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A separatist movement that inspires the rest of the country

Photo: Fabien Deglise Le Devoir At a Lakeview gun show, Bo Gordon, whose county also voted for separation, finds something soothing in the idea of ​​imagining living within new borders. “In the current context, it feels good to think that one day this redistricting could happen,” he said.

Fabien Deglise In Bend, Oregon

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  • United States

The first election of Donald Trump in 2016 accelerated the trend. His return in 2024 in the electoral race will further fan the flames of resentment and division in the United States. A fragile environment where difficulties in dialogue and fear of compromise, coupled with radical and narrow-minded ideological postures, now threaten one of the foundations of the country: the unity of its States.

When he looks at what has been happening around him since 2019, Mike McCarter, leader and founder of the Greater Idaho movement, which calls for moving the borders of rural Oregon to expand the territory of Idaho, inevitably takes a little pride in it. .

“The very first political rally we held had, to our great surprise, over 400 people,” says the 77-year-old retiree, a 30-year veteran of the Vietnam War in the world of agriculture before opening a gun club in southern Oregon at the end of his career. “A few days later, it was the pandemic, its confinement, its travel bans… We thought that the movement was not going to survive, but ultimately, that gave it more strength, and look where we are Today. »

Next Tuesday, rural Crook County, a three-hour drive southeast of Portland, will become the 15th rural Oregon region to vote on leaving the state, which local residents say too progressive, in the hope of starting a new life under the governance of neighboring, more conservative Idaho. A project embraced to date by 12 central or bordering Oregonian counties of the Potato State, whose spread, in barely four years, is followed closely, and sometimes with admiration, by conservatives leading partitionist movements similar elsewhere in the country.

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“We have calls from everywhere,” assures Mike McCarter, sitting in a cafe in Bend, a rather Democratic town on the edge of Crook County. Our movement is not political. It comes from the base, from the people, and is based on values, faith, family, freedom, conviction, and this is undoubtedly why we are considered a source of inspiration today. »

In Illinois, Madison County is looking to follow in the footsteps of the Greater Idaho movement. Its voters will be asked to vote next November on their separation from the rest of the state, and especially from Democratic and liberal policies from Chicago, which are a little too prevalent there for their liking. The referendum process was approved by six votes to one by local elected officials at the end of April.

Living east of St. Louis, Missouri, many residents of Madison County dream of forming a new, more conservative state by opening dialogue with neighboring counties, thus nurturing a separatist spirit that, while following the lines of ideological divide in the United States, is slowly taking root in the political landscape of Illinois. In 2020, a Paul Simon Institute poll showed that 50% of Republicans supported the idea of ​​making the greater Chicago area a city-state, to end its undue progressive influence on the rurality of the rest of the State.

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This text is published via our Perspectives section.

In 2015, a similar wind blew across several rural New York counties, including Sullivan, Delaware, Broome and Tioga, which sought to join neighboring Pennsylvania in fleeing anti-fracking environmental policies, according to local residents, by New York City Democrats. These desires for partition animate more or less structured movements in Arizona, Nevada, Vermont, Colorado and northern California, where rural conservative pockets seek to reinvent themselves under a new political representation by cutting themselves off from a large neighboring city to cling to a neighboring state more to the right, or by dreaming of becoming an autonomous region or a new state.

“The influence of national politics certainly fuels the divisions that crystallize in all of these movements, but the contemporary political divide is not the only one to explain them,” summarizes Adam M. Sowards, professor of history, in an interview. at the University of Idaho. Periodically, we see counties seeking to redraw their borders or change states, projects that are rarely successful, given the complexity of the process. »

The movement of a border or the creation of a new State must in fact receive the approval of the legislation of all the States affected by the partition and must, in addition, be validated by a majority vote of Congress in Washington.

“The divide has always existed,” says Matt McCaw, a spokesperson for the Greater Idaho movement, met at his home in Powell Butte, in Oregon's Crook County. “But in the last few years it’s gone too far. When I was younger, even if I did not agree with the idea of ​​​​increasing the minimum wage, I could live with a decision by the Democrats going in this direction. But when these decisions affect my freedom to go to church, the right to go see my family, to send my children to school, to wear or not a mask, when they affect abortion, the guns, my children’s sexuality… the moral stakes are simply too high and it becomes intolerable. »

He adds, “We live here without political representation in our values ​​and without the ability to achieve that since Western Oregon dominates the entire state. What our movement is saying is that there is certainly a better way of doing things to allow citizens to have a government in tune with their way of life, their values, and which will ensure that the temperature of our political lives, our anger and our frustration. »

A familiar refrain, but which, by multiplying on American territory, in this tense electoral year, and by finding increasingly fertile ground, now threatens much more than the positioning of a border on a map, believes the historian Adam M. Sowards. “Being part of a nation, or any group of people and their interests, means you don’t always get what you want,” he says. However, seeking to leave the nation, the State or the community because you do not control the levers of power seems to contravene the principles of our federal system and the duty of good neighborliness which governs this federation. Historically, many groups of Americans have been excluded from power, but they have shown much more patience and perseverance in gaining that power than we are seeing with these movements right now. »

This report was financed with the support of the Transat-Le Devoir.< International Journalism Fund /i>

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116