For a country founded on rebellion, secession movements are an unsurprisingly popular American tradition. From the tongue-in-cheek variety of mock revolt practiced by Key West’s Conch Republic, to the bloody fighting of the Civil War, the urge to flip the bird to the powers that be is as old as these United States.
There’s always been a predictable ebb and flow of modern United States’ secession efforts. If there was a Republican president, blue-states revolted, a Democratic president, red-state sedition. The desire for self-determination seems to manifest fastest in the minds of the recently defeated. The surge in militia and sovereign citizen movements under the Obama presidency was predictable to those paying attention during the Clinton administration. Vermont’s secession movement erupted under president George W. Bush.
But like most of the electoral norms fed into president-elect Donald Trump’s political wood chipper, there was no standing down of conservative minded secessionists on November 9th.
It now seems everyone just wants to GTFO.
“We woke Wednesday morning doing exactly the same thing we did Tuesday morning, connecting with Texas voters and talking about the benefits of Texas independence,” said Daniel Miller, president of the Texas Nationalist Movement.
The 13-year-old organization is according to Miller the largest advocacy organization in Texas listing well over 300,000 supporters on its web site. Miller says the TNM’s goal is “the political, cultural and economic independence of Texas.”
“There’s been this idea that somehow since Trump got elected that the a lot of the grievances that people had that lead them to support Texas independence will be satisfied,” Miller said. “And what we’re seeing is contrary to that. Since the results came in we’ve added another 15,000 pledged supporters.”
James Bessenger, Chairman of the South Carolina Secession Party echoed Texas’s unchanged post-election course, saying, “The election of Donald Trump will have little or no effect on our movement with regards to our position on the Federal Union.”
Trump’s election has also triggered new progressive secession efforts.
After Trump’s win, Oregonians Christian Trejbal and Jennifer Rollins submitted a proposal for the state of Oregon to secede from America. A day later the duo withdrew their request citing threats and violent protests.
Trump’s improbable ascendance to the highest office in the land also catapulted a nascent California secession effort, the Yes on California Independence campaign, into the national spotlight.
30-year old San Diego resident old Louis Marinelli started the campaign in 2014 as a Facebook group after federal immigration reform failed. Post-election, Marinelli has witnessed an “Overwhelming amount of support. I have an email inbox with 18,000 messages, 14,000 new twitter followers and our Facebook support has nearly doubled to 26,000. We’re starting to hire staff and rent office space.”
Marinelli, an avid Bernie Sanders supporter, believes “Clinton represented a continuation of the status quo in many ways.”
Both Marinelli and the Texas Nationalist Movement’s Miller see each as kindred spirits. They engage in regular communication despite their traditional ideological entrenchments.
“The Texans have always been the stereotypical secessionists in our day, they’re typically branded as a right wing group, well our group is pretty progressive,” Marinelli said. “So what we’re seeing now is a situation where secession is not a just a right wing conservative tea party thing and a reaction to president Obama, it’s across the political spectrum.”
“Brexit had a definite effect on North American secession movements. All of it spurs healthy conversation,” said Texas’s Miller.
“Love it or leave it” was the prevailing sentiment hurled at protesters during the turbulent anti-war protests of the 1960’s. What do secessionist leaders say when asked — aren’t we stronger together as Americans?
“Love it or leave it’ is a very ironic thing to say to a secessionist, considering “leave it” is exactly what they are trying to do,” said the South Carolina Secession Party’s Bessenger. “Families like mine have been in South Carolina since the colonial era and South Carolina is our home, our country. To a secessionist its more a matter of the Federal Government should leave South Carolina, not the people of the State.”
Texas’s Miller agrees. “I venture to say that right now we’re not stronger together. Just look at the aftermath of this election.”
“I don’t think we are stronger together. The animosity has gotten to the point we are weaker together,” said Yes on California’s Marinelli.
Surging social media metrics are one indicator of enthusiasm, but any effort faces very long odds of amending the U.S Constitution to allow secession. The TNM continues to make its case to Texans for support, while the Yes On California question goes to the states’ voters in 2019. Both believe they have viable paths to success.
What remains to be seen is how much of recruitment tool the Trump administration will be for secession movements across the country.