Bob Neal

If we communicated better with each other, the professor said, we might well come to the conclusion that we don’t have enough in common to build or hold onto a relationship.

That was five years before President Nixon’s opening to China, and a student had suggested that if the U.S. and China communicated better, we might get along better.

The professor wasn’t sure, and used his best Socratic method to raise a dozen possible outcomes of better communication between us and China. Not all were lovey-dovey.

Some days, when I think about politics in our country, I recall what the professor said in that foreign policy class in 1967 at the University of Missouri — Kansas City. Not only are we split many ways, but the lines are hardening. North/South. Nationalist/multi-cultural. City/country. College/non-college. Hand-body workers/head workers. Vaccinated/unvaccinated. And on and on.

A lot of us have quit even trying to talk to people on the other side. And even if we talked to the other side, we know we wouldn’t persuade anyone. Is divorce in the offing?

Before you laugh off the idea, think about these things. Nearly half a million Texans seriously want to restore the Texas Republic of 1836-45. In 1995, Quebec voted to stay in Canada by the narrowest of margins. Two years earlier, Czechoslovakia divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Talk of Scotland seceding from the U.K. has resurfaced. Scots voted heavily in 2016 to remain in the European Union, and the Scottish National Party has joined the Greens in a pro-independence governing coalition.

In the Lone Star Republic, backers of secession call it Texit — this may win the prize as best political neologism of the year — and are gathering signatures to put the issue on party primary ballots next year after the state legislature refused to do so.

A larger question is whether Texas would take some or all of the confederacy with it. Or other states. Believe it or not, there are active secession movements in California, Idaho (which wants a big chunk of Oregon, too), Oklahoma, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Some of them held a conference last week in New Hampshire to discuss cooperation, though the Californians showed up via Zoom, which may tell us about their commitment.

An organization of political scientists called Bright Line Watch monitors these moves. Last month, Bright Line divided the country into five potential new countries and asked voters how they felt about forming new nations.

They found that those favoring secession are not just crackpots in stars-and-bars t-shirts. Nearly half of Democrats in the five western states favor secession. In our part of the country, two in five Democrats and one in four Republicans, not to mention more than a third of independents, want to take these 11 states out of the union. The guys in the Confederate flag t-shirts (southern Republicans) favor secession by 66%.

Seems far-fetched, but those are substantial numbers, though only southern Republicans make up more than half. What if the Confederate 11 plus Oklahoma and Kentucky left?

One happy result would be that Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul — can you think of a more damnable senatorial pair? — would be out of our hair. As would some fomenters of the anti-public-health rebellion. Greg Abbott of Texas, Ron DeSantis of Florida.

‘Course, we’d lose some great stuff, too. Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Vanderbilt University in Nashville — disclosure: I attended Vandy, a school founded to offer southerners an education as good as those found in the north — a winter home for snow birds, the South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball team.

I’d hate to see Willie Nelson, Mary Karr, Ruthie Foster and Rodney Crowell become foreigners, but we have to pay a price for everything. Maybe these and other artists would emigrate back to the United States from the Texas Republic.

The map put out by Bright Line Watch has some anomalies. Does West Virginia really belong with North Dakota in the Republic of the Heartland? Mightn’t red Alaska feel isolated in a blue sea of California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii? Is Virginia really still the Old Dominion, or has demographic change made it one of us?

Hope so, because I’d like to keep the lovely city of Staunton, Virginia, with us. Pronounced Stanton, it’s a thriving small city in the Shenandoah Valley, with great food and music and one of the best living history museums in North America. It was named for a woman, not for a man who took land from indigenous peoples. And, the Statler Brothers came from Staunton.

The Texas Nationalist Movement isn’t saying how many Texans have signed the Texit petition. But the organization says it has 415,000 members, about five times the number of signatures needed. And it has until Dec. 1 to find those signatures in a state of 29 million. If they get the signatures, they can put the issue on primary ballots in 2022.

National realignment takes a long time, so Bob Neal doesn’t expect to live to see it here. But maybe the United States won’t last to its tricentennial. Neal can be reached at [email protected]


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