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War of the Worlds

Text corrector: Wojtek Przeniczka

Sir Issac Newton once said: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. However, can we find this statement true in other branches than physics? Actually, yes! Recently it has started to be even visible in political movements which are getting more and more powerful around the US. In the most recent years, we are witnesses of an increased political tension within US society. It is provoked by more and more radical political decisions made by both of the major American political parties.

The polarization is specifically visible among Oregon’s citizens. In this state has been created by private citizens “an equal and opposite reaction” for political decisions dictated by the Oregon state legislature. People who live in the eastern part of the state argue that they are not represented by their legislature and feel overwhelmed by political elites’ decisions from Portland. Misrepresentation hurts economically and socially people who live in rural areas. As a solution for this issue, some of the citizens decided to act. They formed the Greater Idaho movement. They have tried to solve the problem of misrepresentation by moving the state’s border, and joining in a better way, in their eyes, to the state of Idaho. Their goal is to make Idaho incorporate rural parts of Oregon, so they will be independent form hated Oregon’s politicians who reside in Salem. However, their “opposite reaction” is problematic and controversial, even among people who share their social or economical values.

The Greater Idaho movement was established in 2020 as a movement of unhappy people who have felt ignored by Oregon’s legislature throughout the years. Citizens who live in the rural areas of eastern Oregon were at this point not only disappointed, but even outraged by some bills passed in Salem, the state’s capital city.

As Pat Dorris mentions in his reportage, people from western, urban areas cannot understand arguments of people who live in villages, where the nature is still wild. These people have to deal with untamed forces of nature, otherwise it can hurts not only their businesses, but also humans’ health and life. As an example he shows the bill which prohibits culling of wolves. Dorris shows that it affects local people by giving a specific example of one farmer’s beloved dog was killed by wild wolves. He argues that wolves started to come closer and closer to human settlements, because technically people cannot protect themselves against them. By painting this picture, he shows the fact that urban people from the coast are unable to understand some rural peoples’ problems. On the other hand, the same people want to “dictate” farmers laws and bills.

Therefore, the Greater Idaho movement gained some momentum among some frustrated citizens. The peoples’ frustration became even bigger after the 2020 election when Oregon’s legislature remained even more pro-urban oriented. And now we can observe “the opposite reaction” for that. Plenty of the Oregonians realized the inability for political change in their state, so they came up with idea which was to become part of another state. However, they did not think about moving at all, but the state to move. Their eyes turned towards a conservative, rural, potatoes state – Idaho. This movement idea is unprecedented in American politics. 

Despite the long history of civil disobedience, and strong opposition to the government, no movement was looking for the borders to change as a resolution. Normally, it would not be a real threat for current borders, but actually the movement has received a huge amount of support. The movement leaders have found a prop not only in wealthy sponsors, but also among local people and politicians, which has been proven, even in a formal way. The Greater Idaho movement encouraged or forced more than 15 counties to conduct a secession referendum. Surprisingly, as many as 12 counties voted for secession from Oregon. Only two counties were against, and three will have referendums in the next few months. As we look at a map, these twelve counties constitute about 50 % of Oregon’s territory. However, the movement needs three more things to make the secession successful.

Hopefully for them, one of the above is relatively easy to achieve. The legislature of Idaho state, voted in favor of the movement goals. In the official document, we can see a full approvement for the movement, and promise that the Legislature will be “actively engaged in discussions” with the Movement regardless of the referendums results. However, a positive reaction of the Congress and, even more importantly, an approval of Oregon’s officials will be very difficult to achieve.

The people who see the movement in a positive light argue that Idaho’s politicians have similar views to them, and a bigger understanding of the local problems. They argue that obligation like taxes, and bureaucratic regulations make their life more difficult. For instance, gas prices are about 15/20% bigger in Oregon. It is just a one example of many other fiscal issues, which make eastern Oregonian more and more disappointed and willing to move the border.

On the other hand, some conservative people are against the border moving solution. In polls there are many examples of people who still “want to be known as Oregonians.” Their the strongest argument is a difference in minimal wage. It is almost twice bigger in Oregon. In the state of Idaho minimal wage is just $ 7.25 per hour, while in Oregon offers $ 13.50. Almost twice smaller minimal salary encouraged a significant number of people, traditional electorate of Republican Party, to vote against the secession solution.

The second argument, especially for younger voters, is the cannabis issue. In the state of Oregon it has been legalized, not only for medical, but also for recreational use, in 2014. Meanwhile in Idaho, both medical and recreational cannabis are illegal. Furthermore, it is very unlikely that it will be legalized soon.

In the last few years the US political scene started to be more and more radicalized, and polarized. Some of the local, especially states’ governments, started to be more radical in their actions. Previously, people could only change the situation on an election. Nowadays, however, some of the citizens reacted to politicians actions by propositions of new utopian solutions. One of the most significant, in the recent days, movements is the Greater Idaho movement. By their radical claims of the necessity in changing states borders, they became very controversial but, as we proved, not hopeless. Some says it is a bad idea, some are very enthusiastic, but is it going to be successful? We don’t know it yet, we shall see! Although, we are the witnesses of the beginning of a new radical movement in the US, which are not initiated by any politicians, but by outraged citizens, who are ready to protect their freedoms, and values.

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