The notion of splitting Washington state in two has been around for decades. But the idea has attracted renewed attention since the election, when the state once again split ideologically along geographic and urban-rural lines.

Cornell Clayton.

The role of some extremists “sort of legitimizes what we would otherwise call these hair-brained ideas,” said Cornell Clayton, a government professor and director of the Foley Institute of Public Policy at Washington State University. “People have to consider it more seriously.”

“I wonder myself whether they’re serious about it, or whether or not they’re using this as more a symbolic gesture to rally people behind their ideas,” Clayton said.

For years, Spokane Valley’s controversial representative to the state legislature has introduced bills that would create the 51st U.S. state – Liberty.

Liberty is the dream of Washington’s far-right: a libertarian bastion where residents don’t have to worry about liberal West Coast voters enacting tougher gun control laws or raising taxes. The plan would split Washington roughly along the Cascade mountain range.

Clayton doesn’t think any Seattle-area progressives or liberals have seriously considered the proposal, but it might actually be more appealing to them, he said.

“From their perspective, the eastern side of the state is a financial drag. The tax situation is that the western part of the state subsidizes the eastern part of the state,” he said. “There should be more incentive for them to want to see some kind of devolution or separation.”

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