Deconstructing the Decision to Secede

According to a 2008 Zogby Poll 73 percent of Americans do not believe a state has the right to secede from the Union. A 2009 Rasmussen Poll found that 31 percent of Texans believe Texas does have such a right. Although eighteen percent of Texans actually favor secession, only 11.5 percent of Vermonters do. What causes a person to commit to secession? What pushes one over the brink?

Secession is a radical act of rebellion grounded in anger and fear but tempered by a positive image of the future. Although anger and fear may be necessary conditions for a decision to secede, they are by no means sufficient conditions. For example, in 2008 millions of Americans truly hated George W. Bush, but interest in secession did not increase significantly. Instead, disgruntled Americans voted for Barack Obama. The economic meltdown of 2008 generated real fear among many Americans, but rather than fleeing from the American Empire which was the cause of many of their problems, they took refuge in the arms of the Empire. They bought U.S. dollars and Treasury bonds, applied for bailouts and government stimulus funds, and seemed unconcerned about multitrillion-dollar budget deficits and the fact that the Fed was printing money like it was going out of style. Secession was not even on the national radar screen.

Letting go of one’s images of America as “the home of the free and the land of the brave” and “the greatest nation in the world” is a gut-wrenching, emotional decision which can only be sustained by outrage – outrage at a government which has truly lost its moral authority. What are the trigger mechanisms which will induce a person to cut his or her emotional ties to the Union and decathect psychologically from the Empire? That turns out to be a very tough question to answer. Is there something about the character of a state which influences the willingness of its citizens to secede?

Some say it depends on a careful assessment of the economic costs and benefits of secession for the individual or family. Others say it’s more dependent on a well defined vision of what a future independent state might look like economically, politically, socially, etc. Still others maintain self-sufficiency is necessary before seriously entertaining the possibility of secession. All of this seems to imply that a decision to secede is a carefully calculated decision at the margin, which I believe is pure bunk. Secession is more of a decision from the heart and the soul rather than the intellect.

Some claim that a person will not run for the legislature as a secessionist unless a secessionist political platform is available spelling out the future of the independent republic. This too is nonsense. The decision to run for political office as an open secessionist is an act of political will. The candidate will choose his or her own platform not one prepared by some political organization.

There is little evidence to suggest that a person can be persuaded to secede. However, one can be made aware of the differences in the consequences associated with secession versus remaining in the Empire.

Unlike by-the-book electoral politics in the United States, secession does not lend itself to coalition politics. The reason is that secession is too provocative, too politically incorrect. For example, one might assemble a group of localvore, simple living, organic farming, peak oil, conservation advocates who are not perceived to be hostile towards secession. However, given a chance they will always promote their own respective agendas and simply ignore secession because secession is too hot to handle. The coalition becomes virtually meaningless.

Just as the politics of Eastern Europe in the 1980s was single-issue politics, bringing down the communist regimes, so too is secession politics. Secession politics is necessarily single-issue, single-objective, single-strategy politics. The issue is the corruption of the American Empire. The objective is political independence and peaceable dissolution of the Empire. The strategy involves confronting the loss of moral authority of the U.S. Government and all of its collaborators.

In the final analysis the decision to secede is based on the conclusion that “enough is enough.” I cannot and will not tolerate any longer the corruption and loss of moral authority of my government. Such a decision is a very personal and very painful decision. It is not risk free, but neither is staying in the Empire.

Thomas H. Naylor
October 1, 2009