Overall, I liked this book. However, there were times when I seriously considered not finishing it. The first half+ was grossly biased against right-wingers. Now, I don’t consider myself to be right-wing. I’m not a Republican, or much of a Trump fan. But the lopsidedness of the author’s perspective was aggravating me. To be fair, he does state his bias right up front. “While I’m pretty much in the dead center on the political spectrum of my own country [Canada], I don’t want to hide the fact that on policy questions my underlying assumptions would be considered liberal by most Americans.”
But, I’m glad I stuck with it. Not only does it seem less biased in the second half, it also talks about secession!
Dispatches from the End of America
The structure of the book is in the form of “Dispatches”. In each of the first four, the author Stephen Marche describes a believable scenario that could happen in the United States, leading to “the next civil war”. Marche did quite a bit of research, speaking with political scientists, military personnel, and activists knowledgeable in each specific scenario he’s describing. He lists his sources at the end of the book.
While the scenarios are hypothetical, they’re also highly believable. This makes the book an interesting mix of nonfiction and speculative fiction. Because each scenario ends in mass deaths, they’re also rather chilling.
In Favor of “Civilized Separation”
The fifth and final dispatch speaks favorably of secession, much to my delight:
Marche goes on to describe how the U.S. has been a mass of cultural contradiction throughout its existence. He explains that it has had multiple, competing narratives. This dates all the way back to the writing of the Constitution, when its authors created the irrational and morally heinous “three fifths compromise” definition of Black Americans’ humanity for pragmatic power-sharing purposes.
The differences Americans face today run much deeper than Democrat vs Republican. They’re fundamentally incompatible worldviews. They can’t be negotiated. The path that does not involve mass death and suffering is secession.
“Secession would not be a failure, given the tensions tearing the United States apart.”
Marche interviews several prominent proponents of secession. One is Daniel Miller, Executive Director of the Texas Nationalist Movement (see our writeup on the Liberty Forum 2022 secession panel that included Miller). He also interviews Jason Sorens, a political scientist at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Sorens is famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) for creating the Free State Project, an effort to encourage libertarians to relocate to New Hampshire.
Have the Conditions for Secession Been Met?
According to Marche, “The conditions necessary for separatism to become real are 1) that there’s a will to disunion and 2) that the political differences inside the country amount to distinct identities with geographical boundaries. The will to disunion is not yet a majority position, but it’s growing, and it’s growing consistently across the country.”
Then Marche speculates on how the U.S. would split up. He sections off the entire West Coast into a new nation called Cascadia. He has Texas achieve Miller’s goal and become The Republic of Texas. Most of the South and the Midwest become a new “Republic of the United States”. But then… he lumps New Hampshire in with the northeast, the Great Lakes region and Washington D.C. as what’s left behind in the old U.S. (Ew, gross!!)
Marche seems to have a size bias. He discusses how large, both geographically and economically, California and Texas are, and therefore believes they would work as independent nations. He then goes on to malign Scotland’s independence movement on the grounds that Scotland is just too small and would obviously need the protection of E.U. membership to survive, if it succeeds in breaking from the U.K. Check out our article discussing how New Hampshire’s size does not at all preclude it from succeeding as an independent nation.
An Idea Worth Fighting For
Marche concludes the book by stating that, despite its contradictions and conflicts, the idea of America is beautiful and worth fighting for. I agree with him. But, I think the U.S. of today is far too large to be workable. A military-industrial complex motivated to engage in eternal wars controls it. And oh, yeah, it’s bankrupt.
Like Marche, I want to keep the idea of America alive. “The rest of the world needs to imagine a place where you can become yourself, where you can shed your past, where contradictions that lead to genocide elsewhere flourish into prosperity.” Let’s do it here in an independent New Hampshire.