But a cadre of apocalyptic writers on the right who believe the country has gone too far to save is obsessed with a Secession 2.0 that would separate the red America from the blue and enable the former, the ever-rising tide of the to escape awakened madness.
Substacker David Reaboi recently wrote a post with the title: “National divorce is expensive, but worth every penny” urged “Red America to think for itself about economic and cultural autonomy and what it takes to get there”. The Texas State MP Kyle Biedermann campaigned for the so-called Texit, and Allen West, the former chairman of the Texas GOP and now a candidate for governorship, has spoken of a secession.
There is no doubt that the country is deeply torn into political, cultural, and religious boundaries, although it is not evident that the toxic confrontation of our time is worse than that of the 1790s or 1970s – political and cultural conflicts are endemic here a major one , loud, diverse democratic country like ours.
That is, a national divorce has nothing to recommend. The practical obstacles are obvious and insurmountable, and the likely repercussions would be very unwelcome to its proponents. If inadequate patriotism was one of the evils of America today, National Divorce would prescribe a heavy dose of arsenic as a remedy. It would burn America down to save America, or at least the parts of it that were supposed to be saved.
The adverse effects of separation would be enormous. A dismantled USA would be immediately less powerful. In fact, Russia and China would be thrilled and probably believe we deserved to see the equivalent of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Qing Dynasty, respectively. Among the disasters you wish an adversary to be top of the list is secessionist movements that may lead to civil conflict.
The economic consequences could be severe. The United States of America is a sprawling, continent-wide free trade area that creates a huge internal market that is better off for all of us. To exchange this for a market that could be balkanized by states or regions would be a great loss.
After all, if the United States failed because of its internal divisions, it would be a major blow to the reputation of liberal democracy. Abraham Lincoln was concerned about this effect the first time, and it could be worse now. This would not be a young democracy incapable of holding them together, but a seemingly stable republic with the most enduring political institutions in the world.
Then the question arises, how exactly is this supposed to work. Lincoln warned of the physical impossibility of secession if the Mason-Dixon Line was a more or less complete line of demarcation. What would it look like now if conservatives and progressives were well represented in every state in the Union? Even a county-level map of the California presidential election has red stripes, and even Alabama has bruises.
If there were sovereign pure red and blue places, it would not look like the relatively neat bisection of the United States in the 1860s, but more like post-Westphalian Europe with hundreds of different entities.
Some national divorce advocates say not to worry – anything can be settled amicably without inconvenience, such as the war that killed around 700,000 people the last time a region of the US tried to secede. But if we split up because we’re irreparably divided and can’t even agree on bathroom guidelines or pronouns, how are we supposed to agree to split up our territory and resources – the kind of things that real wars are made over by time?
Incidentally, it would matter who gets control of the federal government, the most powerful organization in the world. It has 1.3 million people under arms and a supply of 3,800 nuclear warheads. Whether this, not to mention state and other assets, goes to red or blue America would, to underestimate it, be a matter of considerable bargaining.
Furthermore, secession of the Red State would be self-destructive. Let’s say Texas actually left. That’s 40 votes from the Republican national map. In 2020 Trump could have won without Texas Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin and still would not have received a majority in the electorate. In other words, Texit would leave the Democrats in control of the rest of the country.
On the other hand, Texas is not quite as ruby red as it used to be. It could go to the trouble of splitting off and then one day being ruled by the very same Democrats it wanted to leave behind in the rest of the former United States.
Would the rest of the country really be willing to watch a state of 29 million people, which is the ninth largest economy in the world, go its own way? Are you just saying goodbye to a place that accounts for nearly 40 percent of the country’s oil production, about 25 percent of its natural gas production, 10 percent of its manufacturing, and 20 percent of its exports, more than any other state? Say goodbye to the country’s largest transportation network and 11 deep-sea ports, including the Port of Houston, one of the largest in the world and the busiest in the US in terms of foreign water tonnage?
No country that has retained even a bit of rationality and self-respect would miss such an economic gem and powerhouse.
In the meantime, the secession of the Red States would create a barrier to federal invasion, but would it actually contain the cultural tide? Would the college professors be less awake in these places? Would the editorial offices be more conservative? Would corporations be less inclined to follow fashionable national trends? Would people in the state stop using social media, stop doing Google searches, and stop consuming national media?
It seems doubtful.
The secession is of course not yet anywhere near mainstream, luckily. The real impetus for talking about a breakup is despair. It means giving up – giving up, convincing our fellow Americans, giving up our common national project, giving up our birthright.
This is an impulse to be resisted. Separation is difficult to bring about, and giving up in America is – or should be – unforgivable.