In the most recent episode of the Slate Political Gabfest, the hosts discussed the recent phenomena of Partyism.

This would be a sort of prejudice or bigotry based on the political affiliation of someone. I assume this has been around for awhile (seeing how people didn’t like Socialists or Communists going back 100 years or so), but apparently this has recently crept into mainstream politics. Republicans being partyist towards Democrats and vice versa.

David Plotz (at some point I think it was David) wondered where exactly this phenomena hasn’t taken hold in American communities. Where the parties and partisanship hasn’t warped politics and public discourse. Taking a look at the recent “Washington Poll,” I think I have a local example.

The Washington Poll divided the state into three parts: Eastern Washington (beyond the Cascades), Puget Sound (self explanatory) and the rest of Washington. It is this “rest of Washington) category that I found fascinating. In most cases, Eastern Washington presented itself as the furtherest right wing, while Puget Sound served as its liberal foil. You’d assume “rest of Washington” would be somewhere stuck in the middle. And, you’d be right, for the most part.

While the poll isn’t very clear, it seems like the “rest of state” category includes the counties on the west side that don’t border Puget Sound. Basically the Olympic Peninsula and the Lower Columbia. Except for a few traditionally conservative and Republican counties towards the Oregon border on I-5, most of these counties are old-style Democrat timber communities.

They have voted Democratic since the Depression, while at the same time aren’t pulled into the gravitational pull of liberal Seattle. They are Democratic on their own.

So, to start, these “rest of state” counties have a higher voter participation and seemingly deeper culture of civic engagement.

For just voter registration, we see better than average for the rest of state: 92.2 ROS compared to  88.0 for Puget Sound and   87.2  for Eastern Washington.

The same pattern holds for turning in your ballot this year: 20 percent compared to 17.7 or 16.5 for Puget Sound and Eastern Washington.

And, in terms of health of the community, rest of state was the only group over 50 percent on the question of right track/wrong track. Even though many of these places have unemployment higher than Puget Sound,  voters here still have faith in the future.

Also, they also have more faith in the process. Compared to Puget Sound and Eastern Washington, which neither could get above 38 percent favourably rating for the state legislature, rest of Washington rated their locally elected legislators at almost 50 percent very or somewhat favourable.

In terms of partisan ID, these communities are almost evenly split. While Democrats dominate Republicans by 20 percent in Puget Sound, and Republicans by 10 points in Eastern Washington, Republicans lead Dems by only about 3 percent in these other counties. And, the highest number of voters describe themselves as moderates in rest of Washington (a plurality).

And, lastly, even more than conservative Eastern Washington, rest of Washington is rooted in its present. It doesn’t face the future, it faces the now. Question 34 “The America that you know and love isn’t changing too fast, and will never change” (as badly phrased as that is) illustrates this. Eastern Washington and Puget Sound both strongly or somewhat disagreed with this statement 65 percent of the time, while “rest of Washington” got over 70 percent.

While you’d assume “rest of Washington” would fall somewhere along the same lines as the other two, it actually showed itself to be more conservative. Or, at least, more rooted in what is going on their now.

“Rest of Washington” falls outside the right/left dualism that Puget Sound and Eastern Washington represent. It has higher civic participation, more faith in the process and thinks of itself as more moderate. It also isn’t looking to the future for either doom or success. Right now, the way things are and the people who are here now as neighbours will have the answers.

There are a few reasons why this is the way things are out there:

1. These areas (except the Republican/conservative counties like Lewis and Clark along I-5) are out of the way counties. Counties like Pacific, Grays Harbor and Wahkiakum counties are literally geographically split off from anywhere else in Washington.

2. They represent a “way it used to be.” While the decline of the logging industry overall has hit these counties hard, there is still a core element here that depend on resource extraction (anything like logging or fishing). And, this is the way it used to be in all of Washington. But, times have changed in places like Puget Sound, and the regional culture that you can still see in Aberdeen or Raymond is hard to find in Seattle or Everett.

3. We call them Democrats, but they’re much more conservative than that. That label is pretty flexible. Take Tim Sheldon, a Democrat from Shelton in Mason County. He even went as far as caucusing with Republicans, but it isn’t that uncommon for Democrats from the coast to vote against their Puget Sound party-mates. That still said, Democrats still dominate politics out there, it is hard for a Republican to get elected in any local office.