11/15/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why the West Must Be Won

Starting about 35 years ago, I've argued the political importance of the Western United States, especially in my own Democratic party. After the South shifted from Democratic to Republican in the Nixon years following Democratic leadership on civil rights, East Coast punditry continued to ask how the Democrats could regain the South. As a somewhat lonely Western voice in those days, and then as a national candidate, I tried to preach an East-West strategy to replace the old North-South coalition.

Even more important than party political, however, was the dominant feeling in the Rocky Mountain West particularly that no one in Washington really cared about the area. National parks, recreation areas, dams and reservoirs, forests, and wilderness areas represented vast acreages, but the ownership too often seemed remote. Demands for energy on the one hand and concurrent demands for environmental protection on the other during the 1970s and 1980s began to focus attention on the region. And the emergence of the new information economy, largely centered in the coastal West shifted economic attention.

And then, finally, the Democratic party held its 2008 convention in Denver and the political pendulum swung. Candidate Obama's strength in the West demonstrated as much as anything that this entire region was politically in play and increasingly important.

The Huffington Post, a flagship of the "new media", has very wisely opened a regional center in Denver. This is very important because the West is rising again.

For more news and commentary from Colorado, check out HuffPost's just-launched Denver section.