By Clare Foran
Secessionists across the United States are taking heart. The United Kingdom’s historic vote to leave the European Union last month has sparked interest in the far-fetched idea that U.S. states might win independence from Washington, D.C. Separatist groups are especially optimistic that Americans will be open to the idea of secession amid a presidential election that has witnessed a groundswell of populist discontent.
“Momentum is on our side,” Daniel Miller, the president of the Texas Nationalist Movement, an organization that describes its mission as the political, cultural, and economic independence of Texas, said in an interview. “The Brexit vote has shown not only that the people of Texas should become an independent nation, but that it is 100 percent possible.” Following the U.K. referendum, the group put out a call for Texas Governor Greg Abbott to support a “Texit vote.”
The improbable dream of secession is alive and well across the country and across the political spectrum. In the wake of the Brexit referendum, calls for secession everywhere from Alaska to New Hampshire have cropped up on social media. On top of that, U.S. secessionists report a flood of inquiries from people interested in supporting a separatist cause.
Louis Marinelli, the president of Yes California Independence Campaign, says his group, which wants to establish an independent Republic of California, saw a three-fold increase in supporters and volunteers since the Brexit referendum. Marinelli, who founded the group after he got fed up with Congress’s failure to pass immigration reform, doesn’t love the fact that people always seem to bring up the Civil War when he starts advocating secession. He believes the U.K. referendum makes for a promising counter-example. “It will be a good thing for the cause of self-determination in America to be able to point to a peaceful and legal secession,” Marinelli said.
There are limits to any comparison between the U.S. and the U.K. Still, the decision U.K. voters made to split from the E.U. is unprecedented, and certainly stands as a challenge to the political status quo. That alone is enough to encourage U.S. secessionists, however unlikely their aspirations. American secessionists cheered the prospect that Scotland might break away from the U.K. when it held an independence referendum in 2014, but that didn’t succeed—Brexit did.