Right now most members of the DKos community have most likely heard of the Christian conservative secession movement called Christian Exodus. Since Kos first talked about them on the main page they've settled on South Carolina as their focus point, showing the old saying is still true: "South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum." Sorry Alabama and Mississippi, you just weren't nutjob enough.
Their goal is to create a Christian government in South Carolina, with secession as a final option if the national government blocks their attempts. While I disagree with their views, I do have two kind things to say about them. First, I find their attempt to move to one location in order to create a state government that reflects their views is a lot less threatening to me than trying to create a national government that reflects their views and bosses me around. Second, I find the outline of South Carolina with the blue square in the corner with the red cross very artistically appealing.
The idea of moving along with like minded individuals to a state so it can better reflect your political views is very similar to another group that's on the other end of the conservative spectrum, the libertarian Free State Project. I followed the FSP during the time period in which they were selecting a state and I was impressed with what I say as a very deliberate attempt to weigh the pros and cons of the potential states. The selection of South Carolina for Christian Exodus struck me as somewhat arbitrary, but I'm not a 'Christian constitutionalist' so what do I know.
The FSP feels like it can move 20,000 libertarians into New Hampshire to shift the state toward them, and they selected New Hampshire specifically because of its small size, libertarian tilt, and many other factors such as sea coast and an international border, which they feel is important as they too are keeping secession as an option. The Christian Exodus goal, according to one article, is 50,000 'Christian constitutionalists.'
Interestingly, former Republican Governor Craig Benson was a big supporter of getting the FSP to pick New Hampshire. We all know how popular he was and went on to a second term, right? Another libertarian-conservative governor, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, seems to be so incredibly popular he's going to be challenged in the Republican Primary.
A Silent Left?
What was interesting to me was that despite the triumph of the Republican Party nationally, the two major secession movements I could find were conservative in nature. No one seems to have started to talk seriously about a liberal secession movement. But I did stumble on some interesting finds, like secession Meetups a Hawaii secession movement that seems to be tied more toward the rights of the Native Hawaiians than liberalism, and the Second Vermont Republic right next door to the FSP in New Hampshire. The latter is perhaps the closet to a liberal secession movement, but it seems based more on Vermont's independent past and less on political ideology.
A Brief History
New England in general, not just Vermont and New Hampshire, was home to one of the first secession movements in these United States: the Hartford Convention. At the time of the country was fighting the War of 1812, which was very unpopular among the New England states, and many of them felt that the country was being dominated by the South, Virginia in particular. They also came up with several amendments to address other problems they had with the status quo. Following the conclusion of peace talks and Jackson's smashing victory in New Orleans the talk of secession was quickly dropped, but many viewed New England and the Federalist Party with distrust. Ironically however when secession would actually occur it would pit New England against secession and the South, the region that previously had brought New England to the brink of secession, as the seceding region.
Now there is a lot of revisionist/Neo-Confederate literature out there attempting to justify Southern secession, typically by authors that also feel that FDR's New Deal was a disaster for these United States. Perhaps one reason why there appears to be stronger/larger secessionist movements on the right is that many of their members feel that the Southern States were justified, while liberals typically have more difficulty justifying a secessionist movement because they feel like the Southern States were morally wrong. Some of the smarter pro-secession intellectuals I've read correctly point out that the Civil War was a major blow to the legitimacy of secession not because of the result of the war (which certainly was a set back), but because it forever linked slavery and secession in the minds of most people.
One of the questions needing to be answered concerns the legitimacy of secession. Very often a legitimate tool or option may be used for immoral, perhaps downright evil, ends. As many Republicans pointed out during the fight over judicial filibusters the filibuster was often used by Southern Democrats to block civil rights legislation. Yet this does not make the filibuster inherently immoral or wrong, simply wrong when used for the wrong ends. Is secession similar? Is it a legitimate tool, but misused by the South in order to protect slavery?
I feel that the liberal idea of self determination would give strength to the idea of the legitimacy of secession. From Jefferson's Declaration of Independence to Wilson's Fourteen Points liberals and Democrats have typically supported the idea of people to break away from governments they felt were not responding to their wishes. Sure both of them were hypocrites, Jefferson ignoring the rights of slaves and Indians, Wilson ignoring the Vietnamese and other non-European ethnic groups, but the principles they put forth seem to be persuasive in favor of secession.
As I said above, I was very impressed with the deliberations that went into the decision by the FSP in selecting a state. Knowing that libertarianism is a relatively small movement, they set their membership goal at a reasonable 20,000 and this in turn influenced their decision to focus on small states, typically those with one or two Congressmen. Even Christian Exodus seems to have focused in on smaller Southern states like Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina, as opposed to say Texas.
Obvious Idea One: Work your base. Christian Exodus didn't pick Massachusetts, and early on FSP eliminated Hawaii from consideration. Obviously a blue state would be the focus of a liberal secession movement.
Idea Two: Keep it small. A blue state secession movement would most likely want to rule out larger states like California, New York, and Illinois, and focus in on smaller states. I'm going to go with an arbitrary number to start, but I'm open to suggestions on how best to refine the search, of 10 Congressmen or less.
The combination of the above two ideas, focusing narrowly on the states that went blue each time in 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004, we come up with:
Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine.
Perhaps by accident or design the Christian Exodus movement's choice of South Carolina met another factor important to the FSP: a seacoast and/or an international border. This was because it secession did become an option it was thought to make the state/nation more viable and less dependent on the US for trade.
Idea Three: While this hampered some libertarian hotspots like Wyoming, blue state America is surprisingly well situated on the borders. Several have seacoasts and international borders. Perhaps one could make a correlation between exposure to trade and communications with the rest of the world and liberalism, but I won't go there.
Despite the Great Lakes, I'm going to drop Wisconsin, and note that Vermont and Minnesota are in a precarious position by only having an international border with Canada. They can be called second tier, perhaps they have other attributes that would bring them back up if we expanded our criteria.
When thinking about secession as an option one realizes that Maryland in particular would have some problems because of the large number of federal employees living in Maryland. Secession would put their livelihood in danger and I'd expect strong opposition to secession in the state out of economic self interest.
Another interesting argument among the FSP was the idea of a ripple or domino effect. One libertarian state, in their mind, would encourage the neighboring states to take a more libertarian direction. Their search focused on smaller states, and they noted that New Hampshire was close to Vermont and Maine. Despite their blue state nature several activists believed that shifting New Hampshire in a libertarian direction could, over time, also influence these states. On the other hand a state like Delaware, squeezed both larger states, might not have the ability to impact neighboring states, and the work of liberty activists could be undermined by the neighbors.
A liberal perspective is a bit different. We might want to pick a state that's surrounded by several small red states, with the idea that the blue state would be able to influence them, and not vice versa. This idea is actually different than a simple secession movement. The goal isn't to secede, it's to maximize a group's influence by moving to a single state, and if that doesn't work secession is an option. I believe that many liberals who dislike secession may still like a movement that attempts to settle in one state to maximize our ability to shift the state toward a more liberal and Democratic direction.
This might be a persuasive case for Minnesota, which could influence neighboring purple Iowa and the red Dakotas. However for the most part the blue states are lumped together, primarily in New England, and the likelihood instead is that if one were to secede you'd have pressure on the others to join as well. This might make the case for Massachusetts; with Boston's media market is could influence other states as well as its role as an economic hub.
We might want to pick the bluest of the blue. Washington, for example, has two Democratic Governors, a Democratic state legislatures, and a Congressional delegation that is 6-3 in our favor (but could even be improved to 7-2). But it was also home to a very, very, very, very close Gubernatorial election in 2004, just going to show that even the bluest of the blue isn't always going to be blue.
Perhaps if the goal is to move to a state to make it more liberal, we might want to pick a blue state that's not consistently blue. Maine with two Republican senators or Connecticut with a 3-2 Congressional delegation in favor of the Republicans and a questionable Democratic Senator.
Another idea is that an equivalent liberal movement to FSP/Christian Exodus may be better off picking a small purple state and moving it into the solidly blue category? Say Montana? Or perhaps one of the Dakotas, where the combination of a growing American Indian population and an influx of liberals could turn the state blue in a few decades?
First off, what do you think of the idea of a 'Liberal Exodus?'