On January 6, an armed mob sought to overturn an election and install a president who had lost the popular vote. But this was just a violent version of the pervasive constitutional
embedment of minority rule in our country. The Confederate flags waved during the Capitol Hill riot followed planning for the insurrection in a Facebook group called Red-State Secession, amid a wave of demands for secession by red-state leaders and conservative commentators.
It is blue states, however, that have the real case for secession, because American politics systematically tilts money and power to smaller and more conservative states, undermining the interests of the majority of the population.
Twice in the past 20 years, a GOP candidate who lost the popular vote took the presidency—and 2020 came uncomfortably close to making it the third time. A minority of the population controlled the Senate for the past six years, during which, in combination with a minority-elected president, it packed the Supreme Court with a super-majority of Republican justices. Our current constitutional arrangements are not just undemocratic; they starve blue states financially, deny human rights to their residents, and repeatedly undermine local policy innovation.
Given the undemocratic power of the Senate to entrench its own minority rule, the threat of secession is the only viable route to restoring democracy and equal justice, not just for blue-state residents but for Americans in all 50 states who are hurt by our undemocratic political
Covid-19 has transformed an ongoing political irritant into a murderous political indifference that we can no longer ignore. Last year, these dysfunctions in our political system became fatal, with more than 400,000 Americans dead by January and the body count rising rapidly.
On April 3, Donald Trump dismissed New York’s requests for ventilators, saying, “We have other states to take care of”—something he never would have said about a state that mattered for his reelection. The venal absurdity of our institutions was reflected in the fact that while New York was devastated early on, initial congressional bills disproportionately sent money to hospitals not in New York or other hard-hit areas but to sparsely populated red states like Nebraska and Montana. And this all happened as wildfires raged up and down the West Coast without significant federal help because, according to a former top Trump aide, “California didn’t support him.”
That disparity in Covid relief reflects the broader reality that many blue states send far more in taxes to the federal government than they receive back in public services or other government funding. The Rockefeller Institute of Government found that over a period of five years, New York taxpayers sent $142.6 billion more to the federal government than they received back in federal spending. New Jersey received a similar 91 cents in federal spending for every tax dollar paid, Connecticut 89 cents, Massachusetts 90 cents, and California 99 cents. Compare that with Mississippi, which receives $2.09 in spending for every tax dollar it sends to Washington, D.C.; Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky, which gets $2.89; and Senator Lindsey Graham’s South Carolina, which receives $1.71.