OP-EDS

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May 20, 2008

Most likely to secede

Years from now, supporters of Ron Paul's ill-fated run for the White House will have no shortage of stories to tell their freedom-loving grandchildren.

[img id="80638" align="alignleft"] Years from now, supporters of Ron Paul's ill-fated run for the White House will have no shortage of stories to tell their freedom-loving grandchildren. There was the time a few overzealous Kentuckians printed silver "liberty dollars" with the Texas congressman's face engraved on one side. (The FBI shut the operation down.) Or the time supporters raised $350,000 to rent a blimp under the mistaken assumption that voters would be impressed by a helium-filled airship. Or even the time they held a virtual march through World of Warcraft to raise awareness of the nation's constitutional crisis.

To these, the grandchildren will smile and listen politely, nodding as their elders reminisce about "moneybombs" and fourth-place primary finishes. But what they'll really want to hear about is the story of the place they call home: a little nook called Paulville.

In what is most certainly a first for presidential campaigns, Paulville's founders seek to bring together like-minded adventurists with the aim of establishing "gated communities containing 100-percent Ron Paul supporters and/or people who live by the ideals of freedom or liberty." Paulville is not so much a place as a lifestyle. Apart from an affinity for the congressman, residents must also share a fondness for so-called alternative building styles, such as straw bale, rammed earth, and papercrete (known to just about no one as "padobe").

Paulville, apart from sounding like a really cheesy horror film where everyone suffers from a debilitating aversion to central government, has the added benefit of being nearly inhospitable: The proposed site, located near the major metropolitan center of Dell City, TXs (population 413), is notable for its abundance of cacti and tumbleweeds and also for the near total absence of water. The promised land it is not; if Moses had looked down from Mount Nebo and seen this patch of West Texas, he would have led his people back to Egypt.

On the group's forum, supporters are encouraged to discuss future locations. Canada has been tossed around, as have remote areas of Alaska—all the better for "survivalism." But the idea behind Paulville is not to grow thick beards and learn which wild berries taste best with grub-worms (although that's probably how it will end up). It's a shared belief that our current system of government just doesn't work for everyone and that it's up to a few brave pioneers to forge a new way.

As anyone who has ever spoken with a Ron Paul supporter would agree, this is a fantastic idea. It also raises an important question: Which other unstable political activists would we most like to see move into the wild? Lyndon LaRouche crazies are an obvious choice, but I imagine that if they really wanted to live without plumbing or electricity under a tyrannical despot, they would have already moved to Belarus.

No, the answer is a surprising one: Vermont. For years now, secession has fermented among the dairy cows and cross-country skiers of the Green Mountain State. The "Second Vermont Republic," which claims John Kenneth Galbraith and former Secretary of State George F. Kennan among its supporters, has a flag, a mission statement, and (of course) T-shirts promoting the network's goal of returning the state to the independent status that it had following the American Revolution. It has also inspired the creation of the Middlebury Institute, a think tank dedicated to the study of "separatism, secession, and self-determination."

Unlike the barren wasteland that passes for Paulville, Vermont has the ingredients to make it work. With a near-monopoly on the nation's maple syrup production, arguably this continent's most innovative ice cream magnates (Ben & Jerry's), and the greatest selection of cheddar cheese this side of Wisconsin, the Vermonsters have an eclectic supply of (mostly) natural resources with which they can thrive.

As an added benefit, Vermont's secession could also address another long-fermenting domestic issue: D.C. statehood. The only real obstacle toward representation for the District is the polarizing prospect of two more Democratic senators for the foreseeable future. Losing Vermont, and with it the true-blue Patrick Leahy and socialist Bernie Sanders, would open a spot for our nation's capital without disturbing either side of the aisle.

Secession has gotten bad rap over the years, but America may just be ready for a change. Whoever said a house divided cannot stand never heard of padobe.