West Virginia Offers to Incorporate Disaffected Virginia Counties

By DJ RippertAlmost heaven.

 West Virginia state legislator Gary Howell is spearheading an effort to allow Virginia jurisdictions frustrated by Richmond a chance to join West Virginia. While this might seem like gimmickry, Howell claims that “43 out of 100 West Virginia house members are sponsoring a resolution that would let West Virginia accept some of the largely rural Virginia counties unhappy with how things are being run in Richmond.” More specifically, West Virginia State Senator Charles Trump (no relation, I don’t think) has invited Frederick County, Va., to cross over to the Mountain State. An editorial in the Roanoke Times says Sen. Trump is on “firm legal ground.” A good summary of the matter written by Hoppy Kercheval, dean of West Virginia talk radio, can be found here.

Plantation elite. Before West Virginia’s offer is pushed aside as nonsense, it makes sense to examine some of the history behind such a proposition. After all, as Kercheval points out, western Virginians getting fed up with Richmond-based rule is not exactly a new or unique thought. In my mind, Virginia has long been under the yoke of a minority of Virginians from the plantations of central and southeast Virginia. This “plantation elite” are led by families who claim to be descended from Pocahontas and who further self-define themselves as “the first families of Virginia.”

They came to wealth on the whip-scarred backs of their African slaves. Yet their condescension of those they saw as inferiors went beyond the unspeakable atrocities they visited on their slaves. They used land ownership requirements for voting to disenfranchise white residents of western Virginia. They regulated against railroads that didn’t terminate in Virginia ports thereby economically stranding communities like Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia) which depended on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The plantation elite led the secession of Virginia in an immoral war they could not possibly have won. They lost the western third of the state when the Virginians living there decided they could take Richmond’s abuse no more. After the catastrophic Civil War the plantation elite enacted Jim Crow laws, built a machine around a racist named Harry Byrd, implemented Massive Resistance and fought the integration of Virginia schools. When Arlington County tried to integrate its schools in 1956 the General Assembly passed legislation stripping Arlington of its elected school board. It wasn’t enough for the plantation elite to be racist in their own regions they had to export their illegal racism to everywhere else in Virginia. Against this backdrop the possibility of areas within Virginia trying to escape the tyranny of Richmond (one way or another) may not be as far fetched as it seems.

The Virginia Way. The condescension and arrogance of the Richmond-based plantation elite remains in place today. It has nothing to do with Democrat vs Republican, north vs. south or liberal vs conservative. It is the self-proclaimed elite vs the rest of us.  In his excellent book, The Virginia Way, Democracy and Power After 2016, Jeff Thomas analyzes both the history and modern aspects of our toxic state government. Our own Peter Galuszka provided a positive review of the book as part of its “liner notes.”

Thomas writes, “There had been a long campaign to convince voters and scholars of the Virginia Way myth of clean government in which examples of corruption were usually dismissed as deviations from a glorious history stretching back to Lee, Jefferson and Jamestown. The “deviations” were actually the main story. Virginia politicians ignored plain facts and evident consequences in service of a Virginia Way ideology that just so happened to benefit themselves.”

The fact that Jeff Thomas published his book in 2019 is evidence that many in the Commonwealth will no longer stand idly by while the plantation elite economically pillages Virginia. The real test of our new Democratic majority will be whether they are willing to take on the plantation elite and destroy “The Virginia Way” once and for all. The overture from West Virginia may be a cosmetic act but it touches on a real issue — for good reason, many Virginians no long trust or respect our state government in Richmond.

The Virginia Way today. Some plantation elite defenders will try to convince people that the bad aspects of the Virginia Way are a thing of the past. Not true.  In 1924 Virginia passed a eugenics law legalizing the sterilization of committed people to protect “the purity of the American race”. Ancient history? The law that allowed forced sterilizations of the “feebleminded” stayed on Virginia books until 1979. On a more recent note, last September, Virginia was ranked the worst partisan gerrymandered state by the USC Schwarzenegger Institute. The plantation elite as represented by our General Assembly continue to defile even the most basic definition of democracy in Virginia through extreme gerrymandering. Today’s gerrymandering was a bipartisan effort where the House of Delegates was gerrymandered by Republicans and the State Senate was gerrymandered by Democrats. Both parties are guilty of anti-democratic disenfranchisement of their constituents. Will the new Democratic majority chart a new course in 2021?

Dillon’s Rule as a tool of coercion. If the pigs of Richmond simply fed at their local troughs and left the rest of the state alone it might be tolerable. But that doesn’t happen. Virginia has a strict implementation of Dillon’s Rule. This restricts regional and local governance in favor of statewide control. The strong implementation of Dillon’s Rule has long been used as a stick by the plantation elite to beat their fellow Virginians into line. When the City Council of Charlottesville wanted to remove Confederate statues from parks in that city it could not do so. Why not? Our arrogant General Assembly decided that localities cannot remove war statues from their own parks regardless of what the local citizens think. If a local school district wants to start classes before Labor Day they have to beg the nanny state in Richmond for permission to open their own schools on their own schedule. The list goes on and on. This has to end. Why shouldn’t the citizens of rural western counties be able to have different gun laws than the citizens of urban and suburban Virginia? Barring that, why shouldn’t they be able to join West Virginia if that state better represents their needs?

For years many of Virginia’s conservative authors and commentators sang the praises of Virginia’s version of Dillon’s Rule. But now the worm has turned. Gun control laws supported by majorities of urban and suburban voters are being foisted on rural and small town Virginia. Up spring second amendment sanctuary localities who suddenly don’t like Dillon’s Rule and refuse to enforce Richmond’s laws. Extreme options like non-enforcement are being discussed. How long can the tyranny of a gerrymandered state legislature with structurally non-competitive elections last? We Virginians don’t live in a democracy we live in a kleptocracy.

Rip’s Wrap. Tyranny always eventually fails. Virginia’s modern plantation elite have used disenfranchisement, extreme levels of gerrymandering, off-year elections, unlimited contributions, a lack of term limits and a strict implementation of Dillon’s Rule to retain a despotic hold over Virginians. Yet their grip is loosening. Grassroots resistance seems to have thwarted the unholy alliance between the General Assembly and Dominion over the various pipeline projects In a rebuke of state law the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Fairfax County will no longer prosecute simple marijuana possession cases. Localities across the state are refusing to enforce new gun control laws. East coast fisheries regulators have effectively ended our General Assembly’s corrupt management of menhaden stock. West Virginia may be set to offer a rural haven to disaffected localities in the western part of the state. I hope some of our counties proceed with this initiative – whether it has a chance of success or not. Send a signal to the new Democratic majority in Richmond. The time has come for the Virginia Way to end. The time has come for the Virginia General Assembly to realize that its days of thwarting the will of the people has expired.

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32 responses to “West Virginia Offers to Incorporate Disaffected Virginia Counties”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” In my mind, Virginia has long been under the yoke of a minority of Virginians from the plantations of central and southeast Virginia. This “plantation elite” are led by families who claim to be descended from Pocahontas and who further self-define themselves as “the first families of Virginia”.”


    Where do you think the owners of land in Virginia got that land to begin with? From the Indians? From the King of England?

    I’m a fan of dismantling made-up history , we do have a fair amount of it but this is surely an interesting take on history.

    Here I always thought that the King granted tracts of land to folks and they had to “clear out” the indians as part of the task of keeping it.

    So the Plantation “elites” descended from Pocahontas?

    Maybe I misread it?


    1. djrippert Avatar

      Read The Virginia Way by Jeff Thomas. The Richmond elite have been disenfranchising other Virginians (black and white) since about the 1820s. for example, by the 1820s Virginia was one of only two states that required white men to be landowners in order to vote. That’s just a fact Larry. Not only did one have to own land to vote you had to own a meaningful amount of land. Who owned meaningful amounts of land in Virginia in the 1820s? The plantation owners of central and southeast Virginia. Who didn’t own meaningful amounts of land? The fast growing population of yeoman farmers in the western part of the state (that largely became West Virginia). Today, we have the worst partisan gerrymandering in America. That’s another method of disenfranchisement. Read the USC Schwarzenegger Institute report. Read the recent court orders forcing Virginia to redraw its 2010 lines. The plantation elite have gotten more sophisticated but they are still disenfranchising Virginians.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Oh I AGREE about the landed gentry. I’m asking WHERE that gentry got the land originally.

        1. djrippert Avatar

          I assume from the King of England but I don’t really know. Over time, I’m sure there were subdivisions and parcels divided so heirs could inherit “their share” of the plantation.

  2. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Quick question, written as I think about whether to leave the Pocahontas (Building) for lunch and risk the lines to get back in…..Have you ever been in the Capitol during session? Sat through a committee meeting? Testified? Written a bill? Do you have any actual experience here? Talk about condescension….sheesh. My apologies for how I’ve spent the last 35 years….

    1. djrippert Avatar

      I’m sure that during Massive Resistance there were some perceptive people in Virginia government who knew the policy was short-sighted, illegal and immoral. Unfortunately, they were unable to break the policy from inside Virginia’s state government. It was broken by federal judges. I’m equally sure that there are people within state government today that know unlimited donations by a regulated monopoly to the legislature is not only a horrible point of policy but toxic to the very concept of representative democracy. Sen Chap Petersen, for example, sees the light. But will anything change or will The Virginia Way just keep on rolling under the management of our new Democratic majority? There are many signs that Virginians (including some in or associated with the General Assembly) are getting sick and tired of a despotic state legislature as well described in The Virginia Way. Maybe you’re a rebel. Maybe you favor the status quo. You seem to understand the link between between unlimited political contributions and God awful lawmaking so maybe you are on the side of change.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      dunno who you are directing the question, but I have been there several times and was scheduled to testify and did not –

      I have followed the GA for quite a while through Richmond Sunlight – way back before when the States legislation database sucked big time.

      1. Steve Haner Avatar
        Steve Haner

        I was asking DJ. You hit post before I did….

  3. Don, you make many perceptive points in this post, but you veer off into kookiness when you continue your harangue against the “plantation elite” and “descendants of Pocahontas.” There is no such elite anymore. Farm and timberland as a source of wealth and influence was eclipsed by industrial and post-industrial sources of wealth decades ago.

    More to the point: Go through the biographies of our state senators and delegates. A majority of them (or close to a majority) were born outside the state. Surely you don’t claim they are part of the plantation elite! Surely you don’t claim that legislators born and raised west of the Blue Ridge are part of the plantation elite. Surely you don’t claim that African-American legislators are part of the plantation elite. Once you’ve eliminated all those categories, you don’t get many legislators left.

    While I’m sure that some white lawmakers born/raised east of the Blue Ridge (like Governor Northam) can trace their roots to large rural land holdings, I am willing to bet you that many others cannot. You’re talking about a small and shrinking minority, not a ruling class.

    So much of your criticism of Virginia is spot on that it’s a shame that you create the “plantation elite” red herring. If you want to persist with the meme, you should at least do some research to back it up.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      The plantation elite is a mentality not a lifestyle. The mentality began on actual plantations but has evolved to encompass the many people who use our state government to enrich themselves and their friends and family.

      Conservatives frequently describe the “Democratic Plantation”. Here’s the definition – https://www.conservapedia.com/Democratic_Plantation You seem able to understand that the Democratic Plantation of your fellow conservatives doesn’t refer to an actual plantation. It is a mentality. Why is that same concept so hard to understand in conjunction with the plantation elite.

      The King of the Plantation Elite was Harry F Byrd, Sr. Born in West Virginia and raised outside Winchester, Byrd came to personify the closed door, machine based, racist politics that dominated Virginia for decades. The plantation elite started as a honest to God philosophy of governance practiced by plantation owners. The Civil War was lost, slavery was abolished but the plantation elite mentality continued. That mentality holds that a small number of morally and socially superior people should effectively control government by disenfranchising voters and using the state to enrich themselves and their crony friends.

      Today’s plantation elite is no longer concerned with racist policies. They are focused on legal larceny at scale.

      As for the Descendants of Pocahontas – I didn’t invent that. The people who consider themselves the First Families of Virginia made that public claim. As far as doing research to back things up …

      The Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924 reinforced racial segregation by prohibiting interracial marriage and classifying as “white” a person “who has no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian. But uh oh – the First Families are (in their own minds) descended from Pocahontas. Per Wikipedia:

      “The Racial Integrity Act was subject to the Pocahontas Clause (or Pocahontas Exception), which allowed people with claims of less than 1/16th American Indian ancestry to still be considered white, despite the otherwise unyielding climate of one-drop rule politics. The exception regarding Native blood quantum was included as an amendment to the original Act in response to concerns of Virginia elites, including many of the First Families of Virginia, who had always claimed descent from Pocahontas with pride, but now worried that the new legislation would jeopardize their status.”

      Do your research, Jim.

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Don, thanks for the shout put but as a former west virginian author, the state is as corrupt as hell due mostly to coal. You can stream “blood on the mountain” a documentary about this on amazon. Used to be on netflix. I am actually in it!

    1. djrippert Avatar

      West Virginia probably has more problems than any state in the US. But I’m betting there are a minority of Virginians in today’s western Virginia who would accept West Virginia’s challenges to get away from what they see as Virginia’s tyrannical state government.

      This was a kind of funny tongue-in-cheek article from Roanoke about the virtues of joining West Virginia – https://www.roanoke.com/news/casey-in-many-ways-the-mountain-state-tops-the-old/article_74e7229f-ecf8-564c-a7eb-bc6d08172cec.html

      I’m heading out of the country for a week or so. I’ll download the Blood on the Mountain documentary and read it on the plane.

      1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
        Peter Galuszka

        Don the movie is “blood on the mountain”
        My book is “thunder on the mountain”


        1. djrippert Avatar

          I read your book but haven’t seen the movie. I’m still hooping for the big screen version of Boomergeddon too … although I fear we may be headed past the movies and to a real life disaster pic based on Jim’s thoughts from that book.

  5. Jim Loving Avatar
    Jim Loving

    Interesting overview and book reference to the history of governing in VA. I may send this link to my nephew’s 11th grade teacher of US & VA History for them to discuss.

    Federalism in the US is a fundamental principle. As noted, and as practiced, the authority for US citizens to govern themselves and make big decisions affecting their lives lies principally with the federal and state governments.

    With the world’s population moving to 70% residing in cities by 2050, the US Supreme Court’s continued support of “Dillon’s Rules” for local authority being controlled by state legislators, may, as Rip has noted, need to be revisited.


  6. djrippert Avatar

    Great link. Thanks for posting. Judge Dillon’s interpretation of the US Constitution seems quite reasonable to me. However, he never claimed that localities couldn’t have power. He claimed that the state had to give them that power. Many states have done just that. The City of Baltimore (one of only 3 independent cities outside of Virginia) is specifically defined in the Maryland State Constitution. Our General Assembly could devolve power from Richmond to County seats if it wanted to do so. Historically they have generally refused. In my opinion, a fair amount of that refusal was based on the desire of the elites who run Virginia to consolidate power so that power could be abused for their own purposes. The big question, in my mind, is whether the new Democratic majority will move Virginia to a more representative and distributed governance model or just continue pillaging Virginians from the left of the political spectrum. The upcoming census and redistricting will tell me everything I need to know on that question.

    I wrote a column 18 months ago about how the Democratic takeover of the General Assembly would have conservatives rethinking our implementation of Dillon’s Rule. They took over and now we have second amendment sanctuary localities – about as hard a slap in the face of a strict implementation of Dillon’s Rule as you can get.


  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    It’s never really made clear exactly what specific things in Dillon in Virginia that are considered “onerous”.

    How about some meat on that bone DJ?

    1. djrippert Avatar

      Local income taxes. It’s becoming blindingly obvious that different parts of Virginia have different expectations regarding the scope, size and intrusiveness of government. Yet a single income tax makes it hard to tailor the costs and benefits of government to what the people actually want. Maryland solves this problem by levying a state income tax and then allowing counties to levy county income taxes. Conservative counties in western Maryland and the Eastern Shore levy relatively low county income taxes and live with fewer government services. Liberal counties like Montgomery levy relatively high income taxes and provide extensive government services. Why should representatives from Lee County, Va decide what level of government services (and related taxes) people from Fairfax County should want? And, of course, visa versa.

      Minimum wage. The costs of living vary wildly across Virginia. How does a state-wide minimum wage make any sense?

      Wine and beer distributors. If Fairfax County wants to allow restaurants the option of either buying wine from a distributor or directly from a wholesaler / vineyard why should anybody anywhere else in the state prohibit that choice?

      Local prioritization and maintenance of almost all roads. Some roads needs to be part of federal and state plans but most don’t. Henrico and Arlington control local roads. So should every other county in Virginia. This has two benefits. First, it allows for local prioritization. Second, it should take a big part of the purse away from Richmond. Let localities raise their own transportation funds (by and large) and spend those funds where thy see fit.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Okay – you did answer. Fair enough. I think SOME of these things are already possible. Counties can take over roads if they want but it may now be what you think if VDOT can decide on what local roads can connect to State/Federal roads.

        We have a proposal down our way for a new road to connect two existing roads and VDOT is not having it – until they see modelling for they fear damage to the State/Federal road.

        The minimum wage I agree with – local option better than state top-down.
        local income tax – I dunno.. I wonder if Dick or Steve have thoughts.

        but in all cases, it would have to be by voter agreement – like the meals tax.

        1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          There are arguments for and against the Dillon Rule on just about every issue. One broad advantage is that of uniformity. Builders, for example, would much rather have a statewide building code, than 100 local building codes. Secondary and primary roads in each locality are built to the same standards; that is to everyone’s advantage. As for secondary roads, counties had the option back in the late 20’s, under the Byrd Road plan, to come in to the state system or stay out. Henrico and Arlington, made the decision to stay out and have always been glad of that decision. If localities were responsible for their roads today, we would go back to the days before Byrd, when rural localities did not have the financial ability to build and maintain decent roads.

          The broad argument against the Dillon Rule is also one of uniformity: it imposes one standard on all and prohibits innovation and thwarts local preferences.

          As for the income tax, I have long thought Virginia as a whole would be better off with a local income tax in lieu of the property tax. We are past the days of agriculture being king and land producing most of the wealth. Many people are “land poor” or “house poor”, with the value of that property not reflecting their actual wealth and ability to pay taxes. And, conversely, many people have incomes that put their wealth vastly out of proportion to the taxable value of their property. A local income tax could be relatively easy to administer. It could “piggy back” on the state income tax; a county or city would enact a tax rate that would be applied to the resident’s taxable income on his state income tax form. The state would collect that local tax and return it to the county or city (for a small fee, of course).

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            for the roads – VDOT allows a fair amount of latitude in prioritization of local roads. The problem is that the allocation
            is not “enough” for localities and they don’t want to add their
            own extra money to get more projects prioritized.

            I would imagine that with NoVa power in the GA – a lot
            of these “wants” would be easy to do now.

          2. idiocracy Avatar

            Typically what is done in other states is that the larger roads that move more regional traffic are maintained by the state, and smaller roads that move more local traffic are maintained by the town, city, or county.

        2. djrippert Avatar

          Yes, Virginia needs more direct democracy. As long as our state legislature can wallow in unlimited campaign contributions they will cater to special interests. They’ve been doing that for 100 years, they are doing that now and they will do it for as long as the voters let them.

          Virginia needs checks and balances on a legislature that practices ongoing legalized corruption. The best check would be to dramatically reduce the allowable level of campaign contributions. However, the greedy people we elect (and who assume positions of power within the legislature) have no intent of turning off the special interests money faucet. Therefore, we need to check their power. A two consecutive term governor, a less strict implementation of Dillon’s Rule, citizen referenda, non-partisan redistricting, on year elections. Etc.

  8. It seems clear to me Virginia is more old guard politicians than say NJ, where who cares when/where you are from. Also we are more bifurcated than most states. Probably this is all changing over the next ~30 years but it needs to be a consideration for moving forward. When I lived in South Jersey we always wanted to secede, mostly because I think all the landfills and power plants the North Jersey Sierra Club members wanted to give us back then.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      Virginia is more than bifurcated, it’s multifurcated (OK, I just made up that word). The folks in NoVa consider themselves urban sophisticates like the people along the Northeast coast of the US or out west along the Pacific. Western Virginia seems a whole lot more like West Virginia than Northern Virginia. Coal country is hardscrabble and economically depressed. Hampton Roads is military centric.

      Against that backdrop how does a strict implementation fo Dillon’s Rule possibly represent the people of Virginia. It doesn’t. It hasn’t for at least the last 50 years.

    2. idiocracy Avatar

      NJ has a reputation for being corrupt, compared to Virginia.

      Is it really? Or is corruption more accepted in Virginia and therefore not investigated, prosecuted, and reported as it is in other states? Perhaps the Virginia laws against corruption are weaker than they are in other states.

  9. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

    Careful when speaking of Matoaka (Pocahontas). There are over 100,000 living descendants. Talk about a sleeping giant!

    1. djrippert Avatar

      The presumed story of Pocahontas is another one of Virginia’s fairy tales. According to the fairy tale she was an Indian princess who fell in love with colonist, married him, had children and lived happily ever after. In reality, she was kidnapped at 16 or 17 years old by the colonists, held for ransom for wsell over a year, same say she was raped (“Little Bear” Custalow), then she was coerced into converting to Christianity and took the name Rebecca. After years of captivity and probably suffering from Stokholm Syndrome the 18 year old Pocahontas / Rebecca renounced her Native American culture. She married John Rolfe and had a single son. Needing to show off his native wife to the high society of London Rolfe took Rebecca to London where she contracted one of many western diseases to which Native Americans had no / limited immunity and she died – at age 21. She was buried in England and it is unclear to this day where her grave might be located. Probably in Graveshead.

      Not exactly the Disney story some would portray.

    2. idiocracy Avatar

      100,000 living descendants based on a rigorous analysis of X-DNA and mtdna, I’m sure.

  10. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

    I have been to that church. Graves-end is the London suburbs. It was a fun day. No more bedtime stories for you Mr. DJ.

  11. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    My grandfather 13 generations back, Captain Thomas Graves, was from Graves-end, arrived in Christoper Newport’s Jamestown’s 2nd resupply (1607), fought the Indian Wars, was Burgess from Symthe Hundred in 1619 (said to be birth of democracy in North America) then was commander of Plantation Accomac establishing the governance of Virginia’s Eastern Shore in 1620’s where he served until his death in the 1630s, between three decades of voyaging back and forth between the Old World and the New. Perhaps our fearless reporters here on BR can render their judgements on Thomas Graves, and his many kin over the past 400 years.

    1. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

      Mr. Reed is a “Red Bolling”. Now that used to mean something in Virginia. A time when your name really defined what kind of Virginian you were. The “White Bollings and Blue Bollings” only get honorable mention. My kinsmen enter the Pocahontas bloodline early on with Mary Kennon. The Whiteheads have been here for 400 years. We are probably long distance cousins. Mr. Reed you can find your kinsmen on page 51 in this book.


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