In the months after the election of Donald Trump, there was a mini-political movement in California to get the Golden State to secede from the Union.
It didn’t get off the ground, though during a recent trip to Northern California, many of the people I met were still so angry and distraught over the Trump presidency that it seemed that if he were to win re-election, secession would be much more seriously pursued. A big majority of Californians don’t want to be governed by Donald Trump, and many liberal leaders and media talking heads openly compare President Trump to Adolf Hitler.
What if we arrived at a point where a solid majority of Californians truly wanted independence (and perhaps states like Washington and Oregon sought to join them)? Should they have the moral and constitutional right to do so? Would the other states ever impose military control over Californians to keep them in the Union?
The standard response is this issue was settled during the Civil War. Really? What the Civil War proved was that the North had more military might than the South — so it was able to impose its will over the rebel states. Imagine that it were the South in 1860 that held the political and military advantage to impose its will over the North, and moved to legalize the evil of slavery everywhere. Would the North have been morally wrong to secede?
The issue of secession takes on renewed vigor now given the British exit from the European Union. The EU allowed a fairly orderly process for allowing nations to leave the EU super-governing structure. The political tide in many places around the world appears to be for self-rule and sovereignty.
In America the deepening and perhaps irreversible red state-blue state schism deserves immediate attention. We as a nation are more divided on ideological, cultural, economic, geographical lines than at any time since the Civil War. Look at the electoral map from recent elections.
In most of the South and the Mountain States — red America — liberal Democrats are virtually non-existent in state government. In blue America — California, Connecticut, lllinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island — Republicans have been wiped off the map. Today there are only two states that have a divided legislature.
I fervently hope that we can bridge our differences and come together as one nation. This 50-state union is what has made America the unrivaled superpower economically and militarily. We benefit mightily from being the largest free-trade zone in the world and our common bond of freedom that unites the United States.
But it’s not unimaginable that the polar opposite visions of where America should be headed economically, culturally and morally can’t be repaired. I desperately hope I’m wrong, but prudence dictates we start thinking of what happens if liberal and conservative America at some time in our future grow so polarized that they can’t peaceably coexist.
The fault lines are already showing. In some “progressive” parts of the country, liberals literally don’t want to sit at the same lunch counter or restaurant as pro-Trump conservatives. Political activists are so persuaded of the rightness of their position — on abortion, climate change, universal health care, immigration policy, taxation — they now believe they have the moral authority to shut down the First, Second, Fourth, Ninth and Tenth Amendment rights of the people they disagree with.
Houston, we have a problem. The federal government is losing the consent of the governed.
Could this red state-blue state America end in violence and uprising if one side feels hopelessly aggrieved by the tyranny of the majority of the other side? We know, regrettably, from history that it can.
How do we head this off? Two ideas need to be pursued.
The most practical solution is a reinvigorated emphasis on federalism — a political movement that takes ever-expanding power away from the federal government and restores the sovereignty and home rule of the states. That way Americans can self-select to live under the laws they agree with but within the context of the legal protections of U.S. citizens embedded in the U.S. Constitution.
If you want drugs legalized, government-run health care, abortion on demand and an end to fossil fuels, move to California. If you want low taxes, right-to-work laws, prayer in school, move to Alabama. This mitigates the tyranny of the federal government and is much in the intent of our Founding Fathers.
If this doesn’t work, America may need to consider a Brexit option. One of the flaws of the U.S. Constitution is that it never set forth terms of legal separation. Perhaps that needs to be fixed with a constitutional amendment that allows a state to leave the union if some super-majority of the citizens of that state want to opt out. As long as the states remained as a free-trade zone and perhaps agreed to a common currency (like the euro) the economic costs would be small.
Some may view this as an un-American and even treasonous idea. No. Offering states an exit option would force the majority of states to be more attentive to the grievances of the minority and would help resolve conflicts and could save the union from dissolution.
One last point. If it ever came to this, I suspect that conservatives would not have a big problem with blue states legally separating from red states. Liberals would greatly resist red states from separating from blue states. That is true a) because liberals believe in big centralized government having authority over the citizenry (they are more elitist and authoritarian), and b) because they know that the low-tax, less-regulation, right-to-work, economic-freedom model of the red states would economically crush a nation with socialist impulses ruled by Bernie Sanders or another Barack Obama.
• Stephen Moore, a columnist for The Washington Times, is a coauthor of “Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Revive Our Economy.”