- The Greater Idaho movement sought to redraw the state’s boundaries so that rural Oregon could join Idaho.
- The Idaho House voted in favor of exploring the measure after 11 Oregon counties did the same.
- Moving the state border would require the approval of Oregon, Idaho, and the US Congress.
The Greater Idaho movement — a conservative effort to have eastern Oregon secede from the blue state and join Idaho — got a big boost last week from red-state lawmakers.
Members of the Idaho House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill that would open talks between Idaho and Oregon about moving the border line that separates the two western states. The development marks a step forward for the Greater Idaho movement, which says rural Oregon has more in common with Idaho politically, economically, and culturally than its state’s urban areas.
The bill, passed on February 15, states that “the Idaho Legislature is ready to begin discussions with the Oregon Legislature about the potential to move the Oregon/Idaho state border, in accordance with the will of the citizens in eastern Oregon, and we invite the Oregon Legislature to begin discussions on this topic with the Idaho Legislature.”
It’s unclear if the bill will pass the Idaho Senate, but the chamber has the same political makeup as the state House, with Republicans representing the majority of members at nearly 80%. Matt McCaw, a spokesman for the group behind the Greater Idaho movement, told Insider that they are confident the bill will pass the Idaho Senate in the coming weeks as well.
The group noted that Idaho lawmakers cited several reasons to support the bill, including a recent analysis that found moving the state line could benefit Idaho economically. The analysis was conducted by the Claremont Institute, a California-based right-wing think tank that has been an early defender of Donald Trump. John Eastman, a lawyer and prominent figure in the organization, advised Trump on how to ignore the results of the 2020 election.
Lawmakers also noted a desire to keep Oregon’s more liberal drug laws from Idaho’s current population.
Moving the state border line would require the approval of the Oregon and Idaho legislatures as well as the US Congress. Despite the support of Idaho lawmakers, the idea could face significant obstacles in the Oregon legislature, where both chambers have a solid Democratic majority. Oregon state Sen. Dennis Linthicum, a Republican, filed a similar legislative proposal to begin talks in Idaho, but it may not make it out of the rules committee.
The Greater Idaho group, which argues that changing state lines would benefit both states, hopes to persuade Democratic lawmakers to consider it by emphasizing Oregon’s 11 rural counties that already voted in favor of exploring the measure, as well as polling suggesting support. in Idaho and northwest Oregon as well.
McCaw also emphasized that the bills are not about moving state lines tomorrow, but about opening up the conversation.
“What they’re saying is: ‘We’ve heard from the people of eastern Oregon. We’ve seen how this benefits both states. We’re inviting each state to start discussions on where it makes sense to put this border,'” he said. he is the Insider.
Oregon voted decisively for President Joe Biden in 2020, driven largely by densely populated counties near Portland, Eugene, and Bend. But the areas of eastern Oregon proposed to join Idaho voted for Donald Trump, where the former president won almost 80% of the vote in some counties. Meanwhile, Trump also overwhelmingly won Idaho with nearly 64% of the vote.
Experts on secession movements previously told Insider the Greater Idaho movement is unlikely to succeed but far from impossible, and there are historical precedents for moving across state lines.
“I don’t think the map of the United States will look the same in 2050,” Richard Kreitner, author of the book “Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America’s Imperfect Union,” said, adding that “most across state lines is pretty arbitrary.”
McCaw said the Greater Idaho proposal could be a solution to the “longstanding problem” of the urban-rural divide.
“We have extreme partisanship. We have all these things that people in the US know are a problem, and people are looking for solutions,” he said. “We can align the people with a government that they want, that is in line with their values, and we can lower the political tension and make it a win-win for everyone involved.”
That partisanship and political tension has often led to speculation about the possibility of conflict, and experts have previously told Insider that if a civil war were to break out in the US, eastern Oregon would be one of the most likely locations for it. happen, citing the organized secession movement and anti-government sentiment.
Greater Idaho advocates say their plan is a way to avoid conflict, but the impact of moving the border is unclear. And even if a civil war seems unlikely, Barbara F. Walter, a leading expert on civil wars and author of “How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them,” says the U.S. “closer to civil war than any of us. want to believe.”
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