Secessionist move was defeated

Rural Coloradans are no less unhappy
The Colorado Statesman

As kids we were all talked into doing something incredibly stupid by an older brother or sister, (perhaps the smart kid next door or down the block), but whoever it was, he or she should have known better. If we were lucky, our parents never discovered our misdeeds, but more often than not we found ourselves listening in painful silence to the embarrassing query, “If Johnny decided to jump off the roof, would you jump too?” In a few instances these conversations took place in the company of local law enforcement. The 6,000 or so voters in Phillips, Yuma, Cheyenne, Kit Carson and Washington counties who voted to secede from Colorado earlier this month must be feeling a similar sense of aggrieved humiliation. When Weld County began to promote the 51st state of North Colorado as a plausible political proposition, Greeley probably sounded like a natural Capitol City for their prairie kingdom.

The first snows of winter have muffled the tramping of Colorado’s Secessionist Army. Their bugles fell silent shortly after six of the 11 rebellious counties voted to stick with their citizenship as Coloradans, including the two largest, Weld and Logan, homes respectively to the University of Northern Colorado and the state prison in Sterling. Perhaps it was the buzz of helicopters rescuing stranded flood victims along the length of the Platte River and ferrying supplies for those who remained that persuaded voters there might be something to a strong state government, even if it was paid for by millions of affluent liberal voters along the Front Range. When Sean Conway, the Weld County Commissioner who had served as ringleader for the secession movement, announced it was officially dead there had to be a what-the-hell reaction in the hinterlands.

If the original organizers didn’t have their own voters nailed down, what were they doing running a recruiting operation out across the Eastern Plains (together with Moffat County West of the Divide)? Having attended several secessionist rallies, I frequently heard braggarts forecasting an 80 percent landslide that would send a message Denver simply couldn’t ignore. On Election Day however, 58 percent of Weld voters turned their thumbs down on North Colorado. How did its organizers get it so wrong? For one thing they only spoke with each other. As partisanship has grown, political discourse has separated into two camps of fist-shaking zealots. Liberals and conservatives have their own cable channels, organize their own forums and make fun of their adversaries whenever and wherever they assemble. It isn’t just compromise that has a bad name among partisans, so does debate. What is there to discuss when you know you are right?

Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway, the ringleader for the secession movement.

Of course, it is voters who have permitted this state of affairs to fester. Leaving government to the politicians is like leaving war to the generals — you get more politics in the first case and more wars in the second. Democracy is supposed to be about finding solutions — often, imperfect solutions to social and economic problems. The rural voters who expressed their estrangement from Denver at the ballot box are no less unhappy today than they were on Nov. 5. Unhappy enough that it might pay to actually heed their grievances. In the near term, few solutions will originate in Washington. Colorado needs to find its own way.

The quasi-autonomous French, Italian and German speaking Swiss cantons (states) have managed to deliver one of the highest standards of living on the planet. They enjoy the world’s strongest currency and have assured their citizens security against invaders for nearly a thousand years. Americans, especially Coloradans, should be able to achieve just as much without splitting themselves into competing bastions of simmering animosities. Instead of advertising our ski slopes as the Switzerland of North America, it would be advisable if we consciously attempted to shape a unique economic and political independence for Colorado.

That, of course, would require consensus priorities, shared plans and, God forbid, shared sacrifice (yes, taxes). How hard could that be? When the people lead, the leaders will usually follow. Just look at Commissioner Conway.