Keep It Rural

By Bryce Oates – Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Idaho Is in Recruiting Mode? The Inland Northwest and a Changing Politics. (Sort of.)

Much like last week, but for very different reasons, I’m going to take the first segments of today’s newsletter to describe how events, politics and the slower more meandering activities in rural Western communities impact the national political mood. Today we focus on the much-discussed rural-urban divide and the ballyhooed proposal amongst conservative blue-state separatists to grow a conservative Idaho.

By way of context, I want to start by saying that I’m not a person who’s very “in touch” with the on-the-ground Idaho political scene. I’ve been in and around Idaho, primarily as a public lands hiker and swimmer, as well as a rare visitor to Boise (in Idaho terms, “the big city”). And I can confirm that Idaho is and should-be considered a “rural state,” even if the official data sets it in the 2/3 urban to 1/3 rural zone.

Mostly, I want to be clear that part of the reason I’m considering Idaho this week is that it’s a rural state being bandied about by other rural communities as a potential hub for rural/red-state political refugees. Rural counties in Washington, Oregon and California, for instance, have all promoted a sort of “fleeing-alignment” with Idaho for various reasons. Some rural people, from the rural parts of these West Coast states, are calling for leaving their original state boundaries and re-orienting around the long-shot “Greater Idaho” configuration.

There’s a lot of internet electrons being consumed to address the idea, including this newsletter. Northern California’s “State of Jefferson” secessionist effort is a longstanding example, though it’s fair to say that the proponents would much rather have their own sovereign state (if not country). I’ve traveled and visited and reported in this region quite often, and the local support is evident in road signs and more. Hell, even local NPR affiliates are grouped together under the “Jefferson Public Radio” banner.

I figure it’s worth keeping an eye on these efforts, as well as the within-Idaho politics such as the Governor’s race featuring Ammon Bundy. As Mother Jones reports, Bundy has taken his anti-public sector/anti-public lands message from Southern Utah throughout the West. He’s landed in Idaho, and is trying to leverage the anti-vaccination “Patriot” message to the masses.

Why Idaho? Ammon Bundy says that Idaho is the right choice for anti-government types because,

“Bundy’s platform to ‘Keep Idaho, Idaho’ hits on many of the GOP’s favorite issues, including eliminating income and property taxes, reclaiming federal lands for the state, promoting ‘health freedom,’ and turning Idaho into a tax haven.”

I’m not very sure how a rural area without property taxes or income taxes pays for schools or public health services or emergency professionals or roads or anything like that, but I digress.

I also don’t figure that a gigantic Northern California-Eastern Oregon-Eastern Washington mega-state is likely. But I would be for any sort of re-organization that allows things like a re-oriented Idaho to be allowed along with creating new states in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. So maybe we could expand Idaho while also increasing the number of states from 50 to 52.

I don’t know, Keep It Rural readers. Maybe we could have an open mind about such things. I think there’s even room for it from the people who keep a pocket Constitution available to us, like me and Ammon Bundy.

Rural Reading List

Here’s the rural news you might have missed this week, or maybe need to be reminded of, outside of the previously discussed mischief. Have a look:

Q&A: 23-Year-Old Rural Organizer Anderson Clayton on Making Change and Coming Home

Never met Anderson myself, but probably will. She’s smart and cool and has a lot of important things to say. A good read.

The Pace of New Rural Vaccinations Slows by 30%

Well, friends, this is terrible, but the Daily Yonder is out here documenting a correlation between lack of vaccinations and increased Covid-19 infection rates in rural America.

We’re Rural Democrats and We’re Gonna Try to Listen to Our Trumpy Neighbors — Wish Us Luck

This Minnesota Reformer op-ed by Anita Gaul explains the dilemmas and conundrums many rural people face when organizing for more Democratic representation in their communities, even in a state where the “Democratic-farmer-labor party” is still a reality.

The West Is Burning. Climate Change Is Making it Worse.

Almost 1.5 million acres of the U.S. are on fire right now. This Vox piece documents the staggering mess of Western wildfires, climate change, drought and the need to do something about our collective problems, in rural and urban communities alike.

One More Thing: The Rural Hospital Double-shot

Just a quick note to alert you of a Daily Yonder/100 Days In Appalachia double-shot: two articles that cover rural hospitals in the Covid-19 era struggling with caring for patients while also paying bills and staying open.

One story is from Tennessee, the other is from Southwestern Virginia.

Both stories highlight the need for fixing federal policy in a way that understands rural health care, along with the imperative to deliver investments in rural infrastructure that create jobs and provide services to people.

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