“Why, we could lick them in a month!” boasts Stuart Tarleton soon after the Confederates fire on Fort Sumter in Margaret Mitchell’s Gon e with the Wind. “Gentlemen always fight better than rabble. A month—why, one battle.” At that point, young Mr. Tarleton is interrupted by Rhett Butler, a rather darker character in Mitchell’s novel than the swashbuckling playboy created by Clark Gable on the screen. Butler points out that the Southerners do not possess what modern strategists would call the industrial and logistical infrastructure with which a modern war roust be fought—the cannon factories, iron foundries, railroads, and woolen and cotton mills that the North has in abundance. “But, of course, he says, “you gentlemen have thought of these things.”
Of course they hadn’t thought of those things. What they had thought about were the glories of the coming conflict and the rights they were going to vindicate, and within a few years and a few more battles than Stuart Tarleton had anticipated, he and his twin brother were dead, along with most of the others who had listened to them, the Confederacy itself, and the society on which it rested. As for Rhett Butler, he not only survived but flourished, confident in his philosophy that there are two times when a man can easily make a fortune for himself— once when a civilization rises, an once when a civilization falls.
Today, 130 years after the disasters to which the chatter of valiant fools like Stuart Tarleton led, secessionism purports to rise from the ashes, this time embodied mainly in the league of the South, of which most of the editors of this magazine except me are members. Its leaders foreswear the use of violence, so we need not anticipate that the results will be similar—at least not until a good many more Southerners sign up than seem to have done so in the four years of the League’s existence and until the federal government pays more attention to them than it has done to date. Nevertheless, if the physical extermination of 600,000 white men over the burning issue of whether four million black men are to be slaves or serfs is not on the agenda this time, secessionism promises to be no less a disaster for those of the American right than it was for the pretty belles and beaux of Mitchell’s novel. It is unfortunate that many of those gentlemen most dedicated to secession seem not to have thought of the weaknesses of their position any more than Stuart Tarleton and the other guests at the Wilkes barbecue had.
Two main forces appear to drive time resurrection of Southern secessionism. In the first place, the American right as a serious political movement has collapsed, leaving its most dedicated adherents with no obvious vehicle for pursuing its goals of dismantling the federal leviathan and ending the cultural and demographic inundation of the South and the rest of the nation. Second, a concerted onslaught against Southern and Confederate symbols and traditions, most clearly represented in the attacks on public display of the Confederate Battle Flag, rightly excites the wrath of Southerners who remain loyal to the memory of the Confederacy and the culture that the flag and the war have come to represent. Correctly lacking any confidence in the Republican Party or the neoconservative-dominated “conservative movement,” Southerners of the right have decided to chuck it all and set off on their own, with the goal of invoking the traditions and identity of their own land and culture as the basis for resisting federal tyranny and their own racial and cultural destruction.
Yet neither of these two forces provides an adequate justification for secession, and neither suggests any realistic prospect of success. There are, to put it simply, two strong reasons why secession, for the South or any other part of the nation, is not a good idea: it is not practical; and even if it were practical, it would not be desirable.
Leaders of Southern secessionism often point to sister movements abroad— to secessionist movements in Northern Italy, Quebec, Scotland, the Balkans, and other places—as well as to perennial discussions and controversies about a kind of secession in various states, cities, and regions in this country. But the foreign movements and those in the United States are irrelevant to what Southerners actually propose. Abroad, where secessionism has gathered significant support, it has done so because those pushing it can claim to be the heirs of real and ancient nations or at least of subnational regions that exhibit far more distinctiveness than the American South, today or at any time in its history, can claim. Scotland, Quebec, the Balkan peoples, and even Northern Italy all call boast of distinctive linguistic, religious, ethnic, and historical heritages, far more distinctive than those of the South, and some can point to some period in their past when they actually constituted autonomous states. Indeed, compared to some of these nations or regions, the American South under close scrutiny begins to vanish as a cultural unity. There is at least as much difference between Tidewater Virginia and East ‘Tennessee or between northern and southern Louisiana as there is between Scotland and England or Northern and Southern Italy today.
Within the United States, the periodic demands for breaking Staten Island off from New York City or East Kansas from West Kansas or Southern California from Northern California are not secessionist movements in the same sense as what the Southerners advocate. None of these other movements contemplates leaving the national political unity of the United States. It makes sense that over time some borders and jurisdictions will become outmoded, and to redraw the map every now and then to suit contemporary interests and needs is unobjectionable. But it is not secession in the sense that Southerners and most dictionaries use the term, and to cite such movements (none of which has so far been successful) as examples of the rising dissatisfaction with the unified nation-state is fallacious.
Nor do contemporary Southern secessionists make any compelling case for the separation of their own region from the larger national unity. Historically, the Southern people have had an arguable case for separation, and in 1860, with the prospect of their slave-powered economy being gradually gutted by Northern dominance, their case was more arguable than ever, though even then there was less than a universal consensus in the South for separation. Today, that case simply does not apply. The modern South has probably profited from federal largesse more than most other regions, and the argument for states’ rights, which Southerners invoked from Jefferson to George Wallace, is silenced by the demands of Southern politicians for more farm subsidies, more defense contracts, more military bases, more federal highways, and – if we include blacks as Southerners, which the League readily does – more “civil rights,” more affirmative action, more federal marshals to enforce them, and more welfare.
To find out how practical secessionism is in the South today, visit any large Southern city—Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, Richmond, Dallas, Fort Worth, let alone New Orleans and Miami—and ask yourself if the residents (even those who are still recognizably American) are ready for another Pickett’s Charge. It’s all conservative Southerners can do to keep the Battle Flag flying and Confederate monuments from being obliterated, and the most vociferous enemies of the flag and the monuments are not the “Yankees” of yore or even the federal government but Southerners themselves, either the manipulated blacks of the NAACP or white Southerners of Confederate antecedents like South Carolina’s Republican Governor David Beasley. The South today and the Southerners who inhabit it are simply too well connected to Washington and the rest of the nation to contemplate any serious movement for the national independence of their region.
But even if secession were possible, it would be a bad idea. Today, the main political line of division in the United States is not between the regions of North and South (insofar as such regions can still be said to exist) but between elite and nonelite. As I have tried to make plain in columns in this magazine and many other places for the last 15 years, the elite, based in Washington, New York, and a few large metropolises, allies with the underclass against Middle Americans, who pay the taxes, do the work, fight the wars, suffer the crime, and endure their own political and cultiara1 dispossession at the hands of the elite and its underclass vanguard. Today, the greatest immediate danger to Middle America and the European-American civilization to which it is heir lies in the importation of a new underclass from the Third World through mass immigration. The danger is in part economic, in part political, and in part cultural, but it is also in part racial, pure and simple. The leaders of the alien underclass, as well as those of the older black underclass, invoke race in explicit terms, and they leave no doubt that their main enemy is the white man and his institutions and patterns of belief.
The only prospect of resisting the domination of the ruling class and its antiwhite and anti-Western allies in the underclass is through Middle American solidarity, a solidarity that must transcend the differentiations of region, class, religion, party, and ideology. White Southerners are a vital part of the Middle American core, as are their Northern counterparts, and neither is the enemy of the other. Both regional sections of Middle America face the same threats, experience much the same problems, and ought to be joined in the same political-cultural movement to meet the threat together.
If, however, Southerners were to secede, they would be engulfed by the same forces that threaten the nation as a whole. By the year 2020, the Census Bureau reports, the only parts of the South that will have more than a 75 percent white population will be a thin strip of western Virginia, most of Tennessee, and northern Arkansas; the rest of the region, especially Texas and the Deep South, will be dominated by populations more than 50 percent nonwhite, in some places far more. If 80 percent of the white population of South Carolina were to support secession in a referendum, that would amount to Only 55 percent of the state’s total population. I mention this racial dimension of the secession controversy not because of the obvious conflicts that will arise in its wake but to suggest that the majority populations of the South in the near future will either be blacks, who have only hostile memories of what secession and the historic South meant to them and their ancestors, or Hispanics, who will sympathize with secession only if it means union with Mexico. It is unlikely that either the black or the Hispanic populations will evince much sympathy for Jefferson Davis and his legacy.
But the racial composition of the future South is significant also because the racial consciousness and solidarity non-whites will exhibit is already plain, in the frenetic, hate-driven language of their leaders and organizational vehicles, in their political behavior, and in the whole fabric of their subculture. It is a consciousness that readily identifies whites as an enemy and their institutions and values as alien and oppressive.
The only prospect of white Middle American resistance to this racial and political engulfment is our own solidarity; instead of snorting at white Northerners as “Yankees” who lack good table manners and the rudiments of culture, white Southerners should be standing firm with them in opposition to more immigration and more domination by the federal leviathan that serves as the political instrument of the overclass-underclass alliance. The key to resisting that domination does not lie in the dormant right of secession brut in the real federalism to which both Southerners and Northerners subscribed at the time the Constitution was ratified. It may be argued that the 10th Amendment is itself dormant, but it remains more alive than secessionism. The Supreme Court has cited the 10th Amendment in striking down a federal gun control law in the Lopez case in 1994 and the Brady law last year, and even poor old Bob Dole used to brag about carrying a copy of the amendment around in his vest pocket. Of course Mr. Dole didn’t understand or care what the amendment meant, but the fact that even he would invoke it means that it remains a living part of our Constitution. With its revival as a serious political tool, most of the dangerous and stupid overgrowth of the federal leviathan would disappear, and its disappearance would be welcomed not only by Southerners but by most Middle Americans of other regions who suffer from it.
I do not believe that secessionism will prosper as a serious political movement, but I do worry that it will prosper to the point of becoming a serious political distraction—a distraction from the imperative that Middle Americans now face of constructing their own autonomous political movement that can take back their nation rather than assisting the new underclass and the globalist ruling class in breaking it up. The time left for us to do so is shorter than it has ever before in our history, and until we outgrow the infantile disorder that secessionism offers, the construction cannot begin. If the gentlemen who talk of secession have not yet thought of these things, I invite them to do so soon.