Left-wing ‘Nation’ Ponders Secession of Democrat-run States

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

The Nation, a storied left-wing magazine, pondered the possibility of secession in an interview published Tuesday morning.

The idea has been circulating on the left over the past few weeks, as Democrats ponder the possibility of President Donald Trump being re-elected. Though many mainstream media polls show former Vice President Joe Biden with a lead, the polls have been wrong before — and Trump is running a confident, energetic campaign, while Biden is barely leaving his house.

The interview, “Should the United States Stay United?“, conducted by Jessica Suriano with Richard Kreitner, author of Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America’s Imperfect Union, focuses on the idea that secession need not be tarnished by slavery. Abolitionists, Kreitner argues, also considered seceding from the Union — and progressives should consider it today:

JESSICA SURIANO: Why did you think it was important in this book to address all of these other separatist movements that have happened in the past and across the political spectrum?

RICKY KREITNER: Of course everybody’s heard about the Confederacy and slavery, and it started my historical research, but that’s not really where the book came from. It came from this late-Obama-era moment where the thought occurred to me just based on things I’d been reading: What if the United States broke apart? Would that be such a bad thing? Is it possible that the progressive policies and programs that I wanted to see put into place might be easier to enact in a smaller entity than the United States, with its 330 million people and the need to always convince people with very different attitudes and interests? So with that question, I was curious if anybody else in American history had favored secession for noble or progressive reasons—not to perpetuate slavery but even to oppose it.

The answer, I quickly found, is yes: There were disunion abolitionists who were fiercely against slavery and who wanted the northern states to secede from the union in the 1840s and 1850s as a way not only to protest slavery but to undermine it. Taking in their arguments and their rhetoric was really, really interesting. One of the places I started was with this convention that took place in Worcester, Mass., in January of 1857. It was summoned by a bunch of abolitionists right after the first presidential election in which the Republican Party ran a candidate, John C. Fremont, who was opposed to slavery. A lot of Republicans had said that the fate of the Republic, of the union, and then of freedom itself depended on Fremont’s victory. When that didn’t occur, the Republicans were ready to just try again in four years, but the hard-core abolitionists said, “Well, what about everything you were just talking about?” They thought the fate of the Republic was at stake; if so, maybe it was time to end the union. That rhetoric really appealed to me in the fall of 2016, when Trump won, and it was like, “Wow, is a country that elects Trump possibly worth saving?”

Read the full interview here.

After the 2016 election, there was a surge in interest in secession in deep-blue California — so much so that the president pro tem of the state senate used his speech at the opening of the new legislature to discourage the idea.

But it seems to have returned: Lanny Davis, an adviser to the Clintons, tweeted a satire last week that others had been circulating on the Internet:

The original post suggested that blue states secede and leave the red states to suffer on their own, hypothetically.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His newest e-book is The Trumpian Virtues: The Lessons and Legacy of Donald Trump’s Presidency. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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