• Stars and their courses
    June 11,2013

    Since 1959, when Alaska and Hawaii joined the union, there have been 50 American states, and in recent years it has become commonplace to regard each of them as either “red” (predominantly conservative) or “blue” (predominantly liberal), based on their prevailing voting patterns.

    Obviously, no state is all red or all blue, and in fact the number of conservative and liberal voters in some states is so close, or so subject to change, that some political analysts label them “purple.” On Election Day the voting in these states is therefore more difficult to predict with accuracy.

    But is 50 the magic number? Perhaps not. The Christian Science Monitor recently published articles about unhappy conservatives in some Colorado counties and equally unhappy liberals in some Arizona counties talking about forming what would be our 51st and 52nd states. The same edition referred to similar debates in Texas, where the issue of secession has a longer history.

    As the newspaper noted, the road to forming a new state is a difficult one. That’s because of these words in the Constitution of the United States: “No new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”

    But it can be done, the Monitor added. According to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, this process “has been used successfully to create five states: Vermont (from New York, in 1791); Kentucky (from Virginia in 1792); Tennessee (from North Carolina, in 1796); Maine (from Massachusetts, in 1820); and West Virginia (from Virginia, in 1863).”

    And advocates take the subject seriously. Thursday, a website favored by pro-secession activists complained that Colorado’s Democrat-controlled Legislature had recently passed laws for stricter gun control, greater reliance on renewable energy in rural areas, and restraints on what some considered cruel treatment of livestock.

    “Our vision and our morals are no longer represented by the state (Legislature) and the current (governor’s) administration, and we think it’s time that we do take seriously what our options are,” one unhappy county commissioner declared. “This is just one of our options, but we will be moving forward with it.”

    In Arizona, the story’s the other way around. It is the liberals in Tucson who are fed up with the conservative governor and Legislature in Phoenix, according to the newspaper’s report.

    “There’s always been kind of a resentment that Phoenix dominates Arizona politics and therefore they tell us what to do,” a former Tucson-area Democratic Party chairman stated. “They say they don’t want the federal government to meddle in state politics, but they’re interfering with our county and municipal governments.”

    And the Arizona situation has its own special elements. Marshall Trimble, the state’s official historian, believes history has created some of the critical differences between Tucson and Phoenix. He cited Tucson’s European roots, dating to the late 1600s, and its affection for its Spanish, Mexican and Native American heritage. Phoenix didn’t come along until the 1860s and lacks that heritage.

    The agitation for secession, statehood or even independence may be spreading. Besides the Texans who would secede to escape the long reach of the federal government they dislike, there have been advocates of statehood for Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and even Long Island in New York. Some in Alaska have raised the possibility of pursuing independence.

    It’s probably a good thing Vermont bolted from New York when it did.

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