Could America break apart? It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds, says Max Hastings in Bloomberg. Writers on the left and the right have recently argued in favour of the idea because of the country’s huge “political fissures”. In a recent poll, 52% of Donald Trump voters “somewhat” favoured Republican states seceding, and 41% of those who voted for Joe Biden think the same about Democratic states. Our short memories forget how much “the borders of many nations have surged and ebbed”: India was partitioned in 1947, and in 1971 East Pakistan declared independence, becoming Bangladesh. Norway was part of Denmark for centuries, then part of Sweden for 90 years, then independent.
America’s borders are equally fluid: the US has “relentlessly expanded” its territory over its 250-year history. Alaska and Hawaii only joined the union in 1959. “Why couldn’t this expansion be partially reversed?” California, the world’s fifth largest economy, and Texas, the ninth largest, are the most obvious candidates for secession. But this would have the same effect as Brexit, hijacking politics for a generation and delighting Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin. As historian Margaret MacMillan once said, “sustained periods of peace and prosperity” can tempt societies into indulging their stupidest political passions.
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