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Coming soon (not really): Medford, Idaho

Ever feel like living in your own private Idaho? You might be able to, if a far-fetched plan to add most of Oregon and part of California to our neighbor to the east ever comes to pass. Hell would also have to freeze over, but the unlikelihood of that hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of a group calling itself Greater Idaho.

The motivation behind this latest exercise in windmill-tilting is the same as that fueling the “state of Jefferson” fantasy: Conservatives in rural Oregon don’t get any respect from those dastardly Democrats who run Portland and control a majority of the Oregon Legislature. Those proposing this move seem to have forgotten that Republicans controlled both houses of the Oregon Legislature as recently as 2004, and probably will again at some point.

That’s far more likely than getting the legislatures of Oregon, Idaho and California, along with the U.S. Congress, to approve redrawing the Idaho boundary in such a dramatic fashion.

At least the Greater Idaho idea doesn’t involve creating a 51st state — just annexing parts of two others onto an existing one. Backers of the move point to the last time territory was shifted from one state to another: In 1961, a piece of Minnesota became part of North Dakota after a river realignment project cut it off from the rest of Minnesota. A tiny piece: 20 whole acres.

The Greater Idaho concept envisions all of Eastern Oregon (minus Bend; more on that later), Southern Oregon all the way to the coast from Reedsport to Crescent City, and including a chunk of Northern California including Redding and Red Bluff. Oregon would be reduced to the Willamette Valley south to the Douglas County line, plus the north coast.

You might think Medford would wind up as a leading city in Greater Idaho. Think again. Medford is the eighth-largest city in Oregon. It would move up, but only to fifth largest, after Boise, Meridian, Nampa and Redding.

And what about Bend? Why carve it out of the brave new world?

It seems Bend is tainted by too many Democrats. So are The Dalles and the Warm Springs Reservation. Those three communities, according to Greater Idaho’s website, would “weaken the very strong position of the Republican Party of Idaho” because their residents “don’t vote as Republican as Idaho does,” and backers of the plan believe they need solidly Republican counties to convince the solidly Republican Idaho Legislature to accept them as part of that solidly Republican state.

Still yearning for your own private Idaho? Remember the 1980 song by the B-52s? According to the website Songfacts, “In this song, the fine state of Idaho is used to represent a case of paranoia — the lyrics ‘get out of that state’ meaning to get out of that state of mind.”

You’re livin’ in your own Private Idaho, Idaho

You’re out of control, the rivers that roll

You fell into the water and down to Idaho

Get out of that state

Get out

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