Perhaps riled up by Scotland's recent unsuccessful attempt to secede from the United Kingdom, a nationwide poll found that about one in four Americans currently favor their state's secession. In the southwest, including well-known havens for Teabaggers, militia types, and vindictive old bastards like Arizona and Texas, public support stands at a truly robust 34%.
I made an attempt on Tuesday to get students to talk about this in class, only to see it collapse under quick dismissals ("Nah, that will never happen") and the persistent lack of interest in giving serious consideration to hypothetical situations. It is easy to see the theoretical benefits of secession from a state's perspective. With some prodding, I got them thinking about the not as obvious downsides. By the time a state government replaced all of the functions currently handled at the national level – defense, monetary policy, immigration, etc. – it is reasonable to wonder if it would look much different than what we have in Washington today.
Older faculty tell me that the students' declining ability and willingness to think conceptually about theoretical or hypothetical scenarios is one of their biggest worries about The Kids These Days. I have not been at this long enough to notice a change. Yet I tried to emphasize in this discussion that it is my firm belief that we likely will be dealing with this situation during their lifetimes. Given the continuing lurch to the right of American conservatism, I don't consider it far-fetched at all to think that if I live forty more years I'll see a real secession vote in a place like Texas. Such a vote would be unlikely to succeed today, but who knows how close the decision might be in the future.
One thing I found curious was the unanimous response of the class on what the rest of the U.S. should do in response to a state's attempt at secession: nothing. Let them go. The enthusiasm for fighting another civil war to keep the most politically backward states in the union would likely be nonexistent if the situation presented itself. Haven't we had a good run? Not many nations last 230+ years under one Constitution. If Texas really wanted out, I can't picture many Californians and New Yorkers begging them to stay. We might even offer them some incentives to take the deep south with them. A Senate without the dozen assholes from Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina would be able to function. Hell, it might even work well.
Pro-union campaigners in the U.K. relied heavily on arguments about history and tradition – sentimental appeals involving lots of Union Jacks and patriotic songs. It's hard to see that strategy succeeding here if the current generation's right-wing wrecking crew succeeds in its constant efforts to make future generations even dumber. Give us another decade or two of homeschooled kids and Texas Board of Education mandates and half the country will enter adulthood believing that George Washington and Abe Lincoln and Elvis Presley and Jesus were all proponents of a free and independent Texas.
I'm not saying they'll win; only that it's inevitable at this point that some state is going to try it in the future.