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Would a Romney win prompt Cascadian secession?

The Northwest has a bit of a history of threatening secession. Would a win by Romney push us over the edge?
Lake Washington

Lake Washington Seth Stoll

"If you want to leave a nation you think is corrupt, inefficient, militaristic, oppressive, repressive, but you don’t want to move to Canada or France, what do you do? Well, the way is through secession, where you could stay home and be where you want to be."

— Kirkpatrick Sale, secessionist scholar and activist, New York Times, 2007

With a Romney bounce in the polls, now might be a good time to ask whether a Mitt win would give impetus to the Cascadia secession movement, for those Northwest Americans who don't take up JetBlue's offer of a free ticket out of the country.

While secession is usually the province of neo-Confederates, disgruntled Tea Partiers and those reviving nullification of Obamacare, it is not wholly a rumble on the far right.

In recent years, grassroots activists, bloggers, academics, and regional advocates have been giving voice to secession from the left. The desire is often expressed as wanting to re-divide the continent — or at least the U.S. and Canada — by bioregions. This is expressed in terms of creating an independent state that is more sustainable, sensitive to indigenous peoples, less corporate, more democratic, perhaps anti-globalist. A place where corporations aren't persons. Cascadian ideas and ideals have also been touted in terms of economic and trade cooperation.

Wisconsin, Vermont, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia all have their secession discussion groups, the latter three entities under the Cascadian umbrella. It certainly draws inspiration from Ernest Callenbach, author of the seminal eco-secessionist novel Ecoptopia (1975), who painted a picture of a region from Northern California to the BC border that had broken off the from the United States and sheltered itself behind a green wall while it re-made itself as an environmental utopia.

Bad elections often bring out a kind of secessionist urge, even if not expressed in Ecotopian terms. There's the Red-Blue political map, or concepts like "The Urban Archipelago," a classic rant in Seattle's The Stranger after the defeat of John Kerry by George W. Bush in 2004, that declared a culture war between Red (rural) and Blue (urban) America: "It's time to state something that we've felt for a long time but have been too polite to say out loud: Liberals, progressives, and Democrats do not live in a country that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. We live on a chain of islands. We are citizens of the Urban Archipelago, the United Cities of America."

That sense of alienation could amplify if Obama loses. As The Stranger wrote in '04, the Republicans have no urban agenda to speak of. Today's more extreme Republican party generally rejects many of the federal subsidies, earmarks and initiatives that have made our region boom: investment in infrastructure, public power, land reclamation, even defense initiatives. And, as a party, one wonders whether the GOP grassroots even believe in science anymore. The party is captive of too many climate deniers and Creationists.

Cascadians see things differently from the Urban Archipelago model in that their interests are less about cities and rural areas per se than about the whole ecosystem. Managing a bioregion is more than simply running bustling cities, though that's a key part. Frequently, it is fueled by a passion for nature and climate, not just high-rises and mixed-use developments. But there is a very urban version of Cascadianism too, as evidenced by green cities like Seattle, Vancouver, BC, and perhaps most of all, Portland.

An identity tied by the land and waters is one thing (the naming of the Salish Sea is pure Cascadianism), but our similar attitudes toward urban development are also binding us together: density, green buildings, bikes, mass transit, and economies not dependent on exploiting natural resources and despoiling the environment.

Interestingly, major league soccer has become a breeding ground for the new Cascadianism. Seattle, Portland and Vancouver soccer fans wave the Cascadian flag ("Old Doug"), wear the Cascadian colors (green, blue, white) and wrap their necks in Cascadian scarves. There is talk of creating a Cascadian Football Federation.

Much of the symbolic Northwest fits with Cascadian themes, but the reality is a bit more complicated, both ideologically and in terms of values. Where "Old Doug" might be a fitting symbol of the heart, a Boeing defense contract is a statement about the economic reality of Cascadia's ties to the federal government and subsidy, not to mention land ownership. In the novel Ecoptopia, a visitor to the isolationist new nation rides around in a high-speed monorail system built by Boeing, but would Boeing really stay if Cascadia seceded, if the connection to the flow from the federal teat was actually cut off?


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Oct 16, 6:44 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm not sure if secession will ever come to pass, but raising the issue should foster discussion of where this country is going, and how regionalsim will impact our collective future. Even as the new technologies bring people together in many ways, differences persist, even widen, based on economic, cultural, racial, ethnic, age, and other demographic perspectives. Whether Romney wins or not, this question of secession will not go away, as the central government has to deal with an increasingly polyglot and segmented population, better organized and in communication with each other.

If Romney wins, then we will deal with other questions including the likelihood of an increasingly radicalized Supreme Court, and a central government reduced in its economic and political powers. How far these shifts go depends also on who controls both houses of congress.

I'm delighted that Berger raised this question and hope we hear more from others as we careen towards the future.

Posted Tue, Oct 16, 9:28 p.m. Inappropriate

or maybe you could go to Guyana and start a commune.

BlueLight

Posted Wed, Oct 17, 6:04 a.m. Inappropriate

One the puzzles since the 1990s has been the simultaneous development of globalization and nationalism throughout the world, and those of us who believe in globalization are often puzzled why anyone would cling on to ancient ethnic prejudices over the benefits of a modern liberal capitalist economy. I say this coming from a "nation" (Cascadia) which is superior to all others in the world.

Daniel Rodger's book Age of Fracture is a good description of the situation in the US and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the world. Tracing my ideological lineage back to Alexander Hamilton and Robert Walpole, I am not willing to accept the notion of two Americas, either officially through secession or unofficially through some sort of cultural partition, but that does seem to be what we're up against.

Posted Wed, Oct 17, 6:55 a.m. Inappropriate

what a crock. "Cascadians see things differently from the Urban Archipelago model in that their interests are less about cities and rural areas per se than about the whole ecosystem." As if "progressives" are any less selfish than anyone else. Jeez. No wonder no one believes in the Democratic party anymore.

fgruben

Posted Wed, Oct 17, 7:58 a.m. Inappropriate

Sorry little blulite. Kool-Aid woulden't do you in, only a stake in the heart. Sensitive comment, as usual, considering the number of people who died in Jonestown. Really man, what have you got for a brain, or rather, what happened to your heart? Hundreds of people died, families destroye, a country (Guyana) traumatized.. Nothing to joke about, but you don't really give a shit, as long as you can get your paltry two cents in.

Posted Wed, Oct 17, 8:11 a.m. Inappropriate

This is a waste of your talent, Knute. An article about why Rob McKenna is a real threat to Cascadians and should be defeated at the polls would serve a greater purpose.

rorric1

Posted Wed, Oct 17, 10:55 a.m. Inappropriate

Interesting ideas. Of course, if the U.S. actually followed its Constitution - including the 10th Amendment thereto - we would truly have a federal republic. The central, federal government would have far less power and influence. Washington and Oregon would have far more power to govern themselves, and the election of a president that Washington and Oregon didn't like would mean less.

Which of the two candidates would be more likely to push such power to the states, and to reduce the power of the central, federal government?

PJS

Posted Wed, Oct 17, 12:49 p.m. Inappropriate

xxxxx

NotFan

Posted Wed, Oct 17, 12:51 p.m. Inappropriate

Yeah, let's secede, at which point the feds would tell Boeing to move everything to South Carolina or else, and tell Microsoft to get out of Redmond or else, and would tell Starbucks to get out of Seattle or else. And Amazon too. Followed by federal seizure of the Columbia River, and diversion of all its electricity out of the region. And cessation of air traffic control services to Portland and Seattle's airports ..

Now, what were you saying about succession?

NotFan

Posted Wed, Oct 17, 4:12 p.m. Inappropriate

Yo, Swifty... if Cascadia tries to secede, there will be a lot more than 918 casualties. Really, man. What do YOU have for a brain?

BlueLight

Posted Wed, Oct 17, 4:22 p.m. Inappropriate

If who wins an election for a four-year term is enough to make you want to secede from the union, government is too important a part of your life. It's time to refocus on what's really important. Secessionist, heal thyself.

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Oct 17, 4:59 p.m. Inappropriate

Nice try little blulite, but as always a little short on the wit, and long on the hate. Your colors are revealed once again and the gods still are rolling in the aisles. Good luck with your future of misanthropy, secession or none.

Posted Wed, Oct 17, 9:12 p.m. Inappropriate

I have made the argument that the last six years were a kind of secessionist rebellion, with Obama playing the role of Jefferson Davis, head of the Confederacy. The parallels are that as the century turned, the liberal states were the ones finding their lifestyles threatened the most by increasingly Republican, suburban, and decentralized lifestyles that are taking over the country. So, they circled the wagons one last time, printed themselves a whole lot of funny money, and hijacked the Government with Obama plus a barrage of mainstream media to keep us under their boot. More and more it's looking like the whole thing is falling apart. Americans, even Washingtonians, don't want urban schemes, super expensive light rail and apodments. Now it is time for Romney/Lincoln to bring the rebels back into the fold. For these La Brea Liberals to give up the ghosts of 1946 and 1964 and end their Euro-socialist dalliances. It's the 21st century.

jabailo

Posted Wed, Oct 17, 10:32 p.m. Inappropriate

I'd be happy to live in a country that ran from LA through SF, Portland and up to Seattle. Coastalia, not Cascadia.

sarah90

Posted Fri, Oct 19, 9:57 a.m. Inappropriate

This scenario is about as likely as all the liberals moving to Canada if Bush was elected. However, should it occur the East Cascades Liberation Front would quickly send several divisions through the Snoqualmie Pass. Given Seattle’s aversion to guns and hand-wringing over physical contact, they would easily crush the Cascadia communist rebels.

Posted Fri, Oct 19, 10:06 a.m. Inappropriate

Unfortunately our nation and our state aren't so geographically convenient to secession movements. King, Pierce and Snohomish might have enough liberal voters to demand a new nation if Romney wins however that makes Cascadia an island. To properly secede urbanites will have to rethink what a nation is. Perhaps Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Olympia and maybe even Spokane can form united city states like the Vatican City in Italy. They could all be connected by a giant tunnel system. After all Seattle will be in possession of a very large and expensive tunneling machine with nothing to do in 2015.

Perhaps the U.S. can divide into the United Blue States of America and the United Red States of America. It might make traveling to New Mexico or Florida hell, but they could allows change their minds in just four years.

2cents

Posted Sat, Oct 20, 12:24 p.m. Inappropriate

Secession isn't the only possible end result of the circumstances described in this piece. In Washington, here we are about to thumb our noses, in a big way, at Federal drug laws that we don't want to live with. That points toward a different way forward. If a right-wing Federal government were to outlaw abortion, or forbid teaching science in schools, I am sure we would adopt a similar approach.

It's true that our region carries more than its weight, and subsidizes the less productive economies of the south. But we still gain great benefits from staying united, that I doubt people would want to give up. As the Great Sort causes people to relocate to like-minded places, it seems inevitable that the bonds of Federalism will loosen, and some sort of cooperative regional relationship will take up some of the slack. So we'll be like a family that still manages to get by, in spite of the crazy uncle who lives in the basement.

Posted Sat, Oct 20, 11:01 p.m. Inappropriate

If that's what it takes to get rid of you folks, so be it. Vote Romney and go away.

Djinn

Posted Sat, Oct 20, 11:09 p.m. Inappropriate

Mossback, as a commenter or two before me has noted, this makes me wonder if, come the rains, you misidentified and ate a fair sized batch of good old PNW hallucinatory mushrooms.

afreeman

Posted Sun, Oct 21, 8:53 a.m. Inappropriate

You commenters here don't get it -- this is one of those "fun" columns at Crosscut. It is a parody, a spoof.

Knute has dressed up as an Evergreen State College alum for Holloween.

Can't you recognize his preachy tone and humorless recitation of "northwest progressive" dogma talking points for the jokes they are intended to be?

Lighten up -- in this column Knute is just acting a role. He's a guy in a costume taking a few good-natured pokes at the disingenuous government leadership around here that drones on about "Our Region's Exceptionalism" to keep people bored and distracted. Sheesh . . ..

crossrip

Posted Sun, Oct 21, 10:37 p.m. Inappropriate

Since we pay more to the feds than we get back (thank you very much rural southern states), I'm all for secession. The sooner the better. And maybe blue light would actually move. That would make it worthwhile all by itself.

Posted Tue, Oct 23, 2:54 p.m. Inappropriate

If Mitt Romney wins -- and I am terrified he will -- the forces of oppression will pounce on us much as a cougar pounces on a lamb.

With a corresponding Republican victory here, Rob McKenna in the governor's mansion and a viciously conservative majority in the Legislature -- note for example the theocratic forces of misogyny and homophobia in the background of Jack Connelly's senate campaign in Tacoma -- there will be no refuge anywhere in Washington state.

Given the Gestapo powers provided by the nullifications of the U.S. Constitution imposed on us by the Patriot Act, the Trespass Act and various iterations of the National Defense Authorization Act, we can be sure anyone who dares advocate secession (or any other act of resistance) will quickly vanish into Guantanamo or some other concentration camp.

As to secession itself, it is clearly the only long-term solution to the re-emergence of regional hostilities that will only intensify as terminal climate change worsens. Which is no doubt part of what motivated the always-Machiavellian One Percent to select Bellingham (and the Salish Sea region in general) to be destroyed by the international coal port.

Bellingham is a genuine mini-Ecotopia, and as long as it survives, its implicit message is that resistance is NOT futile. Hence the Ruling Class intends to bury it in coal dust.

Meanwhile the near-unanimous participation of both political parties in the methodical destruction of our once-vaunted experiment in constitutional democracy proves the extent to which the Democrats and Republicans are merely factions within a single One Percent apparatus – an apparatus that, in its ever-more-brazen Ayn Rand moral imbecility, haughtily disregards any interests beyond its own.

In this context the only meaningful difference between Romney and President Obama is the speed with which each intends to facilitate capitalism's inevitable transition to unapologetic fascism. Romney favors the blitzkreig -- immediate post-inaugural transformation – while Obama favors the boiled-frog approach.

Thus under a continued Obama presidency the submergence of the United States into unapologetically fascist governance -- absolute power and unlimited profit for the Ruling Class, total subjugation and genocidal poverty for all the rest of us -- will (presumably) be more gradual.

Or so I hope, for now at age 72, all I can realistically yearn for is the possibility of dying from natural causes before the de facto Ubermenschen of the de facto Fourth Reich commands its de facto Gestapo to abolish forever what little remains of our liberty.

So descends the final darkness that precedes our species' extinction.

Posted Sat, Oct 27, 5:55 a.m. Inappropriate

Condemning the rest of the country to be ruled by the red states isn't exactly a worthy goal... let Texas secede.

WakingLeo

Posted Sat, Oct 27, 4:10 p.m. Inappropriate

It's not only Texas. Everything south of Maryland and east of California show go also.

sarah90

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