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A Little Explanation

I have come across many books and trilogies based on the premise of a war torn United States. The latest of these is Burning Nation (link to Amazon page) in the Divided We Fall trilogy by Trent Reedy. This is a great book and features a standoff turned violent between the state of Idaho (later Texas joins) and the federal government over the issue of enforcing a law that forces citizens to carry a traceable ID card with them at all times.

While I don't think it is plausible that Idaho (of all places) would be the first to defy the federal government, I think the premise of a civil war over such a monumental violation of privacy is still sound. This is merely one scenario that needs to be taken into account when formulating an answer.

The Question

Which states are most likely to rebel against the US in the near future (meaning America is in the same economic position as it is now) assuming a federal law is passed that violates American constitutional rights to such a degree that entire states (state legislatures included) would rebel? The rebellion should preferably be a war of independence fought throughout the US.

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    $\begingroup$ I lived in Idaho for a couple of years. It actually isn't that surprising of a place to imagine a secession happening. Also, just think of the stranglehold they'd have on the national potato supply; the ability to withhold those starchy tubers from the rest of the country could likely bring us to our knees. $\endgroup$ – Seth Aug 26 '15 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ Definitely Texas $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Aug 26 '15 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ The answer depends on what exactly you're rebelling against, Johnny. Are we specifically talking about the national ID card plan from Burning Nation here? $\endgroup$ – Doug Warren Aug 26 '15 at 18:26
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    $\begingroup$ @DougWarren I disagree. In times of adversity, people that feel themselves as part of the USA may wage a war to topple the government, but would not want secession. People with not so strong ties will probably find it easier to just get to secede and let the rest of the USA the burden of its (miss)Government. Of course, I am assuming the government are equally despised across the country (if the Government only legislates against Nevada citizens and only Nevada citizens are angry at the government, that might be different). $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Aug 26 '15 at 19:52
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    $\begingroup$ Mostly the same ones that did last time? $\endgroup$ – Brian Drummond Aug 26 '15 at 21:51

18 Answers 18

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It's Texas.

The big problem with an entire state rebelling is the rest of the US starving them of resources. Like, for instance, electricity.

Most people aren't aware that a majority of the United States is electrically connected by three major power grids. Many of the states in each grid do not have the ability to produce enough power for their state alone. Except Texas. Texas is its own power grid independent of the rest of the United States.

enter image description here

Texas could (try to) secede from the United States and maintain its resources for electricity, oil, water, and agriculture.


Long live Cascadia!

The second most likely (at least the one I'd support) would be a collection of Oregon, Washington, and part of Canada (maaaybe part of Northern California if they don't try to move to Oregon).

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    $\begingroup$ I was in the midst of an answer but Texas, the answer will always be Texas. $\endgroup$ – James Aug 26 '15 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ @SJuan76 Well, we are dealing with Americans here. Convincing a state full of first-world people that reverting to third-world conditions is the right thing to do would be nigh impossible. Texans would very likely "carry a traceable ID card" as long as they could do it in air conditioning. Have you ever been to Dallas in the summer? People, laaarge people, literally run from air conditioned space to air conditioned space. Americans will (and indeed do) willingly and routinely trade their privacy for convenience. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Aug 26 '15 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ Speaking as a Texan, you really haven't even scratched the surface of why this is the right answer. Long coast, port, Pantex, economy the size of France's, world-class university system, heavily (personally) armed populace, most of the defense big contracting companies are here, very low median age (this makes us both more hot-headed and also better able to handle a transition out of Social Security). Lastly, the fact that I have all of these facts at hand because in Texas we talk about this. $\endgroup$ – Chris B. Behrens Aug 26 '15 at 21:35
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure that being cut off from the grid implies a loss of electrical power. Power generation stations are located throughout the grid. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Krumwiede Aug 27 '15 at 6:03
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    $\begingroup$ Technically, the question of an independent power grid does not tell which state is most likely to rebel, but whether the rebels are likely to succeed in the long run. Historically, rebellion almost never occurs through a rational cost/benefits analysis; rather, a mob forms, blood is shed, a few severed heads are displayed as banners, and local political elites decide to roll on with it. $\endgroup$ – Tom Leek Aug 28 '15 at 0:39
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Alaska

There is, of course, a strong Alaskan independence movement led by the Alaskan Independence Party, an extremely large (relatively) third party. It has over 15,000 members. Interestingly enough, among their key principles are the desires to uphold a person's Constitutional rights and state/individual rights. It sounds like they would be eager to go for independence in the scenario you described. In fact, the AIP got enough support to introduce a proposal for secession on the fall ballot in 2006. They have a decent amount of strength, for a secessionist movement.1

Alaska as a whole is also apparently a stronghold of libertarianism.

Things in favor of Alaska in the case of secession:

  • There is a buffer zone between Alaska and the United States (namely, Canada, who may not want to get involved).
  • Alaska has oil and other petroleum-related resources, which could help build a strong economy, especially if drilling spreads.
  • There is some support (from Russia/Russians, not Alaska/Alaskans) for Alaska becoming a Russian territory (as it once was), indicating that Russia might support Alaska in a war.
  • Alaska is pretty isolated from the United States.

1 The AIP is certainly not strong enough at present to pull off something like what is described, but the movement is comparatively strong, and given that the question simply asks for the most probable states, the point should be valid.

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    $\begingroup$ "Russia might support Alaska in a war" and so starts World War 3 $\endgroup$ – the_OTHER_DJMethaneMan Aug 26 '15 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ Interestingly enough, Alaska isn't even on the map of the top answer. Maybe they already snuck off? $\endgroup$ – sixtyfootersdude Aug 26 '15 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ As a life-long resident, I can assure you that the Alaskan Independence Party is not exactly a "strong movement" (except maybe in relative terms to other secessionist parties), but rather one viewed as more of a joke than anything else (membership numbers aren't a good indicator here, as many people join just for the lulz -- then vote a straight Republican ballot every election); that said, though, it really wouldn't take much for it to become one, and the scenario in the OP could very likely do that. $\endgroup$ – Kromey Aug 26 '15 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ Alaska is a poor choice for a rebellion. It is essentially empty. There are roughly 700,000 people there, which is barely any people all. What few people live there are concentrated in a few locations. Even the oil won't save them, because it is medium or heavy crude, which is largely refined on the west coast of the USA. Almost all the food and other products Alaskans consume are brought in from somewhere else. It can't feed itself, unless you want to eat caribou all the time. Plus, declaring independence would certainly bring the Russians in. There is no positive outcome for Alaska. $\endgroup$ – Mohair Aug 26 '15 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ With There is some support for Alaska becoming a Russian territory you can also include it in the answer that Alaska once was a Russian territory. That strengthens the point for a reader who doesn't know its history. $\endgroup$ – Hanky Panky Aug 27 '15 at 6:42
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(1) Texas.

I have no problem imagining Texas seceding from the United States. Obviously the vast sentiment is against secession, while those that are for it are vociferous, and those that are against it, just think it's silly. The reasons for Texas' departure would be a strong economic connection with other countries, such as Mexico and the Gulf states; as well, there are romantic and prideful notions. Texas is also the second largest donor state, and would do well economically.

(2) Alaska

In addition to HDE's answer, with a relatively low population, and a very seasonal population, there's less chance of opposition to a strong movement.

(3) Hawaii

Hawaii receives a major source of their economy from on-land agriculture and tourism (from overseas as well). The great distance from the contiguous US makes it more convenient as well. It would have to be a peaceful secession, resulting in charging the US for keeping defense personnel and economy there; as well as commercial, etc. flights to/from the US; and trade for specialty items.

(4) Washington, D.C.

This would be interesting (being the capital and all). The city-state that is taxed, but with no representation in the United States Senate. Becoming an autonomous country, but holding the administrative functions of the US Government, would benefit them nicely, but I don't know how America will negotiate having their administrative center "overseas". WDC would not try anything daring, though, because they're almost totally landlocked by a very powerful country. They also have the highest revenue per capita of any of the "states;" they would do well to trade internationally and with America.

(5) Red vs Blue

As our country gets more politically polarized, the movement to secede becomes stronger and an alliance of some of the key states like Texas, Colorado, Arizona and the 'deep south,' results in negotiating a movement to secede. The states that are not "red states" or "blue states" but rely on more powerful states end up flipping to that color.

For continuity and for that last sentence, I've made some changes and taken the liberty (ha, get it?) to adjust for you the United Divided States.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ But for counties bordering Nevada, there is no such issue, just move the border...and keep doing it until you hit a blue county. Result is an urban state about 20 miles wide. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Aug 26 '15 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ The red vs blue issue is due to the malfunctions of the USA electoral system; internally each state is quite mixed. $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Aug 26 '15 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ Also, I bet one of the reasons WDC has so high of a revenue is due to precisely being the site of the US government (high paid officials, journalist, lobbyists). If they secede, all of that goes poof... $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Aug 26 '15 at 19:23
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, that stark red/blue divide is just an artifact of the electoral college, and not a measure of actual opinion. Check this out: nifty.stanford.edu/2014/wayne-purple-america/… (or to show it by population rather than by square milage: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_states_and_blue_states#/media/…). It's a textbook case of how maps can be deceiving. $\endgroup$ – LindaJeanne Aug 27 '15 at 11:22
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    $\begingroup$ @L0j1k - just because they became autonomous, doesn't mean they can't continue to trade with other countries and have a US Military presence. Bahrain does just fine. (For the record, I don't think ANY of these candidates will secede, I'm just throwing scenarios out). $\endgroup$ – Mikey Aug 27 '15 at 15:38
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Rather than announcing several states, I think you should consider factors that states would take into account before seceding:

Ports and access to open water

Similar to land that has no access to roads, a state without an ocean border or access to the same is not going to last long in the world's economy without very, very good neighbors.

Self sufficiency

A state that cannot feed itself without imports is likely to quickly capitulate. Not only food, but fuel, water, and electricity are all critical resources that, if curtailed, would leave a lot of unhappy citizens, a situation that would be easy to abuse externally to get the state to capitulate. This also includes means to defend itself.

A low degree of ties to the federal government

There are military bases, missile silos, highway corridors, etc that are all operationally vital to the US federal government, and would be hard to "kick out" if the state chose to become a nation. Even if they can defend themselves, how are they really going to pose any threat as an offensive action against a hardened military installation? And if you don't get rid of them, there will always be traitors in your midst. The catch-22 to this is that the less populated portions of the US have a surprisingly high number of these because they are harder for enemies to find and disable in a mutually-assured-destruction situation, and there are still a lot in populated areas. So there are few states where this wouldn't be a big problem.

The federal government and military are firmly entrenched in almost every US state to a very large degree. It would be hard to physically get rid of them and truly secede.

A moral imperative to secede

I don't think money or many other concerns are going to cause a populace to rise up en masse against the federal structure that provides so many benefits. It will truly take a significant moral issue to provide the impetus. Self-determination, privacy, anonymity are the tip of the iceberg. What if the federal government subscribed to an extreme version of children's rights, that meant parents could no longer teach their children anything except the state-approved education? No religious instruction, relative morality, strict authoritarianism perhaps. What if the environmental lobby had its way and prevented people from managing their own land, for instance banning all drilling (water, oil, gas) and access to surface water and rainfall except under the control of local utilities. You could no longer have the freedom to be self sufficient - if you wanted water you had to pay for it.

A simple disagreement isn't going to cause succession because you won't be able to get enough people on board - but a moral imperative to protect their basic freedoms and ability to determine their own path through life might get enough disagreeing people on one side of the fence to act together against the federal government.

A distinct difference from the rest of the nation

This one is probably the most difficult to achieve. If the Federal government is doing something that Kansans will oppose, why wouldn't their neighbors also oppose it? Something with a strong enough impetus to meet the "moral imperative" above is likely to affect the entire nation. So what are you going to find that binds the people together so strongly, that other states don't also have?

Natural resources might be one. Take, for instance, The Great Lakes. If emptied and trucked to California, they would single-handedly meet all of california's water needs for the next 5 centuries. Of course, with access to free freshwater, they would increase their consumption and it would be gone much faster, but I don't think people realize how much water is in there. If the federal government and the rest of the US decided that The Great Lakes belonged to the nation to be used however it saw fit, and Canada decided the same and split the lakes between the two (so there'd be no international conflict) then you'd probably see several states oppose it very strongly - possibly to the point of seceding if they thought they could win and save the lakes against both the US and Canada.

Alternately, what if the federal government targeted states with possibly good reasons - FEMA decides that with the ocean rising, and the worse weather, they are kicking people out of Florida - no more federal services will be provided after a tapered cutoff date for people living in those areas. No air traffic control, highway funds, etc. In a sense, it'd be the US seceding from florida - at that point the state and its citizens might choose to form their own nation to fill the gap. Maybe rather than hurricanes and floods they worry about earthquakes and demand that people move away from all known fault lines - this will affect california disproportionately.

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    $\begingroup$ In Europe we have several countries with no direct access to any sea. Even one which even has only land-locked neighbors (Liechtenstein). $\endgroup$ – Paŭlo Ebermann Aug 26 '15 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ @PaŭloEbermann Yes, but it would be hard to start out that way, particularly if all the states surrounding you side with the federal government. Perhaps land locked states on the canadian or mexican border will find sympathy from the other countries, but unless the state is completely self sufficient, the initial start would be very difficult, and might prevent them from trying. States with ports will not have this hurdle - but as you say, it's only a hurdle, certainly not a show-stopper. $\endgroup$ – Adam Davis Aug 26 '15 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ The idea of having no access to water you don't pay for from an incredibly draconian outside authority has actually happened in the past, at least twice that I'm aware of. Once in Cochebamba, Bolivia, which ended badly, and more recently in Detroit, Michigan, which is still ongoing. In both cases, the outside authority that precipitated the crisis was the financial world; environmental activists tried to help. It's highly unlikely they would be the cause of such a crisis. $\endgroup$ – Mason Wheeler Aug 26 '15 at 20:40
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Just an idea:

a French RPG, called C.O.P.S, developed the idea that California would fight for Independence after a rise of conservatism in the USA. If I remember it correctly (the game was created in 2004), Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected president, but his mandate was terrible, so the next candidate was a rigorist, willing to bring back "morale" and federal control over the country. He was mostly supported by the east coast, and passed some laws as controlled internet (each user would have to enter their personal credentials to access to any website, and the NSA would be able to track people based on that), pornography infringement, drug war enforcement and so on.

And after his reelection, California decided that the state would be better off without the federal government, and declared itself to be the Republic of California. American army gathered at Californian border, but the war was avoided when Nevada, Hawai and Alaska declared themselves part of the Californian Republic too. (Nevada joined because Las Vegas suffered as much as Los Angeles from those strict laws, and the other two joined because they felt they would have more influence in this young state, so more leverage to pass laws in their favor).

The RPG is set in 2030, so 4 years after the independence, the situation is very young. The USA are watching very closely the new borders, and probably infiltrate the young Republic. California enjoys its new independence, and lives in an hedonistic lifestyle, trying to forget about the warmonger neighbor, the earthquakes getting more frequent and stronger, and the increasing criminality that uses the weakness in the new administration to expand their activities.

Unfortunately, real life events proved that this scenario didn't happen. California is having a terrible economical crisis, the democrat candidate has been reelected, and Arnold did a new Terminator movie...

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    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately? Were you hoping for an independent California? $\endgroup$ – the_OTHER_DJMethaneMan Aug 26 '15 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ The most ridiculous part of that scenario is that Arnold Schwarzenegger is elected President. That can't happen without changing the US Constitution, and I can't think of any reason why that would happen. $\endgroup$ – Mohair Aug 26 '15 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ Honestly, after writing this, I was having a doubt about him. It could have been Hillary Clinton. The game timeline is not that fresh in my memory, and since it's 10 years old already, websites are down. It was mostly to present the idea, even if it's not the most realistic one. $\endgroup$ – Majuj Aug 27 '15 at 7:25
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    $\begingroup$ Hell, I would secede if Arnold was elected president. Partly because it would mean the Constitution itself was changed to permit him. $\endgroup$ – thanby Aug 27 '15 at 7:29
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    $\begingroup$ If California went, Cascadia would probably go with them. That could even possibly include much of Western Canada. $\endgroup$ – T.E.D. Aug 27 '15 at 16:21
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I'd go with the consensus on Texas. For one thing, its governor has openly talked about doing so (when not running for POTUS), and there's been some talk about the merits of letting them do so. It could make a viable country on its own, as it had natural resources (particularly oil), a decent economic base, and good ports.

Other "independence" movements I know of that are remotely plausible as functional countries are California, Cascadia and the hate group League of the South. IMHO if California were to secede, the rest of the Pacific Northwest would probably want to go with it. That might even include the trans-Rockies portion of Canada.

It has otherwise been openly talked about recently in Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Vermont, South Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana. (about 1/3rd of US states, but this list probably isn't even complete)

My personal favorites amongst the unlikely candidates are The Conch Republic, and Lakotah.

Proposed border of The Conch Republic

enter image description here

Proposed borders of Lakotah

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ As I recall the story of the Conch Republic, it was "access" that drove them to the stunt. So perhaps something can happen not with the list of attributes (described in various posts) but because one of those things is being denied by the parent government. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Nov 3 '15 at 21:04
  • $\begingroup$ Can you include a brief about Conch & Lakotah? I read the article, but it's usually encouraged to include a few sentences about why you would consider them. Otherwise, way cool - I never heard of either of them! $\endgroup$ – Mikey Mar 24 '16 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Mikey - I didn't do that because they were only mentioned in a personal aside, and aren't an integral part of my answer. I could remove them if you'd prefer I suppose... $\endgroup$ – T.E.D. Mar 24 '16 at 18:44
  • $\begingroup$ @T.E.D. - not at all - I thought they were interesting; thanks! $\endgroup$ – Mikey Mar 25 '16 at 3:16
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My list would be:

  1. Hawaii
  2. Puerto Rico (Yes I know it is not a full state)
  3. Alaska
  4. Texas
  5. California

Outside of any ranking, Utah

My criteria are:

  • Cultural difference: Hawaii and Puerto Rico are of recent incorporation and their cultural makeup is quite different from the contiguous USA. While in the contiguous USA most of the population came through Eastern USA, that is not the case of Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Both of them can claim to be victims of USA imperialism.

  • Geographical situation: Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Alaska have clear natural borders. As it could be the case with Texas, there are no issues of frontier countries depending economically more from neighbouring states than from the own state. No USA vital communication transportation routes would be affected. I have my doubts about California, from what I know it seems like a very active nuclues surrounded by hundreds of miles of underpopulated terrains (or directly desert).

  • Political: This works specially for Puerto Rico, since they are in a legal limbo (not a fully state, not fully USA citizens). Also slightly in favor of Hawaii, which was forcibly annexed. And against Texas, since black population probably will be quite suspicious of the reasons for independence (remember why did Texas secede from the Union last time).

  • Economy: This works against Puerto Rico, but benefits Alaska, Texas, California, and, to a minor degree, Hawaii.

I have singled Utah as a religiously very conservative state. In this different narration, increasingly social rights advances (like gay marriage) cause a backlash that drives to secession, even if all of the other variables do not favour it.

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    $\begingroup$ Utah may superficially look like a good secession candidate for the reasons stated here, but a look at their history shows a very different narrative. The area was colonized by emigrants fleeing religious persecution who could not find sanctuary anywhere in the contemporary USA. Within 3 years, they petitioned to join the USA as a new state. Within 10 years, the US sent an invading army after them, based on trumped-up accusations of rebellion. Once that was all over, they kept pushing for statehood. $\endgroup$ – Mason Wheeler Aug 26 '15 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ When they, of all people, could be expected to try and stay as isolated from the United States as possible, instead they pushed for admission at every turn. Utah really, really wants to be in the USA! And yes, that was a long time ago, but it's an important part of their history, much like the way that, even today, a lot of the USA's cultural ethos is shaped by events that happened even further back, ~80 years before the Mormon pioneers came to Utah. $\endgroup$ – Mason Wheeler Aug 26 '15 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with @MasonWheeler, that said a combination of moral and self deterministic issues could very well push Utah over the edge faster then any other. There is a strong movement already in Utah to get rid of federal lands completely and while they love being US citizens on an individual level there is little love for the Federal Government. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Aug 26 '15 at 21:12
  • $\begingroup$ (To clarify the above comment) I don't think either reason would be enough on it's own to push Utahn's over the edge. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Aug 26 '15 at 21:20
  • $\begingroup$ I've lived in Hawaii for 16 years. In my view, secession seems very unlikely. Our economy is heavily dependent on the presence of several U.S. military bases. Granted, there's a small but vocal minority of people pushing for native Hawaiian sovereignty, but I honestly don't see them ever gaining any serious traction. $\endgroup$ – Charles Burge Mar 2 '17 at 1:51
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Several answers have mentioned Cascadia, I'll devote an answer to it. It has its own flag and everything! :)

Proposed Cascadian flag

"Cascadia" is loosely defined, depending on who you ask, as Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and maybe parts of Idaho and Northern California. Cascadians share (sort of) an identity of civil liberty, environmentalism, low population density, small politics, and acting local.

Washington and Oregon made recreational marijuana use legal in open violation of Federal drug laws. So far, the Department Of Justice has declined to act. I don't think this will lead to secession, but it does demonstrate a willingness to openly violate Federal law at the State level. A Cascadian secession would likely be a peaceful one, a slow detachment from a Federal government increasingly unable to make decisions.

Seattle (and to a lesser extent the Silicon Forest of Portland) contain the home offices or major facilities of major technological and aerospace companies. This includes Microsoft and Intel representing a significant portion of the world's operating systems and hardware. They also have Boeing who produces commercial and military aircraft.

Other industries include forest products, mining, agriculture, craft beer brewing, and high end coffee roasting.

Local power is available through coal, thermal, hydro and (increasingly) wind farms. Cascadia power companies PGE, PacifiCorp and Puget Sound Energy are 3 of the top 10 renewable power companies in the nation and sold 1800 MWh in 2012.

Defense-wise, the world will be dependent on Microsoft's operating systems and Intel's hardware which opens up economic and cyber threats rather than military ones. For military might Bangor Naval Base, located in Washington, is the sole base for America's US Pacific fleet of nuclear ballistic missile submarines. While seizing this base would be very unlikely, even gaining control of a single missile would prove a powerful deterrent.

There's already been a book written about all this, though now decades out of date, Ecotopia.

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  • $\begingroup$ Intel is headquartered (and founded) in Silicon Valley. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 28 '17 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion You're right. Their largest concentration of workers, 18,000, is in Hillsboro, Oregon. $\endgroup$ – Schwern Feb 28 '17 at 23:12
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The rebellion should preferably be a war of independence fought throughout the US.

To be honest, I don't think this is very likely in the near future. If you want a violent rebellion, any single state (or small group of states) that rebels will be quickly put in line.

The way the modern US military works, most people are not serving in their home state, and have no special allegiance to it. So while there may currently be military assets in the state, they're not going to be of much use. The out-of-state people aren't going to fight against home, and will vastly outnumber the natives on almost every base. If need be, they can hold off the National Guard at the gates long enough to destroy equipment and airstrips before being overrun.

This does indicate that some personnel from the rebelling state(s) will be in other states, ready to wreak havoc, but I suspect they would be quickly "put to the test" or simply imprisoned. If nothing else, branding someone as a terrorist and shipping them off to an undisclosed location works wonders.

So the only realistic military force they will have is the state's National Guard, and hastily setup militia forces. I cannot reiterate enough: This is not enough to take on the US military. Not for long at all. I mean this will be shut down very quickly, and won't ever get to the "throughout the country" phase.

This isn't the 1860s. Vehicles designed for destruction will be at the rebels' doors in minutes/hours, and completely destroy any real chance they have before it's begun. What's that? Texas has oil resources that supply energy? Boom! Not any more they don't. California has a large agricultural base? Not after carpet bombing both croplands and their tinder-dry forests. Once you destroy the means to resist and the supply lines, it's over.


In short, you'd need a very large group of states for this to become feasible, and they would all need to pull out at basically the same time. This may be possible along ideological lines, but I doubt it. Most likely one state would be first, and others that were tempted would wait to see how it turned out before jumping in.

It's possible that a foreign power would jump in and help out (whether on ideological grounds or just as an opportunity to screw with the US), but then we're talking about something a bit different IMO, which deserves its own space.

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    $\begingroup$ You assume that the Feds would respond by waging total war against the seceding states, and that the military would carry out such orders enthusiastically. I think that's highly debatable. It's not at all clear that the government would have the political will to order such a campaign. And if a large number of states seceded, the military would not necessarily automatically side with Washington. $\endgroup$ – Jay Aug 28 '15 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ Enthusiastically, probably not. I do think precedent for "swiftly attempt to put down the rebellion" is on my side, though (for the US, at least). I agree on the issue with a large number of states. However, like I said, they would have to all do it at approximately the same time (otherwise, see the part about swift destruction), and I see that as less likely. I don't say all this with 100% certainly, but I just don't see a nationwide civil war happening any time soon. $\endgroup$ – Geobits Aug 28 '15 at 21:49
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    $\begingroup$ Only 49 states would want to attack California. Ok, 49 and a half - half of CA would love to attack the other half. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Aug 28 '15 at 22:34
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None of the answers consider the question of which political party the County Sheriff belonged. In most states, the local sheriff is the top law officer in the county. Both State and Federal law enforcement are subordinate to the Sheriff. By and large, many Sherrifs (and city Police Chiefs) are conservative as Republicans are generally considered tougher on crime.

Another thing to consider is that the bulk of the NCOs and unit leaders up to Battalion and Brigade are also more likely to be conservative. There is also a requirement for officers to question the legality of orders that violate the Constitution. The assumption that the Federal Armed Forces would be willing to follow orders that included firing on civilians or property is not preordained. "Southern Democrat" Sheriff's are often more conservative than Republican "Conservatives".

Of the two, California is less likely to secede because they haven't shown they could balance a budget for the last 20 years.

Texas is much more likely to secede. They have a historical perspective of having been a separate republic, even for just a miniscule amount of time. The Texas Tourist Commission has even touted Texas as "a whole 'nuther country". The mindset is there.

If Texas looked serious in seceding, Louisiana would immediately join in. Oklahoma and Arkansas would be right behind. Arizona, New Mexico, and most of Nebraska. South Dakota and North Dakota would join and give both Montana and Wyoming time to think about it and themselves join. Outside of Denver, most Colorado counties would secede from the state, with possible exception of the county where the Air Force Academy calls home.

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I just joined to add my two cents to this question. Looking to history is the best resource for this question. Historically, revolutions (because that's what we are really talking about) occur when the populace's concerns are not being addressed AND the status quo, whatever that is, is the scapegoat. Wars for independence are fought because there is a perception of the rebels being taken advantage of by the empire. The American Civil war was fought because the Confederate States felt that the Federal government was not serving the will of the populace in those states. Historically, the question of resources is somewhat less important because where there is a will, there is a way. France supported America in the American Revolution, the United States has provided material support for many revolutions and resistance movements throughout the world. This scenario would play out in the same manner. Interested parties would provide support either openly or clandestinely because they feel that they have something to gain should the rebellion succeed. Blockade runners have supplied rebellions as long as there have been sieges and every other world power has both the means and the motive to weaken the U.S. Russia and China would be air dropping supplies in a heartbeat and would claim that it was purely humanitarian, and the Federal government would have to contend with the court of public opinion in any conflict. The more heavy handed the response, the greater the risk of drumming up support for the insurgency. We can see that happening RIGHT NOW in the middle east. Others have argued that a single state could not stand against the might of the U.S. Military, but remember that this is not a pitched battle with a small militia or even the National Guard fighting on a battlefield. This would be an insurgency and you would have American soldiers being given orders to kill their own countrymen against men and women fighting to protect their own homes. Remember that the entire active duty military is less than 1.5 million troops. That is less than the population of Iowa. I think it is also likely that individuals that did not support secession would have already left ahead of the actual declaration and believers in the cause would flock to the state in support, and so you would have a greater percentage of the actual population ready to fight than would exist in the rest of the country. In short, the state would be engaged in Total War while the rest of the U.S. would be divided between supporters and Federalists with a significant portion not really caring because it doesn't directly affect them. There is nothing that would really be a barrier to secession today other than political will within the population.

The States most likely to secede would be the States that are most at odds with the federal government. Basically all of the American west and bordered by California, Oregon, and Washington. Those States on the Pacific coast could go either way, or possibly you could even see a split between northern and southern California with half remaining loyalists and the other half joining the rebellion. Texas is an obvious choice because they have the resources, the coastline, the population... Texas could be its own country tomorrow and there would be literally nothing that anyone could do. The east coast is too interconnected now for any one state to secede, but the "south" still has a population that believes that "the south will rise again" and I think of any one state went, the rest would be likely as not to follow. Texas is the only individual state that I think is really "likely" to secede, but as Washington becomes more and more disconnected from the wants and needs of the states, the question really becomes about which States interests remain aligned with the federal governments and which are not. Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, Alabama, Georgia and I'm sure there are others increasingly have ways of life that are at odds with our national leadership. Our forefathers saw this eventuality and created a system of representative government that was designed to give the States a way to protect their interests, but our two party system has undermined those protections and set us on a course that virtually guarantees that eventually some part of our country will no longer trust that their voice is heard, and secession or revolution will be the only avenue that remains.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site Auston. Pretty good answer, I would avoid some generalizations and things that come off as opinion but nice work. $\endgroup$ – James Jan 5 '16 at 3:55
  • $\begingroup$ I can see China dropping crates filled with grenades, missiles, anti-aircraft, and assault rifles and calling it "humanitarian aid" in much the same way the U.S. government does in the Middle East. Good answer, but it was a little hard to read with my dyslexia. Please consider splitting up your paragraphs just a little more in the future. $\endgroup$ – the_OTHER_DJMethaneMan Jan 28 '16 at 15:09
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Perhaps the question shouldn't be which states are most likely to rebel (Texas, obvs). But rather how would the USA fragment if the federal government broke up somehow? It's not going to be, what state goes it alone; but how do the rest of them decide to align after the fall? Because presumably if the conditions arise where it is realistic for one state to leave, it'll be likely that most will. In this case, you may like to consider how at present the USA is divided culturally; this is an interesting map.

http://emerald.tufts.edu/alumni/magazine/fall2013/images/features/upinarms-map-large.jpg

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2013/11/08/which-of-the-11-american-nations-do-you-live-in/

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My list is

  1. California, with its huge secession movements.
  2. Texas, their people wanted to be a nation before it joined the U.S. back in the 1800's.
  3. Arizona that the region is way far too different from the US.
  4. Alaska same reason for Cali but less severe.
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  • $\begingroup$ Some sources (cnbc.com/2017/01/27/…) talk about polls showing one third of California residents wanting to secede (up from one-in-five several years ago). I'd agree that's a "huge secession movement." $\endgroup$ – Ghotir Feb 28 '17 at 22:12
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I would first go with Texas, if it had to do with an economic rationale for secession. They are basically the only state with their own energy resources; they could economically fend for themselves and would be most likely to rebel against an intolerable exploitation from the outside.

However, the OP said it was due to a privacy rights issue, then you probably first see secession in the same states that legalized marijuana in the face of the federal government. Namely Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado.

But because of the geographical disconnect the pattern would probably go: Washington and Oregon at about the same time, followed very shortly by a block of Northern California, then Idaho and Colorado. Montana would most likely follow suit to not have mess on their Western border to make the "Northwest Block". Alaska would most likely join sometime in the path.

After that...it gets fuzzy.

Update: It does make an interesting Eastern Front for any hostilities.

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I think who would be most likely to secede depends largely on who is in power in the Federal government. To put it simply, if liberals are in charge, the conservative states would be more likely to secede, and vice versa. As the U.S. government has been trending liberal since the 1990s, I'd say a scenario where the conservative states rebel is more likely. But that could change overnight if, say, an extreme right-winger was elected president.

A closely related question is what would happen if one or more states did try to secede today. Expectations about what would happen would heavily influence who would be willing to try it.

Would the Feds immediately send the military in with guns blazing? I doubt it. I expect there'd be a period of negotiations before any violence. If the Feds thought they could send in the FBI or marshals and arrest the governor or other leaders of the secession movement, they might try that. Would local police and National Guard troops back the secessionists or would they side with the Feds? Bear in mind that local police today are being increasingly "militarized", with military-class weapons, including armored vehicles. If the police and National Guard backed the secessionists, would the military be willing to fight them?

For that matter, what would the military do? If we were talking about half the country seceding a la the Civil War, then half the military might come from seceding states, including the leaders. Depending on the reasons for the secession, many in the military might be sympathetic.

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  • $\begingroup$ If you are talking a Liberal/Conservative war, all the military would be on one side. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Aug 28 '15 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ @DJMethaneMan Not sure what your point is. You know the extreme right is not particularly enamored with Donald Trump, right? The extreme right is mostly lining up behind Ben Carson right now. Of course the election is a year away and lots could happen in that time. $\endgroup$ – Jay Nov 6 '15 at 5:43
  • $\begingroup$ FWIW: The last paragraph was pretty much what happened in the actual US Civil War. Most of the professional Army, particularly the officers, hailed from seceding states and almost all of those joined the Confederate forces. $\endgroup$ – T.E.D. Nov 23 '15 at 19:40
  • $\begingroup$ @T.E.D. I read a book about the Civil War years ago that said that many officers from the south "betrayed their oaths" by joining the Confederacy. I'm from Michigan, about as far north as you can get, and I don't see the logic. If you take an oath to a nation and the nation splits in two, to which side did you promise to be loyal? Is your oath to the president as an individual? I would say no. To whichever side most of the people align with? But if 51% join one side and 49% the other, is it really obvious that your loyalty is to the 51%? Do we count people or square miles of land? Etc. $\endgroup$ – Jay Nov 23 '15 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ It didn't "split in two" identical parts like an amoeba. Rather it continued on without some of its members (as far as they were concerned at least), who left to form their own different entity. So that was an entirely accurate (but misleading) statement. $\endgroup$ – T.E.D. Nov 23 '15 at 21:46
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Let's pretend the US Government is going to pass a law that will ban guns. By just signing that bill, the state of Montana will immediately leave the Union. Their state Constitution requires guns to be legal for Montana to stay in the Union. Texas would secede (no explanation required). Also, the states that allow a citizen to carry firearms with no permit (it's called Constitutional Carry). I also know that all other southern states will leave the what is left of the US Government to rot after such a decision.

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  • $\begingroup$ Please keep in mind that we have users from all over the world. Something that "needs no explanation" (whether that assertion is true or false) to someone in one part of the world may be completely lost on someone in a completely different part of the world. A person from Malaysia or Japan may not understand why "Texas would secede" in the situation described, for example. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jan 28 '16 at 14:55
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Well, California is currently floating a secession referendum as part of it's election tantrum.

The only way that would ever happen is if someone was able to replace the funds the federal government pours into the state.

Though given the current political climate in the state (brought on by oxygen deprivation from constant hyperventilation), the referendum probably reads something like: We are seceding but the US still has to give us our share of the federal funds.

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  • $\begingroup$ Just an fyi... California's economy is the 6th largest in the world, just behind Germany and the UK. It is also responsible for the largest single state contribution to the US GDP at 13.3% You may disagree with their politics, but you seem to be missing the rather large contribution CA makes overall. $\endgroup$ – apaul Feb 28 '17 at 23:50
  • $\begingroup$ Also... -1 because your answer doesn't add anything that wasn't already covered by other answers. $\endgroup$ – apaul Feb 28 '17 at 23:52
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, everyone talks about the size of the CA economy. The CA economy is mostly based on agriculture. California gets a lot of it's water from the Colorado River. Turn that off and, poof. Done. Also, the state is so heavily in debt that California, as a nation, would become another Greece. The question being, who would bail it out? The US is not likely to choose to do so. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Mar 1 '17 at 1:17
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I'm going to have to say that it will definitely be a western state. With western state's solid history of united rebellion, it wouldn't be surprising. Western ranchers would start it, then many conservative fellows would follow up and support. This is evident in the 'Sagebrush Rebellion', the Bundy Ranch incident, and the recent Malheur National Refuge incident. Also, when Claude Dallas killed a wildlife warden he was hidden by local ranchers and miners in the area. It seems that these people are willing to unite and protect each other. I know for sure that Idaho and Montana have highly independent anti-government sentiment. Most western states do, Arizona, Nevada (Nevada only votes blue because the majority of the population is in Las Vegas, these people are California transplants), Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. These ranchers and miners feel abused by federal power in a lot of situations.

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protected by Community Aug 29 '17 at 3:45

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