Secede! Rural Areas Want Nothing to Do with More Liberal Cities

10.10.2013 | From the Declaration of Independence to the Key West Conch Republic (we seceded where others failed), the nation has a long history of threatening secession. And we’re at it again.

The New York Times reports that several Colorado counties want to secede from the more liberal parts of the state, dominated by urban centers. They see these areas as being hijacked by liberals who want to promote pot, gay marriage, green energy, and most importantly, gun control. The liberal agenda is not for them.

So in November, 11 northern, heavily rural counties will vote on whether to secede from Colorado and form their own state, “one that would cherish the farm towns and conservative ideals that people here say have been lost in Denver’s glassy downtown lofts or Aspen’s million-dollar ski condos. It would be called New Colorado, or maybe North Colorado—a prairie bulwark against the demographic changes and urbanization that are reshaping politics and life across this and other Western states.”

Colorado is not alone in its resistance to urbanization. Large sections of Illinois have wanted Chicago to secede. As Chuck and Pam Wemstrom write in downstate Illinois’ Journal Standard, the “Chicago Reader’s” Cecil Adams back in 2010 came up with a regional approach to secession that downstaters could get behind. Adams thought the 14 counties around metropolitan Chicago and selected parts of Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan would make a great new state. “We’d get most of the people, material possessions, and things that make life worth living,” he wrote, and to the rest of Illinois: “You’d get a state free of us.”

This isn’t the first time that the more rural parts of the state have wished to part company with the City. In the early 1970s, notes “10 Movements to Secede from the United States,” “the Forgottonia movement planned to declare the secession of 14 counties in western Illinois and similarly collect foreign aid after declaring war on the US and then surrendering. The idea was to bring attention to the impoverished region. Likewise, the city of Winneconne, Wisconsin, threatened to secede and form the Sovereign State of Winneconne after being left off the official Wisconsin road map.”

Regions considering secession are often overshadowed by their nearby metropolitan region, feeling like they don’t get their fair shake. Western Maryland, as Fox News reported, is contemplating secession because it feels underrepresented.

“Western Maryland is made up of five counties whose residents largely vote Republican and feel under-represented at the state capitol, run by Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley and a Democrat-controlled legislature. . . . The movement began in July as a social-media effort, with activist Scott Strzelczyk starting a Facebook page titled the Western Maryland Initiative.” Strzelczyk said the biggest concerns are increasing taxes, the Democrat-controlled legislature gerrymandering voting districts so that the state’s big metropolitan areas have the most representation, and tighter gun laws enacted this year. This he calls “the last straw.”

Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors has voted 4-1 to secede from California so that the county can form its own state, according to AllGov. The northern enclave of wealthy Californians wants to join like-minded rural counties in the state and in Oregon to form a new state whose motto is “Free people – Free Markets – Limited Government.”

“They can almost taste victory, and liberty from the tyrannical rule in Sacramento that has kept this conservative enclave in Northern California from living the good life—free of onerous regulations, bureaucracy, fire prevention fees, water rights restrictions and San Francisco linkage. They want to form a union with other like-minded rural counties north and south of the border with Oregon, and call their new state, Jefferson. They already have a Wikipedia page and are planning their next move.”

It’s not just sour grapes Republicans, however. Democrats in southern Florida and western Arizona counties want to break from their states, which they consider run by Republicans.

“This is about folks who just do not believe they are being represented, whether it’s Democrats and Republicans,” Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, told Fox News. The Middlebury Institute, hoping to spark the secessionist spirit, offers resources for and a running list of those hoping to secede.

But as the “Metropolitan Revolution” gains legs and metro areas increasingly drive the US economy, can rural areas afford to peal off from those hubs? Probably not. After all, the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas are responsible for 60 percent of the $20.3 trillion goods traded annually, according to “Export Nation.” They are the economic engines that generate jobs, spur innovation, and draw populations. But metro areas also depend on raw materials sourced and shipped from nonmetro areas. Wyoming, for example, moves more than 502 million tons of energy products to the rest of the nation, drawing from the rich coal deposits in the Powder River Basin. Illinois farmers help feed the world. The nonmetro regions, in other words, provide the food, energy, and raw supplies that enable metro areas to compete globally.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the politically polarized, fractured times that these secessionist movements are springing up like mushrooms after a rain. More likely, it’s a case of redistricting and the echo chambers that they produce. But whatever the reason, it seems counterproductive to be seceding into smaller, like-minded “states” in an increasingly global world. Perhaps a better route would be to think regionally, with new (and fewer) governing bodies instead of more, and to work cooperatively to create regional economies that can compete on a global scale and leave the cultural politics aside. There’s nothing like shared prosperity to quiet tensions.


Photo / Baker County Tourism

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