Saturday, November 10, 2018

Big feature on (would-be) State of Jefferson in Sacramento's alternative newspaper

The Sacramento News and Review, my city's "alternative newspaper," recently published a big feature on the State of Jefferson secessionist movement.  Freelance journalist Steve Magagnini writes:
Almost anywhere you drive through Northern California, you’ll see green and gold signs, flags and banners heralding the arrival of the State of Jefferson, a separatist movement that nearly succeeded in 1941 and, more recently, has grown like a grass fire in the era of Trump. 
The signs feature “The Great Seal of the State of Jefferson,” a gold pan emblazoned with two X’s—Jeffersonians have long believed they’ve been double-crossed by big city politicians in Sacramento who take their money but ignore their concerns. 
Over the last two years, the signs have popped up on billboards, front yards, and haystacks, sometimes next to Confederate flags and anti-immigrant slogans. 
This blog has featured lots of posts about the State of Jefferson over the years, and a few of those posts (and other stories about the State of Jefferson) have speculated about the racist motives behind the Jefferson movement.   One thing I especially appreciated about Magagnini's story is that he calculates the racial/ethnic demography of the would-be State of Jefferson:
Here’s what Jefferson would look like based on census records from the 23 counties that have signed on and two others on the fence, either through referendum or a vote of their board of supervisors: 2.5 million people, 69 percent Caucasian, 21 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Asian, about 3 percent multi-racial, 1.6 percent American Indian and 1.6 percent African-American. Nineteen counties voted for Trump, four (Mendocino, Lake, Nevada and Stanislaus) went for Clinton.
Magagnini also quotes me regarding the spread of Jefferson ideology--or at least the geographic spread of its marketing effort:
Lisa Pruitt, a UC Davis law professor specializing in rural and urban differences, said she has seen Jefferson signs in El Dorado, Amador and Calaveras Counties. 
“I saw a Jefferson decal on a Prius in Fair Oaks, and on I-80 near Davis,” she said. “It’s all over rural California and creeping into urban California. I’ve seen their stickers on cars in Target parking lots.” 
The further north you go, the bigger the signs, Pruitt said. 
“There’s a lot of agitation on the part of rural Californians who feel their interests are not being heard or taken seriously in Sacramento,” Pruitt said. “The example is the state gas tax: people in rural areas who drive long distance don’t feel they get anything for their buck.” 
Mark Baird argues that there’s a historic precedent for Jefferson: Vermont left New York and New Hampshire in 1791, Kentucky left Virginia in 1792, Maine bolted from Massachusetts in 1820 and West Virginia—which argued that Virginia committed sedition by breaking away from the union to join the confederacy—got its independence in 1863.
Pruitt, however, disagrees. 
“It’s not a winning analogy,” she said, adding that West Virginia’s split happened more than 150 years ago. 
“People are intrigued by it, but peeling themselves into a separate state would not solve their economic woes, and might make them worse,” she said. “I’m not convinced they would be in a better situation if they got more representatives, rural interests would still be greatly outnumbered by urban interests in Jefferson. Legislators represent people, not cows and trees.”
That last bit of the quote is a reference to Reynolds v. Sims, a 1964 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.  As for the part about rural interests still being outnumbered by urban interests "in Jefferson," I think he misquoted me.  I don't think we know how the rural-urban split would shake out within what would be Jefferson, but I do note that the largest city on the California side of the line is Redding, at about 90,000.  To say it's not a very urbanized region is perhaps an understatement.  (Of course, on the Oregon side of would-be Jefferson are the mid-sized cities of Medford, Roseburg and Klamath Falls).

As for those decals and signs around the region, I'm including some photos below.  (Sadly, I failed to capture, before it was removed, a photo of the Jefferson decal on the guardrail by the I-80 exit at UC Davis)

Birdcage Shopping Center, Citrus Heights, California, 2018
I'm guessing this Prius I photographed in the Birdcage Shopping Center in Citrus Heights California (suburban Sacramento) may belong to one of the women Magagnini interviewed for his story, Jean Colgrove, 64, of Citrus Heights.  He describes her as a libertarian who "confessed she lives in Sacramento County, behind enemy lines."  Colgrove says she sees support for Jefferson growing in her suburb and in neighboring Folsom and Orangevale. 

Birdcage Shopping Ctr. Citrus Heights,
Sacramento County,
California, 2018 

Pleasant Valley Road, El Dorado County, California, July 2018
Magagnini mentions Mark Baird, a rancher and reserve deputy sheriff for Siskiyou County who leads the State of Jefferson movement from his ranch in Scott Valley.  I happened to travel through Scott Valley this summer as I drove from Weaverville (Trinity County) to Yreka.  (Read more here)  I passed through Callahan, just north of the Trinity County-Siskiyou County line, at the south end of the Scott Valley.  I've never seen as much State of Jefferson swag as was on sale at the Callahan Emporium, with complementary signs in the surrounding area, including in Etna and Fort Jones, where several businesses (like the Cemetery Memorials below) are branded "Jefferson."

Callahan Emporium, Scott Valley,
Siskiyou County, California, July 2018

California Hwy 3, between Coffee Creek and Callahan
Map of the Oregon Trail and depictions of historical structures, Callahan Emporium 
Callahan Emporium, Scott Valley,
Siskiyou County, California, July 2018
Jefferson Flag at Callahan Emporium

Jefferson swag on sale at the Callahan Emporium, Scott Valley, July 2018
Jefferson Memorials, Fort Jones,
California, July 2018
Signs at the entrance to Weaverville, Trinity County, July 2018

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