Baja Arizona and State Secession



Every once in awhile, you hear the talk from Northern Virginia about how they pay more into state government than they get back, that Richmond bleeds them dry, and that they should secede from the Commonwealth writ large and become the Glorious People’s Republic of Northern Virginia.

…or that we should trade northern Virginia for southern Maryland.
…or that West Occupied Virginia should return to the fold.
…or that the Hampton Roads as “Virginia’s cul-de-sac” should break away.
…or that Delmarva should just magically appear.

The list continues ad infinitum.  It’s not an old tradition.  State secession movements are as old as Virginia itself, and even more dominant if you include events such as Bacon’s Rebellion, Turner’s Rebellion, the little independent “kingdoms” in the hollows of Appalachia, not to mention native American tribes who are still seeking federal recognition.  So strong is the tradition in Virginia that our forefathers, when they settled and established the Republic of Texas, made absolutely sure they could split the state by treaty.

Of course, there’s always the politically driven secession movement that crops up from time to time… and in today’s installment, it’s in southern Arizona:

Before secession could occur, it would have to be approved separately by the Legislature, and by a second, binding referendum by residents of the proposed state.

If the Legislature refused, organizers could try to sidestep lawmakers with a statewide referendum. If both the Legislature and Pima County voters agreed, then it would be up to the U.S. Congress to grant Baja Arizona formal statehood.

The modern concept of Baja Arizona dates back to 1965, according to Hugh Holub, a local attorney widely credited with coining the term that year during anti-war protests at the University of Arizona. He supports the current effort.

“It sure sends a message to the rest of the world that we aren’t like the folks in Maricopa (County),” he said, referring to the state’s population center and capital.

But a more historical precedent can be found in Arizona’s origins as a U.S. territory, more than half a century before statehood was granted in 1912. The northern bulk of Arizona was ceded by Mexico to the United States in 1848, six years before the lower portion of the territory, south of the Gila River, was separately acquired in 1854 under the Gadsden Purchase.

“It should have been its own state from the get-go,” Holub said.

In the case of Baja Arizona, this has more to do with a bunch of liberals upset that McCain won and their candidate lost.  Bummer, folks…

I’ll leave alone the utter chaos  and absurdity that would ensue if every locality or sub-section of a state that had a disagreement with the rest of the polity advocated for secession — imagine a Senate that outnumbered the U.S. House.  Still, when you begin to look at arbitrarily drawn lines for states despite regions, it’s not entirely inconceivable that this sort of thing could happen.  Jefferson had some pretty wild ideas.  Heck — there’s even a proposed State of Jefferson on the border between Oregon and California.

Let’s not forget our brethren in West Virginia… or western Virginia… or “the occupied territories” or what have you.  I’ll admit — I’m a bit jealous that they took some of the most beautiful parts of the Commonwealth away.  West Virginia was, for all intents and purposes, the last state secession movement, and a terrible model.  For the more esoterically minded, it is a nice quibble that ranks alongside the great “what ifs” of history.  “What if” the two states reunited?

One can dream just as readily as one could dream about a Constantinople that resisted the Turks, or Rome that withstood the barbarians, or a British Empire still in existence.  Interesting thoughts… but a particularly useless exercise rooted more in romanticism than reality.

Such is the fate of most of these state secession movements.  Curious ideas, even romantic ones.  I doubt we will ever see a Baja Arizona or State of Jefferson on our maps anytime soon, much less a North Virginia to compliment the West.  Still… one can dream.

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