• Sun. Jan 16th, 2022


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Five Oregon Counties Back a Plan to Secede and Join Idaho

For eastern conservatives, it has all been like watching a train pull away down the tracks, leaving them behind. All five of the would-be new Idaho counties voted strongly for Mr. Trump in November — topped by Lake County, where he got nearly 80 percent of the vote — only to see the state’s Electoral College votes go to the Democratic candidate; Mr. Biden won 10 counties and lost in 26, but the 10 included Portland.

“Most of us in rural Oregon realize that whatever the Portland/Willamette Valley area wants, they get,” Mr. McCarter said. “Do we have the freedom to vote who we want to govern us? That’s the question.”

While occasional talk of secession has accompanied the polarization of politics across the country, dreams of remaking the American map have been particularly resonant in the West, where state borders were late in coming.

In the late 1930s, residents of Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota dreamed of forging a conglomeration of like-minded communities into a new state that would call itself Absaroka. The idea of a vast new political entity called Cascadia that would stretch up through the Pacific Northwest into Canada has fluttered in the regional consciousness for decades. More recently, residents of Northern California and southern Oregon hatched the idea of a state that would be called Jefferson.

“In previous decades it was the southern counties, now it’s the east, but it’s the same feeling — feeling powerless,” said Bruce A. Weber, the recently retired longtime director of the Rural Studies Program at Oregon State University. “The desire to have influence and respect is universal, and it’s part of what is driving a lot of behavior in this country right now.”

Part of the argument for shifting the borders, according to Citizens for Greater Idaho, which organized the secession ballot measures, is that conservatives are fleeing liberal areas to join Americans in more conservative areas. (Witness the latest exodus of Californians to Texas.)

Why not, the group suggests, give the conservatives more room?

“Adding Oregon counties to Idaho will take some pressure off Idaho’s housing market,” the group said, “giving people more counties to choose from as they move into Idaho to gain political refuge from blue states.”