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News / Opinion / Columns
The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Jayne: What’s our state’s status?

By Greg Jayne, Columbian Opinion Page Editor
Published: May 2, 2021, 6:02am

We’re No. 1!

Of course, you already knew that, but it is nice to have it confirmed by an outside source.

Washington has been deemed the best state in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report’s Best States rankings. That marks the second straight time our state has landed on top, following the 2019 report.

“Washington’s low-carbon energy system and robust secondary education system continue to rank among the nation’s best, as does the state’s economy, the fastest growing in the nation,” write the good people at U.S. News.

“With its progressive politics, flat taxes and industry-oriented university system, Washington has solidified its place as a tech-sector powerhouse. . . . Tech is booming, of course, but the state has also seen expansions in the life sciences, clean energy and space projects. Despite the trade war with China, the state’s agricultural sector remains strong. Timber and other forest products – the driver of the Evergreen State’s economy a century ago – are enjoying a renaissance.”

Not that everything is perfect: “Shortcomings have proved persistent, too, as the state’s high living and labor costs leave it in the middle of the pack when it comes to opportunity for its residents, according to the Best States rankings.”

So, we have some things to work on. But overall, we’re glad we live here instead of, say, Louisiana (No. 50 in the rankings). Nothing against the good people of Louisiana.

While it is best to be No. 1, in the nebulous task of comparing the states there has been an interesting development since the U.S. News rankings came out in March. An online survey of users of YouGov, an internet-based market research and data analytics firm, found that Washington was ranked as the seventh-best state — among Democrats. When Republicans were voting, we ranked 45th.

In the realm of scientific studies, the YouGov poll is akin to astrology. Voters were shown two states and asked which one was better, leaving “better” to their own definition. They picked among seven pairings, with no state being shown twice, and the good people at YouGov crunched the numbers to rank the states.

So, while we can question the methods or wonder who voted or dismiss the results, the disparity between Democrats and Republicans is interesting. Oregon, for example, ranked fourth among Democrats and 47th among Republicans.

It’s no secret our nation is divided along blue and red lines. But the discrepancy is ceaselessly distressing. And you can’t help but think it is driven in part by the incessant narrative pushed by conservative media.

A scroll through FoxNews.com provides a daily stream of headlines such as “Seattle homeless getting vaccinations and FEMA funded hotels,” and “Portland’s Democratic mayor begs public to help ‘unmask’ members of ‘self-decribed anarchist mob’”; and “Oregon small business owner slams governor’s new shutdown order: ‘Against our constitutional rights.’ ”

All those were just in the past week, and the articles fail to mention that FEMA also does things such as provide shelter for wildfire victims. Or that the mayor of Portland is technically nonpartisan (Ted Wheeler was, indeed, a Democrat as state treasurer and previously was registered as a Republican). Or that Gov. Kate Brown’s power to order shutdowns has been upheld by several courts, including the Oregon Supreme Court.

No, as long as it fits the narrative of carnage in blue states, it is worth putting in a headline. On one day last summer, when riots were at their peak, a scroll through FoxNews.com revealed 13 stories with “Seattle” in the headline. None of them, it goes without saying, were flattering.

Meanwhile, there doesn’t seem to be any mention that U.S. News & World Report has weighed “thousands of data points to measure how well states are performing for their citizens” and determined that Washington is No. 1.

Which is probably OK. We’ll just keep that as our little secret.