The Greater Idaho movement is a political movement that seeks to create a new state called "Greater Idaho" by taking over most of the rural areas of Oregon and parts of Northern California and merging them with Idaho, although recently has scaled back with setbacks in western Oregon. The movement has recently picked up steam, as seven counties have now voted in favor of considering or pursuing the move. However, the likelihood of success is extremely low.
The Greater Idaho movement is steeped in identity politics and the perceived cultural leanings of the two states. As it stands, Oregon leans Democratic as a state, with both U.S. senators from the Democratic party, as well as four out of Oregon's six U.S. Representatives. Both houses have been under the control of the Democratic Party since 2012. For most of Oregon's existence, it was a consistently Republican state with one of its most believed governors, Tom McCall, a Republican with strong environmentalist leanings. With the shift in national politics between the party positions, Oregon, since 1988, has become a "blue state."
In recent years polarization has permeated into nearly all aspects of public life, including policymaking, economic decisions, and social behaviors. One particular manifestation of this divide is the "Greater Idaho" movement, which essentially proposes expanding the borders of Idaho to include traditionally conservative regions from Oregon and Northern California.
The Greater Idaho movement seeks to reinforce the idea that differences in political ideology are insurmountable, pushing for segregation rather than fostering understanding and compromise. If every disagreement is addressed by separating territories based on political leanings, it could lead to an increasingly fragmented country.
The Red vs. Blue divide oversimplifies political ideology. It assumes that individuals within these areas uniformly agree with either conservative or liberal perspectives on all issues, which is rarely the case. Not everyone who identifies as Republican or Democrat agrees with their party's stance. The Greater Idaho movement is rooted in this oversimplification, assuming that geographical shifts can adequately address complex ideological differences. Rather than working to find common ground and resolve differences within the existing framework, these initiatives imply a preference for retreating into like-minded enclaves.
The movement, if successful, could have wide-reaching impacts on policies both locally and nationally. For instance, reallocating resources or redistributing electoral votes could shift the balance of power in a manner that doesn't reflect the diversity of political opinion in the country. It also risks furthering gerrymandering at an unprecedented level, reflecting politics as they are today and not where they will be. Oregon has been a rapidly evolving state, especially regarding ethnic breakdown. The changes are occurring statewide.
There are numerous legal, logistical, and economic obstacles involved in shifting state borders or forming new states. It also raises questions about infrastructure, public services, state and local tax bases, and the broader impacts on the economic health of the states involved.
While this site lampoons the idea of Greater Idaho, it's also a critique of the Greater Idaho ideology. The Greater Idaho movement can be described as playing "Fast and loose" with facts and the fabric of reality. It is one that's a fixed perspective of the world, where in-groups and out-groups can easily be defined by bolder borders on a map, an us-vs-them mentality where a simple shift on the map will result in harmony.
Eastern vs. Western Oregon has had a cultural divide that is very real. However, this does not make Oregon unique, as the same divide can be found in Washington and more complex divisions in larger states like California, Colorado, and even Texas. The perception of unity is only within the minds of the people themselves, as political mapping can show urban vs. rural divides even within towns themselves, both political and economic.
The head of Greater Idaho, Mike McCarter, is "a movement to try to maintain our rural values" and has denied connections to white nationalism but fails to recognize what these values are assembled from. Both Oregon and Idaho have had ugly histories (as has much of the nation) when it comes to racism and racial demography and rural values will inevitably be weighted towards white American Christian values, as demonstrated by Idaho leading the charge on gender politics and extremist limitations on reproductive rights. This flies in the face of Oregon's generally liaise-faire social-libertarianism, which can be summarized by Senator Ron Wyden's "If you don't like gay marriage, don't get one".
The U.S.'s political landscape is deeply divided, and Greater Idaho isn't a solution to quell the smoldering embers. It's pouring gas on the flame.