According to Woody Guthrie, who memorialized the Grand Coulee Dam and the Columbia River in folk songs that lit up the map of United States and generated more ultra-rich color and intentionally hyperbolic commentary than de Tocqueville, the Pacific Northwest is an integral part of America.
It was out here where the imagination of America still lived; where the spirit of the frontier came to a natural conclusion, but provided a lot of big territory between mountains, Palouse and the Pacific that were vital to the country's identity as being vast, varied, and -- if not limitless -- then at least damn big enough and studded with enough bounty to provide for us all.
Yeah, Woody was a "red," and it was his hyperbolic vision that brought us not only an anthem about how this land was your land, but an abiding sensibility, at least among some of us, that there really should be a "one for all" spirit underpinning our national identity. It's probably no coincidence that Seattle has just elected a bona fide socialist activist, Kshama Sawant, to the city council. That's how we roll, even when Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates and Paul Allen and all the other Capitalists 2.0 wonder what a socialist city council member has in store for them. It's one thing to decide to give your money away after you make it, but what happens when $15 minimum wage is the law of the this land is your land?
So it was with great interest that I read a piece in The New York Times on Sunday by Freda Moon called "In Search of Woody Guthrie's America," because she starts out right here in Washington state, with a tour of the big engineering project that harnessed the power of water and turned it into electricity. The story's appearance coincidentally coincided with a visit by Barack Obama to Seattle, and, more specifically, Medina, an exceedingly wealthy enclave just over the floating bridges across Lake Washington.
(For the record, Joe Klein's book, "Woody Guthrie: A Life," is one of my all-time favorite biographies: So well researched and written, the way it brings to life everything that infused Guthrie's vagabondest, singingest, protestingest, songwritingest life into living color.)
Obama allegedly loves the Pacific Northwest, and showed it by saying "Wow" at the gigantic, glacier-capped appearance of Mt. Rainier, which was out in full glory during what has been an unusually welcome run of sunny days here this November.
Unfortunately, though, Obama has failed to sustain the magic here in Seattle with at least one of the most veteran journalists in the Pacific Northwest. Joel Connelly of the Seattle P-I, has been skewering the President over the past few years for what Connelly calls Obama's "ATM" stopovers in Seattle. These are $32,000-per-couple dinners with very wealthy donors in lakefront homes predominantly on the Eastside. Connelly's biggest complaint is that Obama, and Michelle Obama, and his handlers have very consistently refused to allow the Northwest press corp access to the President for even one or two questions. That was again the headline on Connelly's report on Nov. 24, 2013, when Air Force One touched down at a far corner of Sea-Tac Airport before the President was whisked off to the gold-plated specials aimed at raising cash for fellow Democrats in 2014.
Washington is not a battleground state for Democratic presidential candidates, so outside of cursory visits for cash, there's not a lot of incentive to come out here and linger, let alone to stroke the egos and good feelings of Pacific Northwest residents. Everyone out here is generally infused with a sense of geographic entitlement, a semi-self-aggrandizing feeling that the quality of life, jobs, scenery, air quality and serenity are so superior that we're better off NOT advertising too much, otherwise even more New Yorkers or Californians will move here.
Still, given the anthem-making stake that the Northwest secured in Guthrie's work, it's viewed as a pretty big slight when, every time Barack Obama comes here, it's only drum up donations. Connelly's steadfast decision to ride the President over this cash & carry mentality about the Pacific Northwest coincides with an East Coast bias in politics and in the mainstream media, which makes it appear as if ALL of America's most "important" business takes place in the OTHER Washington and in the Amtrak corridor between Boston, New York and D.C.
The President comes and goes, but Rainier stays, the Grand Coulee dam stays, the ferry boats stay, the Olympics stay, Boeing ... maybe it will stay. Progressives and socialists and all the rest of us out here on the Upper Left Coast wouldn't mind a little more one-on-one with the President, but we'll get by, climbing our little mountains, driving our ribbons of highway, singing our little songs.
Is a former political and sports columnist who worked great cities like Albany NY, Seattle, Baltimore and Harrisburg PA. She lives New York.