Letter: The United Blue States of America
November 13, 2016
When Mitt Romney lost the last election, some folks in Texas and the South were calling for secession. Now at the dawn of the Trump era, California is considering the same idea with a so-called "Calexit" referendum to leave the union and become a sovereign country.
It's not that hard to understand. Red states and blue states differ on a number of fundamental social values, and the constant tug-of-war and gerrymandered winner-take-all election process doesn't seem to be getting us very far. Would it not be more productive to free both sides to organize their societies according to their value systems?
That said, an actual secession would be unbelievably difficult. Would there be a common currency — with or without a central bank? A 2006 Tax Foundation study surmised that every red state other than Georgia, Texas and Indiana receives more in federal benefits than they pay in federal taxes. If that's still true, the secessionist red states would face a very difficult economic transition. There would also be major questions about the structure of the military, foreign policy and many other issues.
But what if instead of a Calexit-style secession, blue states could establish a new co-operative system of social welfare? Blue state residents could pool resources to create a comprehensive social contract that more closely reflects their values. The system could include single-payer health care, family leave and child care, increased funding for education, humane immigration laws, a livable wage, a plan to fight climate change, common sense gun control and well-funded family planning and public health systems.
Unlike the sort of zero-sum secession called for by Texas or California, those blue states that opt into such a union would continue to pay federal taxes and in every way be bound by the societal obligations we as Americans share. Within the new framework though, we would establish a supplemental safety net for those states that share a value system that emphasizes social welfare and environmental protection. Like the EU, citizens of such a confederation could move freely between states without losing their benefits. The union would have tremendous leverage to initiate a whole host of benefits for its members and the safety net could not be undermined by the vagaries of the national political system.
To begin such a project, we would need to coordinate with those blue states that have ballot initiatives. California, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington would be a great start. Community leaders could establish a multi-state governing board to develop the program before going directly to the people for a vote.
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Sound like pie in the sky? Maybe. But when presidential politics start to make us fear for the health and safety of our communities — threatening our access to health care and gutting environmental protections — we need bold, new ideas. With red state voters determined to "blow up the system," like-minded communities need to actively explore new ways to protect and strengthen our social priorities.
We are stronger together. Blue states, unite!