Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Manifest Destiny Redux

There's a shocking op-ed piece in today's edition of the Toronto Star. Written by Stéphan Kelly, it suggests what until recently was unthinkable: Growing discontent with the US South may prompt the northern states to secede from the Union and join ... Canada. Seriously.

This has no doubt been a dream for some Canadians who find a lot of affinity with their immediate border neighbours in terms of culture and religious values but think the South is in a world and class of its own and increasingly becoming a theocratic subempire. It's not like a merger is anything new, although it was the Americans who first expressed their dream of Manifest Destiny even before the term was coined. Under the first US Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, most US states had to apply for admission to the country -- but a specific exception was made for Canada, which was given an open invitation to join any time it wanted to. An argument can be made that while the present Constitution superceded most of the Articles, the specific clause in question (Article 11) is still in effect.

Kelly's thesis is basically the following, that because the North was at the start of America a collection of free states and the South slave, which later resulted in the Civil War, the country as a whole has never been able to shake off its demons. He cites the following examples:
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt: Seen as a hero by those in the North and the West but viewed as no better than Stalin by most Southerners.
  • Gun control: Heavily favoured by the North, opposed bitterly in the South.
  • Criminal law: Tough on the causes of crime in the North, tough on crime (period) in the South.
  • Military intervention: Viewed with skepticism in the North, a moral imperative in the views of the South.
  • Religion: Separation of church and state in the North, no such thing in the South.

And on it goes. Kelly goes on to write that while many if not most Southerners still hate Canadians, the views of Northerners towards Canada actually softened after the American Revolution -- in part because of blood ties, but also because of trade. The Canadian union of 1867 actually upset these links because of John A. Macdonald's protectionist policies ... something that wasn't "corrected" until the AutoPact of the 1960s and later full free trade with the United States.

Kelly says that realistically for a union of Canada and the North (which he calls "fusion" rather than annexation) to occur, relations between North and South would have to worsen and the United States would lack a leader with the kind of national vision that Lincoln or FDR had. Further, separatism would have to be defeated in Québec once and for all; revisiting the 1982 Canadian Constitutional amendment as having been a failure (maybe the amending formula, but it'd be hard to do away with the mostly popular Charter of Rights); an energy crisis feeds into the North's desire to be energy independent (unlike most of the South, which probably doesn't care that oil is purchased from countries that sponsor terrorism or turn a blind eye to it); and people in Central Canada and the North say the migration of people to the US West Coast for better jobs has to stop.

My read on all of this?

It's a harebrained idea as much as Manifest Destiny has always been. But think about how the map of the US and Canada might wind up looking if fusionism takes off: Alberta and most of BC (except the Lower Mainland and most of the Gulf Islands and Victoria) would secede from Canada and join the United States. Meanwhile, the US West Coast, Hawaii, as well as the Blue States (and Ohio is back in the blue column after the 2006 midterms) would want to join the new "Northern North America" -- or maybe just keep the name Canada. There could also be enclaves within the South: It's not hard to imagine Dallas, Atlanta and Jacksonville among other Southern cities seceding from the United States and joining Canada if their economic interests dictated it.

I think a lot depends on the 2008 US election, and not just because America is at the crossroads. Once one domino drops it's impossible to stop the chain reaction unless there's an obstruction. World security depends largely on a peaceful North Atlantic, and that includes a peaceful Canada and a peaceful United States, two countries united within themselves but also associated with trade.

Fun theory that Kelly outlines, but it's fine as far as it goes. America needs to sort out its own problems first and they need to find their own common purpose without the "carrot" that a fusion of some states with Canada may offer.


Anonymous said...

Hi TBS – Hope you had a great Christmas! I continue to enjoy reading your blog.

I can’t help but comment on the op-ed piece you’ve mentioned here. I’m quite shocked to read this theory of the Northern states succeeding to Canada.

As a person living in the South, it’s very disappointing to read many of the stereotypical statements Kelly makes about Southern people.

Many of the examples he cites shows just how uninformed he is about the opinions of the people in the South.

I’m never met anyone who hates Franklin D. Roosevelt. I think most would agree that FDR’s new deal programs were needed during the Great Depression.

Gun control is certainly not “heavily favored” in the North. Yes, it’s bitterly opposed in the South – but it certainly enjoys support in the North.

I don’t see why it would be negative that the South is tough on crime (period). Seems to make sense.

There is certainly not as wide a separation on the issue of military intervention between the North and the South as he makes out. I think whether a person views it with “skepticism” or as a “moral imperative” depends on their own personal, political views.

It’s ridiculous to suggest that the South, “probably doesn't care that oil is purchased from countries that sponsor terrorism or turn a blind eye to it.” In fact, people in the South care very much about protecting the country from terrorism and those who sponsor it.

If there was every a significant divide between the North and South, the South would certainly be the first to succeed. There’s no doubt in my mind that Dallas and Atlanta would side with the South. Atlanta is the capital of the south – and Dallas is in the heart of Texas.

BlastFurnace said...

Thanks for visiting Marv. I appreciate the comments ... as usual, I'm just ranting here as I did at my old place. The point here was if the theory is taken to the extreme, some crazy things could happen.

A checkerboard country with enclaves and exclaves while far-fetched as far as America is concerned is the norm for many parts of Europe -- the two most famous examples being Baarle on the Belgium-Netherlands border; and Kalinigrad which is quite a distance away from the rest of Mother Russia. During the last round of talk about the secession of Québec, many boroughs of Montréal as well as the Cree of the north of the province vowed to stay within Canada. Quite a nightmare that would have been.

Would US cities vote to separate from America and join Canada? I was just suggesting a worst case scenario. Given how many Canadians live in Los Angeles, though ... you never know.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reply TBS. Keep posting, I always look forward to finding out your opinion on the latest news. Good luck with your new job!