Charisma Caucus

Do Sanders Supporters Now Support Secession?

Bernie Sanders
Some Bernie Sanders supporters have offered secession as a solution to their preferred candidate's Democratic presidential primary loss. (Reuters photo)

Following a very heated primary, it's not entirely uncommon for the vanquished's supporters to threaten the political equivalent of taking the ball and going home.

But are Bernie Sanders supporters seriously considering secession? In a recent commentary written for "The Conversation," William Irwin, a philosophy professor who chairs the philosophy department at King's College in Pennsylvania, describes just how that might work:

Bernie Sanders will not become president of the United States. But he could still become president of Vermont if the Green Mountain State secedes.

It's not such a far-fetched notion. Vermont was an independent republic from 1777 to 1791, and despite signing the Constitution, Vermont reserved its right to leave the union. New York, Rhode Island and Virginia explicitly did so.

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In researching Free Dakota, my novel about secession, I discovered that in the early 1800s, talk of secession was more common among the New England states than among the southern states. Few people questioned a state's right to secede.

He also wrote how a state like Vermont might eventually gain the votes necessary to pull off a "Velvet Divorce"—a reference to the 1993 splitting of Czechoslovakia into two separate nations:

Secession is exactly what an offshoot of the Free State Project, called the Foundation for New Hampshire Independence, has in mind. Perhaps because secession is a dirty word with ugly associations, the foundation prefers to speak in terms of independence. But make no mistake about it: they are planning for New Hampshire to leave the United States.

Secession could be the answer for progressives too. Plenty of people are saying they will move to Canada if Trump is elected, but maybe they should just move to Vermont. As Thomas H. Naylor, the originator of the Second Vermont Republic, says, "Vermont provides a kinder, gentler, more communitarian alternative to a nation obsessed with money, power, size, speed, greed and fear of terrorism."

At the high point of its polling, only 13 percent of residents supported the Second Vermont Republic's aim of secession, but a strong majority support the democratic socialist ideals of the movement as embodied in Senator Sanders.

To make the secession a reality, the Second Vermont Republic should take a page from the Free State Project's playbook by inviting people to move to Vermont. Once a majority of the state population favors secession, then serious action could be taken.

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