In recent months, an idea formerly relegated to the fringe right has popped up in more mainstream right discourse: national divorce. Secession, devolvement or dissolution are other ways to describe it. It is another possibility that was outside the Overton Window now entered into the regular framing medium for policy and ideas. As the board stands now, it is a bad idea. As a concept to consider and potentially develop state institutions towards, it is a good idea.
The major detractors on the right appear to be Revolver affiliated individuals who consider it dumb. As of 2022, it is dumb. There are many reasons to call it dumb. First, what capacity does a state or collection of states have to pull it off? Not much. Would there be international recognition? Doubtful. How fast would the entire media megaphone call for drone strikes, arrest and re-education camps of ringleaders and even bad think residents of those states? This would be intense. What control over security forces are there within that state and what is the war-gaming for any hostilities? Murky. Even if centered on Texas, you’d want to grab some other states for water rights and access, but then also grab other sates for food production, and by the time you look back at the map, you’re almost at a complete recreation of the lower 48.
A good example of a poorly thought secessionist move is explained here. Catalonia failed spectacularly. All the same problems there exist for any US state. One of the biggest problems was the mentality of the ringleaders, who still played within the parliamentary game, expecting Madrid to operate under normal circumstances. This did not happen. The breakaway ringleaders twiddled their thumbs and considered this all a bureaucratic and paper game. This was about negotiating with the central government. They did not understand the magnitude of directly challenging the state for actual power. They did not act as true founders.
Compound these Spanish problems with what every red state resident knows about left wing ops. If not deploying troops immediately, the NGO machine would crank up, foot soldiers would enter the blue metropolis for rioting and activate the lumpenproletariat underclass for violence. Every red state exiting the federal government would have to deal with the urban problems and the far left university problems. There is a reason the Iranian clerics shut down universities for two years after their revolution. To make this leap, one has to recognize that referendums, legislation and other paper games do not matter. This is a moment of flipping the board.
Right wingers upset with the loss of control over all institutions correctly understand the game is rigged. There can be no long march through the institutions to take them back. They can defund, destroy and attempt to build parallel institutions. Right wingers pushing this idea also have to realize how weak states are. No state outside California and Texas could do this on its own. A carve out would create a large G7 level nation.
Individual states are weak, which is why coordination matters. A lot of funding for services in states comes from federal revenues. Governors themselves are often out of touch and slow to enact any type of legislation that wields power. This is why Gov. DeSantis appears so amazing. It is not that he is doing an amazing job but that he is actually trying. Governors in far redder states are much more cautious. They do not wield power.
This is the upside to entertaining the idea of national divorce. To even make it feasible, red states would have to beef up capabilities and activity. Another dirty secret is how red state governments are stocked with left wing operators. The right has to overcome the reluctance to go into government work and begin to staff agencies, bureaucracies and basic government jobs. A properly right wing seeded agency within a state is worth more than a governor using the bully pulpit to push forward one bill. All of these red sates have CRT infestations due to their reliably left wing bureaucrats.
The right would also have to get serious about culture. One can easily see the differences between regions in America, especially post-covid, but the left owns all cultural production. The right would have to push an alternative culture to diminish the effects of the Network-Studio programming effect modifying its citizens. Many charts show how this was a process of mergers and acquisitions in media but also ideological conformity in studios? The right must get creating and boosting right friendly products. That should have started years ago but now will do. Arts and letters matter as does what schools use for curriculum pieces to share as culture.
There is no harm in discussing it, even if a pipe dream, but we exist in a grey zone where the future does seem up in the air. Do the detractors fear that even thinking about national divorce means that right wing audiences will no longer vote in federal elections? To counter them, say a Republican does capture the White House again with a congressional majority in both chambers. Does the president have 5,000 appointees ready to go? Can the president enforce strict, uniform voting to roll back everything needed to be eliminated? Have you seen the reaction to the Ukraine fiasco? How does the president get around judicial injunctions? How can they replace the intransigent bureaucracies that will grind the gears down to zero when he is elected? What is the plan to deal with the intelligence agencies? Without a plan, the drive to elect a new Republican or enjoy the return of Trump to enact change is almost as fantastical as national divorce.
The future really is unknown. Where we are in the imperial cycle matters. A good read is Stephen Kotkin’s Uncivil Society about the end of communist states. To quote Kotkin, it was not outsiders, dissident groups or the people that ended communism but “it was the establishment… that brought down its own system.” He referred to it as a “regime self-negotiation”. There are similarities to America today as the elites were a caste to themselves enjoying the same experiences, upbringing and perks. This elite was well educated but “that education often equipped them with a cliche ridden vocabulary and crimped worldview.” Decision making was “hypersecret” and existed in a “black box”. They were boxed in by ideology and could not deliver good living standards. This all sounds familiar. Problem was they had an alternative system to switch to, self-enrichment opportunities in changing and some threat from security services. All crack ups are different so why not plan for one possible outcome when facing a self-contained, untouchable elite?
If a dissolution is coming, and decentralization to a lower state of complexity awaits, it would be better to mentally get to the state of making it happen and build up regional power centers. We can prepare the ground to be in better position to move when the crisis opportunity arises. Current crises show that the clique in charge will not deviate from ideology for easy fixes to our problems. We can’t pump more oil due to environmental crusades. We can’t relocate manufacturing to fix supply chain problems as this would reward bad Americans and pollute domestically (a little). Immigration? No restriction. Ever. With the situation laid out like that, alternative arrangements make sense and also threaten the other side with a negative compared to a negotiated settlement. The problem many right wingers understand is that we are in a situation where the other side will not negotiate and the threat is existential.