Lots of talk about secession these days. Look at all the trigger factors: a black president for southerners to hate, economic chaos driving the need for unprecedented, scary government intervention into our economy and our society, and a whole lot of ignorance about how the Constitution works, particularly the Tenth Amendment. A bunch of yee-haw southern politicians are hollering about seceding: seceding because of Obama’s big gummint, seceding because of the stimulus package (but please please please give us the money first! Yee haw!), seceding because they lost two butt-whupping elections and they can’t accept defeat like grownups, particularly after being told by their leaders that they were a permanent majority.
So what if they did secede?
Let’s say there is another wave of secessions like 1860-1861. Look at the places where anti-Obama sentiment is hottest, and simply let them go. Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina, plus east Texas and Oklahoma, and the Florida panhandle.
And what would happen?
The new country would quickly succumb to the consequences of its own fatal pandemic, ignorance.
First of all, southern politicians have been telling ignorant yokels for a century that the (northern) federal gummint is a threat to their liberties, but it’s the (northern) federal gummint that has kept the South alive, with the military bases, the military contracts, the pork, the earmarks, a great deal of the federal welfare programs they claim they hate. Without federal dollars coming from the northern states, the South would starve; without federal intervention, the southern economy and society would collapse from the lack of good roads to bring in food and consumer products, school lunches, college loans, safe food and water, and a hundred other things.
Even setting aside the issue of pork and welfare from Washington, ignorance would collapse the southern economy anyway. The economic base down there is weak: wobbly manufacturing base, workers hating labor unions even though they need them badly, the endless cycle of poverty, low incomes, unemployment. Add to that their ugly health problems: low life expectancy, cancer, drug abuse, alcoholism, and an idiotic aversion to properly-run health care. Then the social problems: bitter people clinging to their guns and Bibles just as Obama foretold, and gun violence, crime, unstable families, domestic violence, serious social problems for children, teen pregnancy, a long history of belittling education. Almost all of which is driven by the ignorance of the population.
Next, ignorance would ruin southern politics. Down South, the political world would of course be dominated by far-right wingnuts, because the wingnuts have worked with might and main to portray even moderate conservatives like Lindsay Graham and John McCain as apostate traitors, and their beef with Bush was that he didn’t do ENOUGH to pursue conservative principles. At best, the political spectrum down south would split into the polished wingnuts in suits and the toothless wingnuts in overalls. Politicians would entertain their ignorant, gullible, paranoid audience with conspiracy theories and hate campaigns against the moderate “traitors”. The intrusion of religion – the last refuge of ignorance -- into political life would accelerate.
Furthermore, ignorance means the yokels haven’t thought through the consequences of seceding. As Jeff Davis discovered when West Virginia split off from Virginia and rejoined the Union, secession begets more secession. Once they establish the precedent that any state, region, county or town can simply quit a democratically constituted country whenever they don’t get their way in that same democratic process (call it the Sore Loser Clause), Texas will secede after a political dispute over oil, Kentucky will secede over a crackdown on drug trafficking, West Virginia will secede over a dispute on pollution, South Carolina will secede for just about any reason because they’re ornery. And soon the South will look like Yugoslavia, a dozen armed, angry, pissed-off countries all wedged together in a small area – and look how well Yugoslavia turned out.
Ignorance will drive southern foreign policy toward isolation and fear.
A key facet of southern foreign policy, of course, would be the South’s relationship to the now-shrunken USA. In the “divorce” settlement, the USA gets to keep America’s reputation and ethos – all that stuff about peace and democracy and helping people around the world, that belongs to us, not the South, because that is not what they stand for. World respect for the USA would go up; the South would be seen as a backward, armed, dangerous ignorant third-world country. Or countries. Any Southern leader who ever hoped to make a mark on the world stage would have only one option -- move north.
The South would insult the north and we would ignore them. The South would beg the north for help and we would ignore them. The South would try to export pot and meth to the north and we would seal the border.
The USA – the north – would thrive in the divorce. We would no longer be hampered by the expensive effort to prop up the South with federal welfare, southern politicians wouldn’t be polluting and impeding our political process, and we could make progress on climate change, health care, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, gays in the military, cleaning up Bush’s mess, and regulating Wall Street, without having to bash down the stone wall of McConnell, Bunning, Saxby Chambliss, Tom Coburn, Thad Cochran, Cornyn, Jim Demint, Lindsay Graham, Inhofe, Dick Shelby, and David Vitter.
Perhaps in the north the Democrats would split into Liberals and Blue Dogs; with the political world splitting up something Liberal 50 percent, Blue Dog 30 percent, Republican 10 percent, America would take its long-overdue jump back to the center.
A huge demographic change would inevitably follow.
Millions of women would move from South to the USA up north, because the South will ban abortion; the women will bring their families too.
Blacks will move north, because they saw that census taker get lynched and they know who’s next on the list.
Hispanics will move north because they don’t want to be treated like an invading army or a species of pest.
Gays will move north because the north will repeal DOMA and allow gay marriage.
Liberals and moderates will move north so their voices can be heard.
Anybody who wants their kids to have a quality education and decent health care – move north.
Anybody who wants their rights protected by labor unions – move north.
And who would be ignorant enough to stay in the south?...Oh, why go there…?