Friday, November 8, 2013

5 of 11 Counties Vote to Secede: Whither "New Colorado" Now?

On November 5th, Colorado went to the polls.  Among other issues at stake there—all of which featured the dynamic of rural Tea Party pushback against an urbanizing, increasingly Democratic-dominated state—11 counties in the northeast and north were asked whether they wanted to secede to form a new, and solidly Republican, State of North Colorado.

Orange counties voted yes to secession; blue ones voted no.
Of the 11, five contiguous counties said yes, while the other six voted to stay in Colorado.

The five splittist counties are Cheyenne (where 62.2% voted yes), Kit Carson (54.2%), Phillips (62.2%), Washington (58.1%), and Yuma (59.6%).  They form a contiguous territory snug against the Kansas border but do not reach into the far northeastern corner of the state, where Sedgwick County voted by 57% to stay under Denver’s thumb.  Weld County, where the rebellion began earlier this year—home to the region’s largest city, Greeley, the presumed future capital—rejected secession by a margin of 56.3% to 43.6%.  The other counties that elected to stay are Elbert, Lincoln, Logan, and—the outlier, in the state’s northwest corner—Moffat County.

From this summer, this news graphic showed green states planning to vote on secession
and blue states expressing interest.
But does this mean that silkscreeners are now poised to churn out 51-star flags?  Not at all.  Any new admission to the Union must be approved by both houses of Congress.  The last state to secede from another was West Virginia, in 1863, and it was really seceding from the Confederacy back into the United States.  And the last time new stars were added, in 1959, Hawaii and Alaska were admitted more or less in tandem, so as to preserve the balance of power between the two national political parties.  A new state, after all, means two new senators, and the redrawing of congressional districts as well.  This two-at-a-time pattern is an old tradition, dating back to events such as the Missouri Compromise (Maine and Missouri, in 1820), and even to the simultaneous admission of Kentucky and Vermont in 1791—in those days the idea being to preserve the balance between slave and free states.  A new Democratic state would need to be added to balance a North Colorado in today’s divided, fiercely partisan political climate.  And no one in Congress seems remotely interested.

A proposed flag (not proposed by proponents, it need hardly be added)
The North Colorado movement began in early summer of this year (as reported at the time in this blog), with initially eight counties—Kit Carson, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, and Yuma—though, by early July, Cheyenne and Lincoln had joined as well, soon followed by Elbert County.  The whole phenomenon has been a response to this politically mixed state—famous for category-defying maverick politicians like Governor Richard “Dickie” Lamm and Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell—turning “blue” in recent years, led by the growth of the capital, Denver, and to a lesser extent the counterculture mecca Boulder.  Barack Obama was the first Democratic presidential candidate to draw a majority of Colorado voters since 1964.  It was a swing state for several election cycles, until Obama won it handily in 2008, and it is now considered a blue state.  New legislation decriminalizing marijuana and restricting gun rights and animal cruelty further incensed socially conservative voters in the rural plains east and northeast of Denver, a region sometimes known as the Northern Front Range.  This week’s election also featured a heated recall campaign growing out of resistance to gun control and other issues.  The growing Hispanicization of Colorado has also been a factor, and the North Colorado rebellion, like the broader Tea Party movement of which it is a part, can reasonably be seen as connected to demographic shifts that promise to make white Americans become this century a racial minority, in a country with no racial majority at all.  North Colorado would be by far the whitest state in the Union.  There aren’t even that many American Indians there.

These two fellers represent the demographics of the North Colorado secession movement.
But interest came too from more than a dozen other Colorado counties, covering more than half the state’s land area, and even a couple counties in neighboring Kansas to the east and Nebraska to the northeast.  Interest was expressed in southeastern Wyoming as well (all reported at the time in this blog).  In fact, the North Colorado movement is only the most serious of numerous suggestions made over the years to create some kind of new state in the eastern Colorado area where the state meets up with rural parts of Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.  West Kansas, Kansorado, Kansahoma, and even CoKaNe (i.e., parts of Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska)—yes, pronounced like cocaine—are all names that have been tossed around.

A more seriously proposed North Colorado flag
The name New Colorado has also been proposed for this year’s 51-state movement, and perhaps that name is destined to replace North Colorado, since the configuration of secessionist-voting counties now appears less northeasterly oriented and more easterly oriented than originally conceived.  Nor is the movement likely to go away.  Despite the six counties that voted no, those defeats were surprisingly narrow, and this has definitely been the most well-organized and high-profile state secession movement since 1975, when Michigan’s legislature came one vote shy of approving a proposal to hive off the state’s rural, conservative Upper Peninsula as the State of Superior (or Superiorland, or Ontonagan) (which some want to include northern Wisconsin as well).  North Colorado separatism inspired conservative regions in blue or blue-trending states like California and Oregon (the State of Jefferson), Maryland (Western Maryland), and New York (West New York) to contemplate secession too.  And Tuesday’s electoral showing is likely to get heartlanders thinking harder about partition in places where it has already been suggested in the past, such as South California,” Florida, Virginia, Illinois, Washington, Nevada, and elsewhere.

As a movement, it is not going away.  In Colorado, rural conservative forces had already, even before this week’s vote, been thinking of other ways to increase their political participation, such as turning the Colorado legislature’s upper chamber into one where counties had equal representation irrespective of population.  This would in effect make Colorado into a federation of counties—something that to my knowledge has never been implemented at the state level, where upper and lower chambers differ in their structure mainly in the size of representative districts (but if any readers know of other historical examples of such proposals I would be grateful).

Birthplace of the North Colorado rebellion
And last month in northern California, where the decades-old but suddenly jump-started State of Jefferson movement has been re-energized (as reported on regularly in this blog), there is a new proposal to sidestep the requirement for federal congressional approval of new states by creating a sort of Jefferson “autonomous region” free of state laws and taxes and with its own courts, police, and social services (or, rather, lack of social services, since that seems to be what Jeffersonians prefer).  You know, that sounds like nothing so much as an Indian reservation.  Maybe, in the increasingly brown United States, white people’s reservations are the future.  North Colorado, be careful what you wish for.

Would North Colorado be better off as an autonomous Caucasian Reservation?
[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 2014.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]

No comments:

Post a Comment

Subscribe Now: Feed Icon