North Colorado, the proposed 51st state, would be formed by the eleven red counties.
Ken Cuccinelli, Chris Christie and Bill de Blasio will dominate the headlines today for losing, winning and winning their respective East Coast races. The most interesting vote, however, might be in 11 counties in North Colorado, who want to stop being part of Colorado and form their own state. This will not happen. The vote may well go in North Colorado’s favor, but the movement would then have to be passed by the Colorado legislature (not happening) and then the U.S. legislature (also not happening). The would-be residents of North Colorado know this, and the vote is a protest vote to communicate that the needs of North Colorado (read: rural Colorado) are not being met by the Colorado legislature.
But, just for fun, let’s imagine what would happen if we let North Colorado become the 51st state. Also, to make this more even and slightly more politically plausible, let’s give Washington D.C. statehood as part of the deal. North Colorado would immediately become the smallest (365,050 people) and the most conservative state in the nation. Colorado, already trending Democratic, would get a shade bluer. D.C. (population: 632,323) would be its political opposite, and the two new states would reliably provide some of the most conservative and progressive members to the U.S. Congress.
The two new states would represent the longest-standing divide in American politics: rural vs. urban. While there are already many states we would characterize as rural, D.C. would be the first truly urban state. Having this represented in the U.S. Senate is reason enough to make the D.C. for North Colorado deal intriguing.
The real reason allowing North Colorado happen would be exciting is the biggest reason it won’t happen: precedent. Once you allow one region to chip itself off and get two U.S. senators, among other perks, where would it end? There would be a lot of chaos, but also a lot of possibility: many regions are underrepresented, and most of them are actually urban, not rural. The U.S. splits its representation between population and size, so denser, more populous regions have less per-person representation. Having more total representatives would mitigate the power of gerrymandering and get us closer to equal representation across the board.
None of this will happen, but maybe one day will see some big structural changes in the U.S., and if some rowdy North Coloradans get us thinking about what that might look like, then good for them.