by James A. Bacon
I’ve been a Nigel Farage fan since I first viewed him on YouTube years ago. I cackled as the obscure British representative to the European Parliament hilariously skewered the bureaucratic officiousness of EU executives. Farage went on to become an international phenomenon, championing the Brexit movement, building the conservative UK Independence Party (UKIP) into a major political force, and challenging the sanctimony of British elites. His populist politics are similar to those of President Trump, although his personality, unlike the president’s, is tempered by amiability and wit. In other words, his demeanor is an asset, not a liability. I’ve often thought, if only Farage were American, we might have elected a different president. As it is, he makes periodic forays into England’s former colonies, including, most recently, Virginia, and shares his thinking in his own inimitable way.
Appearing at Liberty University yesterday, Farage made the case for “Vexit” — or the right of citizens of Virginia counties discontented with the direction of state government to break away and join West Virginia. “When local people want to make changes and change their structure of government, they should be able to do so,” he said at Liberty’s convocation, as reported by the News & Advance,
Farage’s comments followed the headline-grabbing offer by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice for Virginia localities to switch states. Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. became the first prominent Virginian to endorse the idea. I initially thought Falwell was just engaging in political theater, but after Farage’s comments, I’m not so sure.
At the convocation, during which he was given an honorary degree, Farage drew parallels between the populist movements that led to Brexit in the UK and the election of President Trump. Both movements, he said, were driven by ordinary citizens fed up with government overreach. He went on, according to the News & Advance, to urge Liberty students to prioritize protecting civil liberties and other freedoms over chasing high-paying careers.
“If you want to be free people, if you want to be able to live in liberty, if you want to be able to determine your own futures, you cannot take these freedoms for granted,” he said. “You have to fight for these freedoms and fight for them every day of your lives.”
It’s not clear from the article how serious Farage was about Vexit. Was he just pandering to his audience, or was he really serious? I don’t know. Whatever the case, Farage’s remarks bring visibility to an idea that no one was taking seriously a week ago. But now, it appears, the Vexit idea is showing signs of gaining momentum. Reports the News & Advance:
In Campbell County, Rick Boyer, a conservative activist attorney and former local elected official, is working to bring the issue to local lawmakers.
Under the plan proposed by Vexit advocates, localities interested in joining West Virginia would hold non-binding referendums on secession in November. If the referendums succeed, Falwell has argued, it will put pressure on state legislators to allow those counties and cities to separate from the state.
No one saw the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement coming, but it boiled over almost overnight and swept much of the state. It will be fascinating to see if the emotional energy from that movement spills into a serious Vexit movement. Farage had one piece of advice for Vexit supporters, though: “It’s very easy to start exit campaigns, but they often take a bit longer than you think they’re going to.”
Bacon’s bottom line: I, for one, don’t take our freedoms and liberties for granted. And I’m sympathetic to the idea, at least in the abstract, that people should be free to secede from one state and join another — what a great way to hold political elites accountable. If your state sucks, pick a different state! But the practical problems are complex beyond measure.
Say you’re Alleghany County or Buchanan County, and you decide to hitch up with West Virginia. You’ll get to keep your guns unmolested, but you’ll have to change all your laws, radically restructure your local government, and adopt an entirely new system of state/local taxation. You’ll also have to resolve issues like shouldering your fair share (however you define “fair”) of the state debt, public-employee pension obligations, and other liabilities. And at the end of the day, you’ll have traded a set of idiots in Richmond for a set of morons in Charleston! (Governor Ralph Northam ought to ask West Virginians if they’d like to rejoin Virginia. A lot of them, I’d bet, would love to live in a wealthier, more economically dynamic state.)
If you think that the UK’s exit from the EU raised a host of prickly issues, that’s nothing compared to what Vexit would entail. State/local governments in Virginia are far more tightly integrated than the UK was with the European Union. So, as much as I enjoy listening to Nigel Farage, Vexit makes no sense to me whatsoever. If Virginians want to preserve their liberties, they need to stand and fight… here in Virginia.
Update: The Tazewell County Board of Supervisors heard public input and shared thoughts on Vexit yesterday. Reports the Bluefield Daily Telegraph:
Tom Lester, Western District Tazewell County supervisor, said prior to Tuesday’s meeting that he asked for the issue to be put on the agenda because he has received phone calls and emails from residents wanting to know if the county was going to “take a stand” on Vexit.
Lester said at Tuesday’s meeting that he was intrigued by Vexit, but believed it could be “highly impractical.” Virginia and West Virginia have different systems for addressing roads, school systems and other items impacted by the government.
I don’t see how this idea can get as much traction as the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement. But, hey, I didn’t think the sanctuary movement would go as far as it did, so what do I know?