Ever since the election of Donald Trump, we have been treated to periodic semi-serious think pieces by liberals saying that blue states should form their own country. Hey—shut the fuck up!!
Not sure if you’re aware of this, but Donald Trump was just elected president. It is no longer safe to assume that wild, half-joking political ideas will not be realized. We live in extreme times. That is the first point. The second point is that blue state secession is no better an idea than Confederate secession was. The Confederates wanted to draw themselves into a cocoon so they could enslave and exploit people. The blue state secessionists want to draw themselves into a cocoon so they can ignore the exploited people of America.
California, which is itself the sixth-largest economy in the world, began this idea in earnest, with an organized movement underway to gather signatures for a 2018 “Calexit” ballot initiative to become its own country. This semi-serious initiative has drawn support from some rich people and various levels of winking, kidding-not-kidding flirtation from established California Democrats. Last week, writing in the New Republic, Kevin Baker expanded the idea into a call for a “Bluexit”—a total secession of blue states from red states. (He papers this over with a patina of federalism, but secession is the spirit of what he advocates.) Of course, nobody serious really thinks either of these things will happen, in the same way that nobody serious really thought Donald Trump could become president of the United States. I will save the full-throated patriotism for the day when secession appears to be a practical possibility. (Never say never!) For now, I will simply direct a plain message to all of the good liberals floating this idea with a nod and a wink: Hey, shut the fuck up. You’re not helping.
The fact that these proposals are written in a half-joking manner does not excuse them, in the same way that half-joked racism does not excuse the person caught saying it. The sentiment is real. And the sentiment behind the idea of blue state secession, broadly speaking, is this: “We are the states with all of the money. We are the states that pay most of the taxes to support the government programs that disproportionately help you, the poorer people in red states. We do this because we are good people. And yet you have the nerve to vote against all of it. Well, see how you like it without our help.”
This sentiment is covered with a fig leaf of concern-trolling: It’s not that we want to hurt you red state poor people, it’s that we’re concerned that you will hurt our blue state poor people. It is interesting, then, to note that the blue state secession movement mostly attracts the support not of the actual types of people who might be oppressed in Donald Trump’s America, but of very wealthy techies. Nothing more needs to be said about the fig leaf.
The impulse to bandy about the threat of secession is not rooted in concern for the vulnerable. It is a tantrum by rich people who are angry that their political power temporarily does not match their economic power. Think about how shallow a self-proclaimed liberal’s commitment to social justice has to be for them to say that the proper response to the ascent of a quasi-fascist amoral strongman is to cede him the majority of the nation’s territory and stop helping to support social programs for everyone not lucky enough to live in a coastal state. Ah, what brave commitment to justice for all! If 51% of your state voted for the bad man, we will condemn the other 49% to misery. That’s what good liberals are all about! We all remember how Abraham Lincoln became an American hero by telling the Confederacy: If you are uneducated enough to think that slavery is good, go be your own country. With time your slaves will certainly come to realize that blue states are preferable!
Winking liberal secession think pieces are the class-based equivalent of the white guy who jokes, “Haha, but seriously, black people are such good dancers. Haha.” Haha, motherfucker. It’s not hard to read between the lines. Were the majority of Donald Trump voters suckered? Yes. Did they vote against their own self interest? Yes. Will they come to regret it? Yes, if they haven’t already. It is fine to point out that Donald Trump is a charlatan and the ignorant are his prey. It is not fine to conclude that they should all then be sentenced to die due to the Republican health care “reform” plan. The reality is that nobody in America today needs help more than the poor and minority citizens of red states, no matter who they were suckered into voting for. The responsibility of the coastal elites is to help those people, not cast them into the wilderness. During the civil rights era—when the red states were even worse, if you can imagine—the good white liberals dutifully made their way down to Mississippi to get their asses kicked along with all the other protesters. Today, they write in the New fucking Republic, “Take Mississippi (please!), famous for being 49th or 50th in just about everything that matters.”
The idea of having ostentatious liberal politics is to make up for being an elitist prick. Not to enhance it. Try harder.