump, who knows, if he can be like the republican Ronald Regan then he may create grate change.

#9 Comment By Stanley On November 23, 2017 @ 8:43 am

The United States has changed enormously over the years and so has the rest of the world. I don’t think the change is localized, I believe that people are worried, confused and uncertain of what the future holds regardless of what government is leading, Democratic or Republican. Many disapprove of Donald Trump’s presents however I do believe he will bring some good changes that other presidents haven’t been able to do.