‘Should Nevada secede from the Union?’

With the rapid approach of the 150th anniversary of Nevada’s statehood, this might be an awkward time to ask the question. But here goes:

Should the Silver State secede from the Union?

Should we split into two states, or perhaps even three?

The Scots got all steamed earlier this year at the notion of gaining independence from Great Britain, then voted against it. The State of Jefferson movement in northern California and southern Oregon imagines carving out its own state and setting adrift the constitutionally unwashed masses.

There’s something about tough economic and political times that brings out the secessionist in people. The idea is nothing new. Each generation has its share of citizens who think they’ll add to their quality of life by dividing their state or setting themselves adrift from the U.S.A. politically.

In 2012, citizens of 17 states signed secession-themed petitions. Texas, whose residents already believe they’ve seceded from the Union, generated more than 35,000 signatures. You may recall that back in 2009 Gov. Rick Perry warned that his state might secede out of frustration with the Obama administration. (Republicans later expressed their frustration with fizzled presidential candidate Perry.)

And on it goes.

A recent Reuters online survey suggests almost one in every four Americans wants to secede from the United States. That includes 34 percent of those surveyed in the Southwest, 26 percent in the Rockies, 25 percent in the Southeast, and 22 percent in the Far West (where Nevada was placed.)

As you might imagine, 53 percent of voters who identify themselves with the Tea Party movement would like to leave the Union. The rest of the nation, I suspect, would spring for the bus fare.

It’s just a rumor, but I hear 100 percent of Nevadans named Bundy have already seceded.

Some folks want to break away from the federal government, but others want to break away from Big Brother at the state level. Such is the case with the State of Jefferson crowd. (It turns out Jefferson is a popular name for citizens with independent streaks. In the early 1900s, some Texans imagined breaking off a piece of the Lone Star State and renaming it Jefferson.)

Those who suspect cynical made-for-Fox-TV politics behind much of the secession chatter might have a point. Earlier this year, for instance, Wisconsin Republicans trumpeted their discontent with the federal government and decided to vote to leave. At last check, Wisconsin is still busy making cheese up there next to Minnesota.

Closer to home, you don’t have to travel far outside the lights of Las Vegas to learn that Nevada has a number of regional identities. Although more than 70 percent of the population resides in urban Southern Nevada, the state has a long history of agriculture, ranching, and mining — all of which bring something different to the Silver State’s big picture. And those who live in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area surely believe they have independent views on a variety of issue.

Although Nevada doesn’t have a high-profile secession movement — with the possible exception of the Ayn Rand-inspired fantasy writings of Chuck Muth, historically we have been the subject of major newspaper editorials calling for the stripping of our statehood. Seems like the promotion of boxing events, gambling, and quickie divorce wasn’t always considered acceptable commerce.

Against formidable odds, we’ve managed to survive hard times and our worst critics to remain one Nevada.

John L. Smith writes for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. E-mail him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.

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