Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Speaking of rural disgruntlement...High Country News goes inside State of Jefferson

The High Country News feature by Tay Wiles was published a few days ago.  It appears under the headline, "A Separatist State of Mind," with the sub-head "In the era of Trump, rural discontent settles in the State of Jefferson."  The story is Wiles' behind-the-scenes look at the State of Jefferson movement, and she focuses a great deal on 27-year-old Kayla Brown, a native of Redding, who has been involved off and on in the movement.  Wiles notes that Brown is one of very few young people involved in the movement and that this has led to some conflict between her and the movement's leadership.  Here's an excerpt that plays up race, regional identity, and attachment to place:
The region is largely rural and white (though the Latino population has risen in recent years and there are several Native American tribes), and its politics are mostly red (only four counties went for Hillary Clinton in 2016). But the Northstate is also an idea that encompasses a shared regional identity for people like Brown, who has lived here her whole life and never wants to leave. “You have a lot of rural folk, people who have been here for three, four, sometimes even five generations,” she told me at the [Civl War] re-enactment. “We’re literally tied to the land.”
Another interesting passage about Brown--and State of Jefferson politics--is here:
Brown and her compatriots feel trapped behind enemy lines — rural conservatives in a state led by liberal urban Democrats. The election of Donald Trump and the rise of the California progressive “resistance” have riled conservatives anew. Libertarian-tinged sentiments are deeply rooted here. Poor policy is squandering natural resources, such as agriculture, timber and minerals, Brown said, making rural life increasingly difficult. And now, more people from coastal, urban parts of the state are moving in, bringing liberal values that chafe local sensibilities.
This coastal v. inland divide is also a theme in the recently announced effort to divide the Golden State into California and New California, discussed here.

Another big theme of the article is economics--in particular the lack of economic opportunity in the State of Jefferson.  Wiles tells us that Brown and her husband were thinking of leaving the state about five years ago, when her husband was looking at job opportunities in Wyoming and Idaho.  She talked him into giving northern California another shot--five years based on her hope that, within that time frame, the State of Jefferson might have become a reality.  Now that five years is nearly up and the couple have two young children, complicating their circumstances.

In any event, don't miss this fascinating piece, a great read in its entirety (and, am I quoted regarding the relative political powerlessness of rural Californians and proposing the practice of rural proofing to elevate rural visibility in politics).

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