I’ve asserted more than once in this space that the government that is most relevant is that which is closest to the people. Each locality has its own unique set of circumstances and, in theory, voters will choose representatives that will be aligned with their beliefs, interests, standards and approach to the issues. It takes an engaged electorate to make that happen.
On the national level, opinion polls show that there is a staggering disconnect between voters and those chosen to represent us. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, only 6 percent believe that Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Clearly, something is broken, and I suspect that it won’t be long before that translates into surprises at the ballot box.
However, while Congress continues to slide into the abyss of negative public opinion, surprises are already happening, and they are happening where they are the most relevant, on the state and local level. To my mind, this is nothing short of revolutionary.
The recent recall election in Colorado is a case in point. Two Colorado state senators, John Morse, the president of the state Senate, and Angela Giron were removed from office, both Democrats in Democrat-leaning districts, because of their role in enacting gun-control legislation. This is the first time that Colorado has ever recalled a legislator.
During the recall campaign there were 2,490 television ads, not one by the Republican opposition. This prompted analysts to speculate that TV advertising is becoming increasingly irrelevant in local elections. In any case, what happened in Colorado was grassroots and spontaneous. People had had enough.
The ousted senators received a reported $3 million in campaign contributions between them, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent an additional $350,000 on the campaign, with California’s Eli Broad kicking in an additional $250,000. Giron’s previous winning campaign spent only $71,136 and Morse’s $112,770.
And that isn’t the only news coming out of Colorado. According to an article in the Greeley Tribune, the Weld County Commission has voted to join seven neighboring counties in an effort to secede from the state and form a new state called North Colorado. The impetus stems from recent legislation — HB 252 — regarding renewable energy standards that locals feel put rural communities at a disadvantage. While it is unlikely that the secession effort will go anywhere, it has prompted Gov. Hickenlooper to sign an executive order to prevent the rural energy bill’s implementation, even though he signed it into law. Further, there will be a nonbinding resolution regarding secession that voters will have an opportunity to vote on.
It is tempting to dismiss the Colorado secession story as frivolous. Whether it is frivolous or not, it isn’t isolated. The Huffington Post ran an article on Sept. 15 called “Why a secessionist movement is brewing in California.” As if these two stories weren’t enough, an article appeared earlier this month in the Washington Post that brings the issue closer to home.
It descries the secession movement involving the five western counties of Maryland — Allegheny, Garrett, Carroll, Frederick and Washington. It’s called the Western Maryland Initiative and was started on Facebook by technology consultant Scott Strzelczyk. “If we have more states,” he says, “we can all go live in states that best represent us, and then we can get along.”
Getting along is important, and, in fact, that is what America was originally all about. It’s called voting with your feet. It’s been happening here in West Virginia for decades. In fact, the Washington Post article begins with a reference to West Virginia as the last state to successfully secede from another state. Ironically, on Sept. 18 there was an editorial in The (Baltimore) Sun written by Thomas F. Schaller, who teaches political science at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. In the editorial, Schaller suggests that Strzelczyk is a racist and that he should move to West Virginia.
Folks, you really can’t make this stuff up! States Schaller: “The secessionist fervor is just a local variant of the paranoid spasms of rage that have racked white conservatives since the dawn of the tea party movement … West Virginia is a short drive.”
Schaller’s editorial exposes how tone-deaf the progressive movement has become and how fortunate it is that it appears to be running out of steam. His polemics exposes his ignorance and is disconcerting, considering that he teaches political science. Somebody should point out to him that businesses are moving out of Maryland in droves, many of them headed for Texas. Anecdotally, I know quite a few people who live here in the Eastern Panhandle who consider themselves “refugees from Maryland.”
So, after all, perhaps we should be grateful for Schaller’s intolerance. Maryland’s loss is our gain.
— Elliot Simon writes from Harpers Ferry