28 August 2013

Secession v. Realignment in the American West

You know we've entered the silly season when Moffat County, Colorado wants to secede from Colorado to join the putative state of Northeast Colorado (seeing as how its boundaries define the Northwest corner of the state).

Proposals to allocate seats in the Colorado General Assembly on a county by county basis in at least one of its houses are outright unconstitutional under well settled, bipartisan precedents (with corrections here).

This said, there is another option which is neither unconstitutional, nor a simple power grab to put more conservatives in the U.S. Senate, and this one is actually a decent fit to the concept of federalism.  What is it?

Rural Northern Colorado counties could be transferred from the State of Colorado to the State of Wyoming.  Wyoming is more rural, more conservative, and more friendly to fossil fuel energy interests than Colorado and a closer fit politically to these counties than to Colorado as a whole.  This would leave these counties with a more hospitable state government, while allowing the rest of Colorado to fit its emerging more urban and resort oriented mold.

Moreover, as the state with the lowest population, a transfer of territory and people from Colorado to Wyoming would better balance the population to representation ratios in the U.S. Senate.

This realignment does something that politicians often like.  It permanently makes seats in the U.S. Senate safer for the respective parties without greatly altering the balance of power in the long run.  It leaves state elected officials in both resulting states more likely to deliver results that their constituents like in state legislation.  And, it leaves resulting states that are as viable, if not more so, than the original pair of states, something that would not be true in the case of an independent state of Northeast Colorado or something along those lines.  It also allows like minded counties on both sides of the continental divide with similar interests to be joined politically.

Wyoming voters might not like to see an addition to their state that would almost double its population.  But, the new territory would have a lot in common with the old one, so it just conceivably might work.

In a similar vein, it might make a lot of sense for the eastern portions of Washington State and Oregon (the natural boundary would be the Cascade Mountain range), to be removed from those states and added to Idaho, again achieving a better match of majority political attitudes with local political preferences, without altering the balance of power nationally.

Similarly, a large share of the State of Nevada that isn't Reno or the Las Vegas metropolitan area, would likely be more comfortable as part of Utah or Idaho.

(In the Northeast, a notable similar proposal would, rather than granting the District of Columbia except a small federal district, statehood, annex that part of the District of Columbia to the State of Maryland from which it was originally annexed, just as much of the original District of Columbia was returned to Virginia.  In the Midwest, transferring the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Wisconsin might be attractive.)

Allowing people to have a state government that is more to their liking than the national government is the fundamental reason to have a federal system of government at all, so these ideas would be reasonable ones to promote.

1 comment:

Jude said...

I'm not sure if it was ever an official movement, but for years, northwestern Coloradoans thought how nice it would be if we could join with northeastern Utahans in our own state, a sort of Colorado Plateau paradise where we wouldn't have to worry about being slighted by Denver. Grand Junction, by virtue of its population, would have been the capital. We're a large state, and people on the western slope have little in common with, say, people on the eastern plains (I learned this first-hand when I roomed with an eastern sloper from Wray). The only reason I don't take this overly seriously is because it would cost a lot of money. But it's interesting that Rio Blanco and Garfield counties decided not to join Moffat in large part over concern about water rights.