This year, Virginia joined a list of states whose rural leaders are talking of divorcing from their big-city counterparts. This talk of breakaway rests on perceived lack of political representation in state government, and different cultural values from the big cities. Upstate New Yorkers want to do away with New York City. Eastern parts of Washington and Oregon seek to break away from cosmopolitan and left-leaning Seattle and Portland.
More serious and detailed secession plans include an economic strategy. Some rural and libertarian-leaning Californians talk about splitting their state in two: under most proposals, Southern California would claim prosperous Silicon Valley, just south of the northerly city of San Francisco.
In Virginia’s most radical proposal, dubbed "Vexit", Arlington County and its 235,000 urbanized residents would return to neighboring District of Columbia, as it was between 1800 and 1846. Arlington residents made it clear that they did not want to join DC, giving their own stereotyped gripes of big-city problems. A trimmed Virginia would keep neighboring Fairfax County- which has more registered Democrats than Arlington- not for political reasons, but for economic reasons. Fairfax is home to Fortune 500 companies; and Dulles Airport, Virginia’s global hub with non-stop flights to Tel Aviv and Hong Kong. Without Fairfax, some commentators claimed that Virginia would become another rural, poor, Southern state.
A smaller proposal would shift several border counties across the line into West Virginia. When the mountainous state was created during the Civil War, border counties were invited to join West Virginia by referendum, and according to its governor, the invitation is still open.
Virginia’s secession talk has more gravitas in conversation than elsewhere, for the state has already split four times, and rejoined twice:
1792- Kentucky split from Virginia
1800- Alexandria, Virginia annexed to Washington, DC
1846- Alexandria returned to Virginia
1861- Virginia leaves the US for the Confederacy
1863- West Virginia split off as a Union state
1870- Virginia rejoins the US
What propelled the secession talk in Virginia? Democrats introduced and voted on an “assault weapon” ban. It passed the House of Delegates, but failed by several votes in the State Senate. Apparently, this was too close of a call for gun-toting patriots.