Saturday, August 31, 2013

51st-State Fever! 9—Make That 11—Colorado Counties Put Split on Ballot, Maryland Panhandle Throws Hat in Ring

The eight core secessionist counties in Colorado in red, and two that are thinking about it in yellow
Last year, in the wake of Barack Obama’s reelection, politically conservative Americans were showing their outrage by flooding the White House’s “We the People” petition web-page with demands for each of the 50 states to secede from the United States (as reported at the time in this blog (and in a follow-up)).  (There was a racial component to this: the vast majority of secession demands came from the Old Confederacy.)  This year’s Tea Party symbolic-protest theme is 51st-state movements.  In addition to the existing pushes for statehood for an Orange County–based South California and a Chicago-less and largely-white Rest-of-Illinois, and in addition to a Democratic statehood push in District of Columbia and a mostly-nonpartisan one in Puerto Rico, 2013 has seen: a revival of the State of Jefferson idea in far-northern California and, most notably, a high-profile push for a State of Northern Colorado.  Now, the sparsely-populated western, Appalachian counties of Maryland want statehood too.

State of Jefferson supporters in northern California
But, wait—is it really just symbolic politics?  In Colorado at least, maybe not: the question of getting out from under the yoke of the liberal oppressors in Denver and Boulder is now going to be on the ballot in nine counties [actually, 11; see below] this November.

Nice logo—too bad nearly all the actual grizzlies in the area referred to have been killed.
In northeastern Colorado, the question of whether to form a State of North Colorado (or Northern Colorado, or New Colorado) will be put to voters in Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Logan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, Weld, and Yuma counties, forming the rectangular state’s northeastern corner.  The slightly discontiguous Elbert County slipped in under the deadline, and it will be on the ballot there too.  (Morgan County decided to keep the question off the ballot, while Lincoln and Cheyenne counties also decided to sit this one out, after toying with the idea.  [Since this article was written, Lincoln County has reversed course and joined the other nine counties, and Moffatt County, in the northwest of the state, has joined as well.])  There has even been interest in a merger coming out of adjoining rural disaffected areas in Wyoming, Nebraska, and Kansas.

The insurgency started in Weld County, which includes the University of Northern Colorado, in Greeley, but also includes rural voters fed up with environmental regulation, gun control, and now legal marijuana in an increasingly urban and liberal state that used to be a swing state.  The eight core secessionist states had been getting support from other rural counties, not all of them in the northeast, but on August 27th commissioners of the separatist counties met with their counterparts in Las Animas and Herfano counties, in the south of the state, along the border with New Mexico.

One proposal for a North Colorado flag
Mack Louden, commissioner of Las Animas County, told media, “There’s a lot of frustration in rural Colorado—east to west, north to south—about how we’re being treated. We own 90% of the land mass, but we represent a very small part of the population.  All the votes are in Denver.  They’ve figured that out and don’t worry too much about rural Colorado.”

Tom Gilley, president of the Weld County–based organization 51st State Initiative, said that commissioners in Las Animas and Herfano might bring the question to voters too.  It wouldn’t be in time for the November 5th ballot, but it raises longer-term questions of just how, geographically, “New Colorado” (as they would now have to finally settle on calling it) would look.

As you might imagine, the parking lots at Boulder’s University of Colorado
have very few pick-up trucks with gun racks and fetus bumper stickers.
Louden added, “Right now, [secession] looks very appealing on the surface.  But once you start picking that scab down, you can get into some flesh that you don’t want to see.”  Perhaps one of the things he means is that any new admissions to the Union need to be cleared not only by the state legislature in Denver but by Capitol Hill in Washington.  And, with both houses of Congress being as evenly divided as they are, any new “red state” (i.e., one with two new Republican senators) would need to be balanced out by a blue (Democratic) one.  This is an old tradition in American expansion.  The Missouri Compromise of 1820 allowed Maine, a free state, and Missouri, a slave one, to balance each other out, while Republican Alaska and Democratic Hawaii had to be let in pretty much in tandem in 1959.  And even if someone could craft, say, a D.C.-statehood bill to balance a “New Colorado” one, that still doesn’t mean that doesn’t mean it would be a sure thing.

... and now Maryland

A possible proposal for a State of Western Maryland.
The current movement also includes Carroll County,
even though parts of it are almost suburban Baltimore.
Such considerations may not be dampening enthusiasm in western Maryland’s mountainous conservative far-west, where the idea of statehood has recently caught on as well.  Some residents in the Appalachian “panhandle” along the Pennsylvania border, are interested in seceding from the rest of the very-blue State of Maryland.  Scott Strzelczyk, who lives in New Windsor, in Maryland’s Carroll County, has founded an organization called Western Maryland: A New State Initiative.  Strzelczyk is host of a local AM radio show with a dissident, “constitutionalist” bent called The Forgotten Men.  He envisions Western Maryland to consist of Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick, and Carroll counties—all of them Republican counties with tiny populations forming a geographically eccentric protrusion westward from a coastal stated that has two Democratic senators in Washington, includes heavily African-American Baltimore and the liberal northern suburbs of D.C., and voted for Obama by almost 62% in both 2008 and 2012.

Maryland’s counties, shown in shades of red or blue
based on their respective vote shares for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, respectively, in 2012
Though far less organized and far less popular than the North Colorado movement, the idea of partitioning Maryland is not new.  Its sprawling eastern leg is just as geographically anomalous as its western one, and just as divorced from the concerns of the bulk of the population in Baltimore, Annapolis, and the D.C. suburbs.  This Eastern Shore region, along Chesapeake Bay, with its more Southern-style plantation culture and economy, used to be Maryland’s demographic and political anchor, until the rise of Baltimore in the 19th century.  In 1998, the nine easternmost counties proposed seceding as a new state to be called either Chesapeake, Eastshore, or—getting poetic now—Atlantis or Arcadia.  Others have wanted those nine counties to join Delaware, along with Virginia’s disconnected Accomack and Northampton counties, to form a State of Delmarva, though that makes no political sense: why would the Democrats who run Delaware with little opposition want to dilute their power in a more purplish state?

One vision of a partition of Maryland (and D.C.),
from a recent article in Michael Trinklein’s excellent and highly recommended Lost States blog
Names from the 1998 Eastern Shore movement like Chesapeake and Arcadia point up a singular failing of some of today’s 51st-state movements: unimaginative names.  The idea of Western Maryland would be much more likely to stir passions if it were called something like Allegania or Cumberland, while northeastern Colorado, though it has few remotely colorful county or town names, would benefit from being renamed something along the lines of Northern Front Range, which is what locals call the region.  The Platte River runs through the area, so maybe that could be used to form a name.  Anything but New Colorado or North Colorado, though—if only because North Carolina has already squatted on the postal abbreviation NC.

It seems unlikely Western Maryland would come up with a flag more impressive
than Maryland’s current one, based on the coat-of-arms of Lord Baltimore.
[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  Look for it some time in 2013.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]

1 comment:

  1. I think all States should examine a split, far to often the inner city population determines the representation of the rural population needless to say these are polar opposites in ideologies and create a great disparity in relations and alienate the rural counties voters.


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