The Three-State Solution


Last month I mentioned a bill that would sever Washington into two states separated by the Cascade Mountains. Now The Stranger, the more alternative of Seattle's two alternative weeklies, is endorsing the idea.

The whole piece is worth reading, but I want to zero in on a passage close to the end:

It's true that if Eastern Washington became its own (red) state, we would be adding two new conservative senators to the national political mix. That though is easily solvable: Washington, D.C. has been pressing for statehood for years, but the idea has never moved forward because Republicans don't want to create another liberal state. So, in a modern Missouri Compromise, the feds could create two new states at once, a conservative one over here, and a liberal one in the other Washington.

I've been idly advocating a similar idea for years, except it involved liberating western Maryland rather than eastern Washington. Alternately we could free the Eastern Shore, but in 10 years it might be dominated by Democratic commuters; before you know it we'd be facing a joint GOP/Earth First! plot to blow up the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Bill Kauffman makes the case for splitting up California, New York, and Kansas here.

NEXT: Colin Powell: Biggest Pantload In State Department History?

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  1. While we are at it lets go ahead and split Texas into five states. Its too damn big to drive across in one day anyway! Bet at least four out of the five would be red states. By the way, where did the colors come from? Always associated red with the left instead of the right.

  2. Guyk, Re: associating red with the left, etc.
    So did everyone else until some no-nothing at NBC decided to color his map in a most contrarian way.

  3. The original thought was that the capital city shouldn’t be a part of a state.

    Since that rationale is no longer deemed pertinent, wouldn’t the most logical solution be for the jurisdiction of the land (and the votes of DC citizens) to be returned back to the states who ceded the land to the federal government?

  4. I want to add Michigan to the list

    I think we can thank Nancy Reagan for that.

  5. Guyk, only if they manage to put all the major cities into one state. The urban areas are as liberal as anywhere else.

  6. Shem: I don’t know about that! I was raised in N.Texas and Southern Okla. That’s bible belt country including the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area. You can bet the foot washing Baptists will stay with the RED. Now, Austin and Houston are different.

  7. NoStar,

    Well, that’s already the case with Virginia. What you would have left is a tiny of DC proper.

  8. Guyk: The new state along the Mexican border would be deep blue.

    NoStar: Not really. Better to give both D.C. and rural Maryland self-government than to lump them all into one big state where everyone will be at each other’s throats.

    As for that original rationale, you can still keep the plots of land that the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court sit on outside the governing state’s jurisdiction. Kinda like how UN headquarters in New York is technically independent of the Big Apple.

  9. GUYK, I don’t know if you picked the number five at random, but Texas theoretically has the right to do exactly what you described: divide itself into as many as five separate states. See

  10. Gerrymandering isn’t just carving up districts, Smerdy; it’s the sort of carving where you give someone a district half a mile wide and 100 miles long. It’s rather different from the hunt for natural borders, which simply makes federalism more workable. Ideally, the Bible-thumpers won’t be making rules for San Francisco, the P.C.ers won’t be making rules for Provo, and neither one will be making rules for Vegas.

  11. What Jesse just said.

  12. Jesse,
    Keeping the White House, Capital building, Supreme Courthouse, and other Federal Buildings and monuments under Federal jurisdiction is logical.

    Repatriating the citizens of DC to the states seems logical too. It does seem doubtful that any state would welcome Marion Berry (although Oregon did name a variety of Blackberry for him.)

  13. Repatriating the citizens of DC to the states seems logical too.

    Give Byrd another 10 years in office, and the whole city will wind up in West Virginia.

  14. Jesse and Thoreau, I have to disagree.

    a) Since these new states will be sending people to the U.S Senate the Bible-thumpers will end up making rules for S.F. and everwhere else and the P.C. types for Provo and everywhere else.

    b) I do realize that this isn’t technically the same as gerrymandering. I was hoping the “in principle” would take care of that. 🙂

  15. I nominate FLORIDA, but I insist on drawing the lines.

    Starting out my front door, up north about six miles to the front door of Rep Michael Bilirakis’s (R) office, then take a hard right across the top of Tampa Bay and then down I75 to Sarasota, a hard left cutting across to oh….Melbourne maybe on accounta I have lots of friends there and like to visit…then everything south of that.

    I’ll leave Disney, JAX, Tallahassee and that Redneck Riviera to the Repubs and JEB!

    Call me when you’re ready for me to uncap my Sharpie for the new state map, please.

  16. SR: yep! I knew that Texas in theory has the option to devide into five states. Part of the deal when the Republic of Texas joined the Union. But, there is some argument if Texas still has that right because it is not mentioned when Texas was allowed back in the union after reconstruction. Actually I prefer Texas just as it is–

  17. STEVEINCLEARWATER: I am north of you about 60 miles off a couple of klicks off death highway 19.Ain’t nothing wrong with the banana republik of Florida except Miami/Dade county.

  18. Split MA in half and graft the western half onto NH and graft that postage stamp of a state, RI, onto eastern MA. Then put a ten year ban on anyone from the eastern half moving to NH unless they swear they voted yes on the referendum to kill the MA income tax and own at least one firearm. Forget keeping Mexicans out of America. Keep those liberal locusts out of NH.

  19. The last time this topic appeared, I proposed the idea that occasionally re-drawing political boundaries might be a good substitute for outright revolution. If we redraw boundaries, people with common interests will theoretically have their power concentrated, and they can effect better solutions to their problems.

    If it turns out that the boundaries makes things worse, we can re-aggregate into larger units. If it makes no difference, we can redraw the borders again and see if the newest map helps any.

    The boundaries west of the Mississippi are in particular need of redrawing. These boundaries are entirely arbitrary. Further, they are over 100 years old. Are we to assume that 19th Century politicians achieved perfection every single time they drew a boundary? I can’t imagine a libertarian ever admitting that a government action achieved perfection on the first attempt. We’ve amended the Constitution 27 times, so there should be nothing sacred about current boundaries.

    I propose redrawing borders at least once, but no more than 3 times per any hundred year period, and the redrawn borders must exist at least 25 years to see how things are working.

    You can think of this as reapportionment on steroids.

  20. If aliens invaded and wiped out DC we wouldn’t have this problem. 🙂

  21. Mad Mapper: are not most borders arbitrary? Take a look a the banana republik of Florida. Why isn’t the border draw as a straight line accross the penensula. How did Okla get a panhandle? Why a N. and S. dakota instead of just one state? As far as that goes, look at some street maps in some cities. Looks as if the streets were laid out after a long night with Jim Beam and Coors chasers.

  22. Not so much wanting to break up a state, but I’d like to transfer Philadelphia county from Pennsylvania to New Jersey.

  23. “(although Oregon did name a variety of Blackberry for him.)”

    Not to be a scold, but marionberries are named after Marion County, Oregon…which is the main place they are grown.

    -Oregon dlc

  24. Mad Mapper: are not most borders arbitrary?

    Yup. Which is why blind fealty to them is so amazing to me. Let’s adjust them to try to make better matches of like interests.

  25. Remember the Alamo!
    Remember Taiwan.
    The South’s gonna rise again!
    e pluribus unum

  26. “Now, Austin and Houston are different.”

    I’m not so sure about Austin, though. I was watching the episode of “City Confidential” on Austin and the Madeline Murray O’Hare case and at the end they mentioned how during the 90s lots of conservatives have moved into the area and have started to gain influence over the local culture. Hell, they even interviewed a local gun owner who said that Austin was becoming “uptight.”

    Ancedotal? Perhaps.

  27. For more on the possibility of creating more states, see:

  28. GUYK, good to hear from a neighboring central Floridian….if you happen to be one of many who post here who enjoys helping to reform failed public drug policies, I’d love to hear from you via the email in my post profile…..

    Meanwhile, in answer to your question about Panhandles, I’m not sure about Florida, but as a 37 year native of Texas, I DO KNOW why a panhandle was needed in OK.

    The only thing that keeps Texas from breaking away and floating off in the Gulf of Mexico is because Oklahoma Sucks!

    (courtesy of my two younger siblings who graduated from UT Law School)….

  29. The problem with statehood for DC is that the Constitution seems to require a federal district–see Article II, Section 8 giving Congress “exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District”. Some statehood advocates propose to solve this by limiting the District to a few major federal buildings and streets connecting them, and making the rest of it the State of Columbia. The problem with this is that the rump-District (i.e., the small area *not* in the new state) would still have three elctoral votes (cast by a handful of people) unless the 23rd Amendment is repealed. The same difficulty applies to giving back most of DC to Maryland.

  30. No seriously. Either the western states need to split up or the eastern states need to consolidate. The former seems more plausible than the latter.

  31. First of all what about carving up the United States into, at a minimum, 5 different countries? You cannot have real representative government and a meaningful democratic process in a country with 300 million people.

  32. Vanya: I hope that we in the USA never get a “real democratic process.” Contrary to popular believe this country is a republic, not a democracy. Majority rule in short, SUCKS. Democracy without a constitutional protection for minority and property rights is nothing more than tyrany by the majority.

  33. dlc,
    I wondered if anyone would call me on my joke.

  34. If memory serves, there was some sentiment for Eastern Washington to join with Northern Idaho and Western Montana in a new state. I seem to recall the name “Columbia” bantered about. Each of these regions is dominated by “the other half” of their respective states. The problem for Mr. Walker’s Maryland is a bit different because “The Old Line State” has a resentful Eastern Shore and resentful western counties. Redrawing state boundaries seems a perfectly reasonable proposition, so of course, it will go absolutely nowhere.

  35. Can anyone post proof that (say) upstate New York “subsidizes” NYC? I’ve read the exact opposite, many times (and not just in the New York Times).

  36. Rhywun: I don’t know about that but I do know that everyone that I have met from upstate NY is quick to point out that they are not from NYC! In fact they seem insulted if you even ask if they have visited there. Guess they don’t get along to well. Well, I woiuldn’t get along anywhere that voted Hilliary into any kind of office-even dog catcher and she did manage to catch a dog, huh?

  37. Why all these grandiose schemes?

    Keep the borders.

    2 possibilities:
    1 Use proportional representation. This eliminates the ‘first past the post’ problem causing misrepresentations. It also prevents P.R. from ever happening, since the pols in power have a vested interes in staying in power.

    2 City-states. Just make every city over a certain population a state in and of itself.

    SO NYC, Boston, Philly, Baltimore, Newark, LA, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Seattle, Phoenix, etc, would all be states.

    another idea might be increasing the numbers of members in the House of Representatives, (aka HoR’s), by reducing the size of districts to 10,000 persons, like they used to be.

  38. GUYK, yeah, not only does (1) New York state feature the typical urban/rural divide, but also (2) upstate New York (past Albany) is a culture closer to the Midwest than the Northeast. For example, people from Buffalo and Rochester have the same accent as people from Chicago. Reason (2) explains why even Buffalo hates NYC.

  39. Let’s adjust them to try to make better matches of like interests.

    can someone illustrate for me why drawing boundaries on ideological lines is good — implying that the compromise and pluralism necessary in having diverse interests living together is bad?

    i mean, isn’t this whole argument essentially in favor of creating islands of political segregation? and isn’t that fundamentally against the principle of a pluralistic society? shouldn’t we, in fact, be attempting (if anything at all) to draw borders that make all states purple?

  40. gaius marius : Purple? only the emperor can wear purple.

    Oh hell, the only reason anyone would want to redefine borders to begin with is for political advantage. The USA is highly mobil. Floria for example is growing in leaps and bounds by by some estimates about 10,000 people a month if not more. Other states are losing population and some remain somewhat static. The point is that changing borders will not really prove much inn the long run unless it is done, say every ten years. And whether one likes the changes would depend where one stood politically. best to leave well enough alone and thank the ancestors for the electoral college.

  41. Why all these grandiose schemes?

    Because they’re fun! We all know that they’re not going to happen, so we might as well start skylarking…

    Along those lines, I’d like to combine Indiana and Louisiana into one state, called “Iana.”

  42. South Doklahoma. Iovada. Texachusetts. Pennsylisiana.

    I like it.

  43. RHYWHUN, the past 15 years of aggressive expansion in upstate New York of the private and public prison industrial complex and related support economy has given quite a boost to the influence of that part of the state compared to the lower state Apple and surrounding environs.

  44. I really don’t know if it would be a good thing for states to divide. On the federal level, I suspect that divvying up a lot of states would probably be a wash in terms of the Senate. Some new states would go Dem, some GOP, and while it probably wouldn’t work out exactly even it would be pretty close.

    On the state level, a whole lot of minority factions would be satisfied with their new local self-determination. But small town gays in eastern Washington and urban Republicans in a liberal offshoot of the state formerly known as Texas might be upset. Meaning that there’d be a brand new bunch of minority factions to get angry.

    In the end, no matter how the lines are drawn there will be people who didn’t get their way. The solution is to draw new lines as needed to remedy the worst cases but otherwise learn to get along by having states respect the prerogatives of local governments and local governments respect the prerogatives of individuals.

    All of which is a hell of a lot easier said than done.

    Oh, well, at least it’s fun to draw fantasy maps with funny names!

  45. Speaking of secession-

    Santa Barbara County is in the midst of a secession battle. It will go on the ballot in 2006. The southern coastal region of the county is very liberal and very anti-growth. It also tends to pay more taxes, although that may have more to do with higher property values than higher incomes. The northern (mostly inland) region is more conservative and doesn’t pay as much in taxes.

    The basic issue is growth. The southern coastal region is a thin layer of land sandwiched between oceans and mountains. This leads to high property values and a greater perception that growth must be limited (mostly because, well, it’s already limited anyway by geography). The northern region has more land than they know what to do with. MEChA could do its reconquista up there (as Lonewacko predicts) and there’s so much space that nobody would notice. Every crazy pop star in the country could build his own amusement park and there’d still be room left over.

    What’s funny is that the south county opposes the split even though they have the most to lose from staying together: The south county pays more in taxes per capita than it receives in county services, and the north county pays less in taxes per capita than it receives in services. Right now, the south county is compensated for this money drain by having the power. The 2 regions have roughly equal populations (the north had a tiny edge during the last round of gerrymandering), but gerrymandering has given the south control of the Board of Supervisors. (Although that’s starting to change.) But in the next round of gerrymandering control will be placed firmly in the hands of the north county, at which point the south county will pay the bills but have no real clout.

    Some people that I know in the south county fret about what the north county will do to the environment if left to their own devices. What they don’t understand is that with current population trends the north county will do that regardless pretty soon, and without a county split they’ll be able to impose their will on the south as well.

    They also fret about how the new county will face a fiscal crisis. Yeah, well, the south county will be sitting pretty.

    It’s funny how the liberals’ desire to save their neighbors from themselves might lead to their conservative neighbors running the show and sending the liberals the bill for it.

    If I’m here in 2006 I’ll vote in favor of the county split, even though it means that the south county will remain under the control of the anti-growth folks responsible for rents increasing faster than inflation. (I realize that rent in Santa Barbara will NEVER be cheap, but in a free market the rent would find an equilibrium and then keep pace with inflation.) I’m all for letting people make their own mistakes, and I think it’s better if each region make its own mistakes rather than one region impose its mistakes on the other.

  46. before you know it we’d be facing a joint GOP/Earth First! plot to blow up the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

    Jesse, would you be interested in working as a writer for season 5 of 24?

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