The fact that “blue state” Washington approved a tax revolt initiative and rejected affirmative action for minority groups in last Tuesday’s election illustrates how wrong it is to see any state as purely liberal or conservative. It is really a matter of urban versus rural and more education versus less.

Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976 whacked car-tab fees back down to $30 and wreaked havoc with transportation planning in the state. All but three Washington counties said yes to the measure. Those three were King County, Whatcom County and Jefferson County. Referendum 88 would have restored the right to utilize affirmative action to boost diversity in public education, employment and contracting. On election night it was losing in every county but three. Yes, you guessed it: King, Whatcom and Jefferson.

King County is often the outlier in state votes. Dominated by ultra-liberal Seattle, the city is the force that turns the state blue in presidential elections and gubernatorial races. But what about Whatcom and Jefferson, two counties that no one would think of as urban?

In Whatcom County, the bulk of the votes are in Bellingham, an artsy college town filled with highly educated people and plenty of folk who favor alternative lifestyles. They are the ones who push the county to the progressive side. Jefferson County is mostly forests, remote ocean beaches and rugged mountains where there are more goats than people. Ah, but there is Port Townsend; not a college town, but certainly an artsy place with plenty of counterculture types and urban refugees.

As the maps from recent presidential elections show, red America is vast, but lightly populated, while blue America is an archipelago of cities and college towns scattered across the nation. Washington is a perfect example of that political and demographic phenomenon.

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