Further Notes on Whinyassistan


Since I proposed the first non-contiguous, virtual state, conglomerating together all the counties and groups of counties in the country that want to leave their states because, in most cases, their states are trending Democratic, I’ve gotten a slew of responses. They’ve ranged from complaints of urban bias, to fellow-guffawing and many things in between. But the most interesting have been those on the roots of the secession movement in northern California. (Many people mean the Bay Area by ‘northern California’. But here I mean, real northern California, as in, the part in the North of the state.)Having grown up in California, I’d known this had been sort of a fringe issue going back more than a century. But I wasn’t familiar with the particular issue of the would-be State of Jefferson, which would peel off a few northern California counties and attach them to the southern tier of Oregon.

Here’s one note I just got from TPM reader and former intern CM

Thought I’d drop a quick line on Whinyassistan:

There’s long been a divide between the wealthier stretches of Northern Oregon — coastal ports, Portland — and the rural south. Growing up in Portland, Southern (and Eastern) Oregon seemed like a different world. And that divide still very much exists.

(Side-note: The KKK was long a huge presence in Grants Pass, and there are still wide stretches of Southern Oregon in which minorities, especially blacks, should likely not show their faces. Beautiful country — horrific views on social/racial integration.)

But this isn’t the first, or even best, attempt at carving out a state in S. Oregon. In 1941, the rural folks tired of the paltry revenues from Salem, and proposed seceding, with stretches of Northern California, to form the (then-49th) State of Jefferson. And things got far heated than where they’re at now — armed militias stopped traffic, handing out proclamations of independence. Fortunately — or unfortunately? — just as the Jeffersonians were making progress, Pearl Harbor hit, and any secessionist movement fizzled in the war effort.

To be sure: Don’t conflate this secession movement with anything relating to Cascadia, that ecotopian dream of many on the hard-left in the Northwest. But there’s a history here. And there’s an anger — a libertarian bent, comingled with a racial disdain that most have no idea exists. Should be fun to watch.

As a side note, it’s important to note that the constitution makes a state secession close to impossible, though it does provide a constitutional path for doing so. The whole state has to agree to its partition. And then Congress too needs to sign off. And given Congress’s inertia and the fact that this would in effect give the same number of people more Senators and perhaps more reps, it’s very hard to see this ever getting done.

As I said, a lot of this is simply rural right-wingers wanting to bail out of states that are dominated by major urban centers. But other readers have noted that there is a substantive issue of whether one population with a kind of culture (urban/liberal) can fairly represent/govern another (rural/conservative). Perhaps Austin wants to become a landlocked city state in Texas. And many readers have noted that nostalgia for the ‘Jefferson’ idea in the region goes beyond rightwingers and cattle ranchers. In a sense, this is the broader problem facing the whole country. But really all this comes down to (even though it’s not really a serious proposition) is a kind of nuclear gerrymandering, fencing like-minded people off into their own little self-enforced ideological bantustans. And you can see where that’s gotten us and also the GOP with the House of Reps.


Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.