Kojo looks back on the local impact of Dick Gregory, the legendary comedian and civil rights activist who adopted Washington as his home town.
It was roughly 150 years ago that a group of Virginia counties broke off from the Old Dominion to form their own state: West Virginia. Now there’s a movement underway in Western Maryland for counties to do the same. Activists behind Maryland’s secession movement say the politics and culture in Annapolis don’t reflect their region. We explore the issues and learn about similar debates taking place across the country.
- Michael Rosenwald Reporter, Washington Post
- Todd Eberly Professor, Political Science, St. Mary's College of Maryland; Author, The Free Stater Blog
- Scott Strzelczyk Activist, Western Maryland Initiative; Co-Host and Executive Producer, The Forgotten Men
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Later in the broadcast, Mayor Vincent Gray did what a lot of people expected he would and what a lot of people hoped he would not and that is veto the Living Wage Bill that he and others felt was aimed at Wal-Mart.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut first, secession is a word most people associate with the past and a word that conjures up images of the Civil War, states breaking off from a union they felt didn't represent them anymore. But it's a concept that some residents of Western Maryland would very much like to bring back to life.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThere's a movement afoot calling for Maryland's five western-most counties to break off and form their own state. Supporters of the proposal say they've got little in common with the liberal majority that calls the shots in Annapolis and that their communities have been politically marginalized to the point where they no longer have any effective voice representing them.
MR. KOJO NNAMDISo what's the root of their disaffection with Maryland's modern political system and what would it actually take for these counties to establish the new state of Western Maryland?
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us to have this conversation is Mike Rosenwald. He's a reporter for The Washington Post. Mike joins us in studio. Thank you very much for joining us Mike.
MR. MICHAEL ROSENWALDAlways a pleasure to be here, thanks Kojo.
NNAMDIJoining us by phone is Scott Strzelczyk. He's an activist with the Western Maryland Initiative. That's an organization calling for a discussion about whether Maryland's five western counties should form their own state. He's also the co-host and executive producer of the radio program "The Forgotten Men." Scott Strzelczyk, thank you for joining us.
MR. SCOTT STRZELCZYKKojo, glad to be here.
NNAMDIScott joins us by phone as does Todd Eberly. He's a political science professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland. He also writes "The Free Stater Blog" about Maryland politics. Todd Eberly, thank you for joining us.
MR. TODD EBERLYOh, my pleasure.
NNAMDII suspect a lot of you have opinions about this and you'd like to join this conversation so you can start calling now, 800-433-8850. What do you make of the idea of Maryland's western-most counties splitting off and forming their own state? Give us a call 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com or just shoot us a tweet @kojoshow
NNAMDIMike Rosenwald, you wrote earlier this week that West Virginia was the last state to break off from another one, that 150 years ago during the heat of the Civil War 50 Virginia counties banded together and started their own state. Now there's the movement growing in Western Maryland for counties there to do the same.
NNAMDIWe'll ask Scott about what's fueling his particular grievances in just a moment. But from your reporting, where did you find the frustration in this movement was coming from and how much of it has to do with the state's modern, political identity?
ROSENWALDWell, Kojo, that's a great question. You know, it's certainly no secret that the political debate in this country has taken, you know, sort of a turn for the worse in recent years. What I think happened in the last legislative session was you know, speaking to Scott and some of the people who support his efforts and as well as speaking to people in Colorado where there is a significant effort to get the north Colorado counties to break off.
ROSENWALDIn fact, there are 11 or 12 that have already got this non-binding referendum coming up in November. The last legislative session there was a lot of gun legislation passed around the country. There was a lot of social issue stuff that has come up, obviously gay marriage in Maryland. And there's been a lot of debate over increasing taxes.
ROSENWALDAnd this last legislative session for a lot of people was "the final straw" and in Colorado they were upset about gun legislation and some energy legislation. Here in Maryland people are upset about Governor O'Malley's gun legislation as well as the gay marriage stuff.
ROSENWALDTaxes, the rain tax, the so-called rain tax and so from my perspective as a reporter it was interesting to me that people are finally at the point, you know, we're at the point now where they're at irreconcilable differences and it's sort of like being in a marriage where you know that you're never going to work things out. You're never going to get along so you're going to have to go your separate ways.
ROSENWALDAnd that's an interesting place to be politically in this country right now, that things have gotten so out-of-hand and that there's not even a whiff of compromise anymore. There's no, even suggestion that everyone can sit down at the table and work this out. And so like a broken marriage people want to move on.
NNAMDIScott Strzelczyk, in Mike's piece, you refer to the state's current political leadership as quoting here, "the dominant ruling class." Why do you feel it's no longer tenable for these western Maryland counties to be part of the same political system? Why is breaking off a necessary move as you see it?
STRZELCZYKRight, so what Mike said captures the essence of this. We have irreconcilable differences and we are seeking an amicable divorce. The issues if you look at it, I think the number one issue is actually the gerrymandering of the state delegate and senate districts as well as the congressional districts.
STRZELCZYKFor instance, if you look at Prince George's County, Montgomery County, Baltimore City and Baltimore County, those four state senate districts represent 25 or about 25 state senators in Annapolis out of 47. So you have four jurisdictions with a majority of senators. That is not representative government, okay.
STRZELCZYKSo to me, we can't even use the normal election process because the state has been gerrymandered so badly and anybody that's fair and honest about it would look at this and know that this looks like one of those ink blot tests, right? It's so badly gerrymandered it would make Elbridge Gerry blush, right? So I would say that's problem number one.
STRZELCZYKProblem number two is all the taxation, the rain taxes. It's a silly notion to believe a drop of rain that hits your grass is fine but one inch over and it hits your asphalt, you're all of a sudden polluting. It's a ridiculous tax. But there's dozens and dozens of these tax examples over the last ten years.
STRZELCZYKAnd then the last straw, I don't think this is the most important one but I think the last straw was the Gun Bill. There were thousands and thousands of people in line to testify in Annapolis against this. The people made their wishes known that they did not favor this legislation and Annapolis ignored it.
STRZELCZYKAnd the big three or four delegations of those jurisdictions I just described went ahead and forced through what they wanted to do against the will of the people.
NNAMDIScott, where do you live? How would you describe your corner of Maryland and its relationship to the rest of the state?
STRZELCZYKWell, I live in Carroll County and I would simply say we are a rural, bedroom community. We're much different than other jurisdictions. I don't believe we have much in common with people let's say in Bethesda or Chevy Chase or necessarily in Bowie or Baltimore City for that matter.
STRZELCZYKAnd in fact what we want to do is simply exercise our right of self-determination and self-governance and create the type of political society, of state government that better governs according to our wishes and needs.
NNAMDITodd Eberly, Mike Rosenwald, you know this better than I do. This is not the first time there's been talk of secession in Maryland. This kind of talk goes back centuries. Even recently some communities on the Eastern Shore wanted to break off. What happened then Todd?
EBERLYWell, I mean, the Eastern Shore secessionist movement actually dates back to the 1830s so the motivations for that movement have changed over time. Most recently their grievance has been tax dollars generated through tourism, coming into the Eastern Shore but then being sent to Annapolis, not coming back to the Eastern Shore in a manner that recognizes how much revenue they produce.
EBERLYTransportation monies, infrastructure investment going to, you know, the Baltimore Washington corridor, not going to the Eastern Shore so you know, you've got this history of cultural reasons that would take us back into the 1800s, but more recently it's this sense that their interests aren't being represented.
EBERLYAnd you've got a few folks that make the argument that because their land mass, theirs is such a significant portion of Maryland's land mass, that they should have greater representation especially with regard to the resources that are allocated within the state.
NNAMDIMike Rosenwald, give us a civics lesson here. What would it actually take for these counties to break off and form a new state? What's the process?
ROSENWALDWell, the short version of that, there's a short answer and a somewhat longer answer. The short answer would be a miracle according to most political scientists and historians I've talked to. The longer answer is that the Constitution does provide a process by which a state, a region, a part of a state can break off and so that would require passage of legislation at the state level and then it would then go to Congress for it to be approved there as well.
ROSENWALDSo there are some significant hurdles obviously to even getting this in front of the State Legislature and then obviously then you have to go to Congress. And then, you know, then you have, not only do you have concerns about creating another state but you have concerns about you know, if you create a state that you know that's going to be conservative and they would elect two, you know U.S. senators that could significantly throw off the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.
ROSENWALDSome people have proposed, well, Puerto Rico can finally become a state or the District can finally become a state, sort of trading spots but this is a significantly difficult challenge. Now having said that, Colorado has been successful, these 11 or 12 counties in Colorado have been successful in getting a non-binding referendum on their ballot so this question actually will be a part of the political process, you know going forward in Colorado.
ROSENWALDAnd Colorado's governor has commented on the issue so this is not something, you know, some people may find this to be sort of a whimsical, sort of crazy thing to do but it does have the ability to catch the attention of people in government and that's certainly what's happening.
NNAMDIMike Rosenwald is a reporter for The Washington Post. He joins us for this conversation about a move afoot calling for Maryland's five western-most counties to break off and form their own state. Scott Strzelczyk is an activist with the Western Maryland Initiative. That's the organization that's calling for a discussion about whether those five western counties should form their own state.
NNAMDIHe joins us by phone. And Todd Eberly is a political science professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland. He also writes "The Free Stater Blog" about Maryland politics. Here is John in Woodbine, Md. John, you're on the air, go ahead please. Hi John, are you there?
JOHNOh, yes, I am. I'm sorry. I live in western Howard County and I guess Howard County would never, ever see the day when these political, greedy people would ever join anything like that. I'm five miles from Montgomery County, five miles from Frederick County, five miles from Carroll County and it seems to me that pretty soon they aren't going to have anybody to tax. I'm wondering what's next.
JOHNI pay a fire tax of $810 just because of what my house is worth, I guess. I moved to Howard County in 1970 to get away from all of this. I should have moved one more county out. The big deal is here that it's, now we've got a rain tax and they want to tax me more for, just like everybody's talking about, tax, tax, tax.
NNAMDIWell, Scott Strzelczyk, John sounds like one of your people?
STRZELCZYKThat's true, but, you know, and I want to point out something here. It's, you know, if you look at the Maryland Declaration of Rights under Article 1 and also Article 6 it very clearly says that we, the people are the sovereigns and that political societies which is what a government is, is formed by the consent of the people and we always have the right to alter, reform or abolish that government to better secure our happiness.
STRZELCZYKAnd so when we say we want an amicable divorce, you know, this is akin to, you know, a woman being in an abusive and oppressive relationship who is being abused mentally. She tries to talk to her husband. They go to marriage counseling, all that. He continues to abuse her and she wants to leave him. He says, no, you have to stay. The oppressors and the abusers never see themselves as oppressors and abusers. And we are simply the ones being abused and we are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
STRZELCZYKAnd that's precisely what Rosa Parks said on the bus when they asked her to move. She said, why do you do it? She said, I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. We're tired of this. We have had enough.
NNAMDIJohn, thank you very much for your call. Scott, Mike reported that you grew up a Democrat and that you were sent over the edge by President Obama's election in 2008. What happened in 2008 that pushed you that far and how would you describe the politics that you subscribe to now?
STRZELCZYKNo. So I would say that did not push me over the edge. I think -- I don't know that that's the right way to describe it. I used to be very left on the political spectrum when I was younger. You know, I was looking at what the Democrat Party was doing as I started getting older. It didn't make sense to me. I became a Republican. I looked at that. And after a time, I decided both parties are really not that much different. They're just different wings of the same bird of prey. And neither party is telling us the truth.
STRZELCZYKSo in 2008 I decided to take it upon myself to go back and reread history, the Constitution, the Declaration. And I read hundred and thousands of books and articles on this to learn about this. And so I don't take the words of either political party because both of the parties really are just fighting for the status quo. And D.C. will never fix D.C. I mean, when have you ever seen the size of government in the federal government get smaller? And it doesn't matter which party's in power.
STRZELCZYKSo if the Rs get in power, half the country's mad and the Ds get in power, half the country's mad. And we don't need brother against brother and neighbor against neighbor anymore. What we need is people to live harmoniously in states that govern according to their needs instead of a one-size-fits-all policy jammed down people's throats, depending on what political party happens to get in power.
ROSENWALDYeah, Kojo, I was going to say when Scott and I were talking, I was struck by what he's saying about being frustrated with both parties. And we were talking about sources of media and where we get media because a lot of this is...
NNAMDIHey, hey, hey. You're on media and Scott is media himself.
STRZELCZYKYeah, (word?) brother. Amen.
ROSENWALDExactly. But I said to him, I said, so you know, where do you get your information? And, you know, was struck by the fact that he said he didn't watch FOX News. And, you know, there's been a lot of commenters who have written on the story and said, oh this is the FOX News crowd. You know, this is just -- this is one more step and that sort of conservative rhetoric. But it's really not and the other people I spoke to, you know, for the story, they find things in the conservative party and the Republican Party that they dislike as well.
ROSENWALDThey're fed up with process. In fact the entire time that I was reporting this story I was -- this was the most surprising thing that I found, that it was people upset with both sides of the aisle and both sides of the aisle not representing their interests.
EBERLYWell, I think it's important to point out that...
NNAMDIThis is Todd Eberly.
EBERLY...yeah, these interest states secessionist movements, they're also happening in Florida. In South Florida, it's Democrats who are pursuing breaking away from the Republican rest of the state. In Arizona and some of the western counties, it's again Democrats who want to break away from what they see as Republican control of the state. To me this is about folks who just do not believe that they are being represented. Whether it's Republican or Democrat, if one party dominates a state they will find ways to maximize their control and marginalize folks who disagree with them. Redistricting is one very popular way to do it.
EBERLYSo, yeah, dismissing this as Republican or Democrat I think is just wrong. It's about what both of those parties do when they find themselves in power in an effort to simply protect their power.
STRZELCZYKTodd, that's really well said. I mean, I really appreciate you saying that. And I want to say, we are completely supportive of the effort in Tucson to break off from Arizona. And this is really about people innately wanting to be free and to be governed the way they want. And the beauty of the solution -- and here's the thing that's so great about this -- imagine -- forget 50 states -- imagine if we had 100 or 2 or 3 or 400 states all governed very differently? People who want to be on the left side of a political spectrum or the right side or anywhere in between, go live in a state like that. And then you can leave the people out who want to live differently in another state.
STRZELCZYKWhen we keep fighting each other and pitting brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor and nationalizing every single issue, this will never get fixed. This problem will not get fixed if we keep doing this.
NNAMDIHere's Douglas in McLain, Va. Douglas, your turn.
DOUGLASYeah, in the last hour a guest on "The Diane Rehm Show" said that the electorates of the Democrats and Republicans could be from different countries. And I think our values have become so different, so irreconcilable that I think we might as well split up. I don't like the far right wing Republicans. I don't respect them. I have next to nothing in common with what I consider their ignorant bigoted values. And I think the country is falling apart. And it's probably going to split up.
NNAMDISo you would be in full agreement with the five counties of western Maryland splitting up and forming their own state. And you feel that wherever people are who feel that they're ideological orientation is somehow being suppressed that they should do the same thing.
DOUGLASI think it's almost inevitable because these are issues for which there is no compromise. I mean, the Davies (sp?) right wingers arrest a woman for having an abortion or start turning back the clock on gay rights. That's going to be as a popular phrase as a redline.
NNAMDIWell, allow me to have our panelists respond to that. Todd Eberly, you said it's happening among liberals, it's happening among conservatives. Our guest Douglas -- or our caller Douglas said, yes, let it happen.
EBERLYSure. And I mean, what you're hearing there is its intolerance. He is decrying the intolerance of others while at the same time demonstrating that he is intolerant of others. And I've received emails -- you know, I wrote a piece in which I said, I understand the motivation behind these movements, be they left or right, but I disagree with them. So I think the worst thing we can do is divide up into fiefdoms and create these little realities where we only live and interact with people who agree with us. I mean, I think what a horrible human experience that would be.
EBERLYBut I received emails from folks saying, you know, forget it. The last thing we want to do is give voice to these minority opinions. Say goodbye to Hagerstown. Let them go. Get rid of them. And I think the fact that we have two parties right now that are so polarized, yeah, you might say you don't see a dime's worth of difference between them. But the truth of the matter is they are very polarized on a whole set of issues and they refuse to compromise.. And as they are forcing Americans to sort of divide into one camp or the other, we are seeing an increase in this level of intolerance.
EBERLYWe reduce the people with whom we disagree to just caricatures. We label them left wingers or right wingers or socialists. We convince ourselves that there is absolutely no value to what they are saying. And that has no place in a free and expressive democratic society.
NNAMDIDouglas, thank you very much for your call. Scott, I know you have to go shortly. What's your strategy for getting this movement off the ground? So far most people have called it quixotic. You have heard Mike Rosenwald say that most political strategists that he talked to has said it would take a miracle. How do you see it happening?
STRZELCZYKSo let's just -- let me just acknowledge -- and I acknowledge this very openly to Mike and everyone. It is difficult, right. I mean, you know, I’m not showing you utopia hand-holding and singing Kumbaya for people here, right. This is a difficult process. It's going to take us a couple few years to probably work through the entire thing.
STRZELCZYKMoving forward, we will be launching a website for this. We will be creating a 501c4. We will be fundraising. We will be putting together policy committees on this. We will start working on state constitutions. We will be meeting with and sending communications to the state delegates and senators and county commissioners. So we are going to move this effort forward. And I want to stress, really the last thing is, this is about popular support. Ultimately if the people of the five western counties do not support this effort, we are going to end -- we're not going to force them to leave, if that's what they tell us, right.
STRZELCZYKBut we believe in everything we've heard so far, they want us to pursue this. And we're going to work on gauging that better to determine, do we really go forward with this or do we stop this effort?
ROSENWALDTodd made a point that I think is really interesting, which is that, you know, living in a community where everybody sort of agrees with everybody else would be sort of, you know, frightening to think about. But if you think about it, we are starting to live in those communities right now. Social media and other forms of niche media have segmented us into groups of people who largely agree with each other. And there's a word for this, you know, sort of called the filter bubble.
ROSENWALDYou know, the people I'm friends with on Facebook or who I follow on Twitter generally, you know, the research has shown that generally have similar ideas and similar backgrounds and similar thoughts about how the world should work. So -- and I actually think a lot of -- I actually think both the -- what's driving the rhetoric behind these movements and also the success of these movements getting attention is actually related to how our media works right now.
ROSENWALDOn the one hand, you have people who can get the kind of news and deal with the kind of people they want to deal with electronically on their computer, on their handheld device or their tablet, whatever. They can always be with people who agree with them. And those devices and those technologies also give people the ability -- like many people the ability to organize. And so for two reasons I think the media is really -- the segmenting of media is really behind a lot of this.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. Scott Strzelczyk has to go. He is an activist with the western -- but we will be continuing the conversation -- Scott is an activist with the western Maryland Initiative, which is an organization calling for a discussion about whether Maryland's five western counties should form their own state. He's also the co-host and executive producer of the radio program "The Forgotten Men." Scott, that quote "sick and tired of being sick and tired" was by Fannie Lou Hamer, not Rosa Parks.
STRZELCZYKI think that was her explanation when they asked her why she did it, but I could be mistaken. That's okay.
NNAMDINo, it was Fannie Lou Hamer's explanation for that...
STRZELCZYKI'll take a look at that after I get off the phone. But thank you for having me on. I appreciate the opportunity.
NNAMDIAnd thank you very much for joining us. We're going to take a short break, as I said. When we come back, if you've called, stay on the line. We will get to your calls. If the lines are busy shoot us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. do you think Maryland is gerrymandered to the point where large populations in the state have been left without a voice in its politics? What do you think would make the system work better? You can send an email to email@example.com or shoot us a Tweet at kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about a movement afoot calling for Maryland's five westernmost counties to break off and form their own state. We're talking with Todd Eberly. He's a political science professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland. He also writes The Free Stater Blog about Maryland politics. Mike Rosenwald is a reporter for the Washington Post. To what degree, Mike, is what we're talking about here reflection of a greater urban rural divide that you can see in states across the country?
ROSENWALDYeah, I think that's, from my perspective and from my reporting, driving a lot of this. You know, obviously the gun issue is a big issue in the rural communities. Gay marriage is a big issue in rural communities. The taxation is a big issue in rural communities. And so this sort of rise of a lot of urban populations, particularly in the D.C. area, the Boulder/Denver area in Colorado, you know, there's this significant divide where the people in the rural area thinks, well we've got all the land, we're living on all the land. We love the land. And -- but these people in these small sort of geographic areas who have more people than us are driving the policies.
ROSENWALDAnd particularly in the D.C. region, you can see a lot of this happening as the urban rural divide sort of is kind of butting heads, you know, particularly in upper Montgomery County and in Frederick where people have moved further and further out from the district. You know, as they start families, as they want more affordable housing they come out with more progressive values. They butt heads with old timers from Frederick County who've been there for generations.
ROSENWALDSo increasingly there is this -- I think, this urban rural butting of heads both at the local level and at the political level as urban delegations pass laws that are out of step with how rural folks live.
NNAMDIAnd, Todd Eberly, you argue that the numbers for Republicans are not as bad as some people say, that Maryland is not a two-to one Democratic state. What do the numbers actually look like according to your analysis?
EBERLYWell, if you look at statewide voting totals, Republicans routinely are hitting about 40 percent, making it closer to a 60/40. If you can have a relatively competitive race for governor, you can see the rates even go higher than that. For Democrats their voter registration number, which is about 57 percent, that's relatively close to their ceiling. Republicans are at about 27 percent but routinely over perform that.
EBERLYThose numbers still make them the clear minority in the state and should make it incredibly difficult for them to win statewide. But there is a case to be made when you consider that western Maryland, southern Maryland, the eastern shore, these are large areas that are, you know, clearly Republican. The party is underrepresented in Annapolis and it's underrepresented in the congressional delegation. And, you know, this partially reflects gerrymandering of the state.
NNAMDIWhich brings us to Greg in Norton, Va. Greg, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GREGHey, how you guys doing?
GREGGood. You know, I just want to say a couple things here. First of all, this secession movement sounds a little bit like, I'm going to pick up all my toys because I don't want to play anymore and I'm just going to go home. And I just don't think that approach is going to work. Now, there's been a lot of talk about gerrymandering. I think that is one of the roots of the problem. We need to set districts up and not change them like ever. The representatives that are elected from those districts need to represent the people who currently live there, who are currently voting there or they don't.
GREGAnd if the composition of the district changes, then the people are going to elect a representative that most closely represents what their values and their political, you know, views are. And, you know, I really think that in addition to that, you know, we really need to get -- we need public financing of campaigns. I mean, there should be -- you know, I don't know what the numbers are -- but $250,000 to run for that House representative and that's it. And that's going to help a lot. These gerrymanders, you know, happen all over the country. They are designed to keep incumbents in.
GREGAnd so, you know, I think that instead of trying to secede and look at it like that, that's just going to make things even more complicated and worse. And so I think we need to really think about some other solutions here that will help this problem.
NNAMDIWell, of course, Greg, when politicians set about reshaping districts, they don't call it gerrymandering. They call it redistricting. But Todd Eberly, do you think that Greg has a possible solution there?
EBERLYI think those things absolutely help. I've actually advocated for public financing and we can't stop redistricting. It has to be based on equal population. So if a district shrinks in size and a district next to it increases, to get to the principle of one man one vote we have to redraw the lines. But in Maryland in the last round of redistricting for example, they had to move about 120,000 people. That's sort of the imbalance that we had. But instead they redrew districts that altered the districts for 1.2 million people. They wanted to maximize power for the party.
EBERLYNow Republicans have done this in Pennsylvania, they've done it in Texas. Democrats have done this in Illinois. It's about them trying to have power. And I think it's important also to remember, these folks, they don't want to secede from the union. They still fundamentally believe in the idea of the United States. They want to secede from their state. If these people truly felt that they had a voice, that they were being represented in some way, I think it would be easier for them to accept defeat on the issues when they lose. But instead they feel that they have no representation. They're being encouraged to move into neighborhoods with like-minded people.
EBERLYAs Mike said, they're watching FOX News or they're watching MSNBC. They're only ever hearing attitudes that reinforce their own and they're becoming convinced that everyone who disagrees with them is strange in some way, isn't normal.
EBERLYWhat we need is actually more mixing of people and attitudes and ideas. And then we'd sort of come to terms that, oh wow, they might have a point there with the issue that they're arguing for.
NNAMDIGreg, thank you very much for your call. Mike Rosenwald, what do you make of the argument that even if Maryland's Democratic Party is dominant as a result of redistricting that there's still a lot of diversity inside of that party itself?
ROSENWALDWell, I mean, you'd have to ask the people of western Maryland about that. I would think that they would disagree, and I would think also that the laws that get passed in Annapolis and the laws that are given proper consideration in Annapolis reflect a different agenda, and you see this a lot. I mean, one of the great things one can do in this state is go listen to hearings on various bills. And you can actually hear from people who don't think that there is enough diversity in views within the dominant party. And that's a topic that comes up a lot in Annapolis.
EBERLYWell, and both parties…
NNAMDIGo ahead, please.
EBERLY…used to be far more diverse than they are, ideologically. Maryland's Democratic Party has dominated this state since reconstruction, but it used to be a very diverse party with conservative Democrats and liberal Democrats, but just as happened nationally, the parties are becoming more homogenous. Republicans are conservative. Democrats are liberal. That's happening in Maryland, as well. So there are fewer of those, you know, divergent voices.
NNAMDIHere is Ben, in Rockville, Md. Ben, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BENOh, well, thank you for taking my call. So here's my question, let's say Western Maryland puts in $300 million in state taxes in a given year and gets $400 million in state spending, how about for two, five years, they pay their own way before they break off? I mean, because it's not like it's Montgomery County that's trying to break away, when Montgomery County funds the rest of the state. I mean, just take it away. I would actually…
NNAMDII'm really glad you brought up the issue of finances because Mike Rosenwald, Western Maryland, you wrote in depth a year ago about the death of manufacturing jobs there, the closing of the ice cream plant in Hagerstown. Where does Western Maryland fit into the big picture of the state's economy? Can then, as Ben seems to suggest, that they think they can live on their own without state support, let them try?
ROSENWALDWell, I mean, they're definitely in the eastern part of the state and in the suburbs of the District. People obviously earn higher incomes. People in Western Maryland -- there are more people in Western Maryland earning less than $15,000 a year than there are in this part of the state. So clearly the state does not do as well, in terms of income levels, which is not to say there are not still big industries out there.
ROSENWALDYou know, there's a lot of employment in prisons, for instance, and other global companies that are out there. Prisons would be a huge problem for the secession movement, given that many of them are in Western Maryland and many of the people who have committed crimes did not commit them in Western Maryland, but are incarcerated in Western Maryland and those people would then be in a state that wasn't Maryland anymore. That's something significant that they'd have to figure out, I would hope.
ROSENWALDSo obviously there are differences in income. And, you know, one of the things Scott said, and I'm not sure if it made it into my story or not. I can't recall. But, you know, there are parts of the state the Western Maryland is definitely responsible for. And he would be willing to work out an agreement with Maryland to pay that back. So, you know, the folks behind this movement understand that there are significant financial issues at play here as well, and they're willing to be responsible about them.
NNAMDINevertheless, Todd -- and this is my final question -- they do seem to have real grievances. People in Washington County used to be represented by Congressman Roscoe Bartlett. Now, these same voters are represented by Democrat John Delaney, a financial guy from Montgomery County.
EBERLYYes. I mean, look, no matter what, if you draw districts you're going to have winners and losers in that district. You're going to have people who didn't agree with who won. But the real question is, when we drew those district lines, did we do it because we respected existing county lines, communities and school districts, or did we do it because we specifically wanted to disenfranchise voters with whom we disagree? And when that's the motivation -- and let's just be honest, that's what the current Maryland Congressional map is about.
EBERLYIf that's the reason we did it, then all we are doing is giving justification to the grievances and to the anger that these people feel.
NNAMDIBen, thank you very much for your call. Todd Eberly, thank you for joining us.
EBERLYMy pleasure. Thanks for having me.
NNAMDITodd Eberly is a political science professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland. He also writes "The Free Slater Blog," about Maryland politics. Mike Rosenwald, thank you for joining us.
ROSENWALDThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIMike Rosenwald is a reporter for the Washington Post. We're going to take a short break. When we come back we'll be joined by WAMU 88.5 news reporter -- Patrick Madden is on the phone. He's going to talk about the living wage veto by Mayor Vincent Gray this morning. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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