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.

73 thoughts on “SAID IN JEST”

  • On the other hand, I wonder if it might not be the more left-leaning states that first want out. The Red States have to know deep down that they actually are pretty dependent on CA, NY, MA, etc.

  • Oh Dear Lord Jebuz, please let this happen in our lifetimes.

    The correct response to this type of talk is, "good, when?" Put your money where your mouth is – start packing.

    (or did all your money disappear into Galt's Gulch?)

  • 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.

    No, they didn't. They really, really didn't. The No (to independence) campaigners are not stupid, and they knew waving the Union Jack to a rousing chorus of Rule Britannia was one of the very worst tactics possible.

    (I'm based in the UK and blogged about the campaign extensively — see link above.)

    For the most part, the No campaign relied on dry, practical arguments about the economic uncertainties of independence. Towards the end when the polls got closer, they were a bit more emotional — but even then, the message was heavy on shared achievements and light on flag-waving.

    For example, this speech by ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown the day before the vote is mostly about workers' solidarity (not a totally obsolete concept in Scotland) and there isn't a Union Jack in sight:

  • I'm technically in the south, but the state I'm currently living in fought on both sides of the Civil War, and today is a mix of many out-of-staters and homegrown people. The parts of the state with out-of-staters is prosperous and thriving with high-tech and bio-tech and IT work, whereas the "traditional" part looks and functions a lot like stereotypical Appalachia. Interesting, it's the "always-need-to-be-bailed-out" folks who scream the loudest to secede from the rest of the state. I say let 'em go; they're a drain on the rest of the state.

  • Also, it wasn't Scotland's attempt to secede, it was an attempt by a minority section of Scottish society to get us all to agree to secede. Most successful (both in the short term of "get it through" and the long term of "great, we've got a successful country going here") independence votes tend to be massive majorities, with very high voter turnouts. A two year campaign to just get over the line (or not) is not really good enough.

    Talisker is right about the No campaign not at all relying on notions of patriotism, heritage and culture. This actually turned out to be a mistake in my view, which is why things looked so close 10 days before the vote. We were voting on the next few centuries, not on the next quarter's figures or (as so much of the "Yes" campaign relied on) how much we the the Tories.

    I wore my Union Jack cycling jersey that day, as it happens.


  • As a parent of an 18 year old son you can imagine how thrilled I would be to have his life put in danger so that we can keep, what, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal and the hayseed senators from Alabama. Fuck that, let em go. One of my big questions when we talk federalism in class is, 'Why should California stay part of the US'? Besides tradition we really have a hard time coming up with a convincing argument that it's in CA's best interest to stay.

  • @Buckyblue; you raise a good point. California is a very self-sufficient state. They've got farming, they've got light and heavy industry, they've got seaports and hundreds of miles of coastline. They've got forests. Heck, they've even got gold! California could do very well on its own.

  • While I can certainly imagine the current crop of Texan voters nurturing a desire to secede that could grow over the years, I wonder if perhaps their window of opportunity is NOW – and closing fast.

    I keep reading about demographic trends in TX, and how, like in so many other parts of the country, Angry White Dudes are fast losing their majority status.

    If the TX demographics were frozen in place right now, and pro-secession campaigners had a few decades to work, maybe they could make it happen. But I think they will be increasingly working on a voting populace that won't really understand what they're so angry about – voters who, in fact, will have their own, very different, discontents.

  • Almost all the serious state secessionist talk I've ever heard, with the notable exception of Texas which does have an actual history as an independent country, has not been to secede from the United States. It's been to split off from the state that it is currently part of, e.g., the Upper Peninsula of Michigan wanting to be the separate state of Superior. I imagine that even in Texas there are internal secessionists who fantasize about carving the state up into smaller states, ones where the state government will be more receptive to their local needs.

  • Assistant Professor says:

    Dr. Ed, I'm going to also note that Kids These Days appear to have some problems moving from the specific to the general and then back from the general to the specific. Of course, I've only actually been a course instructor for a little over 4 years now, so I have no idea what it was in the Before Time. I'm also at a lower ranked school then I was in grad school, so I can't really judge my students from Southern State School against my students from when I was a TA at Flagship University.

    Seriously, if my students looked at their cars in the same way that they understand what I'm teaching them in the classroom, they would not be able to conceptualize that the car that you drive to the store is the same car that you drive to the movies which is the same car that you drive to a neighboring town.

  • If we fought another civil war to keep the union together, there's one advantage to that strategy which good liberal humanists are perhaps reluctant to talk about. A lot of secessionists would end up dead. The ones who would be most inclined to take up arms against the US would be the raving anti-government gun nuts, and those are just the people that, despite my outwardly professed desire to Just Get Along, I would really prefer to see dead en masse in a battlefield.

    Bring it on, secessionist jerks. We kicked your asses 150 years ago and would be happy to do so again.

  • @Anonymouse: biggest problem for CA is water. It's the biggest issue for all of the Southwest. They might be able to survive, but all of those SoCal and Palm Springs golf courses would have to go. Of course the answer for the greens would be what they do here, sump oil mixed with sand.

    The biggest concern I'd have with Tex-arse seceding is to ensure they aren't able to build up an arsenal. Especially nuclear. You'd want to make damn sure they were completely stripped of any and all military hardware before they could go solo. What would spark a conflict is that the Tex-arsens of course won't let all of these "free" military goodies go without a fight. It would be Fort Sumpter all over again.

  • 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.

    Thanks for acknowledging the deliberate cause > effect relationship between rightwing dumbassery and miseducation, Ed. I haven't seen it discussed that often, and if it's not our overlords' thought-out plan it might as well be. Years ago feminists used to rail against the "barefoot and pregnant" strategies of traditional sexism; we're enjoying something comparable now with the Koch Brothers and their ilk having no interest in consumers who know any more than the direction to the paper towel section of WalMart, in fact having a vested interest in keeping them ignorant of everything else.

  • First, we pull out all of the military personnel and ordinance.

    Second, set up an exchange system, where our rural Reich-Wing crackers are traded for those states liberals and progressive.

    Then, we wish them well – and patrol the new borders, to keep out the immigrants from ChristianJeebusLovesMe'CauseHEToldMeSoDumbFuckistan,

  • TX can secede right after they cover C-Plus Augustus's trillion-dollar bill for exercising daddy issues via international warfare…

  • @ cu
    Could we just call it DumbFuckistan for short?

    The real fun starts in the divorce court after the vote. Texas would expect 95% of the martial assets, astronomical alimony and retain the right to vote in US elections.

  • I'd love to see how all those tax-hating Texans would pay for their new-found military without………you know……….taxes

    Even the National Guard is 70% federally funded.

    Texas has a disproportionate number of military bases for its population. I doubt they'd be able to fund half of it on their own.

  • CA has a lot of MIC jobs and bases that would all go away, if they left. Shitloads of jobs would disappear. Not gonna happen. As does TX.Not gonna happen.

  • The whole thing would last about 5 minutes as international banks initiated a complete capital flight from every branch in the state. That, plus the Social Security checks and Medicare reimbursements grinding to a halt.

  • I'm curious if the lack of theoretical thinking by today's students mimics the decline in humanities/liberal arts education. I'm all in favor of STEM education, I think it's great, but lately the belief is that education is supposed to find you a job, not teach you how to think critically or *gasp* make you a well rounded person. I wonder if you're not seeing the fruits of that labor.

  • Imagine what would happen to the residents of Dumbfuckistan when a joint North Korean- Russian naval force showed up in Mobile Bay and started launching rockets and dropping paratroopers.
    Or if those wannabe Texas sheriffs started trying to secure the borders against scary fucking drug gangs instead of women and children running across the Rio Grande.
    The leaders in these states aren't that stupid. Well, most aren't that stupid. It's easy to get dumbass rednecks all fired up about "Washington" without having to, you know, actually provide an alternative. The abstract idea of "secession" is one thing, but the stark reality of it is something different. Plus, when did "secession" become not treason and sedition?

  • One in four people would endorse making a golden retriever president. This kind of thing is pretty meaningless, although probably a good conversation starter to see how dense your students might be.

  • Oh christ, I made the mistake of strolling off the boat into the comments section over there, and behold the Techno-Libertarian contingent appears to be in favor of secession.

    Do you have any idea how many would flock to the new-born nation? Or how easily it is to entice those of the tax burdened, hogtie-them-at-birth, North?

    Yes, it's once again Libertopia and all that that implies. Yeesh.

  • Chuck Thompson's ebook addresses this very issue at some length:

    He makes the point that right now, we simply can't do without Texas. The military bases, the oil refineries, etc.–they have too much for the rest of us to let them go. (Texas is by no means unique in this position–don't get a swelled head, Cowpokes.) So alas, we're stuck with Rick Perry until such time as we can build replacement bases, transfer the nukes, and develop a substantial energy infrastructure elsewhere–all hugely expensive and unlikely to be done *before* secession.

    The rest of the south, though? They could go without much of a fuss. Oh, sure, the short-term economic impact would be devastating–to both sides. But the non-South would recover pretty quickly–especially if we immediately established trade agreements with the New Confederacy–which they would badly need us to do. We'd certainly be abandoning large numbers of progressive Americans living in those states to a terrible fate–a mass exodus would probably occur and the non-South wouldn't be too well-equipped to deal with the newcomers.

    As much as I would, in my more politically debauched moments, enjoy the spectacle of the almost certain economic and governmental trainwreck of the New Confederacy (let's not forget that by the end of the Civil War, at least one Confederate state was moving to secede from the rest of the South, and I see no reason why that would not occur again)–the practicalities of such a measure would almost certainly overwhelm any movement to put it into practice. To put it simply: when folks got around to realizing how much they'd have to start paying for everything that isn't produced in the South (Everything, apart from Coca Cola and meth), they'd subside into their usual do-nothing grumbling.


  • "Older faculty tell me that the students' declining ability and willingness to think conceptually about theoretical or hypothetical scenarios"

    Older faculty have apparently never heard of "the Internet," or its various "message boards."

  • Babe of the Boom says:

    Texas and the other states who make secession noises could not afford the eventual divorce $ettlement $ece$$ion would bring.

  • Picture Texas' new paper money with Rick Perry on the Texdollar. Now there's currency that will be accepted everywhere.

  • 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.

    In fairness (sort of!) to your students, it's tough to give serious consideration (on the fly, no less) to a hypothetical situation that they probably haven't stopped to think about before.

    If my own kids (currently on track to complete BA and AA degrees, respectively, this year) and their friends are anything to go by, I'd suggest that they haven't been tracking the crazee, let alone taking it seriously. I know my own kids are aware of the "ideas" circulating in Wingnutistan because we frequently talk about them… but these discussions are strictly "in-house." It's like there's an unspoken pact within their circle: politics is off limits for discussion: it's too divisive. My kids don't even know if their friends vote; or even if they're registered to vote.

    So, my sense is that Ed's students were unprepared to have the discussion.

  • No, no, no, we don't let Texas secede – we sell it to Mexico.

    But, as Major Kong so rightly observes, only if we can toss in Mississippi, goddamn, as part of the sale. And Louisiana. OK, and Arkansas.

    Florida will cost extra.

    Civil War re-enactors can re-do Sherman's March through Georgia.
    Unless Georgia coughs up the protection money, natch.

  • Texas secession would finally have me in favor of building a wall and sending in the National Guard to protect the borders. Good riddance. Get the fuck out.

  • Secession is the porn of the political world. Stimulating (to some) but nothing really there: kind of sad at the end of the day.
    No wonder students can't, sorry, get it up for thinking much about this. Why should they care what a bunch of horny, angry old white men are yapping about? Anything more boring than that?

  • "The North Shall Rise Again," would be the Times headline.

    This would depend on regional rather than individual state fantasy. The continent might look like Europe. The new American experiment may be a place in which it is easier to get along. Robert Frost's: "Good fences make good neighbors" in a new Preamble.

    It might be fun but only for awhile. Still: Rick Perry as Ambassador to England and Passports to visit Disneyland. Tempting.

  • Better to have the red-staters inside the tent pissing out than the alternative. If you think those assholes live to piss off blue-staters now, just wait until after the Great Liberation and we have to start dealing with each other as resentful foreigners.

  • Our students (been teaching at the college level since 1999) aren't any more incapable of the hypothetical critical thinking than students a decade ago, but they don't like exercises that seem to them a waste of time. You have to frame the discussion in a way that appeals to their needs/concerns/wants. Instead of saying "What happens if Texas secedes?" you frame the discussion in terms of their own state and the extrapolate out from there. Or you broach it as "What do you think would happen if the state in the US with the most oil refineries decided to leave the union?"

    I am a humanities professor at a STEM institution and it's take me six years of teaching here (my first full-time real gig) to learn that they are more than equipped to have these discussions, but you gotta make them really relevant to the students and then tease out a larger discussion. They can handle it. They even enjoy it.

  • California here. My initial fear at the idea of secession, for my state or any of its near neighbors, is that California – and Oregon, and Washington – wouldn't be likely to secede as whole states. Eastern WA, large swaths of southern and eastern OR, and a big chunk of NE CA are just as likely to want to join a new and rabidly conservative nation of Idaho, and Orange County could easily opt to become an exclave of Arizona. If given free rein, most of the "self-sufficiency" people perceive in CA would disappear, splintered away in a simulacrum of that wealthy idiot's "Six Californias" initiative (which thankfullly failed to collect enough valid signatures. to get on the ballot). In any case, that perceived self-sufficiency, to whatever extent it's true, will be vanishing with climate change anyway.

    The other thing that makes me uncomfortable is the pissing in/pissing out thing, as Catbirdman says. I'd just as soon not share borders with extremely hostile foreign powers which, if their current right wing state governments are anything to go by, would happily sponsor terrorist organizations in furtherance of their foreign policy.

    Plus I like going to Idaho.

  • Death Panel Truck says:

    Secession will never happen. This has everything to do with their blind hatred of everything Obama. When the next white Republican male is elected president, they'll shut up about secession, just like when they stopped shouting "The gubmint's gonna take our guns away!" when Dubya was elected.

  • I can sort of see their point. Why discuss something so unlikely to happen? The succession idiots couldn't organize a lemonade stand, much less an entire government. It's like you posed the question 'Will Trig Palin go to Harvard or Yale? Discuss.'

  • If the question "Should Texas be it's own country?" ever appear on the ballot here in Virginia I will vote early and often. :)

  • A lot of horrible things will happen before any single state or subset of states split off. The practicalities of sucession are so daunting that they only occupy the fevered imaginations of the truly crazy or those of us who might fervently wish that the crazies just wnet somewhere else. I fear the creeping dysfunction of the whole system will do more damage in the long run and the grand experiment will just sort of fall apart. Probably not in my lifetime but maybe by the end of the century.

  • schmitt trigger says:

    If Texas secedes, it will be Ukraine redux……it would be meddled with by its larger and more powerful neighbor.

    Heck, I'll change my sentence above to: Poland redux in WW2. The Union invading from the north, and Mexico doing the same from the south.

  • @Death Panel Truck

    When the next white Republican male gets elected I won't be surprised if they go back to "If you question the President in wartime it's treason".

  • Hell, I am not a useless college student and I don't want to do anything to keep states from seceding. Let the fuckers try it and come crying back at our door when they find out that it's hard being a country.

  • As xynzee said upthread, the big deal is water. Unless the boffins come up with a cheap, fast way to desalinate and transport sea water, what's going to make the Union fall apart into warring factions is water.

    This is true of everyone, not just California. (The Northeast will find out once they poison some major aquifers with fracking.) But California is definitely out on the leading edge.

  • Where do quixote and xynzee think California's water comes from? Almost all of it comes from – drumroll, please – California. Yes, the Colorado River brings in an average of about 4 million annual acre-feet of water from Arizona, but that's a rounding error compared to the 200 million or so acre-feet that originate entirely within the state.

  • @Stephen: Perhaps this shows from which parts of Louisiana I hail, but I can't think of a single Louisianian who'd wish to be grouped with Texas, let alone any non-Acadian part of Mississippi/Alabama.

  • "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."

    Demographics. Forty years from now, there'll be a lot more people in Texas who are far to brown to look kindly upon such things.

  • @Jimcat: The problem is that we would also lose a lot of our soldiers. Winning a war doesn't mean all your folks stay alive.

  • When the next white Republican male gets elected I won't be surprised if they go back to "If you question the President in wartime it's treason".

    You know it.

    Hell, ten years ago or so I was saying that they'd accuse a Democratic president of treason merely for getting elected. And look what happened!

  • Alan: Yes, a lot of California's water comes from California's snow pack. Do you know what's happening to that? Have you heard about the drawdown of groundwater in the Central Valley which has caused a multi-foot rise in the Eastern Sierras? (Water is heavier than the other components of the ground there. Less water, less weight, land rebounds. Which takes pressure off earthquake faults, just for added fun.) Etc., etc., etc.

    When California runs out of its own water, (and maybe Arizona decides to hang onto what they can of the Colorado River?), I'm sure the Californians will just sit there, sweating, watching the farms dry up, and all the cities and industries going broke. Right?

  • Let me paraphrase what Barry said and what I have consistently said for years here.

    You win Lefties (in fact already won)

    What you are seeing and hearing is the last round-up, rodeo, last call, whatever the hell cliche that you want to use.

    The secessionist movement is commanded and staffed by what are or very soon will be the 'frail and the pale.' I would seriously bet that the mode on the frequency distribution looks a lot like me, 68, White and male.

    Barry was talking 40 years, but I think the Left will have complete dominance in about 20.

    Now what you Lefties inherit is yet to be determined :-(


  • Well, if California secedes, we won't even have to change the flag. And didn't the Dead Kennedys predict President Brown?

    But yeah, the southern border would be the Tehachapi Mountains.

  • This sentence would have seemed very reasonable 20 years ago:
    Secession is no more likely than a black man as President.
    Funny enough, it's probably more true today if you replace "a" with "another".

  • Texas, and now South Dakota, are the only truly red states that send more money to the federal gov't than they get back. Seccession for the rest of them would be economic suicide. And if any state decided to go it's own way, do you think that the federal gov't would agree to keep paying out social security benefits, or Medicare, to any of that new country's benefits? No state could replace those bens, and no old people would vote to leave the union, and give up their benefits.
    While Texas has the refining infrastructure, there is a ridiculous amount of refining capacity in other states that was shut down since the late 90's, that could quickly be put back in service. The reason that so much refining is done in Texas, is so that they can easily use the ports to transport that refined product out to the international market and get premium pricing for it. In fact, the Valero CEO even stated in a meeting with investors a few years ago, that one of the reasons for wanting to build the Keystone Pipeline was that the extra markets that it opened up by refining in Texas would maximize profits, compared to sending it to refineries in the Midwest. The pipelines running to the Midwest which already exist could easily be adjusted to handle the extra capacity and the differing structure of the Canadian Tar sand oil, but the extra transportation costs when trying to sell on the international market are financially prohibitive. So when a right winger tells you that Keystone is good for our energy security, inform them that, in fact, it is exactly the opposite. It means less control over the oil produced from that area.

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