Gerrymandering as a Republican instinct

Today I learned that the far right in the upper midwest is clamoring to secede from those lefties in the Twin Cities to form a Republic of East Dakota. They’ve been doing the same thing in Washington state and Oregon, all the conservative farmers living on the relatively barren lands of the eastern part of the states begging to join Idaho. It’s not going to work.

The first thing I saw that inspired their rage here in the midwest was this map:

That’s reality. Most of the population of the Dakotas live in the cities like Fargo and Sioux Falls, that hug the eastern edge of the state bordering on Minnesota. Everything else is the Great Empty. They’ve still got 4 senators to Minnesota’s 2, though, and most rational people would look at that and say they’re over-represented in Congress. For that matter, most of Minnesota’s population is localized to the eastern part of our state — it’s like a big gradient of people, getting thinner and thinner the farther west you go.

Far right loons looked at that map and said it doesn’t go far enough, we ought to consolidate all that emptiness and low population density into one grand state, the Republic of East Dakota.

Why they think that would help, I don’t know. That would be a very Republican state, for sure, but it would be underpopulated and devoid of any significant economic power. It would be a collection of dairy farms and tiny towns where all the children dream of growing up and moving away to the big city.

Some went even further and created an imaginary state of East Dakota by carving out the cities of Minneapolis, St Paul, and Duluth and, I don’t know, throwing them away?

Don’t they realize that that is where most of the people, and money, live? My little county of Stevens, population 10,000 (optimistically) benefits immensely from the state money flowing out of the counties of Hennepin, population 1,300,000, and Ramsey, population 550,000, and we’re just going to sever ourselves from those funds and make common cause with even more destitute yokels to our east? That’s crazy talk, man.

If we really want to get serious about radical reorganization, I suggest fusing North and South Dakota, stripping them of two senators, and giving most of it back to the Lakota. That makes more sense than creating another state out of a vacuum.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    My suggestion: admit the new state of Puerto Rico.
    Hell, make it West Puerto Rico and East Puerto Rico. And upstate New York deserves its own state.
    What Mel Brooks calls “the Jewish Catskills” can have its two senators as well.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    The “Republican instinct” is not gerrymandering. It is killing people and then sleeping on a huge hoard of gold, like Smaug.

  3. cartomancer says

    How about letting the Republicans have an East Dakota if the remainder of Minnesota becomes South Canada?

  4. says

    We have the idiots in Illinois who want to secede everything south of I-80 to make their own state. Forgetting, of course, that the part they leave has most of the people and money. Cook County has over 5 million people. The next closest is less than 1 million. “South Illinois” would become a wasteland, despite there being some larger cities south of 80. Not to mention, I’d have to move. It’s bad enough that I have to live amongst these people. Luckily, I’m also in one of the more progressive pockets of downstate, which isn’t really saying much.

  5. StevoR says

    @2. birgerjohansson : Better yet abolish the Elewctroal College and make it solegally every person’s vote has the same value and counts equally for who becomes POTUS. Read :

    Which, ok, shared here before but stillstaggers me each time I think about it like the sheer superluminous brilliance of Eta Carinae* (5 million times our Sun) or the astronomical scale of stellar things and space generally..

    .* See :

  6. Snarki, child of Loki says

    Why do these RW schemes to “adjust” state boundaries seem so reminiscent of Putin’s salami-slicing borders in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova?

    Reading from the same playbook, I guess. Could they name their new proposed-statelet “SudetenDakota”?

  7. canadiansteve says

    It’s pretty simple logic really – it goes like this:
    Everyone (at least everyone the R voter knows) votes R so R will always win landslide victories.
    If R doesn’t win that means the system is unfair, or D cheated.
    Therefore, you need to change the maps so R gets a guaranteed win, because that’s fair.
    Democracy in action!

  8. says

    Like the conspiracy theory crowd they often overlap with North American separatist groups tend to have a poor understanding of logistics. Even Quebec separatists, who have a far more coherent ideology and reason for wanting to separate, underestimate the challenges.

  9. wzrd1 says

    Let’s have a thought experiment and follow through on the results of actually doing that which is impossible, as the majority of the population would reject it and there is no Constitutional mechanism to depart the union.
    They become their own sovereign nation, their products then incurring duties, if accepted in trade with the US. If not, I guess North Dakota’s farming republic can simply take their farm products to their ports and export them.
    All zero of them. Oh, guess they’ll need to make a treaty with the US to allow their foreign products across our borders, either in trade or transit, paying duties the entire way and pricing themselves out of most markets.
    Meanwhile, utility power would be highly limited, treaties on waterways would have to be drafted and ratified and all of the parts, medications and chemicals and fuel used on their farms would all have to be imported from a foreign nation.
    In short, they’d swiftly fail, due to a loss of customers and markets, loss of goods and utilities that they rely upon and no way possible to get their products to any market whatsoever until trade agreements and transit treaties are in place, which would take years. The farmers, now starving and watching their families die of diseases that previously were trivially treated, revolt and general warfare further thins an already incapable of self-support population. The union reassembles itself and citizens flood into the now vacant farms.
    Success by extinction!

  10. Akira MacKenzie says

    Don’t they realize that that is where most of the people, and money, live?

    As far as they’re concerned, the world begins and ends at the border of their Podunk, shithole, rural towns, Anyone or anything from beyond might as well come from the depths of Hell itself. They don’t care what the rest of humanity thinks.

  11. crivitz says

    I’ve seen some interesting maps proposing various ways to combine the less populous states into more equal or fairer distribution of congressional representation. One interesting example rearranged state borders into 50 states of more-or-less equal population. It basically had ND, SD, NE, KS, CO, WY and MT combined into one state with the proposed capitol in Denver.

    As a former ND resident and current MN resident, I find PZ’s proposal very interesting and reminiscent of the Buffalo Commons proposal.

    The proposed state of “East Dakota” contains the cities of Saint Cloud, Mankato, Owatonna and Rochester which I believe are bluer than the surrounding countryside and might want to re-secede back to Minnesota proper.

  12. microraptor says

    I’ve met a lot of these types in Oregon and they all share something in common: the standard libertarian delusion that the government is holding them back from success. They’re all firmly convinced that the only thing keeping small towns in Southern Oregon from becoming economic juggernauts is Portland and they have absolutely zero understanding about how money flows out of the Willamette Valley to the rest of the state. Nor do they have any idea why Idaho would go along with their delusional plan, they just assume that the state would happily welcome a bunch of poor, rural counties that don’t have anything to actually offer the state.

    And also, quite a few of these people love going down to the local dispensary and stocking up on cannabis but don’t realize that in Idaho, that’s still illegal.

  13. StevoR says

    Aren’t two Dakotas enough?

    Also don’t I recall hearing somewhere (Planet America? ) that dakota was split by the Repubs deliberately purley inordr togive them more votes in Congress?

    Don’t they realsie that if they set that precedent others can play at that game too until the whole thing becomes (even more) ridiculous?

  14. StevoR says

    Incidentally, if the USA decides to redraw state boundaries and merge and split to re-order more sensibly, seems to me they could do a lot worse than looking at how the North American First People / Native Americans had things..

  15. Reginald Selkirk says

    Sure, you’ve got the population and the money, but they’ve got Wall Drug.

  16. Tethys says

    40% of ND/SD residents live east of MN

    I don’t know who titled that graphic, but it makes no sense to claim that 40% of the Dakota’s residents live in Wisconsin. The rest is also gibberish, but I’m positive that the plains start on the west side of Minnesota

    Fargo, ND and Sioux Falls, SD are the largest cities, and the wide open spaces in between are mostly populated by cattle.

  17. ardipithecus says

    I don’t agree that the Ruraldakota nation would starve to death, any more than Burundi is starving to death. Impoverished, yes; starved, no. They produce more calories than they consume.

    How Brexit is working out for the UK should be an object lesson for separatists everywhere, but it seems more likely to serve as an inspiration to a certain cohort. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

  18. lanir says

    I think this is the idiot’s guide to how to control the US Senate in action.

    Also, for those that predict the new states would fail, you’re forgetting the grievance economy of the right wing. They don’t care if their political ideas lead to ruin. There’s a good chunk that want them anyway and an even larger chunk who will ignore the realities of their new situation and simply blame everyone else for their failures.

  19. lanir says

    @drksky #5: Around 30 years ago I attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. It’s about as far south as you can get in Illinois. About half of the students were from Chicago. Maybe slightly more than half, it’s been awhile. And that’s not even counting people like me who were from northern Illinois but not actually from Chicago. I think if you just cut the city of Chicago out of Illinois and had the rest of it try to limp along it would probably end up close to Indiana. Indiana’s slogan calls it a crossroads, which is just a nice way of saying the only reason you’d be there is to get somewhere else.

  20. wzrd1 says

    Tethys, next, you’ll say that the 1/3 of North Dakota’s inhabitants don’t live in Philadelphia, PA.

    Seriously though, their argument is literally as old as our nation and a fair bit older than our Constitution. It argues against their representation in the Senate and the existence of the Senate at all, given that the Senate exists exclusively for the purpose of low population regions and states to have an equal voice in government. There was a valid fear that only being represented by population numbers, as the House does, the voices of low population states and rural populations would be drowned out. So, the Senate was born and possesses a bit more power than the rabble, erm, House.
    Now, that still isn’t good enough for some, it’s their way or no way at all and some even love to talk about gunz. Because 100 men can defeat a million – hand wave, ignore that whole Civil War thing.
    And they oddly seem to want to keep the products of their farms, given that the areas and entire nation that they’re rejecting is their main customer that their products go do and the chemicals, machine parts, utilities and medical support that they rely upon come from the regions that they reject.
    One example for them is, consider being secure and building a great, insurmountable wall around your house to secure it. One without a gate. Just how quickly will you grow desperately hungry? Can’t get to your fields, as the wall is around your house. Power can’t get in, the wall is insurmountable. Boy, winter’s gonna really, really suck!

  21. billseymour says

    Once on a trip on Amtrak’s Empire Builder, the café attendant came on the intercom and made an announcement:  “Ladies and gentlemen, if you look out the right side of the train, you’ll see a house…”  That was the whole announcement.

    (IIRC, this was in Montana, not North Dakota; but the idea is the same.)

  22. StonedRanger says

    The red staters in oregon want to join Idaho because they are angry that even though more than half the state is on their side of the cascade mountains as far as land goes, their population is way less than the other half of the state. They want to pass all the hateful laws that red states pass and they cant because most of the population lives on the other side of the mountains so they stomp their feet and hold their breath and threaten to secede to Idaho. Funny thing is that when news media tried to interview them and ask why they dont just move to Idaho, that idea was scoffed at because Idaho is a horrible place to live.

  23. nomaduk says

    ardipithecus@18: I was going to pop on just to mention the resounding success story that is Brexit, but you beat me to it.

  24. says

    They’ll need a capital city, won’t they?
    I suggest Wyndmere. It’s centrally located, already has a population of nearly 500, and I’m sure there’s a grain silo that could be refitted into a nice capitol building.

  25. Reginald Selkirk says

    … given that the Senate exists exclusively for the purpose of low population regions and states to have an equal voice in government.

    It is rather twisted to call a small group of people having the same voice as a large group of people “equal.”

  26. crivitz says

    @25. feralboy12
    Wyndmere is good, but their recent derailment spilled some less-than-savory materials, so I suggest Raymond, MN instead since their recent derailment they’ve now got a huge supply of alcohol and corn syrup–yum! Also, IIRC you’ve mentioned previously being a former resident of Breckenridge, MN and maybe know how the locals pronounce Wyndmere.

  27. answersingenitals says

    A solution not made impossible by the constitution: Wyoming has a population <600,000. California’s population is > 40,000,000. In Wyoming’s 2020 presidential election, Trump beat Biden 193,559 (~ 70%) to 73,491 (~26%) while in California Biden got > 11million votes. If we could get ~150,000 of California’s Democratic voters (only ~1% of the democratic voters) to take up residency in Wyoming, then Wy would become a blue state in statewide elections; presidential, senate and governor. And do the same with other low population red states. The only issue is how to incentivize those Democratic voters (and their families) to make the move.

  28. kingoftown says

    @18 ardipithecus
    I know a couple of separatist movements that are rightly bolstered by Brexit.

    Interesting that these people don’t seem to have a strong Minnesotan identity. Makes you wonder why state rights are so important.

  29. says

    2 birgerjohansson

    Please, NEVER again suggest that NY state be split into an upstate/downstate pair. I live in central NY (very much upstate) and I’ve heard this crazy talk from conservatives my entire life. The absolutely hate NYC, or really, anything below the lower Hudson Valley. While NY state is a very blue and liberal state overall, that is only because of NYC and the other larger cities. The rural areas are as red as any district in the bible-belt. Don’t forget, the #3 Repub (Elise Stefanik) represents the northern most section of the state. Indeed, it is not uncommon to see confederate flags on pickup trucks around here. Our county has been in control of the local Republicans for over 40 years. Trust me, some of these folks are not as dumb as a box rocks. They’re dumber.

    It reminds me of a description of Pennsylvania I heard several years ago: On one side there’s Philadelphia, on the other there’s Pittsburgh, and between them it’s a whole lot of Alabama.

  30. ardipithecus says

    @29 kingoftown

    The lesson of Brexit is not so much that separation is inherently a bad thing, but more that adequate preparation and a coherent exit strategy are essential. Brexit had neither.

  31. says

    In short, they’d swiftly fail, due to a loss of customers and markets, loss of goods and utilities that they rely upon and no way possible to get their products to any market whatsoever until trade agreements and transit treaties are in place, which would take years.

    Yabbut they’d be able to keep better control of their wimmin, by not giving them passports to travel outside their “country.”

    The farmers, now starving and watching their families die of diseases that previously were trivially treated…

    …would dutifully blame the Joos.

  32. birgerjohansson says

    Jimf @ 30
    Confederate flags in NY?
    And on top of everything else, they vote for the party of Lincoln?

    Border adjustment: Those counties go to Canada, and you get some counties with nice nature and vacation sites in return.

  33. wzrd1 says

    jimf, there’s a reason we call it Pennsyltucky. Hell, it’s such a popular term it’s got its own Wikipedia article.
    A bit of trivia, the “Kentucky rifle” really is a Pennsylvania rifle, the gunsmiths moved to Kentucky from Pennsylvania during the early westward expansion.

    birgerjohansson, we’d be getting Cuba in return? Sounds cool, but I doubt the Cubans would go for it.

  34. Nemo says

    @2 birgerjohansson

    You know what would really be fair? A state for each of the boroughs.

  35. says

    Three Dakotas? That’s just silly. I’m pretty sure we don’t really need two Dakotas. Is there really that much difference between North and South Dakota?

  36. says

    I don’t know, but I’ve driven through South Dakota and the eastern end was one of the most depressing places I’ve ever been through (the Black Hills on the western end were nice, though). Meanwhile, I had a student a few years back who was in the USAF and had been stationed in North Dakota. He had a tee shirt that said “Happiness is seeing Minot in your rear-view mirror”.

    Certainly, the politics has changed since SD repeatedly elected McGovern as senator back in the 60s and 70s.

  37. wzrd1 says

    I’m incessantly reminded of the “Know nothing” party from the mid 1800’s. Populist, anti-immigrant, although they were also anti-Catholic as well.
    The new fangled Republican party ended up absorbing them and their toxic views, which periodically pop up in US politics.

  38. Kagehi says

    I would argue that, given the current state of the Republican party, having the new “True Republic” be made up of poor farmers, who will suddenly have no resources if it happened, is a feature, not a bug. It gives them yet one more talking point about how the “leftists” are stealing everything from them, and are all evil, and everything going wrong in their new dystopia in the fault of “woke people”.

    Like birgerjohansson said, the point isn’t to make things better for their clueless followers, its to sit in a house filled with riches, surrounding by the bones of people too stupid to realize they have been intentionally starved to death.

  39. Ada Christine says

    @birgirjohansson #33

    i’m a former resident of the 607 area code and can corroborate jimf’s statements. i used to regularly see a pickup truck with a 8×5 “TRUMP 2016” and a stars and bars flying.

    every day i thank god i don’t live there anymore

  40. Ichthyic says

    “Success by extinction!”
    wouldn’t even be the first time. no joke. authoritarianism is real, and inevitably self destructive.