You might think that talk of forming a new state east of the Cascades was just that, talk. But it’s not.
You might say the 51st state movement is only quiet on the western front. Many in Western Washington stopped paying attention to House Joint Memorial 4000, which essentially calls for splitting the state down the Cascade Crest.
Many west of the Cascades stopped paying attention because they don’t believe 509ers could make an agriculturally based 51st state fly. It’s also because they are currently focused on what lawmakers in Olympia are doing on things like paying for our state’s ever-growing bureaucracy, increasing state regulations and managing public opinion on gender identity.
There hasn’t been much on the topic out of Congress, either, in the “other Washington.”
Meanwhile east of the Cascades, a Facebook group remains very active in its effort to carve the state of “Liberty” out of our current state. And that group is doing much more than posting on Facebook. Members have broken up in a variety of committees working on everything from bylaws and a state enacting clause to the state flag.
This week, the organization’s design committee was expected to review and possibly unveil submissions for the proposed state seal and state flag. But the closing date has been pushed back to next Tuesday.
You and I may be able to get a glimpse of them next Thursday. That’s when an announcement is planned for the winning designs.
The planned announcement will come at 4 p.m. on Patriot Radio, KSPO FM 106.5 — for those who can pick up the channel.
The rest of us will have to check out the “Join the Movement for the 51st State” Facebook group. The group is expected to post the designs sometime after the radio announcement.
But if you want to see the design, you’ll have to join the closed group, which already has nearly 2,000 members.
But don’t scoff at the unveiling just because you haven’t heard much else. The organization has planned it that way.
Behind the scenes, and generally off the radar of much of the state’s media, there are many other related activities going on.
If you’re in the Spokane area, there’s a lot of chatter about the idea of creating the 51st state. Some is serious, other tongue-in-cheek.
Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, has been known on his podcasts to say he is broadcasting from the capitol of “free Washington and the future capitol of the state of Liberty.”
Shea is very big on saying Liberty would be an agricultural state, with an economy akin to possibly Montana, North Dakota or even Wyoming. He also points out that the eastside of the Cascades is also rich in electrical generation, and therefore could be an economic powerhouse retailing electricity to the rest of the West, with a much lower cost of living than the Puget Sound region.
Other volunteers are already planning social media campaigns, strategizing on lobbying for statehood and developing guidelines on how to start and address financial issues that will arise along the way.
But while their efforts are alive and well, there are a lot of detractors — even in Spokane. And all you have to do is take a quick look on the Internet to find some of the jokes — state animal Bigfoot, state tree a cell tower, state flower marijuana, you get the picture.
But the fact that opponents are giving so much time to trying to discredit the idea tells me the 51st state movement is alive and well.
And it’s not just here, east of the Cascades.
There are groups forming in Eastern Oregon, Northern California, Northeast Colorado and elsewhere, all pitching themselves as the 51st state. But so far, I haven’t been able to find any of the others where volunteers have taken up the mantle so intensely as to start planning everything right down to designating a state bird.
One things for sure, the movement to bring government closer to home isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. — not here in Eastern Washington, anyway. The 51st state movement is alive and well, and maybe even flourishing, even though we don’t see it in our every day lives.
— Roger Harnack is the publisher and editor of The Daily Sun.