14 November 2012

Who Wants Secession?

Red vs. Blue 2012
Professor Brooks Simpson recently pointed out all the recent calls for secession. Kevin Levin also chimed in.  So did other CW bloggers. Of course, all those now calling for secession are, ostensibly, on the right and upset over Obama's victory. I suppose Kevin, Professor Simpson, and the others missed the reaction when Bush won:

"The modern secessionist movement however has been a mostly left-wing phenomenon."

I don't seem to recall the same type of mocking posts when it was the left calling for secession. Ah yes, apolitical objectivity from the pros.

Kevin Levin thinks this is all "cute." Recent polling data suggests he might want to take a closer look:

According to a Zogby poll conducted in July [2008], more than 20% of U.S. adults -- one in five, about the same number of American Colonists who supported revolt against England in 1775 -- agreed that "any state or region has the right to peaceably secede from the United States and become an independent republic.

(See the related LA Times Op-ed piece here.)

Here are some additional findings from the poll itself:

The level of support for the right of secession was consistent in every region in the country, though the percentage was slightly higher in the South (26%) and the East (24%). The figures were also consistent for every age group, but backing was strongest among younger adults, as 40% among those age 18 to 24 and 24% among those age 25 to 34 agreed states and regions have secession rights.

And . . .

Broken down by race, the highest percentage agreeing with the right to secede was among Hispanics (43%) and African-Americans (40%).

Hmmm . . . according to this poll, the young, Hispanics, and African-Americans figure more prominently in secession sentiments. The left now claims these are all their constituencies. Does this mean Democrats support secession more so than Republicans?

It would appear so. As a matter of fact, the polling confirms:

Politically, liberal thinkers were much more likely to favor the right to secession for states and regions . . .
So, the recent "uptick in rhetoric secession" is not really all that recent. We heard the same rhetoric from the left in 2000 (twelve years ago) and 2004 (eight years ago). For example:

These sentiments were so pronounced that they migrated into the mainstream. Speaking on ‘The McLaughlin Group’ the weekend after George W. Bush’s victory, panelist Lawrence O’Donnell, a former Democratic Senate staffer, noted that blue states subsidize the red ones with their tax dollars, and said, ‘The big problem the country now has, which is going to produce a serious discussion of secession over the next 20 years, is that the segment of the country that pays for the federal government is now being governed by the people who don’t pay for the federal government.’ A shocked Tony Blankley asked him, ‘Are you calling for civil war?’ To which O’Donnell replied, ‘You can secede without firing a shot.” (This quote is from Salon Magazine, 16 November 2004.)

Also, Bob Beckel, who was at the time, a Senior political analyst for Fox News and who has also worked as a Democratic Party strategist and consultant, made the following comments after the 2004 election:

"I think now that slavery is taken care of, I’m for letting the South form its own nation. Really, I think they ought to have their own confederacy,’"Mr. Beckel said on the "Fox and Friends” program.” (This quote is from the Washington Times, 9 November 2004)

And then there was the "Let's Ditch Dixie" piece that appeared in Slate Magazine after the 2000 election. That piece included these comments:

The United States doesn't have to refight the Civil War to set matters right. Rather, North and South should simply follow the example of the Czech Republic and Slovakia: Shake hands, says it's been real, and go their separate ways. And if the South isn't inclined to leave anytime soon, then we should show them the door by seceding unilaterally.

And . . .

Economically and socially, secession will be painless for the North. The South is a gangrenous limb that should have been lopped off decades ago. (How nice. Shows what many elites really think about Southerners, doesn't it?)

The author of the Slate piece was Mark Strauss, not someone who could be easily dismissed as some left-wing, hack-blogger. (Left-wing, yes. Hack, no.) He's a journalist and senior editor at Smithsonian Magazine and has written for a number of other left-leaning publications including The Washington Post and The New Republic.

And regarding whether or not secessionist rhetoric is patriotic or not, perhaps one should ask the White House:

Freehawaii.org notes that, "In 1993 the 103rd Congress unanimously signed into Public Law the Apology Bill. America publicly admitted to illegally overthrowing its ally and trading partner the Sovereign Kingdom of Hawaii and falsely imprisoning the beloved Queen Liliuokalani. Since then, America, has done everything it can to avoid the consequences of this Bill. The inevitable result will be the restoration of a sovereign Hawaii."

The official 2008 (Don't know about 2012) Democratic platform (which President Obama supported) reads:

"We support the efforts for self-determination and sovereignty of native Hawaiians, consistent with principles enumerated in the Apology Resolution and the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act."

"Self-determination?" Sounds like secession to me. So, Levin's man supports this. I guess it's ok if his side supports secession.
I suppose Levin, Simpson, et al failed to do the proper research on this topic before they posted their recent comments. I'm glad I could help them all out.

But in all seriousness, we should not be so fast to take these flirtations with secession (whether they come from the right or the left) so lightly. Take a look at recent world history - the Mideast, Europe, the old Soviet Union, etc, etc. Nations and empires have, throughout history, gone through tumultuous events which often lead to division and new orders - even new nations. The country is now more divided culturally and ideologically than any of us can recall. I refer to this division as Mayberry vs. South Park. Though both of these cultural icons are fictional, they do reflect a certain mindset and cultural outlook. There are now well-defined opposing visions of how America should function going forward in terms of culture and governance. Tongue-in-cheek, maybe it's just  me, but I'd rather live in Mayberry than South Park.

Though I'm certainly not advocating anything in regards to secession, we are navigating unchartered territory culturally, economically, and geo-politically. We would be both foolish and arrogant to think the United States is not subject to similar shakeups as we saw in the old Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and are now seeing in the Middle East. 

And despite what some commenters are saying on blogs - secession and revolution would be, particularly in our day, fundamentally the same. None other than Robert E. Lee recognized that in 1860:

As an American citizen, I take great pride in my country, her prosperity and her institutions, and would defend any State if her rights were invaded. But I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than the dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution.

Hopefully, history will not repeat.


Scott Manning said...

Richard, this is a great post. Folks tend to overreact after each election. Secession talk is not limited to either political side. I recall after the 2004 elections, folks would post a map and call it the United States of Canada. I even recall friends that wanted to move to China, because they did not like the direction of the country, I kid you not. None of them moved.

The latest round of secession talk is slightly different in the sense that folks are able to sign a petition from the comfort of their homes that goes directly to the White House. This would have been more difficult in 2004. As such, the high number of signers is fit for shock media.

I felt that the many of these folks do not appreciate that secession means war, or revolution, as Lee put it.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Scott, good to hear from you. As I stated, we are in unchartered water and not of the same character of a nation as we were during our last great national crisis - WWII. I think the answer to much of what we see - culturally and politically - is a return to true federalism and letting states decide a lot of these issues.

Here's another credible writer pointing out additional fissures in our society:

"If the blue states hold true to form and the red states continue to grow, it will not be long before the red states are largely subsidizing the blue states. And when that happens, look for the bond that holds the states together to fray. If California is America’s Greece, Texas will be America’s Germany. And if the European Union cannot hold, don’t be surprised to see internal pressures in the United States, too, as more and more Americans become frustrated by a distant yet intrusive federal government they feel they cannot control."



Thanks for the comment and observation.