These days, it seems Americans are more at odds than ever. In the weeks after the last presidential election, a record-high 77% of people surveyed by Gallup said the country was divided. It’s hard to imagine those numbers have budged much since.
One sign of our fractured political climate? An increase in people talking seriously about secession. From coast to coast, dissatisfied citizens are wondering whether it’s time to cut ties with our supposedly indivisible republic.
Not everyone takes this secession talk seriously. There are many reasons — political, legal, and economic — that make withdrawing from the United States difficult. For one, there’s the chance that moving to break away could trigger another Civil War. Even if the split was peaceful, the economic impacts could be severe. Plus, breakaway states would be on the hook for all the things currently handled by the federal government, from paying for a military to policing their new borders.
Still, those realities haven’t stopped some people from picturing their state seceding. In these states, there’s been some serious talk of breaking away from the union. Could any of them survive as their own country? Did your state make the list?
In the days after Trump’s election, panicked Californians proposed a solution: Calexit. In a state where Hillary Clinton trounced her rival by 4.2 million votes and where only 25% of voters approve of the president, the idea has managed to gain some serious traction. The state’s attorney general has said a pro-secession group can go ahead and start collecting the 585,000 signatures it needs to get a Calexit measure on the 2018 ballot.
The pro-secessionists will face an uphill battle for independence though. Only a third of Californians polled in March 2017 said they’d vote for the state to become its own country. But in other ways, the state is in a good position to go its own way. Not only is it less dependent on the federal government than most other states, but California has the sixth-largest economy in the world and “independence wouldn’t necessarily bring economic hardship,” noted Foreign Policy.
Next: This state has already spent 10 years as a sovereign nation.
The Republic of Texas ceased to exist back in 1846, after a brief 10 years as a sovereign nation. But it might be due for a comeback, at least if certain Lone Star State residents get their way.
Roughly a quarter of Texans surveyed by Public Policy Polling in August 2016 said they thought it was time for their state to leave the United States. Trump supporters were even more in favor of secession — 37% wanted to kiss the Union goodbye. But we probably don’t need to fear another Civil War just yet. Though some have tried to make secession part of the state Republican party’s platform, their efforts haven’t been successful.
One thing that would be in Texas’ favor if a serious secession movement were to arise is its economy. The state’s gross domestic product is bigger than that of any other state except California (and is the 15th largest in the world), which would probably smooth the journey to independence.
Still, if Texas did strike out on its own, the road might be rocky. The state would also have to suddenly fulfill many functions now covered by the federal government, including maintaining interstates, border patrol, and airport security, as outlined in this report by NPR.
Next: This state has a long history of independence.
Hawaii is a world away from the mainland U.S. The island chain also has a long history of independence before its monarchy was overthrown in 1893 in a coup organized by sugar planters. For years, native Hawaiians have been lobbying the federal government for recognition similar to that given to Native American tribes. But some want to go even further. The annexation of Hawaii was illegal and the U.S. is an occupying force, they argue, and they want the state to become its own independent nation again.
Could independence work? Hawaii is in the middle of the pack when it comes to dependence on the federal government. It has the 38th largest GDP in the U.S. But some argue independence would be good for the Hawaiian economy because it would be free from certain U.S. trade restrictions.
Next: Not everyone here was happy about joining the United States.
Alaskans voted for statehood in 1959, but not everyone is happy with the results of that election. The Alaskan Independence Party — the third-largest political party in the state, with more than 15,000 registered voters — advocates for a new vote on secession, arguing that Alaskans should have had the option to choose independence the first time around.
While not all in the party support full independence (some want a return to territory status, and others would be happy with stronger state’s rights), some definitely do. And it remains one of the best-established secessionist movements in the U.S.
If it ever became its own country, Alaska would control a vast amount of oil wealth. But the oil reserves it’s sitting on are a double-edged sword. When prices are high, money floods into the state, but when prices fall, the economy suffers. The dynamic has created problems for Alaska as a state, and the issue wouldn’t disappear with independence.
Next: This northeastern state already had one go at independence.
Vermont has always had a strong independent streak. So perhaps it’s not surprising that a small but vocal group of Vermonters have spent the past decade or so advocating for secession. Noting that the Green Mountain State already had one go at independence from 1777 to 1791, they argue it’s time for a “Second Vermont Republic.”
A 2007 poll found 13% of voters supported secession. But the push for independence seems to have faded somewhat since the movement’s controversial leader, Thomas Naylor, died in 2012. Naylor was the public face of the left-leaning secessionist groups but was criticized for his ties to racist Southern separatists.
One issue an independent Vermont would face is replacing all the dollars it currently receives from the federal government. Currently, the state receives about $2 billion a year from Washington to help pay for everything from highways to school lunches.
Next: This state’s motto is “live free or die.”
6. New Hampshire
Is it any wonder that there’s been talk of secession in New Hampshire? After all, the state’s motto is “live free or die.” Like its neighbors to the west — and inspired by Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union — some New Hampshire residents have said they want out of the United States. The state’s Libertarian Party has even endorsed the idea of New Hampshire secession, or NHExit.
Could secession work in the Granite State? Maybe. New Hampshire is small, but it’s less federally dependent than most other states, according to a WalletHub analysis. And it has seen a recent influx of libertarians, who are already working to turn the state (or perhaps independent country) into a small-government paradise.
Next: Some Americans want these states to come together.
7. Oregon and Washington
If some people in Oregon and Washington get their way, the entire Pacific Northwest region would join California in exiting the union. Their vision involves a “Republic of Cascadia” that would consist of most of those two states, as well as parts of British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. The idea has been around for a while but interest increased following Donald Trump’s election. Supporters see the area as a distinct “bioregion” with its own unique culture. Not all support secession, but some do.
Supporters of an independent Cascadia claim the country would be among the world’s 20 largest economies, producing between $750 billion and $1.5 trillion worth of goods and services, depending on what areas were included.
Next: Could these five states form an alliance that could last?
8. North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana
For years, some members of the Lakota Sioux tribe have argued they should be recognized as a fully independent country. To that end, they declared themselves citizens of the independent Republic of Lakotah in 2007. The nation consists of parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana and has sought recognition from other countries, including Bolivia, Chile, and South Africa.
Even if the Republic of Lakotah were to receive official recognition, it would likely face some big challenges. For one, the region is home to several of the highest-poverty counties in the United States. Geography also stands in the way. The Republic of Lakotah would be landlocked, which tends to hurt a country’s economy. Most of the 45 countries in the world without a maritime border are poor, the Economist explained, largely because it’s more difficult for them to move goods around without assistance from their neighbors.
Next: Welcome to the Conch Republic.
If you’ve visited Key West, you might have noticed a sign welcoming you to the Conch Republic. It sounds like a joke, and it is — kind of.
Back in 1982, the Border Patrol created a roadblock on the only highway in and out of the Florida Keys. Frustrated residents tried to get the checkpoint removed, and when they failed they declared themselves an independent country and announced a symbolic war on the U.S.
The publicity generated by the stunt led to the removal of the roadblock and also proved to be a useful tourism booster. More than three decades later, the Conch Republic — whose motto is “we seceded where others failed” — is still around, issuing fake souvenir passports and celebrating its independence day every April 23.