It’s time to open up discourse about the future of the Cascadia movement

Oscar Zahner, Political Correspondent
Originally published November 21, 2016

Fletcher Anderson

Fletcher Anderson

In the days before November 8, many people dismissed the possibility of a Trump victory as impossible. Donald Trump was trailing in the polls. Donald Trump couldn’t crack Hillary Clinton’s firewall. But more importantly, a person like Donald Trump, a racist, xenophobic, sexist bully, could never be president. He simply didn’t represent American values.

But Donald Trump did win the election.

In the aftermath of that day, a palpable feeling of frustration and anger hung thick in the air. Protests dot the streets along the West Coast, and the phrase “not my president” is becoming an escalating roar. On twitter, furious liberals have responded to the Trump presidency by rallying behind the idea of an independent California.

The fury behind these protests is directed at the president-elect, yet it may be misplaced. It seems that our country’s moral compass is falling apart. But this decay didn’t start with the election of Trump, and it won’t end when he leaves office. This decay is systemic, and inspired the distrust for government that allowed Trump to come to power in the first place.

Americans loathe the political establishment, and rightfully so. Partisan politics have made our branches of government uncommunicative and their interests incompatible. Our nation has drowned in a swamp of gridlock. Meanwhile, the undemocratic forces that are the gerrymander and the influence of dark money have removed our political machine from the interests of the people. Americans watched as both parties’ establishments ignored their grievances and instead fought for party loyalty and for the interests of their donors. The American political apparatus is broken and unrepresentative.

In response, 2016 became the year of the populist. Donald Trump spoke to the fears a Republican constituency that felt neglected by a political establishment that had more focus on its party than on the well-being of its supporters. On the Democrat’s side, Bernie Sanders spoke to the hope that inspired the true conscience of the liberal constituency. Both candidates were anti-establishment. Both were rumored to be the force that would bring their party crashing down. In the end, both proved to be exactly what their party needed, much to the dismay of the democrats.

The most obvious distinction between the two candidates was that Trump was able to bypass the obstacles with which the Republican establishment tried to impede his rise to power. Bernie Sanders was not able to do the same when it came to the impediments placed by the Democratic establishment. Part of this may have been due to the DNC’s direct collusion with the Clinton camp. But a more sobering reason for the failure of Bernie Sanders and the success of Trump lies in what they spoke to in the American voter.

Our political system can hold back the populist who appeals to hope and a desire for progress. The populist becomes painted as a radical, and those frustrated enough by our political system to overlook this charge do not always feel the appeal of equity and optimism. But our political system cannot stop a demagogue who appeals to blind frustration and xenophobia and hatred. These are far more malleable and far more dangerous emotions that feed off of frustration and fear. They are the emotions that form the heart of every despotism.

Our political system is a check against the wishes of the people, but is powerless when the people are united by fear and hatred and influenced by illiberal sentiment.

Our country has decided what kind of country it wants to be. And that decision has left us trapped between a broken and unrepresentative establishment and an illiberal and demagogic populist movement. As a nation, we have nowhere to go but backwards.

At this dark hour in American history, it seems we have little recourse for hope.

Which is why I think it imperative that we bring a new idea to our political discourse. We need to realize the impending possibility of a movement that has been, up to this point, nebulous. It’s time that we acknowledge the failure of America to uphold its values. It’s time that we very seriously consider a referendum for Cascadian Independence.

We cannot be expected to be silent as our government begins a relentless assault on abortion rights and a war on immigrants. We cannot be silent as the new president threatens the institution of free speech with his obsession with broader libel laws. We cannot be silent as our president assails the free press and threatens to imprison his political opponents. We cannot be silent while a demagogue rises to power. More importantly, we cannot be silent under the tyranny of the majority as one political faction controls every branch of government, even the supposedly non-partisan Supreme Court. We cannot be silent even as it becomes plainly obvious that nothing will ever be done to address the systemic and undemocratic institutions of the gerrymander and the electoral college.

Perhaps most pressingly, we are running out of time to act on climate change, and all the progress we have made in that regard in the past twenty years will almost undoubtedly be reversed. This is a reversal we cannot afford.

We cannot be complicit.

Some may criticize the movement as a partisan response to an emotional election. But the election is only indicative as our failures as a nation, it is not the root cause. Americans have been disillusioned by our politics for years, and America has increasingly neglected its purpose and its values starting long before the chaos of the 2016 election. The movement is not about Trump. The failures of our governance extend far beyond the president-elect.

Some may demand our respect for the political process. But this respect is not manifested in a blind loyalty to our system itself, but rather a recognition of its purpose. We have a duty to recognize when the political process has failed this purpose, and we have a duty to act upon this failure. The worst of despots have arisen from the failures of purported democracies. After all, the father of fascism himself, Benito Mussolini, was elected to power. Moreover, there is far more to protest than the result of a single election. The state of American politics and governance itself has betrayed our people.

Some may criticize the calls for secession as unpatriotic. I was taught to see patriotism not as a blind commitment to the survival of a political entity, but to the ideals that make this country worth fighting for. The election of a demagogue, and the tyranny of a broken establishment, have been an insult to these ideals. We have a right to want a nation that delivers on the birthrights of a liberal democracy and a free society.

I see Cascadia as a chance to start over, to tear down the walls between the equally unproductive Republican and Democratic institutions. I see Cascadia as an opportunity to build our infrastructure on reliable and clean energy and finally take the fight against climate change in a positive and promising direction. I see Cascadia as a chance to revitalize trade and capitalize on the industry that make our region prosperous. I see Cascadia as a chance to finally act upon the issues that have plagued America for ages, but have been ignored and unsolved by our ineffective political machine; the inequality between the races, for example, or our quickly decaying infrastructure.

If the election of Donald Trump really is our nation’s Brexit, I see this as our opportunity to be our nation’s Scotland. It’s time we finally had a discussion about the viability of independence, about the possibility of a referendum.

It’s time that we make an effort towards building a nation that can genuinely serve the ideals it purports. One that isn’t bloated and divided and weighed down by the burden of corruption and partisanship. One that is, in every sense, free.