Policy

Anger at Feds Drives Growing Interest in Seceding From the Union

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Secession

Secession is a recurring theme in recent years. Remember all of those petitions to the White House to Let My People Go signed by ticked off residents of mostly red states, but some blue ones, too? Well, perhaps sparked by all of the debate leading to the failed secession vote in Scotland, Americans have a continuing interest in the idea—so says a Reuters/Ipsos poll. According to Reuters, "Some 23.9 percent of Americans polled from Aug. 23 through Sept. 16 said they strongly supported or tended to support the idea of their state breaking away."

Interestingly, what many of the would-be splitters seem to be hankering for is an equivalent of the promise that UK politicians made to head off the secessionist vote in Scotland: greater autonomy, with fewer top-down policies and more local decision-making.

Again, from Reuters:

"I don't think it makes a whole lot of difference anymore which political party is running things. Nothing gets done," said Roy Gustafson, 61, of Camden, South Carolina, who lives on disability payments. "The state would be better off handling things on its own."

Respondents also said they resented Obamacare, federal meddling, and what they see as a fumbling White House. They think their states could do better. Once upon a time, we called that sort of state-level decision-making "federalism"—back when we indulged such a radical idea.

While more Republicans (29.7 percent) favor taking their states out of the union compared with Democrats (21 percent), the results were flipped just a few years ago. When Zogby polled Americans in 2008 during the Bush Administration, 32 percent of mainline liberals said they agreed that states had the right to leave the union, compared to 17 percent of mainline conservatives.

It seems that a desire to flee the federal government comes hand in hand with a forced feeding of unwelcome policies from on high. Who could imagine?

Partisan/ideological positions on secession changed places from 2008 to 2014, but a specific desire to leave the union has risen from 18 percent to 23.9 percent. Those numbers may not be in spitting distance of sparking a Scottish-style referendum anytime soon. But it's probably not too early to give some thought to that autonomy talk.

It used to work pretty well, and the Scots seem to find it tempting.