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Editorial: Now we have Vexit?: Virginia secession talk is shocking, ludicrous

The Editorial Board, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Op Eds

First there was Brexit.

Now there's Vexit.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has teamed up with Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. to encourage Virginia counties unhappy with their state government to secede and become part of West Virginia.

Secession is not the answer. That's been tried in this country once before. We've come a long way since then.

Whether it's the state, a city or the nation, Americans solve their differences via the ballot box. And that is as it should be.

The Vexit 2020 website features a video of Falwell and Justice at a recent press conference. The West Virginia State Senate has even passed a resolution inviting Frederick County, Va., to join West Virginia.

For Justice and members of the West Virginia Legislature to encourage this ludicrous proposal is shocking and irresponsible. It shows ignorance of history and our nation's system of government.

It is a sign of our deeply divided politics that the suggestion hasn't completely been laughed away. Our system is imperfect, but states and the nation can heal and work together for a common purpose.

In case anyone forgot, the United States has had brutally divided politics before. As a nation, we tend to forget the sharp divisions over the New Deal -- yet the nation came together to fight and win World War II. After a long period of Democratic rule in the 1930s and '40s, Republicans have had their share of time in government.

The impetus behind the secession calls on the Virginia side is that some residents, particularly in rural areas, aren't happy because Democrats won the 2019 state election. For the first time since 1994, the Democrats control both houses of the Legislature and the governor's office.

The Democratic-controlled Legislature is irritating Republicans with moves toward tighter gun control laws and other measures.

 

To be clear, Republican leaders in Virginia aren't backing the secession plan, and officials in Frederick County haven't jumped at the invitation to join West Virginia. On the Virginia side, this is a proposal by Republicans on the fringes of their party.

West Virginia officials are lucky. They must not have any problems in their own state to worry about. Instead they're spending their time worrying about the good citizens of Virginia -- well, conservative Republican ones anyway.

Or perhaps West Virginia does have problems and politicians are seeking a distraction. The West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy points to U.S. Census Bureau data that shows West Virginia has the fourth-highest poverty rate in the nation at 17.8%. The center is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization promoting an improved quality of life in West Virginia.

So West Virginia legislators might want to stick to their own business.

And the practical realities make secession proposals nearly impossible to accomplish, so they are a waste of time. To secede and join another state would require approval of the legislatures of both states and the U.S. Congress. That is not going to happen.

Justice and Falwell would do well to turn their attention to more productive proposals than to raise the specter of secession.

Taking advantage of division among our people is demagoguery and not policy. This nation needs no more division over politics, especially over a proposal as absurd as that embraced by Falwell and Justice.

(c)2020 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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