Here are a few of the states that see in Brexit a renewed sense of hope for their own independence movements.
“In the wake of the U.K.’s 'Brexit' vote, we are receiving queries from all over the world— is a ‘Vexit’—Vermont nonviolently seceding from the United States of Empire—next?”
That was Rob Williams writing in The Vermont Independent, an online publication closely associated with Vermont’s independence movement. The effort might not be well known, but it’s ready for its close-up: “We have the blueprints, we have the platform, we have the book, we have the passport, and we have the flag,” wrote Williams.
As Bernie Sanders’ relentless insurgent candidacy might suggest, Vermont has never been all that comfortable in the United States; during the Revolutionary War in 1777, a group of future Vermonters declared independence from both the crown of Great Britain and the colony of New York. The Vermont Republic, aptly named the “reluctant republic” even back then, more or less operated as an independent nation for the next 14 years,—ntil the controversial issue of slavery encouraged it to become the new nation’s 14th state in 1791, two years into President George Washington’s first term. Its constitution preceded the U.S. Constitution by more than a decade.
Today, Williams is part of a group of intellectuals and activists trying to revive the dream of a Second Vermont Republic. Tomas Naylor, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University, founded the group in 2003. The Vexit movement falls on the liberal side of the political spectrum, unlike more familiar Western secessionist efforts, which come from the libertarian right. Its self-described mission is “self-determination for Vermont and other breakaway states,” and its chief complaint is “a government too big, too centralized, too undemocratic, too unjust, too powerful, too intrusive, and too unresponsive to the needs of individual citizens and small communities.” Helpfully, it already has a foreign policy, calling for “the peaceful dissolution of meganations such as the United States, Russia, and China.” Britain’s decision, presumably, was a step in that direction.
Larry Kilgore, the Texan who famously changed his name to Larry “Secede” Kilgore in 2012 and is now running for Governor of the State in 2018, said in an interview that Brexit was a great thing because “it will encourage other nations to rise up against their oppressors.” When I asked him who he meant by “other nations,” he rattled off a few names, including California and North Carolina.
Much like the U.K., with its uneasy relationship with the European Union, Texas has always been an uneasy guest of these 50 United States. It was its own country, the Republic of Texas, from 1836 until it agreed to join the United States in 1845. Sixteen years later, it seceded along with 10 other states to form the Confederacy. The Civil War forced it back into the Union, where it has stayed ever since, but with considerable tension.
In 1997, the “self-declared ‘ambassador, consul-general and chief foreign legal officer’ of the separatist Republic of Texas,” Rick McLaren, began a movement to reclaim the Republic, which he believed had been illegally annexed in 1845. His weeklong standoff with State authorities, which took place in his “embassy” behind a grocery store, ended with no blood shed but no Texit, either. A more recent example dates back to 2013, when an online petition to “peacefully grant the State of Texas to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government” attracted 125,746 signatures, and the White House’s attention. The White House Office of Public Engagement released a reprimand in response: “In a nation of 300 million people—each with their own set of deeply-held beliefs—democracy can be noisy and controversial. And that's a good thing. … But as much as we value a healthy debate, we don't let that debate tear us apart.”
These days, Brexit has once again revived the hopes of those Texans who would like to see their gigantic State return to its rightful place as an independent nation of North America. For Kilgore, it’s a culture war as well. “Us Texans, we’re not so much into all that transgender and homosexual stuff,” but, he says, “Californians, that’s their thing.” Larry Kilgore received 225,000 votes for Governor in 2008 running as a secessionist. Not every Texan who wants to secede sees things his way, though. Other, more moderate secessionists argue for Texit based on reasons such as wanting control of their immigration policy, smaller Government and fewer taxes. And then there’s the fact that Texas, some claim, just isn’t really like any of the other 49 states. “When it comes to culture. … The pride in the nation of Texas is second to none. The music scene carries a distinct difference from the US in almost every genre. When it comes to food, well put on your jalapeño eating boots, because it's going to get spicy!”
The official NHexit movement was founded just last week by Dave Ridley in the wake of the Brexit vote, and held its first event on June 26: a protest in front of Manchester’s Norris Cotton Federal Building, a structure that Mr. Ridley said he “would like to see turned into a shopping mall.” The Founder of the movement filmed the event on his YouTube channel, and interested viewers can hear him wonder about the size of the protest, which attracted a grand total of 13 protesters: “I gotta admit, it’s lower turnout than I expected. I was expecting turnout of about 18.”
Despite the small turnout, the field of NHexiters is getting crowded in the Granite State. According to its “About Us” page, the Foundation for New Hampshire Independence, a 501(c)(3) educational organization, “believes that we are quickly nearing the time when the United States’ size and disregard for the rule of law as embodied in its founding Constitution must inevitably lead to the dissolution of our own once-great nation.” The NH Liberty Party, meanwhile, has been promoting the idea of an independent New Hampshire since 2012, and one of its members, aptly named Ian Freeman, is running for Governor in September.
They’re building on a very long and distinguished tradition. The “Live Free or Die” State was one of the 13 colonies that revolted against British rule during the American Revolution, was the first colony to set up an independent government and was the first to adopt its own constitution. And it didn’t stop there: In the 1830s, the short-lived Republic of Indian Stream broke off the top of the State, passed its own constitution and proceeded to govern itself independently of both New Hampshire and neighboring Quebec, before eventually being brought back into line by a nearby sheriff.
Today, despite the enthusiasm, hopes for success aren’t exactly high. In the latest NHexit protest, Ridley can also be heard interviewing one of the protesters, “Kurt,” who is running for State Representative and was present to “endorse the NH exit from the involuntary union that is the United States.” Asked by Ridley what he thought his chances were of winning, Kurt answered, “Zero. I’m certainly not going to win.”
4. ‘Calexit’…or ‘Caleavefornia,’ take your pick
Louis Marinelli, who heads the Yes California Independence Campaign and is now running for State Assembly from San Diego County, told the Washington Times last week that Brexit was important because it is “a modern-day, 21st century case of a political entity seceding from a political union … and so now Californians who hear the word ‘secession,’ they don’t have to think of the Civil War any more.”
California didn’t become a U.S. territory until 1847, as part of the treaty ending the Mexican-American War, and this is another State where the spirit of rebellion is alive and well. The most dramatic of its manifestations was the 1836 "revolution" led by Juan Bautista Alvarado, who proclaimed California "a free and sovereign State" from Mexico. The flag of the State, in fact, still reads “California Republic.”
The question for modern-day California rebels is: Which secession movement to pick? Marinelli’s Yes California Independence Campaign calls itself “the nonviolent campaign to establish the country of California using any and all legal and constitutional means to do so.” It advocates "peaceful secession from the United States.”
Then there’s the California National Party, which registered itself as an official Party for the Presidential election and, according to the State of California Elections Division, is one of two parties, along with the Independent California Party, attempting to register for November under the banner of Californian independence. They have in common a “belief that California as a whole would be better off as an independent nation.”
Another group, the California Freedom Initiative, has even composed a course of action for declaring sovereignty and what to do after that, complete with advice for a transition from a State to an economic and trade partner to the United States and a proposed timeline for a Californian Declaration of Independence, with preamble and all.
Possibly the least pronounceable of all the proposed U.S. exits, Hawexit might have the most legitimate history and most serious ongoing legal conversation. In the wake of Brexit. Professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, who was a consultant for the Nation of Hawaii’s Hawaiian Sovereignty Advisory Commission was asked: Would Britain’s vote breathe new life into the Hawaiian independence movement? “Certainly, any collapse or breakup of an imperial entity like the EU…will have an impact on the Hawaiian independence movement and give them some encouragement,” he said.
The Nation of Hawaii is not a State-funded group but is Hawaii’s oldest independence organization. Its leader, Dennis Pu‘uhonua "Bumpy" Kanahele, is “Head of State” and has been fighting for Hawaiian sovereignty for years, asserting that the State’s treaty with the United States is illegitimate. Bumpy sees his State as very different from the other American states that would secede, though—not only because of Hawaii’s unique history, the first settlers of Hawaii arrived as early as the fourth century, and the proud monarchy of the kingdom ended with Queen Lili'uokalani’s losing control to American businessmen and annexationists in what amounted to an unofficial coup, but also because the Nation of Hawaii already has its own land and unique culture. In 1993, Kanahele negotiated with the State a 55-year lease on the land of Pu`uhonua `o Waimanalo. Since 1994, native Hawaiians have been living on this territory and have organized their own system of governance.
Bumpy was asked if he thought that Brexit would have an effect on his quest for independence, he said, “To me, the most important part of that is the language that is being used by other countries, ‘national sovereignty,’” and he emphasized the fact that Scotland’s seeking independence from the United Kingdom was more similar to Hawaii’s situation.
It’s true that the Hawaii independence effort does stand apart from its counterparts in other states. Where other separatist movements tend to exist on the political fringes and flare up after Brexit-like events, winning independence back from the United States is a perennial issue in Hawaii, with a serious local constituency. The issue has even made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court several times. Many Hawaiians, like Bumpy, see the original U.S. treaty as illegitimate, and a multitude of social groups coexist and peacefully advocate for their nation’s independence: The Nation of Hawaii, Hawaiian Kingdom Government, Hawaiian Kingdom and The Kingdom of Hawaii are just a few. Independence permeates the culture there in a way it doesn’t elsewhere: Kauai’s public radio station even has two regular slots for sovereignty-themed radio programs, one talk and one music.
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker