10 May 2011

Baja Arizona? The Gall of Gadsden

Some voters from Pima County Arizona are so frustrated with the political direction of the rest of their state that they are seeking to secede from the Sunset State.  The area roughly corresponds to the Southern Arizona portion of the “Gadsden Purchase”, which was a peaceful treaty transfer of territory between the United States and Mexico in 1854 to facilitate a southern route for a transcontinental railroad. 

A group of lawyers from the Democrat bastion of Tucson have launched a petition drive to include a non-binding secession proposition for “Baja Arizona”  for the November, 2012 general election for Pima County and possibly Santa Cruz County.  In order to qualify for the ballot, the Start Our State organizers must round up 48,000 valid voter signatures by July 5th.  

If this proposition drive is successful, it would only be the start of an arduous process.  The Arizona Legislature would need to sign off on the secession, and then the “Baja Arizona” break-off would need to win approval in a binding statewide referendum.  The chances of all of that occurring is pretty slim, particularly for “Alto” Arizona, which gained a Congressional seat from the 2010 Census.                                                                                           
In the abstract, a case can be made for “Baja Arizona” as its land mass would be larger than four states and its population greater than five states, including Alaska. But over half of the 980,000 inhabitants live in the city of Tuscon, which is (currently) Arizona’s second largest city.  Another 75,000 live in the Tucson suburbs.  But the rest of the population is scattered in the sparsely populated Arizona Sonoma desert. 

There have only been two successful state splits in American history.  West Virginia secession was associated with the War Between the States and Maine’s statehood was part of the Missouri Compromise.  Contingent to the admission of the Republic of Texas to American statehood, it has the right to split up into five states, but it is dubious if the Lone State State will exercise that option at this late date.

When considering the rationale for a Gadsden secession, it seems more like partisan Pima County pique than lack of representation.  While Arizona statewide party representation is 35.8% Republican, 31.6% Democrat, in Pima County Democrats outpace Republicans by a 38% to 31% margin.  The Start Our State mission is: 

To establish a new state in Southern Arizona free of the un-American, unconstitutional machinations of the Arizona legislature and to restore our region’s credibility as a place welcoming to others, open to commerce, and friendly to its neighbors.

Those are not bread and butter issues but partisan pushback to the initiatives that Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ) and the conservative Arizona Legislature have done regarding Immigration, Health Care, and Candidate Qualifications.  It also seems like a reaction against the aggressive policing in Maricopa County by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
My cynical suspicions is that Secession Proposition is driven less for successful passage than to provide partisan political theater that should be a safe state for the eventual Republican Presidential nominee.  Additionally, such a local wedge issue should light a fire for liberals to go to the polls.  It also may have an ancillary intention of creating controversy by the participation of “undocumented” voters.  Or it could be just to stop Tea Party proponents from appropriating the Gadsden Flag.

At a time when there are serious challenges to the American way of life with porous borders, bankrupt state coffers and the costs of the growing burdens of a bureaucratic nanny state, it seems silly to exert such energy on this Pima County pipe dream.  If Pima County liberals do not like the directions of government, garner a majority and change the policies rather than threaten to secede over such partisan slim pickings. 

No comments: