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The 51st State of Mind

What does the latest secessionist threat tell us about Oregon’s cohesiveness?

What could be more American than deciding that a faraway government is oppressive, or unresponsive, or unrepresentative… and then breaking off to form a new one: of, by, and for your people?

That’s precisely what a few folks from Hood River are talking about — or talking about talking about. It’s all very preliminary, and there are plenty of practical reasons to think that a 51st state of East Oregon or Jefferson — or perhaps keeping the same nice round number of 50 but moving Idaho’s border west — isn’t going to happen any time soon. But it would be a mistake to dismiss the frustrations behind such talk as simply idle chatter.

The frustrations are real. They revolve around questions of individual freedom and governmental regulation, of services and taxes, of a real (or perceived) cultural divide, of growth in the Willamette Valley and economic stagnation in much of the rest of the state, and above all, through it all, land use policy.

Secessionist tendencies, real or fictional, are nothing new in this part of the world, but what does the latest flare-up tell us about the Oregon’s cohesiveness? Do the tensions map easily along political lines of Democrat and Republican? East and West? Rich and poor? Valley vs. everything else? How are we divided? And how are we in this together?


  • Paul Koch: Consultant based in Hood River
  • Pat Caldwell: Editor of the Argus Observer
  • Lynne Peterson: Chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners

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