Okay, looks like it’s time to dust off my post-election-day secession rant.
The dividing lines in this country are as clear as a jigsaw puzzle. But like a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces are so tightly interlocked that there’s no way to pull it apart without wrecking everything.
Let’s start by ignoring what the Constitution says: if somebody’s splitting off from the US, its laws are not theirs to follow. Never mind legality or morality, let’s just ask, can parts of the US secede without killing millions and impoverishing us all? Those are the stakes.
Borders. Let’s take the Northeast as an example, from Maine to New York. Solid blue states, easy enough to make a nice country out of. Well, except for most of New Hampshire. And upstate New York. And central Massachusetts and inland Maine, and Staten Island, and the town I live in near Boston... if secession is on the table, what’s to stop these regions from seceding from their states? Suddenly your country looks more like a federation of city-states, surrounded by hostile rural territory. America’s internal border is fractal, from the national level right down to individual bedrooms. If you insist on contiguous state borders, what are your options? Call out the state militia to occupy rebellious Staten Island? Partition and forced emigration? Ask India and Pakistan how that worked out.
But let’s suppose you get the territory bit worked out. What about the national debt? If a breakaway republic leaves the US without taking its fair share of the national debt, it’s effectively stolen trillions of dollars. If it gets away with it, everyone else will break away too, the debt will be abandoned, and every T-bill on the planet will become worthless. That’s $18 trillion of investment wiped out, a scale of debt write-off at least times worse than the mortgage crisis of 2007, a hundred times worse than Greece. This is your social security money, your pension, wiped out instantly. And if a breakaway republic *does* take its share of debt, a small young unstable nation isn’t going to be offered the same interest rates the USA gets. It'll immediately find itself in a Greek-style debt crisis.
The federal government owns a lot of stuff, and some of it is hard to move. What happens to the mineral rights, national parks, military bases, federal buildings, and post offices in a breakaway republic? Will it pay the US fair market value for them? Because they can’t afford to. If they seize them by force, is the US justified in reclaiming its property violently? Speaking of violence, what happens to the aircraft carriers and F-22s? Who gets the nukes? I don’t want them, but if I’m going to share a continent with a bunch of nuclear-armed belligerent xenophobic nationalists, I might need some.
With this much to fight over, it’s clear that two divided Americas would be hostile to each other, possibly at war, but each would have lots of citizens who sympathize with the other side. The history of minority groups who sympathize with the enemy is long and bloody. Iraqi Shias. Japanese-Americans during World War 2. Rwanda.
Dividing a country turns its internal conflicts into external conflicts. Internal conflicts can be solved through politics, but the main way nations solve external conflicts is through economic and/or literal war. It’s naive to believe that partition would be peaceful: civil war, forced emigration, or global economic collapse are pretty likely. Maybe you think the risk of these is low enough that it’s worth a shot. I don’t.