Debbie Price, 64, a resident of Joseph, a small rural Oregon community near the state line, belongs to a local movement that wants to rezone the eastern part of the state to divide and unite Idaho, a bastion of more conservative views. Can To whom he feels closest to himself.
“Maybe I’m old-fashioned (…) but I don’t want to make progress or try to go in the direction the world is moving,” the retired legal assistant told AFP under the bright sunshine.
“There are a lot more freedoms in Idaho than here,” Price says, however, questioning Oregon’s strict gun laws as well as its flexible drug policy, decriminalization of abortion, and protecting the rights of people in the LGBTQ+ community. .
“I want everything to stay as it is,” Price says, without change as he is responsible for the “woke” (a term used for more progressive groups or trends) agenda. Therefore, he commends Idaho officials for criminalizing abortion.
Oregon hasn’t elected a Republican governor in 40 years. But the political divide is visible geographically: Rural counties vote for conservative Republicans, while cities, which concentrate most of the population in the state’s west, are overwhelmingly Democratic.
– “Great Idaho” –
In rural areas, many voters feel more distant from the urban elite living on the Pacific Coast than in a neighboring state. So a proposal to create a “Greater Idaho” that would include half of Oregon has gained strength.
Eleven of the fifteen eastern counties have passed local laws forcing government officials to regularly debate the terms of a hypothetical separation. On Tuesday, Wallowa County, where Debbie Price lives, will vote on a similar measure.
In an atmosphere of desperation in this sparsely populated region of the United States, banners such as “move the Oregon border” and “Trump 2024” abound, referring to next year’s presidential election.
Residents of these communities feel that laws emanating from the cities ignore their rural lives.
They demand environmental policies such as protection of wolves, which they see as a threat to their livestock, or restrictions on logging activities, which they see as a cause of the decline of the timber industry.
They also question the emphasis on alternatives to the use of fossil fuels.
“Banning diesel is a terrible idea, I think it’s going to destroy our economy,” says Garrett Mahon, a logger who logs on his family’s land for a century.
“A lot of ranchers here can’t use battery-powered equipment,” says Mahon, showing off the powerful saws that cut down large trees.
Mahone, who, being a hunter, always carries a semi-automatic rifle with him, finds a final separation impossible.
“I don’t think we can really separate from Oregon. It’s something that will take a lot of work. But maybe, at this point, maybe they’ll listen to us.”
But for now, “Greater Idaho” seems like nothing more than a dream.
Changing the limit would require approval from the Idaho and Oregon legislatures, as well as approval from Congress in Washington. A highly unlikely scenario in a United States with a long history of secessionism: the Civil War spawned West Virginia in 1863, and California faced more than 200 secession attempts.
Democrats scoff at separatist proposal
Recently during a picnic, he was giving moving boxes to those who were advocating for changing the map.
But in every joke there is a layer of truth.
“American democracy is in crisis,” said Devon Maxwell, a 27-year-old lawyer who is a Democrat. “There are too many culture wars.”
“What the movement for Greater Idaho does is worsen the situation and the divisions that already exist in the community.”
The Idaho House of Representatives passed a resolution in February to discuss a possible secessionist project.
This has encouraged segregation advocates like 67-year-old farmer Kurt Howell, who believes the idea can be implemented beyond Oregon.
“We can change the borders of the West (…) it is easier to live with like-minded people.”
Howell advocates a peaceful secession, but “if nothing better happens in Oregon in the next five or 10 years, things could get much worse.”