Would the US Allow a State to Secede Today?

Back when the Brexit mess was first brewing, I posted a thread asking why the EU wouldn’t consider military means to stop Britain from withdrawing. After all, if the EU is like a United States of Europe, secession would be treason, right? Dopers, British and European, and Americans as well laughed at the concept. Why would Europe go into civil war mode over such a thing? That wouldn’t be a civilized response.

I think that, after all, the EU is not the same as the USA. The United States of America considers itself a single nation. The European Union considers itself a conglomeration of nations, not states at all.

But also, the response seemed to repudiate the idea of using military means to enforce sovereignty.

So I wonder, what would happen today if an American state started making noise like it wanted to secede? Let’s say Hawaiians started wanting to take back their kingdom? What if Alaska wanted to declare its independence?

Would the US allow those states to secede because it’s the civilized thing to do?

I would like to think modern western nations would like to avoid civil war if they can possibly help it.

A better comparison than Brexit (the EU isn’t a merger of states, it’s an agreement between sovereign nations) would be Scotland. There is a very strong nationalist movement there, and recent polls have shown a sharp increase in those wanting independence from the UK. Back in 2015, the UK government (aka Westminster) did allow a referendum within Scotland on the subject (it failed at the time). There’s no doubt that some time in the future, there will be another. It requires the consent of Westminster, but with a general view that self determination is a good thing - a policy the UK adopts with its colonies - at some point the UK Government will give its consent.

Not now though, because the country is run by idealogue embeciles who don’t give two hoots what the Scots want. The Scots will bide their time and wait for a more sensible government.

Of course, another example might be to look at Spain. When Catalonia threatened secession (2017?), Spain basically rounded up and imprisoned all the main Catalonian politic leaders.

Question is, how does the US view self determination, and if against, how far would they go to stop it?

Wouldn’t it depend on how Hawai’i tries to do it?

Declaring unilateral independence and then firing on the naval base at Pearl Harbour - probably not a wise move.

But suppose the Hawai’i Sovereignty Party is established, and steadily gains ground in the elections, until they control both houses of the Legislature and the Governor’s mansion. And their congressional delegation is all Sovereignty Party. And they hold a referendum on a clear issue: “Do you want Hawai’i to leave the US and become a sovereign nation? Yes or No?” And the “Yes” side wins, 60%. And then the congressional delegation, every chance they get, introduces a constitutional amendment for Hawai’i to leave, after fair negotiations to settle issues like citizenship, debt, use of Pearl Harbour as a USN naval base, and so on.

That may have a chance of success - using democratic, constitutional means to express their desire to leave.

The most basic problem is that a perequisite to using military force is having a military, and there is no such thing as an EU military. The complete lack of any military means is generally a good reason for not considering military means.
Also, the EU simply isn’t a country, it’s a union between multiple fully sovereign states with explicit procedures for exiting the union. That means that it can’t engage in civil war, as civil war is something that happens within one country. I think the lack of an EU army and the inability for Europe to engage in civil war by definition are the more likely issues people pointed our, rather than just saying ‘oh that wouldn’t be civilized’.

If the countries of Europe decided that they wanted to go to war with Europe to keep the UK in a trade and customs union, it would be a war of conquest, which would be very unpopular with their own populations, and would be condemned by the UN as much as is possible, though France could veto Security Council resolutions if it participated in the fiasco. This would be bad for the involved countries all around even with a victory. But there’s no way that starting a war against a country who can only be reached over water who has a larger navy than your entire alliance and nuclear weapons AND a long-standing defensive alliance with the country with a larger military budget than the next ten countries combined and the largest nuclear arsenal is going to lead to victory.

Which is effectively The Scottish National Party, minus their holding their own referendums on the subject.

On the topic of the thread, what the US would do would depend on how the state worked to secede. If it worked to get popular support to have congress declare it independent, then there would be no problem. If it just up and left, the US military would definitely use military force to keep it in the US, there’s really no question.

If it were treasonous to secede, why would there be a codified procedure to withdraw from the EU?

It’s not that any political union is necessarily pro-self-dissolution or makes it easy, but independence referenda are more or less acceptable these days.

New Caledonia just rejected independence for the second time in two years, for instance. I don’t think there were a bunch of warships waiting to blow them to hell had they voted the other way.

Throwing in that the EU Treaties, the closest equivalent to a constitution that the EU has, explicitly recognise a right of Member States (which is the term EU law uses for the individual components; note the capitalisation) to leave the Union. So there really is no basis for a legal argument that leaving the Union is not allowed.

A lot of times it depends on how the entities came to be united in the first place. When Czechoslovakia became The Czech Republic, and The Republic of Slovakia, no one said “boo.” It was even termed “the Velvet Revolution,” in E. Europe, it was so smooth and clean. But the two countries had never been asked to be united in the first place-- the union had been imposed-- kind of the inverse of E. & W. Germany.

Hawaii and Alaska, on the other hand, lobbied for a long time to become states, after having been territories. Territories that, at least in the case of Alaska, were getting somewhat better treatment than they had been from their previous owners.

It’s a little harder to back off specific request for statehood that was a clear and long-fought as the ones made by Hawaii and Alaska.

Yes, I realize that the populations who made those requests were not the populations living there now, but history is what it is.

It’s also very complicated to secede. When the Czech Republic and Slovakia separated, there was a treaty that people born one side, but currently living in the other had a set amount of time (IIRC, 5 years) to decide on their place of permanent residence and citizenship. I know this, because I have relatives still there, and had an aunt in that situation, born in Bratislava, but living in Prague (and had been most of her adult life), and married to a Czech. She chose Czech citizenship.

But lots of people made other choices, and this involved moving long distances; the governments had funds available for people who needed to relocate, and needed financial assistance.

Can Alaska and Hawaii afford programs like that right now? Will Alaskan and Hawaiian natives, particularly ethnic natives, get stranded outside of their states? You know the federal government isn’t going to help out.

I think there would need to be a lot of planning before something like this happened.

Excellent response. Over time public opinion could turn and accept that we’d be better off having a country of people who want to be part of the same country.

It would still be an incredibly thorny issue. There would be a lot of wrangling over the terms and likely everyone would be upset by the ultimate compromise if one could even be reached.

Maybe they will look to Canada.

The province of Quebec twice voted in referendums to separate. The “Stay” (aka “No”) side won both times, the latter time by a very slim margin. Supposedly this would have allowed Quebec to peacefully separate

This does not take into account international pressure. I figure if a state just wants to leave, the international community will support it. However, if they are violent or their motives are suspect (eg their first laws would be horribly racist laws, or trying to copy the Handmaid’s Tale) the international community would oppose it, and more Americans would support a military response.

When states seceded in 1860-61, it was to preserve cultural identity and autonomy and the institutionalization of a slave-based economy and society. Nothing like that exists today.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t tensions, though. Trump and the GOP have taken what were merely regional differences and used them to open some noticeable fissures. Deliberately refusing to distribute economic assistance - assistance that the taxpayers of California (and in other blue states) pay for, I might add.

I doubt we would see a blue president - Biden or anyone else in the near future - exploit these kinds of fissures in a desire for retribution, but if, let’s say, we were to elect a left-leaning populist with authoritarian impulses (i.e. a modern version of Huey Long), then all bets are off. And all bets are off the longer that someone like Trump remains in power.

When the South seceded, they fired on Fort Sumter and that started the war. I have long wondered (sometimes on SDMB) what would have happened had they not begun the war. I think Lincoln had no desire to start a war. I can imagine a kind of cold war and then, after 10 years a kind of acceptance of the status quo. Obviously the western territories would have remained with the union, the fugitive slave act repealed, Dred Scott overturned and slavery abolished in the union, perhaps with indemnification to slave holders in border states. What would have become of the CSA is anybody’s guess. I suspect they would not have prospered.

In Canada, the premier of Quebec had planned to declare independence on the evening of the second referendum in 1995, had it passed. The referendum called for a year of negotiations leading to separation, but he was too impatient to wait a year. But whatever, I don’t think the Canadian government would have invaded.

To be clear, the “Velvet Revolution,” in late 1989, was the non-violent removal of the Communist government in Czechoslovakia, in favor of a democratic government. It certainly set into motion the amicable separation of the country into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which happened three years later, and is sometimes called the “Velvet Divorce.”

Which forever killed the precedent that amicable separation can not be processed.

History is replete with nation-states and empires breaking up and reforming. A Velvet Divorce seems to be far superior than wars and revolution as societies advance.

Absolutely. But the one caveat in the Czechoslovakia business is that it was IMHO a perfect example of what not to do as much as it was what to do. Because there was no referendum - it was very much a backroom deal and to this day (or at least 2017) the majority of the population of both countries think it was a mistake. I find that kind of unconscionable.

I have a strong anti-ethnic nationalist bias anyway, but if you have to do it do it right. Do it because most people want it (and I might argue for a supermajority for such an important dissolution), not because it is expedient. Structurally the Velvet Divorce was a shining example of successful separation. Morally it was a failure.

While Lincoln didn’t want to start a war, he also wasn’t just going to give stuff to the Confederates while they were in open rebellion. The CSA never worked out a peaceful way to deal with federal property in their borders or a variety of other practical issues, and I think that they had no desire to do so. If they just said that they were independent but kept letting the US operate normally in their borders, that would be very weird.

A lot of the same stuff came up back when Calexit was being discussed - people like to talk about California just up and going away, but had no plan for what to do about Social Security, the water supply (California is dependent on an interstate agreement for major parts of it’s fresh water), US military bases in CA, or the fact that the federal government owns over half of California’s land.

This list of issues is of course applicable to every state, plus/minus minor details. The idea that a state could practically secede from our highly integrated society is dumb. As the Brexiteers are busy learning in their situation where the amount of integration to be undone is vastly less than that of the USA. IMO US state “sovereignty” became a legal fiction some time around 1800.

Governments certainly have dissolved, split, and combined over historical time. But the later in history this has happened, the more expensive (read “traumatic”) the transition has been and will continue to be.

If both sides are truly existentially unhappy, a divorce may be the least bad option, costs and all. But simply “letting” malcontents march out on their own from the larger society that contains them imposes costs the larger society is unwilling to bear and the smaller society is unable to bear.

Said another way, the world has grown up. It’s time for humanity, all of humanity, to learn to get along. And put our stupid allegiance to our grandpappy’s dirt, or language, or customs, to rest.

I’d vote for you if you were running for pres.