Shortly after the election ended, some very angry people have created petitions at the White House to garner support for their states to secede from the United States. At first, I wasn’t even going to write anything on this because the idea is just so absurd and crazy, but some of these petitions, which have gained some media coverage, have gotten enough signatures to illicit a response from the White House.
I can’t believe I’m actually writing this post. Look, I can understand that people are upset that President Barack Obama was re-elected. They don’t see how it could have happened and they’re looking for ways to fight back; but this is exactly the wrong way to do it. Let’s take away the fact that this idea is just dumb for a few moments, and dive into the various reasons why it’s just not practical.
I realize that some of the Founding Fathers took a different view of this topic. After Thomas Jefferson won the presidential election in 1800, some northern states threatened to secede. Jefferson was indifferent. In an 1803 letter to John Breckenridge, Jefferson asked, “[I]f it should become the great interest of those nations to separate from this, if their happiness should depend on it so strongly as to induce them to go through that convulsion, why should the Atlantic States dread it?” The language here is important because our Founding Fathers looked at the states as “nations,” independent countries that joined together to form the United States.
There’s been a lot of talk about the rebirth of the Tenth Amendment, which was intended by the Founding Fathers to guard against overreach from the federal government, as many state legislatures have passed resolutions reasserting their “rights.” However, states receive billions in funding from the federal government for, among other things, transportation and healthcare. For example, my home state of Georgia passed a $39.4 billion dollar budget earlier this year, of which $11.2 billion came from Washington. That’s a pretty significant sum, one from which states aren’t likely to get go. No matter what you think, your legislature isn’t going to walk away from that. End of story.
Another aspect of this idea is that there is already legal precedent against secession. In Texas v. White (1868), the United States Supreme Cout heard and decided a case over whether or not bonds sold by the Lone Star State during the Civil War were valid. The court ruled that the Texas had entered into an “indissoluble relation” when it joined the United States in 1845 — thus shredding the idea of secession — and thus declared that bond sales during the war were invalid.
More recently, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia took a hypothetical question from a screenwriter about secession, to which he replied, “I cannot imagine that such a question could ever reach the Supreme Court,” adding, “If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede.”
Indeed, there is no explicit provision in the Constitution that provides individual states with a “right” to secede. There is, however, a provision in Article IV that explains how Congress can admit new states into the Union. If secession was indeed something that the framers saw as a legitimate option for the states, don’t you think they would’ve included it in the Constitution?
Finally, there is another aspect to this issue that is damaging to those who associate with those pushing the idea of secession. Let’s not forget, contrary to what historical revisionists say today, that the Civil War was largely fought over the issue of slavery. That is always going to be associated with discussion of secession.
Why does that matter today? The issue of demographics has been frequently tossed around by analysts since the election. They’ve noted that the rise in the Hispanic voting population and the fact that they overwhelmingly went for President Obama, who is, by the way, half black. It’s incredibly foolish to think that these points are never going to come up in media reports over this issue, which will make today’s secessionists look like racists and xenophobes. Tell me, how do you think this is going to play to the groups that Republicans need to win over before 2016?
There was a petition that surfaced on Monday that asks President Obama to strip the citizenship of anyone who signs a petition for their state to secede. While I’m against the idea of secession for various reasons, I believe that there is a fundamental individual liberty for free speech that exists beyond the First Amendment, which was created to protect that right. Those who are pushing secession are simply exercising this right. The way their expressing their frustration may be misguided.
But the fact that there are people who are openly asking for citizens to have their citizen stripped simply because they express an anti-government sentiment is just as concerning as those who are calling for secession.
Obama won re-election and he did it fairly. This isn’t a time to try to walk away, it’s a time to stand up and fight. Find a local group with which you can get involved. Do phone-banking. Go door-to-door during campaign season. But before you start advocating an crazy idea like secession, ask yourself what you did during the last election cycle that could have changed things.
I still can’t believe I had to write this.