Bringing Together Conservative Voices

Horowitz: Let my people go: Is it time to redraw state boundaries?

People of North Western Virginia, why should we thus permit ourselves to be tyrannized over, and made slaves of, by the haughty arrogance and wicked machinations of would-be Eastern Despots.” ~A committee of “Western Virginia” officials in an open letter in the Kingwood Chronicle in May 1861.

When George Washington was sworn in to office, the population of the entire country was less than 4 million. Still, our founders understood that the political sentiment of the broad swath of the country shouldn’t be drowned out by the homogenous groupthink of big cities and therefore settled on a system of representative democracy through subdivisions of states composing the Electoral College, as opposed to direct national popular vote, to better reflect the sentiments of the broader country, which included rural areas.

Fast-forward 230 years later: A state like Oregon is more populous than the country during our founding, and New York is more than five times the size, yet rural and some suburban voters within those states are completely disenfranchised and misrepresented by the alien cultures of their respective large cities. Are voters in large contiguous swaths of land in states like Oregon, Illinois, and New York really at the mercy of the communist views of the people in big cities? Is there no recourse to redraw the boundaries? Are the state lines really that sacred?

Take a look at the gubernatorial election results in Oregon by county, courtesy of Politico’s election map:

As you can see, Democrat Tina Kotek was still reelected by a healthy 3.6% margin over Christine Drazan, despite the fact that she lost 29 of the state’s 36 counties. Worse, there is an entire wall of 18 counties in the eastern two-thirds of the state that voted by a 40- to 50-point margin for the Republican in most counties. If you add the five southwestern counties, you can amass a contiguous state of 23 counties all voting overwhelmingly for the Republican. In fact, the 68,000-vote margin of victory for Kotek comes exclusively from the 192,000-vote margin she netted over her opponent in Multnomah County (Portland). In other words, if you took that one county out of the equation – and left every other urban area, including liberal Eugene – Drazan would have won the state by eight points.

Behold, you have a greater degree of disenfranchisement in the state of Oregon alone than anyone could have imagined nationwide during the time of our founding. Obviously, you will always have mixed or divided states with some areas redder and some areas bluer, but the stark divide of Portland and a few other areas vs. the entire rest of the state is like mixing San Francisco and Alabama into one state. It simply makes no sense. And keep in mind, in terms of the scope of the political schism, we are no longer debating differences in tax rates like our founders envisioned. The consequences of being on the wrong side of that winner-take-all statewide majority include whether you can breathe free air without a Chinese mask or whether you can get an organ transplant without mRNA being injected into your body.

A movement called “Greater Idaho” has grown in recent years, in which citizens of the 16 eastern Oregon counties have been pushing ballot referendums to petition the legislatures to vote on allowing those counties to join Idaho. Here is the map of counties that have already voted, from Citizens for Greater Idaho:

During the recent elections, Morrow County passed the Greater Idaho proposal with 60 percent of the vote and Wheeler County with 59 percent, bringing the total number of counties to 11. The next step is for state representatives to bring a petition to the legislature to form an interstate compact with Idaho to work out the details of the transfer, if the two state legislatures are favorable to the proposal. Idaho’s House has already held a hearing on the proposal in which conservative members expressed sympathy for the effort by these eastern Oregon “asylum seekers.” Any such state compact decision, in order to be codified into law, would need approval from Congress and amendment of the acts of admission of both states, pursuant to Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution.

Under such a proposal, Oregon would lose 63% of its land mass but only 9% of its population, people who are infinitely more in line with the cultural values of Idaho.

Originally, their plan was to include the five southwestern Oregon counties in the partition request so that “Greater Idaho” would get a coastline, but in May, residents of Josephine and Douglas Counties narrowly opposed such a move on a ballot initiative. However, if this plan were to succeed in phase one, it would likely spread like wildfire to the southwestern part of the state and even to Eastern Washington to the north and Northern California to the south.

Take the Washington Senate race, for example. Even as Democrat Senator Patty Murray crushed Republican Tiffany Smiley by a 14.6-point margin statewide, she lost 28 of the 39 counties, which were all contiguous, most of them by a wide margin. Murray only won a few of those 11 counties by landslide margins. Her entire 442,000-vote margin of victory was netted from King County (Seattle). Meaning, even if you include Olympia, Vancouver, and other liberal areas of the state, Smiley carried the entire state other than that one county.

Yes, it is by far the most populous county, but the number and size of counties do matter in terms of their own history, geography, culture, and economy.

Even in the liberal bastion of California, where Gavin Newsom defeated his little-known Republican opponent by 18 points, he still lost (32) more counties than he won (26), and they were all in the interior of the state. And this is factoring in the mass exodus of conservatives from the state and the collapse of the Republican Party, which is likely underperforming its potential in the state. Contrast that to DeSantis’ 19.4-point win in Florida, where he won 62 of 67 counties. Even in the five counties he lost, he won a respectable 42%+ in all but one tiny rural county, where he lost in a landslide, offset by the dozens of other counties he won by a landslide.

Anyone with a modicum of intellectual honesty would understand that we need to self-sort as a nation. We are hopelessly divided and cannot have the minority suffer based on a handful of population centers that don’t reflect a broad section of the country. The problem with a lot of states is that even within the state, the people are not as homogeneous as they were during the times of the Civil War, making state-by-state quasi-national divorce somewhat impractical. Thus, we need further self-sorting wherever there is a sharp polarization cleanly divided by contiguous land masses.

While Oregon’s Greater Idaho movement is the most mature, with the most definitive plan and strongest political and geographical rationale, there are some other movements that are worth following. Take Illinois, for example. Even as Gov. J.B. Pritzker easily won reelection by a 12-point margin over Darren Bailey, the Republican opponent still carried 89 out of the state’s 102 counties and all but six out of the Chicago region. Here is the election map from Politico:

Again, even in a race that was never competitive in what is regarded as a solid blue state, if you remove Cook County from the equation, Pritzker’s 483,000-margin of victory would turn into a 200,000-vote loss. Obviously, this doesn’t negate his win, but it demonstrates just how unfair it is for Democrats to control large swaths of land far from the population centers with so much contiguous opposition to them. When Republicans win by a few points, much less by double digits, on the other hand, their base of support is so much broader and more uniform.

Indeed, on Nov. 8, three more Illinois counties passed non-binding referendums requesting negotiations to separate from the state, bringing the total to 27 counties.

The referendums ask voters, “Shall the board of your county correspond with the boards of the other counties of Illinois outside of Cook County about the possibility of separating from Cook County to form a new state, and to seek admission to the Union as such, subject to the approval of the people?” Voters passed the referendum with lopsided margins, demonstrating the sense of disquiet these many counties have over their treatment at the hands of the Chicago-dominated government.

This effort is being bolstered by a group, “New Illinois,” which is seeking to break off from the Chicago-dominated state and form a new state, similar to what West Virginia did in 1863 when it separated from Virginia over the Civil War.

New York is another perfect example of this phenomenon. While Kathy Hochul sbeat Lee Zeldin by a healthy 6-point margin, she lost 49 out of the 62 counties. But it’s worse than that in the sense that New York state and New York City are almost two separate entities geographically and culturally. If you separated everything north of Westchester County from the NYC metro area (including Staten Island and Long Island, where Zeldin did very well), Hochul’s 327K victory becomes a 158K loss. In other words, Zeldin carried upstate New York by several points, and that includes all the other urban areas and college cities mixed in with the numerous rural counties he carried by more than 2-1.

These states – Oregon, Illinois, and New York – are considered solid blue states. Still, there is so much contiguous, large land mass that is very distant from the urban centers controlling the state and have supermajorities voting against those seas of blue that irrevocably tip the states towards communism. You can imagine that the case is even stronger in the more purple states like Pennsylvania and Nevada in terms of the urban-rural divide. Some in western Maryland and Virginia want to move their counties to West Virginia, ironically, the last state to formally break off. Even San Bernardino County, California, which voted for Biden by an 11-point margin, narrowly voted earlier this month to explore seceding from the state! In other words, self-sorting is an idea whose time has come.

What’s clear is that the current divide is unsustainable. Democratic representation and majoritarian rule cannot continue to work against each other for much longer. At some point the cry for “let my people go” will become too loud to ignore.