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. If anything, they might have gotten worse.
One sign of our fractured political climate? An increase in people talking seriously about secession. From California to Vermont, dissatisfied citizens are wondering whether it’s time to cut ties with our supposedly indivisible republic.
Not everyone takes this secession talk seriously. There’s a host of reasons — political, legal, and economic — that make withdrawing from the United States pretty darn difficult, if not virtually impossible. 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. (Just look at what’s going on with Brexit.) 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 dreaming of a Calexit or the return of an independent Hawaii. In these states, there’s been some serious talk of breaking away from the union. Could any of them survive as their own country?
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.