Intrastate secession is the true secession fever: not the perennial postelection calls of losing parties to secede from a nation controlled by the opposition, but a growing movement for secession from states, with the rural parts of states (sometimes geographically very large parts of states) wanting to separate from the population-dense urban areas that essentially control state decisionmaking. Feeling ignored, put-upon, and mistreated, secessionists want to take their fate into their own hands. These movements are common, but not likely to succeed on their own, as intrastate secession is, though not entirely unknown (see, e.g., West Virginia), very difficult to achieve.
But these movements do indicate a widespread sense of dissatisfaction among (mostly rural) populations who feel that they are governed by people in distant urban centers who know little, and care less, about their way of life. Such sentiments, which in a way resemble those regarding Britain in the lead-up to the American Revolution, have probably worsened since the Supreme Court’s line of cases beginning with Baker v. Carr weakened rural areas’ political position in favor of urban areas. This problem was, to a degree, foreseen by contemporary critics of those decisions.
In this short Essay, I will describe the problem, and suggest some ways in which—without overturning existing Supreme Court precedent or engaging in the sort of constitutional brinksmanship described above—Congress might remedy this dissatisfaction. Though there is no particular reason why the number of states in the United States should remain fixed at fifty, I will suggest that there are, in fact, remedies short of secession. The result of addressing these concerns, I hope, will be a less-polarized and angry national politics, and perhaps a smaller chance of serious turmoil.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds,
Splitsylvania: State Secession and What to Do About It,
Notre Dame L. Rev. Online
Available at: https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/ndlr_online/vol94/iss2/4