The push by 50 western Virginia counties to secede in 1863, forming West Virginia at the height of the Civil War, was led by a charismatic store-clerk-turned-lawyer who famously urged his supporters: “Cut the knot now! Cut it now! Apply the knife.”
West Virginia was the last state to break off from another. Now, 150 years later, a 49-year-old information technology consultant wants to apply the knife to Maryland’s five western counties. “The people are the sovereign,” says Scott Strzelczyk, leader of the fledgling Western Maryland Initiative , and the western sovereigns are fed up with Annapolis’s liberal majority, elected by the state’s other sovereigns.
“If you think you have a long list of grievances and it’s been going on for decades, and you can’t get it resolved, ultimately this is what you have to do,” says Strzelczyk, who lives in New Windsor, a historic town of 1,400 people in Carroll County. “Otherwise you are trapped.”
Strzelczyk’s effort is one of several across the country to separate significant portions of states from, as he puts it, “the dominant ruling class.” Nearly a dozen northern Colorado counties are the furthest along, with nonbinding referendums set for November ballots. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is making a move to join with parts of Wisconsin. Northern California counties want to form a state called Jefferson.
Historians, political scientists and the leaders of the movements say secession efforts are being fueled by irreconcilable differences on issues such as gun control, taxes, energy policy, gay marriage and immigration — all subjects of recent legislative efforts at state and federal levels. The notion of compromise is a non-starter. With secessionists, the term “final straw” comes up a lot.
“You don’t have to be a student of the details to know that people are just disgusted with what goes on these days,” says Kit Wellman, a political philosopher who studies secession at Washington University in St. Louis. “These people figure they are better off on their own if they could just be with like-minded folks.”
Secession is a difficult political fight to win. The U.S. Constitution allows regions to separate only with the approval of the state legislature and Congress, and over the years there have been hundreds of quixotic and unsuccessful efforts, according to Michael J. Trinklein, the author of “Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States that Never Made It.”
In the 1950s, Northern California tried to form the state of Shasta, to protect its fresh water. The builders of Mount Rushmore also wanted it to sit in a new state: Absaroka, a reference to a subrange of the Rocky Mountains. Eastern Shore residents pushed for the state of Chesapeake in the 1970s to retain tourist tax dollars.
More at link: Western Maryland secessionists seek to sever ties with the liberal Free State - The Washington Post
Of course, establishing the Republic of Redneckistan would require violating the Constitution they claim to love, but no biggie.