Politics & Policy

Go (Away), Blue!

We can do just fine with only the red states.

In the wake of George Bush’s reelection, we are now getting a sense of just how estranged are the Democratic-party elite from the American public, and the level of contempt that the former group feels for the latter. Liberals who yammer on ceaselessly about “tolerance” and “diversity” don’t seem inclined to extend those concepts to many of their fellow citizens, whom they portray as religious bigots, racist rednecks, and generally stupid people. As the Wall Street Journal’s “Best of the Web” reported on November 10, an entire thread on BillMaher.com, the website of the HBO talk-show host, was devoted to the issue of “Shooting Republicans, ethical? Discuss.”

Of course, we expect such stuff in the fever swamps of internet conspiracy theories. But the rot is more widespread. Blue states have come to believe that they are too good to associate with the peckerwoods who reelected George Bush. For instance, on a recent installment of the McLaughlin Group, Lawrence O’Donnell, a major Democratic operative and alleged “political analyst,” suggested that the election will lead to serious consideration of blue-state secession from the Union.

On one hand, I don’t think much of the concept of secession. Several years ago I wrote “The Case Against Secession,” in which, following Lincoln, I observed that

Secession constitutes a repudiation of republican government as understood by the Founders….When the States ratified the Constitution of 1787, they pledged that they would accept the results of elections conducted according to its rules. In violation of this pledge, the Southern States seceded because they did not like the outcome of the election of 1860. Thus secession is the interruption of the constitutional operation of republican government, substituting the rule of the minority for that of the majority.

As Lincoln said in his First Inaugural Address, “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.”

On the other hand, it might be fun to consider the possibilities that blue-state secession would provide. Red-state Americans who have grown weary of being lectured by their moral and intellectual “betters” from the precincts of the Massachusetts witch-burners and slave-traders might just say: “Go ahead, punks. Make my day.”

To begin with, where would the blue-state secessionists get the military force they would need to vindicate their action? After all, to paraphrase Thomas Hobbes, principles, no matter how noble, are mere wind without the sword. Most U.S. servicemen come from the red states, or from the red counties of the blue states. The blue states have made it next to impossible for their citizens to own firearms, so they can’t count on “a people, numerous and armed” to vindicate their secession.

Blue-staters frequently dismiss those who serve in the U.S. military as ignorant bumpkins who can’t make it in civilian life. One of the big lies of the Vietnam era was that the anti-war protestors didn’t blame the soldiers who fought the war. I’m here to tell you that that’s a crock. And it doesn’t look like it’s gotten any better over the years.

So when a red-state soldier or Marine is putting down the blue-state rebellion, what is he going to think of this exchange from the aforementioned Bill Maher website? “You do realize that over 80 percent of our troops support Bush, don’t you?” “Yes darling–I do…. That’s only fair isn’t it? Why should decent people die in your bogus war you murdering hun. I hope the whole lot of them are decapitated…but getting their butts blown off will suffice.”

And who would lead this blue-state secession? Martin Sheen? Well, why not? He is already president of a parallel universe. Or maybe it’s not so “parallel.” After all, on The West Wing, the liberals are all noble and the conservatives are all evil.

Of course, President Sheen wouldn’t actually control much territory, and the rebellion probably wouldn’t last too long since the unarmed secessionists he would be leading wouldn’t be able to feed themselves. The U.S. Navy would detach a frigate or two to blockade New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The Air Force would close down blue-state airports. So an “Anaconda Strategy” might work this time.

The Unionists in the blue states would, of course, create loyal governments recognized in Washington. The red counties of California, New York, and Pennsylvania might even form new states on the model of West Virginia in 1864. Of course, the red states would have to contend with their own nests of “copperheads”–Austin, for instance. But I say a few Aggies could take care of that.

A blue-state rebellion shouldn’t take too long to put down. What then? Can we expect continued resistance on the part of Maureen Dowd and Michael Moore? What will the occupiers do?

And, will these seceded blue states have to be “reconstructed?” Now, that might be fun. I say skip the “with malice toward none and with charity for all” stuff and go right to “radical Reconstruction.” Treat the rebellious blue states as conquered provinces, disorganized communities without legitimate civil governments that cannot regain statehood until the federal government is ready to give it to them. Take Charles Sumner’s position: that the seceded blue states have committed suicide and therefore revert to the condition of federal territories.

Of course this is all crazy talk. I doubt that O’Donnell was being serious when he raised the specter of blue-state secession (though Geraldine Ferraro has made similar sounds). Maybe liberals will settle for emigration. But as recent days have shown, the Democrats are becoming more unhinged, so who can say for sure?

Mackubin Thomas Owens is an associate dean of academics and professor of national-security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

Mackubin Thomas Owens is senior national security fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia, editing its journal Orbis from 2008 to 2020. A Marine Corps infantry veteran of the Vietnam War, he was a professor of national-security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College from 1987 to 2015. He is the author of US Civil–Military Relations after 9/11: Renegotiating the Civil-Military Bargain.


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