(this article appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Green Horizon Magazine)
The Case for Secession
By Denise Brush
In 2022 the United States is on a trajectory we have not seen in over 150 years: political polarization so extreme that it could lead to an authoritarian takeover of our federal government by right wing extremists, or to another civil war. It’s time to think seriously about secession. Greens could make the case that it’s our best hope of avoiding living the rest of our lives in a fascist country.
Support for secession seems to be building on both sides of the political spectrum. Stephen Marche recently wrote in the Washington Post:
A survey published in September by the University of Virginia Center for Politics found that 41 percent of Biden voters and 52 percent of Trump voters at least “somewhat agree” that “the situation in America” makes them favor blue or red states “seceding from the union to form their own separate country.”
As proponents of decentralization, I believe that Greens should advocate for a break-up of the United States into regional republics like the Soviet Union did three decades ago. Yes, it’s a radical idea, but Greens often take the lead with far-sighted proposals. The most likely way the break-up would start would be by the secession of the most populous states — Texas, Florida, and California. Non-contiguous Alaska and Hawaii would be natural next steps. If the prospect started to gain currency, Puerto Rico would probably declare independence immediately. Other states might then team up with their politically like-minded neighbors to form break-away regions; for example, the New England states could secede along with New York and New Jersey to form a new republic. Ideally, each region of the present United States would become its own small nation.
Citizens of these new nations would be politically, culturally, and geographically more homogeneous and thus more able to agree on their future direction together. Politics would tend to become more grassroots-based because each government would be more local and have a smaller reach. Such a context would be conducive for people who were not politically active previously to get involved. Hopefully, independents and alternative parties would assert themselves in the development of the new political framework.
In some republics formed by left-leaning states, I would expect to see a more open form of democracy emerge based on the many successful parliamentary democracies around the world. It would be an opportunity to draft a new constitution that would eliminate the knottiest problems of the current U.S. constitution (like the archaic electoral college) and build in social justice, human rights, and a respect for the Earth.
An issue, as with the break-up of the Soviet Union, is that one emergent nation would probably retain control of the nuclear arsenal. It might periodically threaten other American regions and/or the world. Some of the regional polities might continue to move away from democracy and into authoritarianism. But smaller republics formed of liberal or moderate states would likely become exemplary peace-abiding neighbors, since they could no longer support a worldwide standing army nor engage in foreign wars the way the United States does. The former National Guard members in each state would be all those smaller republics would need for defense. I believe that, ultimately, the world would become more peaceful if the United States separated into regional republics.
In his Washington Post article, Stephen Marche concluded that secession is unlikely because unless or until the regions gained official U.N. recognition as sovereign nations they would not have access to foreign exchange or trade.1 But Greens know that to halt climate change we need to stop relying on global trade and commerce. We have seen during the pandemic how fragile our supply chains are. We need to end our dependence on China and other countries for consumer products and learn to use our local resources and local businesses to meet our needs. Global trade agreements must give way to the revitalization of local economies that rely on the resources of each bioregion. Secession of states and regions would force these necessary economic changes to happen on a much faster timeline.
A focus on the Green key value of Community-based Economics could make secession successful. For example, many plastics-based products that we buy from overseas could be made from biodegradable local materials, such as hemp. Innovators are already developing these alternatives. In regional republics, small farms, businesses, and worker cooperatives would become essential. So would local renewable energy like solar and wind power. Fossil fuel producers would be cut off from their overseas customers and go out of business. We would be much more likely to see the changes that Greens know are essential to save the Earth.
My conclusion is that the Green key values of Decentralization, Grassroots Democracy, Peace, and Community-based Economics all support break-up of the United States by secession.
1 Marche, Stephen. “Secession might seem like the lesser of two evils. It’s also the less likely.” The Washington Post 12/31/2021. Retrieved 2/5/2022 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/12/31/secession-civil-war-stephen-marche/