Monday, January 06, 2014

Reagan won both Thurston and King counties in 1980 and 1984. Why is that?

1984 presidential results in Washington State.
The 1980 and 1984 elections in western Washington baffle me a little bit. The Reagan Revolution was strong throughout the entire Cascadian coast, except for a few counties at the mouth of the Columbia River.

Both Thurston and King counties (among other Puget Sound counties) are traditionally Democratic now. But, just about 30 years ago, they were heavily in Reagan's camp. I'm trying to figure out why this is. But, I'd appreciate anyone that has a more precise explanation.

So, working down from the things I know:

1. Dan Evans, John Spellman (and other moderate Republicans like Slade Gorton) that started their careers in the 1950s and 60s came from out of King County. Both Gorton and Spellman were elected in 1980, so (even though Spellman lost in 1984 to Booth Gardner) its likely that the "main stream" Republican mojo in Puget Sound was strong in the early 1980s. From what I've read, Spellman's loss to Gardner had more to do with Spellman being a bad manager than party identification.

2. Republicans (even Reagan) weren't attached to social politics like abortion) in 1980 and 1984. I-471, which would have prevented public funding for abortion, failed statewide in 1984, with major losses in both Thurston and King counties. Reagan won in counties that voted against an anti-abortion initiative. Not what you'd really consider possible now 30 years on.

3. The social conservative wave didn't seem to crash in Washington State until the 1988 Republican presidential caucuses. That year, conservative Christians took over the party caucuses and threw off the moderate business friendly brand, voting for Pat Robertson. Eight years later, Ellen Craswell repeated history, taking the Republican nomination for governor (but getting beat by a lot by Gary Locke).

So, to me, the two statewide elections in the early 80s seems like the lag time between the Evans revolution in the 1960s and the Christian social conservatives catching up in the late 80s. The memory of Reagan's is of a stalwart social conservative. But, at least in Washington, it seems like the momentum of more moderate Republicans carried him through two elections.

Does that make sense?

1 comment:

Tenalquot said...

Based only on personal recollection and no research, the Carter admin was unable to overcome the disillusion fostered by the slow economy of the 1970s. Not only did folks in rural Thurston Co (where I grew up) suffer from high unemployment, they didn't see that changing any time soon and wanted change.

Family wage timber-supported jobs in rural WA were in steep decline long before the Northern Spotted Owl issue came to the fore, mainly due to unsustainable practices and other market forces. But the folks I knew blamed the other Washington for inaction and/or lack of leadership rather than the folks who (formerly) signed their paychecks.

Hard times.