Sunday, July 26, 2009

A secession scenario, part II

Continuing from where we left off last time, we divided the USA up based on a hypothetical Republican-led, anti-Obama secession movement, and then looked at the composition of the ASA (the "anti-socialist" seceded states) and RSA (remaining states). Today, in the second part of the series, I'd like for us to explore what the major obstacles to a secession movement would be in a number of these states and regions.

The Old South

There are a few common problems in this region that present an obstacle to secession attempts, one being that a Republican-led secession movement would probably struggle in Democratic state legislatures in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. A powerful reason across the entire region is that 29% of the population of this region is black. Percentages range from 37% in Mississippi to 26% in Alabama, and while you can find a number of Southern whites who will say that states' rights and secession are things that have nothing to do with race, you would be hard-pressed to find Southern blacks willing to agree. And that's with secession in general; an anti-Obama secession movement would inflame racial tensions to heights not seen since the 1970s even if it failed. In the event any of these states were to secede from the rest of the US, I would expect to see things get very ugly in a hurry for the reasons of race and history.


Georgia is the largest and most prosperous state in this region. However, while Georgia's state government is firmly in Republican hands, Georgia is also the state in this region that gave Obama the highest percentage of the vote - a full 47%, his third-smallest percentage loss in the country behind Montana and Missouri. This would present a major obstacle to any secession movement in Georgia; Obama simply doesn't have the net negatives in Georgia that he does in the rest of the South. Georgia has also spent the most effort reinventing itself as part of a new South; Atlanta, as the center of the "New South," would represent a powerful center of opposition to secession.

South Carolina

South Carolina is one of the two states in this region whose state governments are controlled by Republicans. South Carolina also is the state with the longest history of secession threats, and did so in December 1860, before any other state in the Confederacy. It was also the site of what is widely regarded as the first battle of the Civil War (Fort Sumter) and for these powerful historical reasons, a secession movement starting in South Carolina cannot avoid being compared to the Civil War. Also, two practical points to consider: If Georgia does not secede, South Carolina would be surrounded; and South Carolina's economy relies heavily on the tourism industry, something that is likely to take a sharp nosedive even in a peaceful secession.

Mormon Triad

Three of the most heavily Republican states, with three of the four lowest Obama vote percentages, are also the three with the highest percentages of Mormons in their population, which helps me come up with a handy name that doesn't sound like it should include Colorado and Montana. Utah is much more Mormon than Idaho, which is much more Mormon than Wyoming; the three of them combined are close to half Mormon, with around 2.3 million LDC members out of a combined population of 4.8 million. However, the name is much more than that; it's a reminder of how influential the CLDS is within the Republican party, especially in Idaho and Utah. If there are any three states in which the opinion of Church elders will matter, it will be these three states.

An interesting historical fact: During the civil war, an assembly of the Mormon church sent a petition to Congress to join the United States. I know very little about the inner workings of the current CLDS, but I expect secession to be controversial enough that it will matter what is being said within the CLDS, and I do not expect these three states to secede on their own account - if and only if Republicans across the nation are clamoring for secession. However, in these states, and in the Plains states (the column running down from North Dakota to Oklahoma), we don't expect white-black racial tensions and the history of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Civil Rights Act to be as important.


Montana, I should note, is something of a special case that I tossed in on the secession side without a very detailed explanation. Montana is increasingly Democratic, and McCain edged out Obama in Montana by barely more than 2% of the vote. I included Montana for two reasons, and two reasons only. The first is that increasingly Democratic or not, Montana has a powerful libertarian tradition and a lot of very independent-minded folk, and the justification of this scenario was that the country would split over health care. The second is that if the Mormon Triad and the Northern Plains states (Nebraska and the Dakotas) all secede, then Montana will be completely surrounded by seceded states, at which point secession would start to sound a lot more reasonable.

We can expect, however, that Montana would be likely to secede only in the event those six other states all seceding - and it is not guaranteed even then.


Texas is an interesting state, even more so within this collection, because we actually have seen polls run gauging the popularity of secession in Texas. We've seen polls run for two reasons: One, the governor was talking about. Two, Texas probably is the most likely state to secede. It's a large state with a significant population, a large economy, lots of natural resources, and an unusually strong identity. Texans identify as Texan. The forum post inspiring this exploration assumed Texas would lead any secession movement - and even so, polls have suggested that secession struggles to reach majority support among Texas Republicans, and is unpopular within the general population.

So when we talk about Texas... we cannot help but see how unlikely any secession scenario is in the near future. It makes for some fun stories to talk about, and perhaps by closely watching the continuing saga of Governor Perry, we might see what it would take to have another period of secession from the Union.

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