PIERRE, S.D. — A lawmaker's plan floated this week to allow Minnesota counties to secede and join the state of South Dakota
sounded like a ruse meant to drive up a Twitter dust storm.
And predictably, dust swirled.
South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem took the bait on Thursday, March 25, tweeting that the state would "roll out the red carpet" for Minnesotans with like-minded conservative political philosophies.
Petition to allow MN counties to join a State that respects Freedom and Libertyhttps://t.co/a3TA9E32Vi— Jeremy Munson (@jeremymunson) March 25, 2021
✔️ Pass HF2423 by the #mnleg
✔️ MN Voters allow Counties to leave
✔️Counties vote to join neighboring State
✔️ Congress approves pic.twitter.com/S8KwWRv1fA
HF 2423, actually a proposed constitutional amendment from Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal, would erect a "process for a county ... to be excluded from the Territory of Minnesota" and has zero chance of becoming law.
That doesn't mean it's an entirely academic exercise.
In May, five counties in eastern Oregon will vote on joining Idaho, thinking they'll find more political friends in Boise than in Salem. And last year, the West Virginia state Senate reaffirmed an invitation for Frederick County, Va., to glom onto West Virginia and leave the increasingly progressive politics from Richmond, Va., and Gov. Ralph Northam.
Any of these moves would also require an act of Congress.
At their heart, say some academics, proposals such as these typify a perceived divide between rural and urban areas that only perpetuates that divide, light on substance and steeped in stereotypes.
"I am also humored that the Iron Range seemed to be included in the area that would stay with the Twin Cities, as well as southeastern Minnesota," said University of South Dakota political professor Michael Card, referring to a map Munson put on his tweet that showed a red divide bifurcating the North Star State roughly on the I-35 corridor. "Not sure that is what they would want, even if including Rochester and the medical community there."
Of note, Munson's own "bill" doesn't match his meme map, which shows only rural counties in Minnesota joining South Dakota. His own bill is broader, saying "counties," not "rural counties."
Though the two state capitals, Pierre and St. Paul, have one thing in common — they each sit on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, respectively — the politics are almost photographic negatives. Their governors are opposites, with Noem during COVID-19 touting "freedom" and "personal responsibility," while her Minnesota counterpart, Gov. Tim Walz, has faced a GOP angry over state-backed lockdowns and restrictions during the pandemic.
But Munson's plan also raises the question if the reverse could be true: That left-leaning residents and leaders in South Dakota might join up with their progressive neighbor, Minnesota?
At least one progressive mayor in one of the few blue pockets in South Dakota balks at realignment.
"I'm a fourth-generation South Dakotan," said Kelsey Collier-Wise, mayor of Vermillion, S.D., a college town in Clay County, where more than 50% of voters cast ballots for President Joe Biden. "I was born here. I grew up here. And I don't want to be a Minnesotan."
But Collier-Wise noted that a state income tax — currently not legal in South Dakota — could help her community invest in infrastructure, from a new pool to a badly needed courthouse. She also noted that Vermillion has followed the path of Brookings, S.D., another college town, that sought a "home-rule" charter, in part, in order to municipally protect human rights, such as gender identity and sexual orientation, not recognized by state bureaucracies in Pierre.
But she'd rather fight locally for that.
"We're regionally Vikings and Twins fans anyway, and I lived in Minnesota when I went to college," Collier-Wise said. "But my identity is here. And I imagine there are Minnesotans who would say the same thing. They don't want to be South Dakotan. You want to stay where you are and fight for those values."
In other words, the Minnesota and South Dakota border remains fixed — until the ice is out on Big Stone Lake, when the waters tumble together once again.
Contact Vondracek at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @ChrisVondracek.