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for people who care about the West

Trump and the West


In the past, elections in the West have been fairly predictable. In urban areas and along the West Coast, folks tended to vote blue, for Democrats. In rural areas and in the Rocky Mountain interior, they leaned heavily red, for Republicans, especially in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. Over the past decade, however, that pattern has started to change. An expanding Latino population in the Southwest and growing urban populations have turned states that were once solidly red to purple, or, as in Colorado, closer to blue.

Sidney Davidson

But what about this year’s odd election? Donald Trump’s unlikely run for the presidency, with its bold appeals to anti-immigrant sentiment and to a disenfranchised, mainly white segment of America, has upset the political apple cart. Trump’s ridicule of Republican Party leaders, his calls for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and for a ban on Muslim immigration, and the vitriol and violence evident at his rallies raise major questions about our nation and our democracy. But how are they playing out in the West? Following Trump’s official nomination as the Republican Party’s candidate, we set out to learn more.

In Arizona, our D.C. correspondent, Elizabeth Shogren, found Democrats hopeful that a surge in Latino voter turnout could upset the Republicans’ long-held dominance of the state, where Latinos usually vote in numbers that are far from representative of their population. But, as Shogren reports in this issue’s cover story, anger over Trump’s candidacy and over the treatment of Latinos by the controversial sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, a Trump champion, could change that.

Trump’s campaign could also have major ramifications in Nevada, where his anti-immigration rhetoric is helping get-out-the-vote efforts for many groups: Not only are more people registering, but some are becoming citizens to do so. The Trump run has also created a painful conflict among many Mormon voters in deeply red Utah. As correspondent Sarah Tory writes, Utah voters are finding themselves caught between their politics and their ethical beliefs.

This election cycle has been intense, and its intensity threatens to deeply divide our region, our states, and even our families. We should not let this happen. We should strive for discourse over division. The presidential race is about more than Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton: It is a referendum on where we want to go as a nation. I believe that when the dust has settled and history is being written, the Trump run will signify a major shift in the politics of the West and the nation as a whole. I just hope the shift is toward something ethical, inclusive and sane — whether it’s red, blue or purple.