Thanks to a confluence of three events, the S-word -- secession -- is once again in the air. In Washington, new questions are emerging about whether the United States can function as a unified nation after a partial government shutdown was engineered by a largely regional party -- one whose home territory looks eerily similar to the Confederacy. Adding to the questions about the viability of the post-Civil War union is the fact that the shutdown has been orchestrated by a Texas legislator whose state party stalwarts -- including its governor -- seem to support secession, to the point of taking concrete legislative steps to prepare for independence. On top of all that, in states across the country, incipient secession movements have sprung up only a few months after secession petitions flooded the White House website.
In his seminal book "Better Off Without 'Em," Chuck Thompson marshals data to argue that America would benefit by letting the Republican Party and its strongholds formally secede from the country. Whether or not you end up agreeing with Thompson, the argument he forwards is compelling on the policy merits. It also raises an important but less-explored political question: Why would today's conservatives want to formally secede from a nation that gives them the privilege of governing the whole country, even though they remain in the electoral minority and even though their policy agenda is opposed by a majority of the country?