U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders joins a long line of people looking to the West to improve their opportunities. Trade fueled those hopes before politics.

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Democratic presidential contender U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is making a whirlwind tour of Washington state on Sunday in search of a needed win over the party’s leading candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Two hundred years before the Vermont senator’s arrival, an overland party and a seagoing expedition began long arduous journeys to the Pacific Northwest inspired by visions of trade with China and beyond.

Trade opportunities played a key role in the destiny of a nation yearning to stretch from sea to shining sea. Sanders, I-Vt., will see the 21st century representation of that dream as he visits Vancouver, Seattle and Spokane.

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His presence in the campaign has stirred a serious, intense and healthy debate with former Secretary of State Clinton. Their campaigns are a sharp, fact-filled, adult contrast to the mindless juvenile chaos of the Republican presidential race.

Both Sanders and Clinton are drawn to the state in coming days by the Democratic caucuses on March 26. Audiences for both candidates will be listening to hear how well these vote-seekers understand Washington and the West.

Sanders, whose strong stances on other subjects drew The Seattle Times editorial board’s endorsement, is curiously brittle on trade — and utilitarian trade deals.

President Obama, another Democrat one might recall, laced together a nuanced Trans-Pacific Partnership that would further expand markets for Washington state goods to 11 other Pacific Rim nations.

Before Sanders’ plane touches down, he might benefit from a briefing on the Washington-based employment powered by the Export-Import Bank. Overseas trade flows like, well, maple syrup.

Obama supported the recent reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank, which he opposed before he got to the White House.

Sanders, wearing the mantle of Democratic progressive, is presumed to have an edge over Clinton, the mainstream D, in Washington’s caucus voting.

She might well boost her standing by offering unequivocal expressions of support for trade legislation and trade agreements in a trade-dependent state.

The potential of the Pacific Northwest was recognized by John Jacob Astor and President Thomas Jefferson two centuries ago. What evolved from those visions needs to be sustained and supported.

Sanders would be a stronger candidate if he were willing to articulate and reassert that forward-looking commitment.