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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
News / Opinion / Columns

Jayne: Secession plan cuts off nose

By Greg Jayne, Columbian Opinion Page Editor
Published: February 26, 2023, 6:02am

We’ve heard it before at the state level, this idea that a political and constitutional divorce is the only solution to our irreconcilable differences.

There are periodic movements for Eastern Washington to secede from the rest of the state.

And residents of 11 counties in Eastern Oregon have voted in favor of joining Idaho.

And any drive through Southern Oregon and Northern California reveals occasional roadside signs declaring the State of Jefferson, an idea that was first officially proposed 82 years ago.

These secessionist movements are pushed by uniformly rural conservatives who are tired of being outnumbered by urban liberals when it comes to statewide politics. After all, the Seattle metro area makes up about 52 percent of Washington’s population; the part of the Portland metro area that rests in Oregon (not including Clark County) makes up about 47 percent of that state’s population.

It is difficult for somebody in, say, Davenport in Eastern Washington, to feel like their voice is heard in statewide politics. Donald Trump, for example, won the 2020 vote in 26 of Washington’s 39 counties — and lost the state by 800,000 votes.

The same dynamic plays out at the national level.

So it was no surprise last week when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., tweeted: “We need a national divorce. We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government. Everyone I talk to says this. From the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrat’s traitorous America Last policies, we are done.”

And it was no surprise that Greene called to mind one of the many memorable quotes from the movie “Animal House”: “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.”

Futile and stupid, of course, are not exclusive to either party, although Greene has mastered the art better than most. But the secession movement is particularly stupid and often is driven by nefarious motivations.

In recent years, for example, then-state Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, was an outspoken advocate for creating a 51st state out of Eastern Washington. And then it was revealed that he had been distributing a manifesto titled, “Biblical Basis for War” with gems such as “Make an offer of Peace before declaring war” and “If they do not yield — kill all males.”

Shea was promoting Sharia law with a Christian bent. You know, just like Jesus suggested.

And yet the idea of rural residents — whether within the state or throughout the nation — wanting to succeed from liberal wokeness is a prime example of them wanting to cut off their nose.

Because counties in Eastern Washington routinely receive more in state revenue distributions than they contribute. Okanogan, Stevens and Adams counties, in recent years, have received twice as much as they have contributed to Olympia. The fact is, government services throughout the state are dependent on the riches paid in taxes by the residents of King County.

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The same is true for individual states. According to MoneyGeek, eight of the 11 states that receive the most in return for their federal dollars are red states.

New Mexico, which went blue in the 2020 presidential election, ranks No. 1 by receiving $3.69 for every federal dollar it contributes. But after that on the list are deep-red West Virginia, Mississippi, Alaska and Alabama. The four states that receive the least return on their federal dollars are deep-blue Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Delaware.

Which helps explain why the extremist wing of the Republican Party is so focused on wokeness and antifa and various culture wars rather than policy discussions.

It’s clear that the economic policies in blue states are more effective and that, overall, blue states are propping up their needy neighbors. Because that’s what you do when you are part of a nation or part of a state.

Divorce, after all, can be messy.