A pop quiz: Which major political party holds presidential primary debates on the West Coast more often? It’s Democrats who come to their reliably blue states to gauge party members preferences, right?
Wrong. The GOP heads West more often. They hold a pilgrimage or two to Simi, Calif., home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, every contested primary season.
Otherwise, Democrats and Republicans are guilty of neglecting the West. Even if you count Las Vegas, which both parties seem to like visiting for a debate, the East, Midwest and South host the vast majority of primary debates.
Democrats should change that for the 2020 election by bringing their contenders to Seattle. Don’t view that as a reward for a Democratic stronghold nor as a chance to fire up Democratic voters. Rather, a debate in Seattle could inject important issues into the campaign that candidates and debate moderators tend to ignore on the other side of the country.
Start with a host of technology-related issues. Candidates are sure to get some questions about Russian meddling in American politics anywhere. They’re less likely to dig in on the intersection of free speech and the internet, on personal privacy in an era of big data collection, on how to foster innovation and startups when a handful of huge technology companies have cornered the markets. This shouldn’t be a gimmicky “Twitter Debate” but rather a sober discussion about the future viability of the American economy in a shrinking word and the personal lives of Americans. Where better than Seattle for that conversation, home of Amazon and Microsoft?
A Seattle debate also could force candidates to take positions on issues like trade, Chinese protectionism, homelessness and housing affordability. Those challenges are pernicious on the West Coast and solving them will require federal leadership and assistance.
This primary season is especially attractive for a Seattle debate because Washington Democrats will hold a primary — no longer a caucus — the week after Super Tuesday. Voters here will be among the first to choose from a likely winnowed field.
They make a compelling case. The character of the West — and the Northwest in particular — differs from other parts of the country. It’s time Democrats gave it the spotlight in a national presidential debate.