Grays Harbor mentality: It’s complicated


In Washington State, there has long existed a political phenomenon known as the “Cascade Curtain,” whereby the west side of the Cascade Mountains is liberal and votes for Democrats, and the east side is conservative and votes for Republicans.

The reality is more complex.

Grays Harbor County demonstrates the complexities behind the aesthetically pleasing “Cascade Curtain.”

Grays Harbor County boasts many of the qualities of the old Democratic Party. It is white, blue-collar and middle class. In many parts of the country, like the Old South, such voters long ago switched their allegiance to the Republicans. Not so in Grays Harbor, where, despite rejecting Democratic priorities like gay marriage and marijuana legalization, a majority of votes were cast for Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Jay Inslee for president and governor, respectively.

Not only is Grays Harbor County socially conservative, but it overwhelmingly voted for the “2/3 requirement” requiring a two-thirds majority of the Legislature to raise taxes. This hallmark of fiscal conservatism was stridently opposed by the Washington State Democratic Party.

What explains this phenomenon, this reversal of expectations? Could it be that the duality of the American political system does not capture the diversity of opinions held by the country’s citizens?

The two main facets of ideology, social policy and economic policy, are themselves divided into at least three parts: liberal, conservative and moderate. Yet Grays Harbor County, recently at least, falls on the conservative side of both spectra.

What, then, explains its Democratic voting habits?

Jansen VanderMeulen

Pullman