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Why Not Let All the States Secede From the US?

Why not let Utah become a Mormon theocracy and allow Alabama to teach the Bible instead of science? Meanwhile, the other states could legalize marijuana, improve the social safety net, and provide free contraception to everyone without interference...
November 16, 2012, 7:14pm

If you are the kind of person who believes that Barack Obama is a radical socialist president who wants to fundamentally change America and turn us into a European-style nanny state, it couldn’t have been easy on you when he won reelection as easily as he did. Some conservatives have spent the last couple weeks making unhinged accusations about the vote being rigged—the most clearly racist of these was the GOP chairman in Maine who complained about dozens of unfamiliar black people voting in rural precincts. Others acknowledge that their side lost, but have moved on to petitioning the federal government to let their individual states secede from the union. It’s just like the Civil War, only instead of brother killing brother, tens of thousands of angry white people are typing at their computers.

Obviously, this is just a way to blow off steam. As Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said, “It’s silly.” No one should think for a second that all these people actually want to leave the US. (Maybe some Texans do, but Texans always want to secede.) I imagine a lot of the folks signing these things aren’t carefully considering every economic, social, and political ramification of a state separating from the country—they’re just angry internet people typing things in boxes. And internet people are pure id, disconnected from reality or common decency; that’s why 95 percent of YouTube comments are some variation of, “THE JEWS GOT ME FIRED FRM BEST BUY FOLLOW ON TWITTER @WETSOCKSSSS69.” Unlike paper petitions, which force signature gatherers to discuss the issues face-to-face with actual humans, the petitions on the government site can be set up in seconds, which can lead to silliness: Currently, over 1,000 people are demanding that a statue of the guy from Halo be built on the White House lawn.


So yeah, haha, let’s lookit the craaaAAaazy conservatives who are making the comparisons between Russia and the US because they got arrested for running a topless car wash. (That’s exactly what Derrick Belcher, who started the Alabama secession petition, has said.) But crypto-racist motivations aside, what’s so wrong with letting some states go?

There have been plenty of secession movements in the past that weren’t based on the hatred of a single president. Texas has had a long-running independent streak, of course, and there have been Alaskan and Hawaiian independence movements as well. The Second Vermont Republic is a kind of left-wing counterpart to the Republic of Texas. And my personal favorite secession movement, Cascadia (now apparently defunct*), wanted to separate the western bits of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon from both the US and Canada. None of those causes has been nearly popular enough to actually succeed in seceding—plus, of course, the federal government’s massive military wouldn't let any state leave—but making the states a little less united isn’t a terrible idea. Think about the problems it would solve:

1. If the red states left, liberals could finally have the country of their dreams. Imagine that Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, and Nebraska all followed the wishes of their wingnuts and left the US. All of a sudden, the House of Representatives would be controlled by Democrats, who would also get a further eight-seat edge in the Senate. As an added bonus, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, one of the most conservative Democrats and a guy who caused all kinds of trouble during the fight over the health care bill, would be Duke of Lincoln or whatever and couldn’t infuriate the left anymore. All of the politically impossible policies that liberals from California to New Hampshire have discussed for years would suddenly become feasible, from single-payer healthcare to stricter handgun laws. And those rural red-state ingrates who denounce the federal government even while suckling on its money teat would be gone. Let’s see how those conservatives like it when they don’t get subsidized by the Northeast and California.


2. No more fighting over state laws that conflict with the federal government. Even though Washington and Colorado have legalized weed, it remains to be seen whether the feds will let them smoke up in peace. Looking at recent history, it's hard to be optimistic, given that the Justice Department has viciously cracked down on medical marijuana regardless of the wishes of individual states and their voters. And it’s not just pot that has inspired legal complications between local and national government—Arizona’s notoriously harsh anti-immigration measure led to a lawsuit from the feds, and gay married couples have to deal with a lot of bureaucratic bullshit when filing their taxes thanks to a snarl of conflicting laws. You know what would solve all of these problems? If the states didn’t have to deal with the federal government at all. Why not just grant everyone the right to secede and split up the nation into 50 pieces?

3. States want radically different policies anyway. If Arizona voters got their way, their state would have an enormously costly electric fence at the border, everyone would be armed with automatic weapons at all times, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio would be a warlord roaming around the desert shooting civilians while filming a reality TV show. Why not let them have their independence so they could do that? Why not let Utah become a Mormon theocracy and allow Alabama to teach the Bible instead of science? A lot of that sounds terrifying to me, but if some states—excuse me, countries—are overwhelmingly in favor of policies like those, why stand in their way? Meanwhile, the other states could legalize marijuana, improve the social safety net, and provide free contraception to everyone without interference from their former countrymen. And while we're at it, why stop at the state level? Isn’t it a little silly that Austin is governed by the rest of Texas? It could become its own city-state, while New York City could break off from the nation of New York, with Mike Bloomberg as its president-for-life. Remember that the US government was created in order to run a handful of former coastal colonies with a population of only a few million. Today, as the gridlock in Congress shows, this system is totally unworkable. It’s more of an accident of history than anything else that people in North Dakota can vote on policies affecting Los Angeles. Break it up!

The only potential problem I can see with all of this is deciding who gets the nuclear weapons, but I’m sure we’ll be able to figure that out.


*Update: I was wrong, Cascadia is not defunct at all! Thanks to @Desomniac for pointing out this error.