Within the past couple of years I have become an avid Quora follower of the former Moscow State University-educated Soviet propaganda apparatchik Dima Vorobiev.
Granted, Vorobiev is no red-state conservative populist – far from it – but he does serve up candid views of the late Soviet Union, his part in it, and, even more fascinating, how this legacy continues to play out in post-Soviet Russia and throughout the world.
I found this Quora response especially interesting: How Russia and American views of freedom played out within their respective historical and cultural contexts – and despite both civilizations being essentially blessed with a large, relatively unsettled frontiers into which oppressed individuals could flee exploitation or outright tyranny. As things turned out in Russia, tyranny acquired the means of extending its reach deep into its vast eastern frontier, and, consequently, advancement in Russia historically been defined as the success one has in building literal walls to fend off predators.
Yet, it seems that we in the United States increasingly are cultivating similar practices – but why is that all that surprising given that our elites are now in the practice of staying in power by sowing discord among all the other classes, including even assigning a kind of Kulak classification to the beleaguered white American working class?
They do all of this with the assurance that they can retreat to walled enclaves high in the hills and mountaintops of major U.S. cities and with the full assurance that these walls will be augmented by a formidable array of cutting-edge technologies of robots, drones, sensors and other sophisticated gadgets.
This leads many of us to wonder: How much longer before class aspirations in this country come to resemble those in Russia – when a functional civic society no longer is associated with American success and destiny, when unscalable walls become the chief measure of high status?
From my Facebook vault from 2016 – true, though, sadly. I ended a very long friendship with someone because he invariably resorted to cursing, finger pointing and charges of racism whenever I stressed that the social and political cleavages in this country were dragging us closer and closer to an impasse that ultimately could lead to a national breakup.
Five years since this post the possibility strikes me as even more likely and even prominent intellectuals on both sides of the great divide are now weighing in on this troubling trend.
Somethings I fall into the temptation of regarding myself as a bit of an amateur political prophet, though I make it a point to dispel any sort of grandiose thinking and self-regard as a matter of principle.
The “s” word increasingly is becoming more bandied about in public discourse – and why shouldn’t it? Yes, we really do have to consider several geopolitical threats, notably China, but it is becoming increasingly apparent to growing numbers of American that one size simply doesn’t fit all.
The best alternative would be what some have proposed in Britain to stave off Scottish and conceivably even Welsh secession: the transformation of Britain into a rather loose federation sovereign states, with the central government in Westminster assigned a few all-union responsibilities. It may be that we will undergo a similar debate in this country as the national fabric becomes more frayed.
To re-affirm what I have stated time and again on this forum, I am a Southern nationalist. And if that doesn’t strike the average reader as strange enough, I’ll add that I am the rarest of Southern nationalists: I am one who wants to dispense with the perennial fixation with the Lost Cause and “saving Confederate money” (on the basis that “the South will rise again”). I choose instead to concentrate on the South as it exists today, more specifically, how it has changed during the last 150-plus years.
I have held to this view for the last quarter century, ever since sitting down with 40 distinguished Southerners to organize the rather ill-fated League of the South. Though I was small and marginalized voice among this august group of scholars and writers, I was certain of one thing: that the South would not rise again on the foundation of the Lost Cause, the old Confederacy. I argued instead that whatever merged from meeting should function as both a think tank and clearing house for secessionist and radical decentrist ideals. In fact, I even argued that it was not necessarily in the South’s interests to secede ahead of the other regions or, at the very least, to demand radical autonomy from the rest of the country.
Yes, the South is different enough from the rest of the nation. Yet, even then, such deep cleavages were forming between what is now known as blue and red America that a new constitutional arrangement sooner or later would have to be worked out, not only to resolve this impasse but even to avoid another civil war. And emerging reality essentially would work to free up the South to pursue its own destiny.
I essentially argued that all we had to do was to work assiduously to popularize concepts of neo-secessionism and radical decentralization. The deep cultural and political fissures forming within the country – recall the League organized shortly after the 1994 GOP congressional sweep – essentially would complete the work for us.
It wasn’t to be. There was a handful of diehard Confederate restorationists on hand who would carry the day for the Lost Cause narrative. They believed that the anger welling up over the growing assault on Confederate symbolism and heritage would supply a sufficient center of gravity for a new Southern nationalist movement.
They were proven wrong within the next 5 years.
For my part, I went along with it, albeit rather grudgingly, until 1999. Shortly thereafter, I broke with the League and developed a web presence known as “Home Rule for Dixie!” that made the strong case for the wholesale abandonment of the Confederate restorationist narrative, calling instead for an entirely new approach to Southern self-determination that factored in all the changes that had transpired since the collapse of the Confederacy in 1865.
I argued that there were legions of contemporary Southerners who never would be won over to be Lost Cause narrative but who could be persuaded that the 15 historically cultural Southern states, which included historically Unionist West Virginia, ultimately could be won over to the argument that the South represented the best of what remained of fraying American Republic. It would, over the course of time, constitute the declining Republic’s moral and cultural lifeboat.
The “Home Rule for Dixie!” concept sparked a lot of acrimonious debate in the Southern movement before its effective collapse a few years later. After concluding that my message likely was premature, I abandoned the effort in 2003.
Since the 2016 presidential election, I am now more convinced than ever that such a movement not only is viable but likely foreshadows how events will play out in the future.
One of the nation’s premiere conservative intellectuals, Victor Davis Hanson, apparently shares a similar view. Hanson, a Straussian conservative, believes that the South and the rest of Red America, far from representing the region of the country where Lost Cause rhetoric and animosities still are being nursed, now comprises the well-spring of American values and virtue and possibly even the foundation on which these values will be re-affirmed and renewed. Hanson even goes so far to argue that the “New North” has become the Old South, and the New South the Old North.
It many ways, his argument comes very close to the one I made a generation ago through the “Home Rule for Dixie!” effort.
As Hanson contends, the New North in many ways embodies the racial exclusivity, single-party hegemony and single-crop economies ascribed to the South a half century ago. And amidst all of this, a remarkable sorting-out effect is ensuing in which the South and other red states have begun to bear the hallmarks of a functional America.
As Hanson argues:
It seems that Hanson essentially has arrived at the same conclusion I did a quarter century ago: that the South, despite all its historical blemishes and setbacks, really does represent the most redeemable part of America – truly the most viable part, the moral and political lifeboat.
The South is going to rise again, albeit in a distinctly America form, though embodying those traits that, generally speaking, have set the region apart from the rest of the country: civility and unwavering devotion to faith, family and personal liberty.
Speaking as one who loves American history, the thought has occurred to me time and again: We have never been as united as we think we are. It was a major concern of the constitutional framers and, apart from a few factors in history that have created the illusion of unity, we remain a very pluralistic polity, culturally and politically, and we simply have to find a way to create new political structures to ensure we remain adequately equipped against geopolitical threats such as China but that also ensure that we don’t end up beating out each other’s brains.
If you have been a frequent reader of this forum, you are likely aware that I have come to describe all what is unfolding in the United States as our very own “Gorbachev moment.” Recall that some 30 years ago the ill-fated refomer of Soviet society? Mikhail Gorbachev tried to negotiate a union treaty to hold things together but events got ahead of him. Boris Yetsin, president the Russian Soviet Republic, signed a compact with his counterparts in Byeloerussia and Ukraine that resulted the breakup of the Soviet state.
As this article attests, we seem to be approaching a similar impasse in the United States, reflected in the growing number of ordinary Americans who express an interest on secession.
For now, our leadership class remains conspicuously silent on the topic of secession. But the inevitable “the Emperor hath no clothes” moment inevitably will arise. Sooner or later, some prominent American, perhaps a governor or senator from either a blue or red state, simply will have to state frankly, “Something’s got to give.”
This is when the facade will crumble.
Then, pehaps, we can hope for some sort of modus vivendi that holds the country together to fend off geopolitical threats, though while ensuring that domestic power is returned to states or, perhaps more realistic, compacts of states, that we can be assured of sufficient insulation from our increasingly malignant and consolidating ruling class.
I have to say that after roughly 30 years of preaching the merits some form of secession, full-fledged or lite, as a solution to this nation’s intractable problems, it’s gratifying to see a growing number of Americans, prominent Americans, including those associated with major cultural institutions, picking up the banner.
The group that has weighed in the most and, well, rather improbably, is the Straussian-inspired Clarement Institute in California. Historically speaking, this institution, in keeping with the ideals of its intellectual guiding light, Leo Strauss, has extolled civic nationalism and generally held up the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, as the architect of this civic nationalist vision.
Given that fact, the Clarement Institute undoubtedly will strike many as an unlikely bearer of neo-secessionism. Yet, in one notable respect, it supplies the perfect impetus for this struggle – first and foremost because it is far removed from any neo-Confederate association.
Allow me briefly to share my own experiences with this. Speaking as one who had been plugged into this movement over the last few decades primarily through paleoconservarive and paleolibertarian connections, I have noticed a rather frustrating, if not appalling, tendency to pursue low-hanging fruit rather to cast a wider net.
The League of the South, originally known as the Southern League, essentially a brainchild of paleocons and paleolibs, set out not only with good intentions but also workable ones. The original intention, or so it seemed to me at the time, was simply to reconstruct a constitutional case for modern secession drawing on the talents of a handful of truly eminent, albeit somewhat obscure, paleocon and paleolib writers and academics.
Granted, they were in for a long slog. Even so, they initially gathered some respectful media coverage and even managed to publish a couple of very thoughtful opinion pieces in major newspapers. A couple of more mainstream columnists, notably George F. Will, even offered a respectable comment or two.
Yet, rather predictably, the League wondered off the reservation – that is to say, the reservation of respectable discourse. The League’s founding in the mid-1990’s corresponded roughly with the raging battle over the display of the Confederate battle flag in public venues, notably the Alabama and South Carolina capitol buildings, as well as the incorporation of battle flag motif into the Georgia and Mississippi flags.
At some point early in its founding, the League’s leadership embraced the Southern Heritage activists. In fact, they embraced them so closely that the League quickly became as inextricably linked with the Lost Cause as any descendant group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Daughters of the Confederacy.
I had used my small influence within the ranks to argue against this. We were going after low-hanging fruit when the top priority should have been creating a space within which neosecessionism could be discussed as openly and dispassionately as possible and within as wide an arena as possible – a national arena.
Yet, incredibly, the League was drawn into the daily warp and woof of heritage activism, attracting large numbers of people whose preoccupation almost solely was with the battle flag, which became a virtually endless topic of discussion and obsession. The League would pay an egregiously high price for this shortsightedness.
By the late 90’s an effort was made to break out of this impasse through the formation of a Southern Party, an effort that aimed to be disruptive, namely by advocating peaceful secession as the keystone of its platform, one which, in many ways, incidentally, anticipated the nationalist/Republican agenda of the present day.
Yet, this movement quickly succumbed to heritage activism too.
Following the collapse of the Southern party, I effectively exited the Southern movement and conceived my own alternative idea that was dubbed “Home Rule for Dixie,” one that advocated an entirely different approach to Southern identity and secession. I called for nothing less than the abandonment of neo-Confederate dogma entirely.
As I contended, any new expression of Southern identity and secession not only must be built from the ground up but also on new foundations, actually predominantly American ones. As I and a few others in the Southern movement had realized, most contemporary Southerners, while immensely proud of their region as well as being Southern, simply no longer related to the Old Confederacy in any meaningful way. No, for Southerners, any Americans, for that matter, to be won over to the merits of secession, the arguments would have to be marshaled within a distinctly American context and with the firm assurance that American values, including racial tolerance and good will, would be preserved.
This is why I salute the valiant Claremont Institute. It not only has taken up this banner but has resolved to carry on the struggle within a context and employing language that more Americans can understand.
To repeat a phrase that I have employed several times in this forum, the American Empire simply is too big to succeed.
Indeed it is the reason why an awareness of the increasing likelihood of secession is becoming the proverbial elephant in the living room, certainly among the growing numbers of us ordinary Americans in the red heartland who perceive what our malignant ruling class ultimately has in store for us.
Yet, I have been intrigued by how mainstream conservative commentators, recently Podcaster Dan Bonjino, have been absolutely flummoxed by this emerging phenomenon. It undoubtedly is as readily evident to them that secessionist sentiment is spreading, yet they hold steadfastly to the same hidebound argument that a return to federal principles will resolve all of this.
Notions of American exceptionalism inevitably will die hard, but then, conservatism in America is deeply rooted in this mindset. And given that so much of what passes for conservatism on this side of the Atlantic is rooted in propositional nationhood, this really isn’t all that surprising.
Interestingly, conservatives seem to have forgotten that previous attempts to restore old-time federalism have proven futile. Incoming President Reagan, way back in 1981, undertook a concerted effort to return to bona federalism, offering to return welfare policy back to the states. Virtually all the governors balked, stressing that their states lacked the revenue base to support a safety net that dates all the way back to the New Deal and that people, blue and red alike, expect as matter of course.
That is why I am convinced that the political dynamics in this country ultimately will necessitate a secessionist movement that ultimately takes on regionalist rather than state unilateral action, as the late diplomat and political thinker George F. Kennan portended in his own writings.
We will likely see states banding into regional compacts, forming what could be described as incipient federations. These conflicts ultimately will prove essential to preserving some facet of the social safety net to which virtually every American has grown accustomed over the past century.
Whatever the case, to borrow a line from the late Betty Davis, “Fasten your seat belts – it’s going to be a bumpy ride!”
In 2016, commentators around the world perceived that Brexit would be a political watershed event, not only in Europe but also throughout the world. Many predicted, including yours truly, that it would portend major repercussions in the United States.
This proved true. By the end of the year, the impossible had occurred: Donald Trump, the reality show star, rode a populist backlash all the way to the White House in November, and that watershed event likely altered political dynamics in this country for decades to come.
Our ruling class predictably used the Covid-19 upheaval, not to mention, the rioting throughout the summer of 2020, to extract several electoral advantages, which, suffice it to say, seriously impeded Trump’s path to reelection – I’ll just put it that way and leave it to the reader to determine whether the oligarchy’s strategy also included outright theft. Whatever the case, the oligarchy’s actions only serve to underscore that it is as frightened of the populist upsurge as the heartland populists are fed up with their betrayal of the Republic. Trump, despite his manifest shortcomings, was able to speak truth to power for four straight years, and tens of millions of Americans have been “woke,” to borrow that obnoxious leftist term, to ruling class aims, including what they have in store for the obstreperous masses in the provinces unwilling to bend with the mythical “arc of history,” of which St. Barack spoke so fondly.
More than ever, many are fully aware of what comes next: a form of not-so-soft totaltarianism in which surveillance and social technologies, which the eager help of the Silicon Valley digerati, are employed not only to monitor but also to shape, if not regulate, every facet of our lives.
Given the fact that the ruling class, having forged an alliance with the Marcusian Marxist left, is now firmly in control of the commanding heights of American culture, tens of millions of heartlanders have come to the stark realization that secession or, barring that, civil war, are the only means by which their cold grip can be prized off the levers of power.
Neither option is all that appealing, though the least unpalatable one, secession, is gaining tractionamong the Right. While our ruling-class agit/prop arm predictably dismisses these efforts as “far-right fringe talk,” the embrace of a once taboo subject really is palpable, even remarkable. Consider this: In a relatively brief time, secession has garnered the endorsement of the majority party of the largest state in the Union, Texas, and the GOP leader of another Western state, Wyoming, recently conceded that he and other Western party leaders are watching events closely as they play out in Texas.
Secession, it seems, no longer is fringe talk.
It seems the predictions were right all along. Brexit really was a watershed event. Calls for radical decentrism as a response to the rapacity of entrench elites not only have crossed the Atlantic but are also being warmly received.