The Cascadian Political Spectrum

What if Cascadia was its own country with its own political system? What would our political spectrum look like?

Actually, let me back up: I believe the Cascadian bioregion has helped produce a distinguishable ethos that communities within the region exemplify (if you’re lost with this concept of environment shaping identity, catch up on one of my previous blog posts regarding the phenomenon of bioregionalism). One thing which has derived from this ethos is a system of civic and political values which is both coherent and wide-ranging.

In other words, Cascadia already has its own political spectrum. But, because Cascadia is not (yet) a country of its own, it’s hard to clearly identify what our system of political values is and how it’s differentiated from the rest of the United States and Canada.

I’m going to attempt to identify and categorize the main groups of political/civic values which a majority of people in the Cascadian region represent. Think of them as hypothetical political parties within Cascadia. As you read this blog post, try to disassociate these groups from the existing federal political parties in the United States and Canada as they won’t fit nice and tidy with what we know today.

Why am I doing this? Because I think it’s a neat thought experiment. Also because I’m a bit of nerd and this is my idea of fun. Don’t judge.

Visualizing a Single Spectrum

There are two models most often used when visually demonstrating a political spectrum: a linear model where groups neighbor each other left-to-right on a single axis and a donut model where groups neighbor each other in a 360 degree pattern according to two perpendicular axes. Both can be useful, but neither is perfect.

The problem is that any group can shift their position on any visual model depending on what criteria is being used to define its placement. For example, one group may be left-of-center on a spectrum according to one set of criteria (i.e. economy) but right-of-center according to another (i.e. international relations).

In this blog post, I’ve settled on a linear average in which I evaluate each group according to five sets of criteria and average out their position on a single axis. This axis is an amalgamation of what is generally considered politically left-to-right.

The five sets of criteria I used to identify and evaluate the major groupings in Cascadia are as follows:

  • Economic policy, left wing being entirely socialist and right wing being entirely capitalist.
  • Domestic/Social policy, left wing being entirely liberal and right wing being entirely conservative.
  • Environmental policy, left wing being entirely protectionist and right wing being entirely consumptive.
  • International policy, left wing being entirely globalist and right wing being entirely isolationist.
  • State policy, left wing being entirely anti-statist and right wing being entirely nationalist.

Cascadia’s Political Groupings

After identifying the common spaces on the spectrum according to each of those five criteria, I came up with seven distinct political groupings which I believe would be distinct and visible in their own right if Cascadia was politically independent. A brief overview of each is as follows:

Social Anarchists (left wing) – Social Anarchists in Cascadia are anti-nationalist, anti-capitalist supporters of non-hierarchical local governance. They believe in organizing the entire bioregion using local cooperative power structures, free from the corruption present in any national body of governance. They believe in creating a system where people are freely allowed to move about and find which community works best for them. In doing so, they encourage communal values of empathy and tolerance to thrive so that all peoples can co-exist peacefully.

Social Anarchists in Cascadia are both isolationist in that they believe participating in the existing global nation-state paradigm is futile and globalist in that they wish to set an example for the world at-large to follow. They are also committed to absolute sustainability, understanding the protection of their environment as essential and a moral duty, so that local cooperatives can be both self-reliant and interdependent.

Greens (left) – Greens are half of, what I would call, the mainstream left within Cascadia. They are committed to environmental protection and sustainability as their top priorities. However, unlike the federal Green parties in the United States and Canada today, Cascadian Greens more prominently champion a wider range of issues usually prioritized by a social democratic group. Think of it as if Elizabeth May and Bernie Sanders came together to form a single political party.

Economically, Cascadian Greens range from being anti-capitalist to democratic capitalists and eco-capitalists; they want a responsible economy which always puts the rights of people and nature first. They’re socially liberal and aim to foster a region where all people are accepting of one another regardless of their innate differences, consistently pushing the boundaries of what’s “socially acceptable” according to traditional and prohibitive means of understanding the world.

Cascadian Greens believe in having a robust global community which works together to protect the planet’s resources. They’re pacifist to the greatest extent possible and always prefer the diplomatic option when resolving international conflict, even if it’s deemed weak or unpopular by a majority of others. They believe in the legitimacy of state power, especially when it comes to protecting the environment and the rights of minorities, but are generally wary or skeptical of national government. Cascadian Greens prefer devolution of political and economic powers to the most local levels possible.

Liberal Democrats (center-left) – Do not confuse this name with the Liberal Party in Canada or the Democratic Party in the US. I named this group as such because it has roots in classical and contemporary liberal philosophy, as well as a commitment to democratic principles.

Liberal Democrats are the other half of the mainstream left in Cascadia. Like Cascadian Greens, they are committed to environmental protection and sustainability. They are also socially liberal and believe that any individual should have the right to express themselves in any way so long as it does not cause direct harm unto another person(s). Unlike the Greens, however, they are generally more favorable of capitalism in some capacity and support initiatives like globalization and free trade.

Cascadian Liberal Democrats tend to be staunch federalists; they believe in power-sharing between national and local forms of government. They believe in the idea of a national state which exists to foster cooperation between local governments, protect the rights of minorities, and responsibly regulate economic markets. Internationally, they support a global community where countries work together to solve their issues, preferring to err on the side of diplomacy and other non-violent means to resolve disputes.

Libertarians (center-right) – Libertarians in Cascadia tend to derive their philosophy from tenets of classical liberalism. Socially, they believe a government of any kind should stay out of regulating the private lives of individuals, even if they themselves are personally reserved and find the expressions of another individual displeasing. They’re also staunchly capitalist and believe a government of any kind has little responsibility to manage or regulate commerce.

When it comes to the environment, Cascadian Libertarians believe in conservation and individual self-reliance. They believe in utilizing resources sparingly and wisely, although they tend to view environmental protection laws as unnecessary unless they derive from local government.

Cascadian Libertarians are generally anti-statist and believe the powers of any government should be extremely limited as to not infringe upon individual autonomy and the principle of voluntary association. They are also international isolationists, favoring a system where countries generally leave each other alone. They support military action for the purpose of self-defense only, preferring to not intervene when an international conflict arises elsewhere.

Conservatives (right) – Cascadian Conservatives can best be described as those who resist radical change and prefer a stable status quo. Socially, they tend to tolerate uncustomary expressions of individuality and diversity, but are willing to support laws to prohibit actions which they deem damaging to the greater public. Economically, they favor free market capitalism over government mandates or regulation in most cases.

Much like Cascadian Libertarians, Cascadian Conservatives believe in conservation and wisely utilizing the natural resources. Unlike the existing conservative parties in Canada and the US, they are more likely to support government action to protect the environment when the free market goes too far and gets reckless. This is seen as an act of protecting one’s home, preventing the local environment from radically changing.

Cascadian Conservatives favor federalism, allowing for many economic and political powers to be exercised by local governments while a national state addresses nationwide and international concerns. They favor non-intervention when it comes to participating in a global community, but are more willing than most other groups to use a military option to respond to international conflicts which affect the region.

Nationalists (right wing) – Unlike most other nationalist parties in the world which define their national identity by some auxiliary human characteristic (i.e. race, ethnicity, religion, language), Cascadian Nationalists tend to (but not always) be less racist and overtly skeptical of anyone who looks different than they do. However, they share many other commonalities with national political parties elsewhere.

Socially, Cascadian Nationalists favor tradition and are willing to use the power of government to prohibit individual actions they deem alien or undesirable. Economically, they are populists who support capitalism to an extent and are willing to use the force of government to limit the effects of globalization and immigration. Internationally, they prefer to be left alone, but have little reservation with intervening militarily in international conflicts which impact national interests.

Cascadian Nationalists support a strong national government over federalism or devolution; they often view federal or local solutions as inadequate and limiting, preferring to find national solutions which allow the country to thrive as one nation united in action. They favor some forms of environmental protection in terms of national duty, but are also most willing to consume whatever resources are necessary so the nation can thrive economically.

Survivalists (the void) – Cascadian Survivalists believe the existing civic and political power structures throughout the world are inevitably doomed and need to be resisted at all costs. They don’t want to change the status quo; they want to survive its collapse. If the Cascadian political spectrum were viewed as a donut, Survivalists would be between Nationalists and Social Anarchists in the void between the two. They don’t fit nicely on a linear model, but can be understood as far right wing for our purposes.

Cascadian Survivalists are your isolationist utopia seekers. They view the world in terms of absolutes and wish to create an isolated society within Cascadia to achieve their vision of civic perfection. They’re neither capitalist nor anti-capitalist. They’re neither conservative nor liberal. They’re neither environmentally protectionist nor consumptive. They believe in the legitimacy of their own community only and reject the authority of any other body politic which would otherwise incorporate them. As such, they are very hostile toward outsides and people who believe differently than they do.

Cascadia’s Political Groupings

After taking all of these groups and each set of criteria into account, I developed the following linear model for Cascadia:

Cascadian Political Spectrum

It’s not perfect; I’m sure some of you have altering groups, definitions, and/or criteria. But, I believe this is a fair representation of the different political groupings which currently exist in Cascadia, even if they aren’t obvious or currently recognized as such.

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