Neil Sedaka said it best – “breaking up is hard to do”. Ask any 16-year-old and they’ll tell you that’s certainly true, but Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) recently made headlines when she suggested not just a breakup, but a “National Divorce” on social media. Of course, there was the typical incoherent shrieking and pearl clutching from progressives, neoconservatives, and other lizard-people, but there was also general acknowledgement from many regular folks that a “National Divorce” may be the only long-term solution.
We Need to Talk…
It should go without saying that our current political arrangement is not working. 2020 saw not just the Covid-19 insanity, but political violence where people were literally shooting each other in the street. Add to that the disturbing new polling data that revealed 48% of Democrats support “quarantine camps” for those who won’t take the recommended “medical interventions” and it seems like the only solution is to exit this abusive relationship.
But the focus on a national divorce perpetuates the same folly that has plagued libertarians and our allies on the right for years: focusing on the national to the exclusion of the state and local. The title of “county executive” may not be as sexy as “President of the United States”, but if the past 22 months have taught us anything, it is that these local offices matter insofar as they can determine how “normal” and free your day-to-day life is. Rather than talking strictly of a national divorce, we should be advocating small-scale secession as well.
Counties leaving their current states and cities leaving their current counties to join neighboring areas that more closely align with their politics should be a part of popular political discourse. Often the biggest barrier secession movements face is the widely held (albeit ludicrous) belief that our current set of lines on a map are sacred and must be preserved, and anyone who would change these lines in any way just pines for the good ‘ole days when they could own other people as property.
Secession in the Empire State
New York state has always been ripe for secession movements. Extreme political division between Downstate (“the city”) and Upstate (not “the city”) have prompted several movements aiming to split the Empire State in two. The secessionist movement of 1969 saw New Yorkers unhappy that upstate had so much control over their politics at the state level and proposed that New York City become the 51st state. 2003 and 2008 saw similar pushes from downstate citing “paying more than they receive” in taxes.
Talk of separation didn’t stop there. In 2015, the push for breaking up was led by Upstate, rural and red, against Downstate, urban and blue. Upstate has not been represented in state level politics for some time – the S.A.F.E. Act (a slew of draconian gun control laws) passed in 2013, and in 2014 Governor Cuomo banned hydrofracking (an important industry for upstaters).
Upstate New York is also burdened by the absurd regulatory schema implemented and maintained by downstate voters and politicians – case and point, these people are talking about banning gas powered lawn equipment for God’s sake. Many upstaters blame the region’s decaying economy on these regulations.
In other words, upstate New Yorkers are being governed by urban elites – people who not only have completely different values and worldviews but look upon them with disdain and derision.
This should sound familiar to you. The situation in New York is eerily similar to that of the United States as a whole. Comparing the electoral map of the 2020 presidential election and the 2018 New York gubernatorial election (both victories for the ‘Dems) make this abundantly clear – big cities dictate policy to the detriment of everyone else.
And here is the 2018 New York gubernatorial race electoral map (by county):
The recent secession movement generated three main proposals: the first was the generic two-state solution; the second involved several counties in the Southern Tier (right above Pennsylvania) becoming part of Pennsylvania. Both ideas ran into an enormous roadblock called the Constitution. Per Article IV Section III, anytime a new state is to be created from an existing state, or parts of one state leave for another state, the approval of both state legislatures and Congress must be obtained. This is a daunting task, to say the least.
The third proposal comes from the Divide NY Caucus and would circumvent the Constitution –in a good way…not a “Commerce Clause” sort of way. There are no constitutional barriers if no new state is being created, so the Divide NY plan would split the state into three autonomous regions – New York (NYC), Montauk (NYC’s immediate suburbs), and New Amsterdam (everything else).
Partition Instead of Secession?
Each region would basically be its own state, responsible for electing its own governor and legislature, as well as dictating its own policies and taxes. But here’s the kicker, “New York State”, as recognized by the federal government, would still exist. The current “governor” would occupy a position akin to that of the Queen of England, but all federal representation would remain the same. There would be no changes to the number of states in the Union or the territory controlled by each state, so Congress is not involved, and since no other state is involved either, the bill would only need to survive one legislature.
Divide NY’s proposal became NY Senate Bill S5416 and dealt with many of the issues commonly associated with secession movements – namely, who would get what. The exhaustive 24-page bill details how the state’s university system, prisons and courts, and roadways would be divided. Sadly, it didn’t make it out of committee, but has been introduced again for the 2022 legislative session.
The proposal isn’t perfect, since it likely means that awful federal representatives like Chuck Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand would keep their jobs, but virtually all New Yorkers would be better off. Downstate would free themselves from what they perceive as the “free-loading moochers” Upstate, and Upstate would no longer have to answer to the insane hypochondriacs and left-wing ideologues Downstate. But even if it didn’t make everyone better off, man is entitled to self-determination, and that right should be respected and exercised. Period.
Some might ask what’s the point of an article about a failed proposal aside from it being interesting. The point was not to talk about the success of the movement, but to highlight that there is a hunger for creative and unorthodox solutions in red America. Tens of millions of people feel the tendrils of leftism and authoritarianism tightening around their throat. They are ready to consider solutions they would have scoffed at just a decade ago. They are looking for solutions at every level – solutions that the liberty movement had embraced long ago. It might be up to us to spread the message of separation and rebuilding. A message that says, yes, even though mommy and daddy love you very much, they just can’t live together anymore.
Reprinted with permission from Mises.org.