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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

The Reluctant Republic and the Breakdown of Secession

The founding of a nation-state must decide where its powers belong. In a nation where the dichotomy of centralization and decentralization proponents exists it is confronted with black or white propositions that actually create shades of gray tugging on both trends.

The United States Constitution was written to be a strongly centralist document with a smattering of decentralist characteristics. Some of the founding members thought that it lacked balance until the Bill of Rights satisfied their arguments against ratification.

The powerful disembodied voice of Thomas Jefferson is often called upon to self-empower a group or a state to “dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…” and that “they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” Moreover, in 1816, Jefferson wrote, “I would rather the States should withdraw, which are for unlimited commerce and war, and confederate with those alone which are for peace and agriculture.”

Yet, what the Declaration of Independence did was to trigger a breakdown of decentralization by convincing the separate colonies of the necessity of a strong union. As a consequence, in due course, an unequal balance of power existed between a strong centralized federate and states’ rights.

When the Green Mountain citizens were still part of the New Hampshire Grants during the Revolutionary War, they were known to the British forces as the “most active and most rebellious race on the continent.” Subsequently, when Vermont broke away from the New York and New Hampshire colonies, it created its own sovereign nation in 1777 that remained as the “Vermont Republic” until 1791. Even so, Vermont was deemed the “reluctant republic” because too many Vermonters favored being part of the newly forming United States and wanted to be the “fourteenth star,” so much so, that when Ira Allen designed the Great Seal of Vermont it bore a “14 branched pine tree.”

It was at the start of the Civil War when the Ordinance of Secession was drafted and ratified by the southern states that an American secessionist movement was put to the test. The question in southern states of whether or not a fair cross-section of opinions would unify the commitment to secede was the undoing of Virginia. Some opponents of Virginia secession wanted to remain in the union to preserve the legacy that Virginians played in the formation of the United States. Unionist delegates helped to defeat a motion to secede. However, after the capture of Fort Sumter by the North, Virginia then “voted to declare secession from the Union pending ratification of the decision by the voters.” Still, the voters in twenty-six western counties in Virginia rejected the approved referendum to secede that led to the creation of the state of West Virginia. West Virginia didn’t join and was not seated in the Confederacy.

The post war road to disunion and secession had and has to this day difficulty overcoming the stigma of that ultimate national conflict between decentralists and centralists during the Civil War. Opponents of secession relate it to an awful, bloody national conflict so that the word “secession” has a quick turnoff feature.

Whether or not the history of the Vermont Republic gives modern Vermonters an edge in any secessionist movement remains to be seen. In a state with separatist leaning tendencies the internal dialogue and defense of either centralization or decentralization is somewhat similar to the union of states it wishes to break away from. Therefore, keeping the peace after a successful secession can evolve to conflicting internal political and social processes.

In any case, the 2007 annual Vermonters Poll at UVM “showed that thirteen percent of eligible voters in Vermont supported secession.” It’s likely that some of the “silenced” nonvoters may also favor secession. Moreover, the January 10, 2011 issue of Time Magazine named the “Second Vermont Republic” as one of the “Top 10 Aspiring Nations” in the world.

Bent on “downsizing the USA,” and as foremost among secessionists’ states, does our Second Vermont Republic have anywhere near at hand the resources, the mobilizing power, to right the state of the unbalance of power that exists today?

The powers, it turns out, belong to the legislature or any administrative body that sits at the voting pleasure of the community of people. Short of a rebellion, peaceful or not, the breakaway force needed to secure the confidence and support of a state majority to “decentralize” and, therefore, downsize the economic and political network that currently makes this state operational, is a remote possibility.

Vermont is a good example where secession could breakdown, not unlike the effect that the Virginia secessionist referendum had on splitting its borders into Virginia and West Virginia. Vermont is a state with a top heavy population where the residential economy and political life is far more depended on a centralized structure to bring them necessary resources than a decentralized Southern Vermont might need.

The picturesque jigsaw puzzle that makes up the pluralism of America is not sufficiently commodious to accommodate full-blown harmony. The people, the states and the federation are a shifting map that delineates a permanent state of civil strife. Even if a state seceded from the union the civil strife within that state continues by those in the state who were opposed to secession and the reasons behind it.

What we have is a failure to secede. Not a single instance of modern secession has been successful. If the history of secession is going catch up with itself what we need is a daring act that can sustain itself to such a degree that it becomes the benchmark for other secessionists to follow. No such benchmark exists; such is the power of centralized domain and control.

When any state is consensually and lawfully tied to a union of states who are guilty of oppression and unspeakable crimes against humanity does it have the moral prerogative to legally or otherwise break those bonds and create for themselves a new sovereignty? When does the first step to disunion become a reality?

Vidda Crochetta lives in the Wantastiquet river basin in Southern Vermont and is a historical novelist, poet, lyricist and opinion commentator for various print and online publications.



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Quick like a bandage

The way things work nowadays is that you can do just about whatever you want, a few people will grumble, and most everyone else will just go along without any fight.

I'm thinking, say, of Bush-Cheney taking away rights, creating free-speech zone cages, executing people without a trial, and so on. Things that would have been horrific if anyone was thinking, but not enough people are. The brilliance of Cheney was that he realized no one would stop them. No one had the guts to stand up and say it was wrong with enough force for it to matter. Even the next President didn't want to "look back" and correct anything.

So, to succeed with the secede, I suggest you run for office, become governor, then just announce it one day. A few people will grumble, not enough will stand up to oppose, and you've succeeded in seceding.


New Whirled Order

Very interesting. Not sure the catalyst for disunion hinges on a moral question.

The hegemony of the United States over its provinces, compared to the EU, with its principalities maintaining sovereignty are only but two models of a similar product. Whether the manufacturer of that product is the Earth, or Civilization..the item has a design flaw, which is found in the embedded hypocrisy of its constituent parts.

So, this impetus for escape to higher ground may be real, but the methods are chimerical. It cannot be faced. We can look in the mirror all we want, wishing away our blemishes and wrinkles, but the figure in the mirror who looks back at us is only a reflection. Not that which lives and dies, property of the state.

In another words, we may claim to live by a moral decree, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Short of alien invasion or polar gyroscopic reorientation, I can't imagine any way to summon that daring act you speak of, which smashes the mirror and breaks the spell.


No Escape Clause

As an outside observer, I’d say, lucky for the active secessionists the catalyst for disunion doesn’t hinge on a moral question….only. I imagine their interests are disarranged by provincial and the national/global order (corporate) dichotomies.

The complications for the VT secess crew is that there are no modern precedents, moral or otherwise. The only (temporary) secession was during the civil war and that was a strength in numbers exercise. And, strength in numbers, for any reason, isn’t exactly Vermont’s best suit. There isn't likely to be a critical mass clamoring for secession in this state. To answer my question in the last paragraph, “When does the first step to disunion become a reality?” is predicated upon the numbers game.

Moreover, early Vermont did not have a legislature in place to answer to. Once a legislature is breathed into life, it does not want to die and will not lightly turn over secession to a governor, nor a rebellion.


Polar Gyroscopic Reorientation

We can, of course, vote Bill Lee for Governor.


Bill "Spaceman" Lee

I saw his name, Bill "Spaceman" Lee on the ballot, (and laughed) but didn't know who he is, so I just now Googled him:

"Now the Spaceman is running for Governor in his own right; as the candidate of the Vermont Liberty Union Party. To his right is Republican Phil Scott. Also to his right is Democrat Sue Minter. Bill may be one part conservative but he is also two parts socialist (and three parts tell-it-like-it-is or should be maverick). His name recognition is strong enough to cause concern among some Democratic Party insiders (will he draw votes from Minter?), and his policy positions are out-side-the-box enough to, perhaps, gain interest among working class voters who may otherwise lean towards racecar driving Scott."


Rarefied Air of Secession Theory

Since the civil war secession really has been largely theoretical, not yet applied in any way as a practical solution for dissent on a statewide basis. It is more a political philosophy that would challenge the state authority to remain in a union. And, the theories are a mixed of a justifying a choice and/or having a cause to secede. Without a compelling justification, for any reason, no secession will take place in this country, and proponents will be left with the rarefied air of theoretical discussion.

In 1869, the Supreme Court, in fact, ruled in Texas vs White stating that a state in the union "was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States."



Brattleboro has a way out of Representative Town Meeting, btw. If it is put on a ballot as a binding vote and voters endorse the idea, Brattleboro could return to regular town meeting (or change to another form). It was attempted and defeated in the 60's not long after RTM was instituted.

Not quite secession, but it is a way out. : )


“Radio Free Vermont” is more than “A Fable of Resistance

A Polite Drive for Secession in ‘Radio Free Vermont’
Books of The Times

Bill McKibben’s “Radio Free Vermont”

(NYTimes) Peculiar, impractical and illegal though it may be, secession has its enthusiasts in a surprising number of states. Just last year, Texas Republicans voted on whether to include an endorsement of independence in their party platform (they didn’t); this year, there have already been three attempts in California at a“Calexit,” though it’s probably more viable as a Scrabble word than a political objective.

Even New York City has made noises about seceding from time to time, though generally from its parent state and not the country at large. In 1969, Norman Mailer and Jimmy Breslin ran a political campaignlargely devoted to the idea of Gotham’s sovereignty — with the mulish insistence that the city get custody of the name “New York.” The rest of the state would be re-christened “Buffalo.”

Like Mailer and Breslin, Vern Barclay, the old-school radio host and septuagenarian hero of Bill McKibben’s “Radio Free Vermont,” doesn’t truly believe he’ll have any success with the secessionist movement he leads. He’s an accidental renegade, a guy who fell backward into the revolution business while reporting his final story.

His plan that day, as he explains to his listeners, was simple: to go rogue while covering the opening of a Walmart in Saint Albans, Vt. (Not his type of assignment; the new corporate overlords of his radio station insisted.) As he was cheerfully interviewing fake salespeople he’d planted throughout the store — men and women who were all too happy to enumerate Walmart’s crimes against the environment, humanity and the integrity of household appliances — a jet of raw sewage spilled onto the facility’s pristine floor.

Walmart’s management assumed Barclay was responsible for the stunt. He wasn’t. It was the handiwork of a 19-year-old hacker and social activist named Perry, a kid Barclay had never met before. It didn’t matter; he and Perry were now in the soup together. The two fled, took refuge in an old farmhouse and began a series of untraceable podcasts. “Underground, underfoot and underpowered” became its tagline, with every broadcast sponsored by a different beer. Vermont has almost as many microbreweries as house cats.
That was that. A movement for Vermont’s independence was born.

In his public appearances, McKibben, a Vermonter and one of the best-known environmentalists of our age, can be an extremely droll and appealing Cassandra. But there’s little in his many previous books to suggest he can pull off a novel-length satire. He’s a serious man. (To Bill Maher, who complained that McKibben wasn’t giving him enough hopeful news, the author said: “This is your fault. You asked someone on whose most famous book was called ‘The End of Nature,’ O.K.?”)

Yet “Radio Free Vermont” is a charming bit of artisanal resistance lit. It’s a bit rough, with the occasional nailhead poking up too high. (Perry’s upspeak? It gets to be, um, a bit much?) But what’s surprising is how well-crafted the book is overall; how unhokey its folksiness feels, and how true its observations ring.

The finest running joke in “Radio Free Vermont” — not least for being so plausible — is that Barclay and his supporters are a supremely pleasant group of separatists. When he disrupts the canned music at Starbucks to point out that Vermont has plenty of locally owned coffee shops, he signs off with, “Remember: small is kind of nice.” When his pal Sylvia, the woman who provides him shelter in her farmhouse, hijacks a Coors truck — who needs Big Beer in a state with Hill Farmstead and Heady Topper? — she hands the driver a picnic lunch and apologizes for including only one Long Trail Coffee Stout. “We’re serious about DUI in this state,” she says, “but I think you’ll find it filling.”

Lest you think this is just the latest blue-state-flavored ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, remember: Vermonters love their guns. The ability to shoot them — while skiing — figures prominently in the plot. Barclay is a former coach of high school biathletes. One of his former students, a woman named Trance, won a gold medal in the Olympics, was a sharpshooter in Iraq and ultimately becomes a heroine of the Vermont independence movement.

“Radio Free Vermont” is more than “A Fable of Resistance,” as its subtitle says. It’s a love letter to the modest, treed-in landscape of Vermont, which Barclay wouldn’t trade for all the grandeur of Montana. It’s a dirge for the intense cold, which Barclay sorely misses — why is the world now brown in January, rather than white? (“It made him feel old,” McKibben writes, “as if he’d outlived the very climate of his life.”) It is an elegy for a slower, saner Vermont — “the world’s rush was doing it in” — and dependable Yankee virtues, like neighborliness and self-reliance and financial prudence.
The book also helps contextualize Bernie Sanders’s anti-establishment crankiness. Barclay likes to remind his listeners that Vermont was once its own republic.

Throughout the story, the secessionist movement gains in popularity. Bumper stickers start appearing on cars: “Barclay for Governor.” “Barclay for Prime Minister.” Post offices start flying a new Free Vermont flag designed by Barclay’s 96-year-old mother. (The New York Times runs a feature story under the headline, “In Quaint Green Mountain Hamlets, a Push For Independence.” Gotta admit that’s pretty good.) Barclay increasingly devotes his podcasts to questions of feasibility were a divorce to take place: Can Vermonters defend themselves with guns? How would its citizens collect on their Social Security?

McKibben never suggests he truly believes secession is the solution in times of political turmoil. If anything, it’s the opposite; Barclay eventually worries he’s asking people “to do something a little dangerous and more than a little weird.”

What he’s proposing is merely a thought experiment, daring the reader to ponder the virtues of smallness in an age of military and corporate gigantism. In his acknowledgments, he notes that Vermont has already had one “minor-league attempt” at a secession movement, about a decade ago, that failed, spectacularly. But if non-Vermonters need refuge in the months or years ahead, he adds, “you’re all welcome to come to the Green Mountain State. We’ll teach you to drive dirt roads in mud season.”

(Full Text) https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/08/books/review-radio-free-vermont-bill-...


“Radio Free Vermont”

Looks like a fun book!


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