After I read Robert Frum’s “How to Build an Autocracy” in The Atlantic Feb 3, 2017 my blood ran so cold I bled little ice cubes when I cut myself shaving. He says that autocracy is succeeding in Hungary and South Africa not because jack-booted bigots are taking to the streets but because political leaders are disregarding the customs and norms that make democratic society work.
But it doesn’t have to happen here. If the Trumpists go too far and the shadow of authoritarianism spreads across the land, the United States is uniquely positioned to remedy the situation.
The Blue States can secede.
I know Texit and Calexit are comical names for ideas that offered too little too soon. And our history’s one real attempt at secession had tragic results, but that was because it was done the wrong way (through violence) and for the wrong reason (to defend slavery).
For a peaceful, effective secession the Blue States merely need to withhold their payments to the Treasury. They would continue to do so until the Constitution is amended to establish the direct election of the president. (Insert your own jokes here about holding your breath until your state turns Blue.)
The Blue States contribute most of the money to the Federal Treasury; the Red States are the “takers” Mitt Romney described. And the Blue States’ interests are not being represented in national government. What was that remark about taxation without representation?
But isn’t a Constitutional Amendment too much to ask for?
About seventy percent of Americans think the winner of the popular vote should be President anyway; it’s how we run every other election. So it shouldn’t be so hard to get the sticklers over the hump.
Is it too little to ask for?
Every time the Electoral College has superseded the popular vote has been a disaster. Democracy works, if we let it.
The best part is that we don’t need to wait for a crisis to get started.
With Obamacare under threat, the Blue States ought to make a pact to create a large insurance pool with the purpose of adding a public option to the ACA, something that was missing from the start. This will solve the problems of rising rates, withdrawing companies and people choosing not to buy a plan. When they see how well it works, prodigal blues would return to the fold and bi-curious new blues might decide to test the clear blue water of social democracy.
Co-incidentally, the Blue States Coalition would control enough or nearly enough electoral votes to enforce the National Popular Vote Project (also a pact between states), making opposition to a Constitutional Amendment moot. The Amendment would be needed to make one person, one vote the law of the land, and thereby permanent. Furthermore, a brief, bloodless secession would serve as a final check against creeping authoritarianism. It would actually do what gun owners like to think the Fourth Amendment does.
Is this too radical?
Some things cannot be accomplished within the framework of government, at least if that framework contains a gaping flaw like the Electoral College. Thomas Jefferson said the root of the tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of patriots. Maybe, instead of blood, all we need is to withhold some tax money.
That and a little backbone.