Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last four years, you might have noticed that the United States has been experiencing more turmoil than usual. For whatever reason, the 2016 election sprung a leak in the boat. Whether the crack was always there under the surface, waiting for the right amount of pressure to be exerted, for the crack to spread, is up for debate, and may be the subject of a very different article. But regardless of the how and the why, it is our present reality. Over the last four years, we have gone from protests in the streets to adding regular violent assaults on people simply wearing the wrong type of hat, to the tearing down of Confederate statues, to tearing down George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Frederick Douglas.
We went from discussing police reform to extremists demanding an ethnostate. Entire American cities are burning, with hundreds of millions of dollars in damages as the result so far. The wealthy are fleeing from the cities in unprecedented numbers, while the poor and middle class are largely left behind. There are no signs of any of this stopping. At the same time, governors and mayors are flexing their executive muscles, moving to force businesses to close, restricting hours and services, and removing the choice of Americans in what they can wear, where they can go, and what they can do. Meanwhile, our elected officials in Congress and the White House bicker among themselves about how much of our money they can spend, and on what pet projects. The America of before has collapsed, even if we aren’t ready to admit it yet.
So what comes next? What is to be done? One thing is for sure; we can no longer coexist with one another as differing political ideologies. The main political factions in play right now are like when Mom and Dad are working through a divorce, and the mostly apolitical American people are the children stuck in the middle. The current political crisis in America is right on track for a full-scale civil conflict, accelerating faster than history has ever seen before, thanks in large part to social media and the 24-hour news cycle. If something drastic doesn’t happen soon, far more blood will be spilled. Many suggestions are currently being discussed by political scientists and sociologists around the country. The idea of secession is not an unpopular one, nor is it new. Secessionist movements have been active for years in California, Texas, Washington State, and Oregon for years, and even more recently in Virginia and Idaho. The question is, would secession on such a small scale be enough?
There are, of course, many other options here, and this article seeks to explore just one of them. If the United States were to peacefully balkanize, that is to say, split into multiple smaller countries, could much of the current economic and diplomatic power that the United States enjoys be preserved? Perhaps. First, one must understand a bit about political culture. Political cultural theories in the US vary in some ways but mostly revolve around the idea that due to a variety of reasons, different geographic areas of the US generally follow distinct political cultures, leading State and local governments to develop policies and structure that adheres to the political culture of that area. For example, the Northeast and Pacific Northwest give more leeway to government control, in return for certain protections or policies. In the Deep South, there is a greater culture of general distrust towards the government, and as a result, policies reflect that in giving more freedom to individuals and businesses.
Knowing this, one must then split the country into different primary political cultures. This quickly creates a rough idea of where the borders for these new nations would form, along the geographic boundaries of these differing political cultures. At this phase of transition, the clock would start ticking for people to make preparations to move to their preferred ideological representation in which country. Perhaps a year, maybe five. What then, will these new nations do with one another? Potentially, not much. But most likely, a series of trade and mutual defense agreements would quickly form. After all, each region of the current US depends on the others for certain things, be it food, energy, or entertainment. The difference, of course, is that each new country, with its expressed and centralized political ideology, would be free to govern themselves as they see fit.
Over the passage of time, perhaps these drastically different countries could even come together for mutual benefit. Consider it to be similar to the original Articles of Confederation but without an overarching Federal government. Instead, each of these “commonwealths” could form a governing council, made up of the leadership or chosen representation from each country, or commonwealth. If such a body were to be organized, it would of course have to be carefully constructed to ensure that no one commonwealth or coalition of commonwealths could force the policy of another commonwealth, as is often seen in the EU. Each would operate with complete sovereignty and autonomy but would have a seat at the table to discuss mutual concerns.
As it currently stands, the chances of such an idea being implemented seem slim to none. There are far too many powerful people whose interests lie in maintaining the status quo, as precarious as it is. Perhaps many of these same elites are in fact seeking to tip the balance of power in their favor and are pushing for much of the chaos that is seen today. Even then, the result would be bloodshed. In order to see a plan such as this one be carried out, these elites would have to be motivated to move single-mindedly towards balkanization. On the ground, far too many average Americans would also flinch at such an idea. While only a faint idea of what America once was exists at this point, they cling to this idea, this idealism, and nostalgia for what once was, but is no longer. Even if the alternative is bloodshed and an even more intensely uncertain future, they would refuse to consider anything else. What coming events are waiting for us, only God knows. But if we do not start taking these matters seriously, if we continue to wait for this chaos to come to our doorstep, it will be far too late to avert it. It may already be too late.