One could argue that high tech, especially robotics and biotech are pioneering areas with a great deal of growth since the 1990s and good prospects for the US economy. While many of those operations are at home they are hardly exempt from globalization. That US companies are keeping at least $2.5 trillion overseas and refusing to repatriate it under the current tax rate speaks volumes of their lack of commitment to economic nationalism. This is one reason that high tech corporations backed globalization advocated by Clinton.
Is Secession a Possibility? In case of Secession, what would be its impact on the dollar and trade?
By 2016, the majority of Americans were angry and dissatisfied with their government led by a neoliberal Cold War Democrat President Obama whose actions did not match his rhetoric when it came to social justice and economic opportunity for all. Two weeks before the presidential election of 2016, a survey indicated that the nation was sharply divided on nearly everything from race relations to health care. The majority of people, 20% more than in 2012, believed the country was headed in the wrong direction and blamed the establishment Democrats and Republicans.
Polarization was evident when considering evangelical Protestants who associated America’s glory with the Eisenhower administration, an era when institutionalized racism was legal and witch hunts against dissidents entailed absolute conformity in a country that called itself a democracy and castigated totalitarian Russia. Many populist conservatives that voted Trump are not bothered if their president violates the constitution and goes above the law to crush all enemies foreign and domestic, from ISIS in Iraq to illegal aliens and Black Lives Matter in the inner cities. In short, if authoritarianism is what it takes for social integration, then so be it, as far as the populist right wing is concerned. That populist conservatives lump together jihadists, illegal aliens, and minority activists speaks volumes of deep-seated cultural, political and institutional racism.
Considering the US progressive tradition was limited to the trade union movement from the late 19trh century until the Great Depression but thoroughly co-opted, and considering the women’s movement along with all other identity politics issues were also co-opted by the Democrat Party, there is no historical tradition of an effective progressive grassroots movement that takes under its umbrella all socially excluded and differentiated groups. Given this reality people turn to the right when a populist extreme right wing demagogue like Trump comes along and promises to restore the American Dream, although in practice will deliver more wealth concentration that will lead to even lower social integration levels than what he inherited.
Is Secession a Good Idea? Would liberal California or conservative Texas be better off as breakaway Republics?
Considering the polarizing societal conditions, one could imagine how perpetual division, even secession may enter the public discourse. Secession is a deep-seated fear or wish on the part of some Americans who see that country geographically, ideologically, politically, racially, ethnically and culturally divided. It is true that southern states do not reflect the values or lifestyles of the coastal states. It is equally true that the smaller less populated southern states enjoy as many votes in the senate as the larger coastal states, thus determining the national agenda for the majority of the population. Does such a system reflect the will of the people, the social contract, or is it simply a reflection of states’ rights mentality that had relevance during the pre-Civil War slave era?
Under an imaginary scenario of secession, the cultural elites and some people on either side of the cultural divide would be happy if they were not bound by the federal government pursuing an ideological and political agenda with which they disagree sharply. Clearly, there is an ideological, political and cultural chasm between Texas and California, at so many levels, despite similarities especially in the larger cities of both states. It is also the case that while in many southern and rural areas there is convergence of religious dogma and conservative political ideology.
States have a great deal in common and would not give up the safety and security of the federal umbrella which makes possible US global reach partly because it has military bases around the world, military alliances, and the strong dollar as a reserve currency that is overvalued to the benefit of those holding it. Unless their privileges are taken from them by force as has been the case in revolutions, financial elites always manage to protect, preserve and expand their interests by backing the political status quo even if they have to reform it with a more progressive agenda, or support authoritarian policies, whichever side manages to forge a better popular consensus.
The reality of the well-integrated economy with global ties takes precedent over all other issues. California and Texas have economies largely in the primary sector of production but also in banking and high tech. This means that they need markets beyond their state borders and beyond US borders. Not just the costs of running an independent nation-state with sovereign currency, trade and investment policy that is in line with international organizations such as the WTO, World Bank, IMF, but also the reality of a mobile work force would complicate matters and make the breakaway states less competitive.
In the end, the political, ideological and cultural benefits would be so minor to the breakaway states, and economic costs so high that they would rejoin the union even if they were given the freedom to form their own nation. There is strength in unity and weakness in division. However, human beings are indeed irrational and material interests are not their only motivating factor in political choices. Indoctrinated by “Manifest Destiny” ideology and the American Dream of achieving greatness again even by association with the nation-state, people will sacrifice self-interest as they perceive it so they may satisfy their illusions such as identity with the militarily strong nation.
One possible scenario for the future of the US amid rapidly changing demographics is that it may resemble some aspects of post-Mandela South Africa. South African blacks have entered the political arena and government bureaucracy, they enjoy political rights and in theory equal protection under the law, but the economy and the entire institutional structure is designed to serve the white capitalist minority. As much as the US criticizes Russia for its authoritarianism and crony capitalism, is it that far off and is it not moving in that direction rather than the direction of the Scandinavian countries?
As the trend of massive wealth concentration under a corporate welfare state continues to erode the middle class and working class, the struggle against the tide of domestic and global history will keep America at war with itself and tilt it even more toward the road of authoritarianism and militarism after the next inevitable deep recession. Because popular expression of discontent lacks class solidarity owing to cultural divisions and identity politics in America, political leadership will not be under the umbrella of a leftist or even a center-left movement. America’s future is an even more authoritarian regime with roots at the local and state levels financed by wealthy individuals like the Koch brothers among other likeminded billionaires, finding expression at the federal level with populist demagogues like Trump.