Wednesday, January 02, 2013

SECESSION: Millions Like It -- Let's Go Find Them!

In the thirty years I've been involved in the LP, I have heard literally hundreds of "Libertarians" swear that there was "no constituency" for our "more radical" positions, and that we should never broach any of those subjects lest we alienate voters.

The only problem is, by the time these nervous nellies got finished listing all the things we shouldn't talk about, there would be nothing left for us to say at all.

At one time or another, I've heard people who describe themselves as Libertarians say we should never, ever discuss:
  • Abolishing public schools (or even school choice as an interim measure!)
  • Abolishing the Income Tax
  • Privatizing all public roads & other transportation infrastructure
  • Repealing drug prohibition
  • Repealing the prohibition on prostitution
  • Abolishing marriage licensure
... and on an on.

Some Libertarians seem to be utterly terrified of anyone finding out about real libertarian solutions.

But why are we so afraid of our own shadow?  What about being in politics makes us so hysterically worried that the general public will discover what we really want?

In many ways, the public is already light-years ahead of where we think they are.  Carla Howell and Michael Cloud proved that a few years ago with the 2002 ballot initiative to repeal the Massachusetts state income tax.

Despite being out-spent and out-volunteered by a factor of hundreds to one -- the main opposition consisted of government employees terrified the measure meant the cooking of their stolen golden goose -- the initiative won 45% of the vote.

Forty-five percent!

Forty-five percent despite the fact that the campaign was hobbled by the fact that a large fraction of the half-million million government employees (250,000 local government, another 250,000 state government) actively campaigned against it, often while on taxpayer time (teachers, for instance, plastered public schools with posters urging a "no" vote; and sent children home every week with anti-repeal flyers).

Despite the Herculean efforts of the tax-funded opposition, 45% of Massachusetts voters pulled the "Yes" lever.

Had there been an equal amount of money & volunteers available to the repeal effort, there is very little doubt that the measure would have passed.

Another issue some Libertarians have screamed for their colleagues to avoid mentioning is repealing drug prohibition.  I know of people who were sitting officers of the LP, or already-endorsed candidates for public office, who were loudly and rudely dressed-down in front of *LIBERTARIAN* audiences for mentioning the repeal of marijuana prohibition.  JUST marijuana -- they mentioned no other drugs.

Yet here it is 2012, and a bunch of cracks in the wall of prohibition have suddenly appeared in Colorado and Washington.  Certainly Libertarians were involved in the process -- except for the nay-sayers in the back of the room at local LP meetings, screeching about how we should not talk about this issue because will promote the continuation of our image as "the Party of dope".

Yes, I have directly heard a half-dozen Libertarians use exactly that phrase and admonition within the last five years.  I can probably find a few emails in my email archive with that phrase in it.

Now let's talk about one of those unspeakables in our idea set: Secession.

There were so many "Libertarians" who wet their pants over that long-standing libertarian principle being in our platform, that in 2008 it was removed and replaced by a nebulous, "self determination" plank that doesn't mention the right to secede.

But is secession one of those third rails we should never talk about?


In an article on, Kirkpatrick Sale reviews some recent polling data by Public Policy Polling, of Raleigh, NC.

Among the more interesting finds: Secession is viewed positively/sympathetically by major fractions of various demographic groups.  Here are a few examples:

By race: 46% (14 million) of Hispanics; 31% (49 million) of whites.

By ideology: 50% of conservatives (41 million); 19% (14 million) of liberals.

By sex: 35% of women and only 29% of men.

As Kirkpatrick Sale's correspondent, Bill Regnery, said: "We should discard the notion that women cannot be recruited."

By age: 50% of 18-29 year olds.

The point is this: Secession is not an idea that only "extremist outliers" like libertarians have entertained.  As the above survey results show, there is a substantial cohort of Americans out there who not only feel secession is appropriate in some cases, but who are right now in favor of it.

Do we jump out in front of this parade, or tiptoe into the line behind everyone else *after* it becomes popular, as some "Libertarians" would prefer?

Whenever there is a market for an idea we long since staked out as our own, we don't need to hide from it and worry about whether Americans will find the idea palatable.  All we have to do is speak to them like they are adults and like we believe they are capable of discussing "radical" ideas with a level head.

No, not everyone will agree with us right away.  But some will, and they will bring their friends along eventually.

But we can't speak to *anyone* if we're cowering behind others in the parade.

Let's speak loudly and clearly about the kind of free society we seek.  In doing so, we will find these people.  Once we find them, they can be invited to join our coalition!

There is NO limit to how large the Libertarian movement (and Party) can grow.  As shown above, on just one issue, there are 50 to 60 million people who are receptive to the "extremist" idea of secession.  There are millions more (with some amount of overlap) on every other issue in our toolbox.

Don't be afraid to seek them out!

Thank you for reading!

UPDATE: Interesting article about all of the historical secession movements from Mansfield University geography professor Andrew Shears.