America: Time for an Amicable Divorce?

English: This photo is the ruins of Secession ...
The ruins of Secession Hall in Charleston, South Carolina, 1865. Flickr data on 2011-08-13: Tags: Secession Hall, Old picture, ruins Charleston, 1865, Charleston, South Carolina, Public Domains License: CC BY-SA 2.0 User: paukrus Ruslan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every four years, the United States elects a new president. And every four years, the outcome makes some Americans so unhappy that talk of secession — never completely absent from our ongoing political discussion — gets a big bump in the “trending topics” lists.  2016 seems to be shaping up as secession’s best year since 1860.

No wonder: The polarization is pretty clear. The two candidates appear to have finished within about 1/2 of one percent of each other in the national popular vote. Geographically, the west coast and the eastern seaboard from Maine south to Virginia chose Hillary Clinton; the rest of the country, except for four states (Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado and New Mexico) went for Donald Trump.

Maybe it’s time to try this secession thing again, minus the four years of war and the million dead. Activists in California and Oregon certainly think so — they’re already cranking up ballot initiatives to take their states out of the union.

And why not? America never has really been one country in a cultural sense. Not in 1776, not in 1860, not today.

Our smallest state (Rhode Island), if independent, would be larger than at least 30 countries, more than 750 times the size of the smallest country with a coastline (Monaco) and about 3,000 times the size of the smallest independent state in the world (Vatican City).

Our least populous state (Wyoming), if independent, would have more citizens than Iceland, which has governed itself without catastrophe since 1944.

Is there any particular reason why the people of Los Angeles, and the people of Dallas, and the people of Miami, and the people of New York MUST be directly governed by the same executive, legislative and judicial organizations? I can’t think of one.

Yes, I know it’s scary. Who gets the kids? Who gets the house? Who gets navigational rights on the Mississippi?

But just because it’s scary doesn’t mean it isn’t doable. Or even that it has to be particularly hard.

Put a timeline on it. Give the states time to decide on options for going it alone or with others. Give people who don’t want to go with their current states time to move without passports (if we’re too dumb to set up a Schengen-style open borders scenario, which we should).

Create commissions to figure out how to divvy up the tanks and the nukes (which we’ll all need fewer of, since as part of the process we will presumably stop trying to be the world’s policeman).

Complicated? Sure. Impossible? Oh, please — the Soviet Union managed to dissolve without descending into all-out civil war. Is it utopian or naive to think maybe we could carry out the same process at least as well?

One evil empire down, one to go.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


December 2016: A Republic, if You Can Keep it

"Ruins in Richmond" Damage to Richmo...
“Ruins in Richmond” Damage to Richmond, Virginia from the American Civil War. Albumen print. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


As I write this column, nearly 2.5 million people have signed a petition seeking to overturn the outcome of the November 8 national vote and make Hillary Clinton, rather than Donald Trump, the next president of the United States.

The petitioners are asking presidential electors, chosen by the voters of their states to support Trump, to instead “faithlessly” cast their votes for Clinton on December 19.

“Faithless” electors are nothing new. The only electoral vote ever won by a Libertarian presidential slate came from a Virginia elector who couldn’t bring himself to support Nixon in 1972 and instead cast his vote for John Hospers. But they’ve historically been few and far between and have never changed the outcome of a presidential election.

The American political system can stand a few faithless electors casting protest votes now and again. They’re a burp in that system, a noise in the machinery that lets us know it is actually running.

But the American political system cannot survive electors defecting en masse from the clear winner to the clear loser of a national election. That’s not a protest or an act of civil disobedience. It’s an  insurrection.

So let’s be clear on what the petitioners are asking for here:

They want a coup d’etat.

Their candidate lost an election, so they want  a mutinous electoral college to set aside the results and transfer executive power to the loser instead of to the winner.

Emerging from Philadelphia’s Independence Hall at the end  of the 1787 constitutional convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of political system the convention had chosen. “A republic,” replied Franklin, “if you can keep it.”

The pro-Clinton petitioners don’t want to keep it. They would gladly throw out nearly 230 years of imperfect but working method in favor of getting their way just this one time.

In 1860, the presidential election didn’t go the way the southern slave states wanted it to go. But even those states didn’t demand that the result be overturned; they merely chose to show themselves to the door, and only went to war when they found that door barred.

With their appeal for a presidential coup, the pro-Clinton petitioners are flirting with same outcome: Major riots and social dislocations at least, quite possibly outright civil war. Even as a radical libertarian who believes the United States is past, or at least approaching, its “best used by” date, I don’t relish the prospect.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Election 2016: How About You Whine a Little, Democrats? Vote Pencil

Can someone please call a waaaahmbulance for Paul Krugman? At a little after 9pm on November 8,  the economist and New York Times columnist fired the starting gun on America’s quadrennial whinefest: “Btw, Jill Stein has managed to play Ralph Nader,” he tweeted. “Without her Florida might have been saved.”

Early the next morning, about the time Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump to concede the presidential election and congratulate him on his victory, the New York Daily News ran 400 words or so on the same note: “The vote totals between the Republican and Democrat in battlegrounds such as Florida and Pennsylvania were close enough to have been swayed if minor party voters had supported Clinton.”

Wow! What a concept! If people who didn’t support Clinton had supported Clinton, Clinton would have won! This is news?

Let’s talk about who’s really responsible for Donald Trump’s victory.

First we have the people who voted, in plurality numbers in states disposing of a majority of electoral votes, for Donald Trump. Yes, really. Trump voters are largely responsible for Trump winning the election. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Running a close second: The Democratic Party. They could have offered voters Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee, Martin O’Malley, or Rocky de la Fuente. But noooooo … instead, they nominated one of the most loathed and mistrusted American political figures of the last half century. What could possibly go wrong? They found out on Tuesday, didn’t they?

Those of us who supported third party candidates (I cast my vote, in Florida, for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson) didn’t owe our votes to the Democratic Party or to Hillary Clinton. If they wanted our votes, they should have gone to the trouble of EARNING those votes.

Instead they stomped their feet and demanded that we waste our votes on the candidate they supported instead of the candidates we supported, because … well, just because. And now they’re throwing themselves on the ground and holding their breath until their faces turn blue because they didn’t get their way.

No, I don’t expect either of the major parties to learn anything from this outing. They’ll continue to ignore the concerns of third party voters every four years, then cry a river when those third party voters ignore them in turn. The Democrats made their bed. Let them lie in it. Lying seems to be something they’re pretty darn good at.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.