Background and Explanation

I recently asked a question inquiring which US states would be most likely to rebel in the event of a secession war. Now, it was pointed out in the comments on @Samuel's answer that it is unlikely that Americans would rebel over simple infringements of rights. It is done all the time and nobody raises hell over it because Americans have soft, comfy lives and are more than a little hesitant to give them up.

I would still, however, like to believe that one day Americans will reach a breaking point and will rebel. What is the most probable cause (statistically) of a rebellion occurring in the United States in the next ten years? Is there a single infringement on American rights that can cause the desired secession?

Things to note

The only one that came to my mind was if guns were banned; however, I have known many people in the larger cities that dislike that people can own guns and would support this law, so I think this rules out the majority of public support for a rebellion caused by this.

Desired states

I am sure that which states I want to secede influences the situation directly. The desired states are:

  • California

  • Texas

  • Oregon

  • Idaho

  • Nevada

  • Georgia

  • the Carolinas

  • Oklahoma

  • Alaska (apologies HDE)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 I'll edit Alaska in. The states are from different regions and a variety of different political and social beliefs. In other words, it would have to be something so tremendous that it would infuriate both California and Texas citizens. $\endgroup$ – JDSweetBeat Aug 27 '15 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ @DJMethaneMan: The issue with that wide variety is it seems odd that only those states would secede. For example, why aren't Washington or Alabama also infuriated in this scenario? Generally a war like this is going to split based on some ideological divide. $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske Aug 27 '15 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ "Americans have soft, comfy lives" I believe you're stereotyping here, and greatly. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Aug 27 '15 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre I mean compared to many other people around the world. There is no denying that most Americans have it way better than someone in, say, Haiti. $\endgroup$ – JDSweetBeat Aug 27 '15 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ Even in the original Civil War, the split was by no means along state lines, or even slave/free society lines. Trying to get the current, artificial state borders to have a common ideology is a tough sell. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Aug 27 '15 at 21:17

Nixing the First Amendment

There are five main freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

How could a government go about violating as many of those as possible? One way would be to have agents enter and break up a gathering of a public reading of the newspaper of a religious institution, then confiscate and burn all copies available and arrest anyone who protests. That's four out of five right there.

Without the First Amendment, the government could start violating the rights of citizens in different ways, including . . . well, doing whatever it wants and can legally do, silencing all dissenters (remember, freedom of speech is a thing of the past). At present, if Congress wants to declare war on a certain country, it can do so, but it generally won't if there is heavy opposition to it (a notable exception was, at some points, the Vietnam War).

However, if it controls the press and silences those who disagree with it - oh, and bans the practice of any religions practiced in the opposing country1 - then it can most likely keep the war going, to a slightly better extent. If the military machine works as necessary, then things should be fine.

The fury won't end in the states you name, though. I expect most of the country to be up in arms (quite literally, with or without the Second Amendment).

1 Good choices are ones that are popular in the United States.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That would depend on which religion, of course. Has it been linked in the public mind to terrorism? The terror label could be applied to religions with a pro-life stance, those with a civil rights stance, etc. Any big movement has some nutcases on the fringes. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Aug 27 '15 at 18:25
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    $\begingroup$ @o.m. Good point. If the opposing state's main religion is the main religion (or simply a major religion) in the U.S., then things are better for rebellion. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Aug 27 '15 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ If they take down the internet, that would rile us up. $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Aug 27 '15 at 21:28
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    $\begingroup$ @PyRulez Well, then you've angered the world by extension. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Aug 27 '15 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 Well, if they took down or severely censored the internet in US (think China's great firewall.) (I would join Larry Page in the Google militia.) $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Aug 27 '15 at 21:32

An abrupt federal ban on the possession and sale of firearms is your best bet.

The challenge here is that for a subset of the states to secede, you need the governments of these states to maintain control and you need the majority of the states to be willing to remain in the union. If you look at most major rights intrusions, such as sudden implementation of orwellian surveillance or dismissal of the first amendment, these are problems that everyone, regardless of state, are going to be up in arms about. This is also more likely to trigger a popular uprising in which governments would be forcefully dissolved by the people, not seceding.

What you’re left with are polarizing issues that are enshrined in the U.S. constitution. Gun rights are an absolutely perfect issue on multiple levels. For starters, many people, including many state governments, are in favor of gun control laws. This ensures that many people will agree with the federal ban, and ensures most states will not act so rashly that they secede. On the flip side, many conservative states would be in an absolute uproar. Government officials in many of these states are themselves proud gun owners, ensuring that the people’s desire to secede will extend up the governmental ladder (even resulting in further pressure for secession). The best part is that the people most incensed by this ban are very likely to be heavily armed and willing to use their weapons to defend their rights.

The bigger problem here is that you’re looking for nine out of fifty states to secede. That’s immediately a terrible idea, as was pointed out in the linked question. That’s an infrastructure disaster waiting to happen, not to mention the U.S. military that is about to be bearing down on them. Even worse, these states are not close together, so they are now in the worst possible strategic position for defense.

What’s much more likely than a genuine desire to secede permanently is a desire to take a brash action to negotiate a reversal of the ban. Secession sends a very serious message to the country and the world. It puts the union in a position to either slaughter its former citizens or reverse an arguably unnecessary ban. It seems quite likely to me that secession in this circumstance would achieve their goal, returning things to normal and simply generating some amazing headlines and news coverage.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ We are talking about a fictional scenario in the worldbuilding context, right? The realistic answer might be that any event which causes some states to secede would put all of them into turmoil -- some states might be split 60-40 for the rebellion, others 40-60 against, or even closer. Civil war everywhere and a long time until there are two recognizable sides. But that means a more complicated story, so we have to suspend disbelief. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Aug 27 '15 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ This idea was but forth and rejected in the question. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Aug 27 '15 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE The idea was considered and rejected based on what I believe to be incomplete grounds (hence my explanation of how it would work in my answer). For state secession you don't need a majority of the country to be against it, you simply need a majority in the states that are seceding. $\endgroup$ – Avernium Aug 27 '15 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ It's an entertaining idea, but California as a whole is decidedly not in favor of widespread gun ownership, so it's hard to see the state seceding over the issue. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Aug 27 '15 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast Yeah, agreed. With a list that diverse you're more likely to get widespread uprising and removal of government over a contentious issue than organized secession. I didn't remark on it in the answer, but if any amendment was superseded so abruptly you'd likely get a lot of flak even from people who ideologically supported the changes. It's a very dangerous precedent. $\endgroup$ – Avernium Aug 27 '15 at 19:59

If there were to be a break, I suspect it would be along the so called "Red/Blue" divide. American rights are being violated all the time. Look at so called "free speech zones" at American universities, a blatant violation of the First Amendment; restrictive gun ownership laws in various cities and States, violating the Second Amendment; and the Star Chambers that have been set up in many US Universities to deal with allegations of sexual assault, the way they are set up violates the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The difference is the response of the American public in the various States, with the biggest pushback against these violations and the politicians who promote them coming from the so called "Red" States, while the most support comes from the so called "Blue" States. I suspect the reason that we have not seen open rebellion is due to a multitude of factors, including the fear of loss if there were armed rebellion, the "boiling frog" theory that these losses of freedom have been gradual and incremental so far so people have adjusted, and that other effective means of opposition are still available and viable (everything from using legal challenges, voting for the opposition parties, "Irish democracy" (i.e. non compliance with onerous rules and regulations) and simply "bypassing" gatekeepers with Internet enabled technologies (Uber, for example, breaks the comfy monopoly of the Cab industry and the financial support these monopolists give to politicians who restrict commercial freedoms).

The American Civil War was avoided for at least a decade as various analogous solutions were tried; the final break came when the "Slave States" were defeated in their attempts to extend slavery into the Territories, at which point they knew they would be outnumbered and economically and politically smothered. Should a similar point be reached where a large number of Americans were to believe their freedoms were to be extinguished with no possibility of compromise or eventual vindication, then you have the possibility of armed rebellion.

Based on American history, I suspect the true trigger would be economic, for example the US Blue States have amassed anywhere between $2 and 4 trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities in the form of pensions for State employees (figures vary due to the different ways States calculate their liabilities or take them "off the books"). Should Washington decide that every American should be subject to an extra tax to pay for the unfunded liabilities of a small favored group in a favored group of States, I think a breaking point will be reached (especially as it is becoming more and more clear that a lot of American taxpayers are being looted for the benefit of a few crony capitalists and favored groups).

Anyone want to go for a spot of tea?

  • $\begingroup$ Pointing out the economics between red and blue is smart. Good answer. $\endgroup$ – James Aug 28 '15 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ Of course, there's the point that the only Red state that pays its way is Texas.... facts, they do suck. $\endgroup$ – user3082 Sep 24 '15 at 5:20

Federally Mandated Removal of Agricultural Subsidy

I struggled to think what interests these states could possibly have in common. They are all states either highly dependent on agricultural subsidy, or very strongly associated with a state that is.

In 2005, US farmers received $14 billion in agricultural subsidies. This is peanuts to the American budget, but this is suddenly a dramatic loss of income to groups of individuals and corporations who are highly connected and clustered in areas.

The value percentage of agricultural revenue in each rebelling state is tiny compared to other sectors, but it is a direct economic sector (e.g. - almost directly from the producer). Manufacturing includes a whole range of economic activities, while agriculture is food, food production, and food distribution; often in one company. Here's why they rebelled.

  • California, Texas, Idaho, Georgia*, the Carolinas have received tremendous pressure from farmers, corporations, and other agricultural interests. As a sector that can mobilize very quickly, they have struck fear in their fellow residents about food insecurity. It spiraled out of control and the states knew it was time to re-think citizenship in the United States. The Oregon Willamette Valley, the Texas Hill Country, and the Napa Valley (for sure) ensures a stranglehold on wine exports that can cripple the American wine-drinkers. Suddenly, Tobacco prices in the Federal United States have gone up, too.
  • Alaska does not have much on-land agriculture, but does have a lot of off-shore fishing: a LOT. This industry and their dependence on shipping ports on the West Coast states who are rebelling, has their interests urging state government for secession.
  • Oregon, Oklahoma, and Nevada have great economic interests in their neighboring, rebelling states. While the people of Portland, Oregon are reluctant to side with the people from Dallas, Texas, they acknowledge they need to stick with Idaho and California (and urge Washington to follow); for example.
  • $\begingroup$ How or why the Feds would mandate this is beyond me. $\endgroup$ – Mikey Aug 28 '15 at 19:40

What sort of violation of American rights would cause a civil war?

At this point in history I suspect a draft would do it... (and yes I'm aware of the pun there)

Forced conscription with the current political climate, and with Vietnam in recent memory would probably inspire the sort of split you're looking for. Confidence in the federal government is pretty low right now, and even more right leaning states would likely be hesitant to send their young people to fight under the current commander in chief...

it is unlikely that Americans would rebel over simple infringements of rights. It is done all the time and nobody raises hell over it because Americans have soft, comfy lives

Sending another generation to war against their will would certainly tip the scales away from soft and comfy. If enough people are touched personally by the conflict, as in they know people personally that have been drafted, the backlash will probably be considerable.

I could certainly see more than a few governors sending state police, or national guard troops to shut down unwanted draft offices. From that point all it would take is one frightened officer to pull a trigger and things could get really messy, really quickly.


(I think that violation of first and second amendment are already taken)

Violation of third amendment:

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law

Imagine a guy afraid of gov that would violate the second amendment. He stockpiled a huge stack of guns and ammo in his house. He would forgive that two marines park armoured infrantry vehicle in his garage. He would accept them making mess in guest room and not wash up the dishes. He would tolerate that they hog the whole bandwidth of his WiFi. But the fact that they borrow without permission his beloved guns simply makes him vivid.


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