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Threats of Secession: A Bipartisan Game



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ThinkProgress is rather enjoying the post-election secession chatter. “Twenty five percent of registered Republicans want their state to secede from the United States, according to a new poll from Public Policy Polling,” the site reports.

I’ve made my thoughts on this idea clear before, so there is no need to reiterate them here. But it is worth pointing out that, for all the “look how crazy Republicans are” insinuations, secession talk is hardly a conservative phenomenon. Instead, to paraphrase Ron Paul, talk of secession is a deeply American tendency. As anyone who follows politics will know, leftists disappointed by election results are always threatening to move to Canada. Take attendees at this summer’s Democratic National Convention, for example. Per Mediaite:

During the Democratic National Convention, The Huffington Post’s reporters approached several attendees and asked them for their thoughts on the state of the race and their party’s prospects for 2016. Of the 74 attendees they spoke with, 16 said they intended to leave the country if Romney wins in November. They named several nations that they may retire to, but the most popular and regularly cited destination for self-imposed political exile is America’s neighbor to the north: Canada.

T’was ever thus. In 2004, when Bush eked out his re-election, a rant, “F*** the South,” went viral; on Salon, Michelle Goldberg wrote an earnest piece about “the growth of blue-state nationalism” and “fantasies of blue-state secession” that “ricocheted around the Internet”; Slate posed the question “Could the Blue States Secede?”; The Nation ran a column contending that the “election that returned to power the most autocratic and illegitimate government the nation has ever experienced” had led to many “beginning to talk about ‘blue state’ secession” and that “in that context the idea of separatism and secessionism might have a real attraction to disaffected Americans”; and a popular Internet meme divided the United States into two halves, “Jesusland” and the “United States of Canada”:

Wikipedia hosts a collection of suggested names for the fractured country’s various parts. They show how hysterical the talk became:

The northeastern states are alternately referred to as “Eastern Realitania“, “Northeastistan“, “Western France“, “The New American Republic”, or “New America”; the central blue states near the Great Lakes are labeled “Central Realitania” or “Minniwillinois”; and the blue states along the Pacific Coast are called “Western Realitania”, “Pacificstan”, “Southern Canada” or “Baja Canada” (with Hawaii being separately labeled “The Tropic of Canada”). Another has chosen the overall name “Realistan”, and another has chosen “The United States of Liberty and Education”. The red states in these variant maps are called “Jesusistan”, “Redstateistan”, “Redneckistan“, the “United States of Evangelicals“, or “the United State of Texas“. Some maps purport to show a capital city of Crawford, Texas, the home of former U.S. President George W. Bush. One map shows Alaska as having been returned to Russia.

Prominent figures joined the fray: A disappointed Bob Beckel told his fellow panelists on Fox and Friends, ”I think now that slavery is taken care of, I’m for letting the South form its own nation . . . I think they ought to have their own confederacy.” On The McLaughlin Group, Lawrence O’Donnell contended that “The big problem the country now has, which is going to produce a serious discussion of secession over the next 20 years, is that the segment of the country that pays for the federal government is now being governed by the people who don’t pay for the federal government.” When asked by as astonished Tony Blankley whether he was advocating for a “civil war,” O’Donnell replied that “you can secede without firing a shot.”

Still, secession is likely always going to be more fervent in the conservative and libertarian imaginations than in the progressive one, in part because conservative language is more likely to range into discussions of liberty, tyranny, and American exceptionalism, and in part, because as Andy Nowicki amusingly observed, leftists “don’t want to leave their enemies alone. Instead, as their track record shows, they want to take over the government in order to force their enemies to endure perpetual sensitivity training for being such racist, sexist, homophobic, ‘closed-minded’ boors, i.e., for disagreeing with them.” The leftist instinct, moreover, is to move toward larger units of government and to try to standardize life from the center; the conservative instinct — some of the time, at last — is to cast off big government and run as much as possible locally. Broadly, conservatives believe that we have nowhere to run if America disappears, that, as Jefferson wrote, “the last hope of human liberty in this world rests on us.” Leftists, meanwhile, are more likely to point in admiration to another country and say disapprovingly, “you know, America is the only country in the world in which . . .”



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