Now that the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors has voted 4-1 to secede from California and form their own state, all that remains is similar action from sympathetic neighboring counties and approval from the state Legislature and Congress.
They can almost taste victory, and liberty from the tyrannical rule in Sacramento that has kept this conservative enclave in Northern California from living the good life—free of onerous regulations, bureaucracy, fire prevention fees, water rights restrictions and San Francisco linkage. They want to form a union with other like-minded rural counties north and south of the border with Oregon, and call their new state, Jefferson. They already have a Wikipedia page and are planning their next move.
“Many proposed laws are unconstitutional and deny us our God-given rights,” Happy Camp resident Gabe Garrison reportedly said at the board meeting Tuesday, where about 100 residents gave almost unanimous show-of-hands support for secession. “The state of Jefferson is where I want to raise my son,” Kayla Brown said.
Resident attitudes reflect, to some extent, the frustration of living in a rural community that is answerable to a state which is attentive to a much larger urban electorate. But the rural life that compels their desire for independence is also the tie that binds them to the state. “Siskiyou is one of the largest counties with one of the smallest populations,” Mark Lovelace, a county supervisor in nearby Humboldt County, told a local reporter. “It is also full of state roads that they won't be able to maintain, and federal land.”
Judging by a story in Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times, the county is not alone in feeling disconnected from the state. Although there are no Republicans holding top statewide-elected office, including two U.S. Senate seats, and GOP voter registration is at an all-time low of 29%, Republicans hold a 47%-45% edge among the state’s 2,500 mayors and city council members.
The Times cited a study by GrassrootsLab, a political research firm, that showed Republican political strength extending beyond the conservative east side of the state—which stretches from the Mexican border through the Central Valley to the edge of Sacramento—and into more liberal counties like Los Angeles and Alameda.
Robb Korinke, a principal at GrassrootsLab, told the Times that Republican politicians are successful at the local level because they talk about public safety, traffic and schools. It’s when they move to a larger stage and talk about issues like immigration, gay rights, global warming, health care, infrastructure development, and, uh, secession that they fail among the electorate.
Siskiyou County is also not alone in taking action, albeit symbolic, about secession. According to the New York Times, more than 200 proposals have been floated to break up the state since its founding in 1850, but nothing much has ever come of the movement.
Several counties took non-binding votes in the 1990s to cut their California ties, and a 1941 effort to form the state of Jefferson was waylaid by the bombing of Pearl Harbor and U.S. entry into World War II.