Some things about politics I understand. Some things I don’t. The habits and actions of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice fall into both categories.
His effort last year to improve secondary roads was one I applauded then and now. The fact it relied on one-time money means secondary roads will move to the bottom of the priority list again. I’m still grateful, though, that we did see some things get done last year.
What I don’t understand is why Justice went out of his way this week to invite counties in Virginia to secede from that state and join West Virginia.
“If you’re not truly happy where you are, we stand with open arms to take you from Virginia or anywhere you may be,” the governor said at a joint news conference with Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr.
“We stand strongly behind the Second Amendment and we stand strongly for the unborn.”
OK, maybe I understand part of it. If you feel neglected, why not leave the state you’ve been with since the 1700s and move in with a new suitor?
Maybe that’s not a good analogy to use in describing an offer endorsed by the president of one of the world’s largest Christian universities. Let’s try this one: If you are economically, culturally and politically estranged from the rest of the state, why not join with one more in line with your interests?
So far few people in Virginia appear to want to leave that state (and its school, road and tax systems) and become part of West Virginia. The Mountain State has yet to sell the long-term benefits of such a change to residents of the Old Dominion.
What happens, though, when the roles are reversed? What if Virginia made a play for Jefferson and Berkeley counties in the Eastern Panhandle? Those two counties are among the few pockets of growth in West Virginia. As people in that area tend to move around among Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland fairly often, it would make sense for those two counties to entertain an offer from Virginia.
Pennsylvania could always pitch itself to the Northern Panhandle. Weirton is as close to downtown Pittsburgh as Huntington is to Charleston.
The down side for counties in the panhandles switching states would be the loss of political power in their new state capitals, but if the economic and other benefits outweigh the loss of clout, why not go for it?
If West Virginia’s leadership is serious about wooing other states’ counties — assuming it can even be done — it needs to give those counties a reason to make the change.
The more likely scenario — not here, but elsewhere — is a state splitting into one or more new states. Sooner or later people in Illinois will tire of being dominated by the Chicago political machine. Interior California could tire of being dominated by politicians from that state’s Left Coast.
Virginians who don’t live in the Washington suburbs, Richmond or Norfolk might want to secede from that state. Apparently the West Virginia Republican Party leadership thinks such people exist. However, they would likely prefer to set up a new state and not be absorbed into West Virginia.
The fact that more people move out of West Virginia than into it — especially when you take Berkeley, Jefferson and Monongalia counties out of the calculation — shows that West Virginia has little or no business seeking new territory. More people choose to leave the state than to come here.
West Virginia should be wary of other states playing the same game now that it has begun.