Monday Open Thread — Grounds For Secession?

What began decades ago as a joke is gaining steam here on the west coast. Rural counties on the Cal-Oregon border who believe they are completely unrepresented in Sacramento & Salem are considering a way out:

Some folks around here think the economic sky is falling and state lawmakers in Sacramento and Salem are ignoring their constituents in the hinterlands.

Guess the time is ripe to create a whole new state.

That’s the thinking up here along the border between California and Oregon, where 12 sparsely populated, thickly forested counties in both states want to break away and generate the 51st star on the nation’s flag – the state of Jefferson.

You can see the signs of discontent from Klamath Falls to Dunsmuir, where green double-X “Jefferson State” flags hang in scores of businesses. You can hear the talk of revolution at lunch counters and grocery lines, where people grumble that politicians to the north and south don’t care.

You can even hear the dissent on the radio, where 21 area FM stations broadcast from Oregon into California under the banner of “Jefferson Public Radio.”

“We have nothing in common with you people down south. Nothing,” said Randy Bashaw, manager of the Jefferson State Forest Products lumber mill in the Trinity County hamlet of Hayfork. “The sooner we’re done with all you people, the better.”

My view, as someone who is stuck so squarely in the Greater Los Angeles Megasprawl, stretching from Tijuana to Ventura, is one of envy towards anyone that may have a chance at escaping the grasp of Sacramento. If I lived up there, I’d by pushing hard for something like this. So I’m firmly in favor of letting them out.

But this brings up some interesting questions. As a nation that supposedly operates based upon “consent of the governed”, you have a clear case where the people of these counties do not consent to governance by their state Capitols. Granting them exception and statehood, though, causes some problems in that it affects national politics (via electoral college, the Senate, etc).

So what do you guys think? What are the grounds for the counties to dissolve the bonds of government and form new ones? Shall we allow them to break off and form the 51st state, the State of Jefferson? Or not? Why?

  • Jeff Molby

    It would probably make more sense to grant them territorial status first.

  • thomasblair

    Let them out.

    Out of curiosity, do you know what the politics are like in that area? Are they wanting to create a Galt’s Gulch or a collectivist paradise?

  • Peter

    I think it would be good for some of the states to break apart. This is a great example. The more subdivisions of government, the better. How about we have the national government give some power back to the states too?

    Just curious, what sort of population are we talking about here, about how many congressional districts would the state of Jefferson get?

    I have heard the idea of breaking off the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to make a new state, called Superior (like the Lake). That would be just fine with me (I live in lower Michigan). Let the UPers (pronounced ‘yoopers’) have their own state, they are certainly different from us down here. Although, it would make sense to include the northernmost third of the lower peninsula in Superior as well, but drawing the boundary there would be more difficult than just putting it in the water. If you are wondering about population, I think they would be bigger than Wyoming (but that’s not saying much).

    Are there any other portions of states that either want to break off or would make sense to break off? Would it make sense to cut California into a Northern California and Southern California?

    Like I said, it would be a good thing to have a few more states.

  • Brad Warbiany


    From the article, it sounds like they have a pretty wide range of politics there — but my guess is that it would naturally be a lot more libertarian than either Sacramento or Salem. But they make the point that it’s more about self-determination than tiny government. They want to govern themselves because their needs are less than even an afterthought in their current states.

  • Mark

    The State of Jefferson movement has a pretty long history. Some of it is discussed here:

    One thing I can say with some certainty is that you could say many states would benefit from being split up in some way. For instance, there’s been talk for years – actually since the beginning of the Republic – of upstate and downstate New York splitting up. And northern and southern Florida have exactly nothing in common.

    One of the primary arguments (in Federalist #10) against a purely democratic form of government and in favor of a system of federalism in the argument over the Constitution was that the individual states – as then constituted – were already too large to act as viable democracies with little oversight from a central government. If those states were too large to be viable democracies because of democracy’s poor treatment of faction, imagine how today’s individual states fit within that rubric. Ultimately, I suspect the US would probably be better off if we broke things down into extremely small state-level units as much as possible with the purpose of the federal government limited to protecting the rights of political minorities, safeguarding interstate and international free trade, and defending against foreign attacks….you know, basically what the Constitution (plus the 14th Amendment) actually says. I’d say an ideal state size would be no more than one or two million people (except in the cases of large cities). To promote efficiency of government services, you allow for multi-state compacts and authorities with powers limited to specific provisions of services.

  • David Z

    Although I agree with them in spirit (as an anarchist I fully support the right to secede) in terms of pragmatism, it’s clearly unconstitutional. Only government cronies are allowed to violate the constitution. Establishing a new state within the borders of an existing one, or from parts of existing states violates the letter of the highest law in the land. It would require approval (I think, but could be mistaken on this technicality) of the Senate and the House. Pigs will fly…

  • Kelly

    I used to live in Mt. Shasta, which is about an hour south of the Oregon border and probaly has the most prosperity of any area in the region. The politics are for the most part extreme on both ends of the spectrum. The majority would be far right wing christian extremist who distrust everything and everyone, especially government. The other extreme are social drop out new age hippy spiritualist who would happily share what meager portions of food they have scrounged with whoever was in need, as well as thier habitat.

    Siskyous county which is on the California side of the border (lined with a huge mountain range) is one of the poorest counties in the state and gets very little resource or assistance from the state. It also has a very high percentage of mentally ill. Because of the mountains, it is a easy place to escape from society, which is why many people choose to live there.
    The big issue with California will be the water supply. This is the head water for the Sacramento River. Southern California needs this water supply and won’t be willing to pay for it. Because of that resource, I don’t believe the State of Jefferson will ever be a reality without a revolution.

  • Jeff Molby

    Although I agree with them in spirit (as an anarchist I fully support the right to secede) in terms of pragmatism, it’s clearly unconstitutional.

    Tell that to Kentucky, Maine, and West Virginia.

    It’s not going to happen, but there’s no reason it couldn’t.