About Those Secession Petitions
There's been a bit of buzz of late about the fact that people in several states have filed petitions to secede from the Union. There shouldn't be.
There’s been a bit of buzz of late about the fact that people in several states have filed petitions to secede from the Union. There shouldn’t be.
WaPo (“Secession petitions filed on White House Web site“):
From states across the country, Americans have filed petitions on the White House Web site seeking to secede from the union and form new state governments.
While most of the petitions come from states that supported Mitt Romney in last week’s election, a few swing states and even the deep blue Northeast are represented.
Petitions have been filed for Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
Most of the petitions have a few thousand signatures; many signers appear to be from other states. Under the “We the People” program, launched last year, the White House willrespond to any petition that receives 25,000 or more signatures within 30 days. Anyone over the age of 13 can create a petition. Previous popular petitions demanded the White House beer recipe (success) and marijuana legalization (no success).
The petitions from Louisiana and Texas, however, are approaching the threshold for a response. They were the first two states represented, followed by Alabama. Petitioners only have to put a first name and last initial on the site.
Dana Milbank (“The Confederacy of Takers“) finds it all amusing:
President Obama’s opponents have unwittingly come up with a brilliant plan to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” They want to secede from the union.
If Obama were serious about being a good steward of the nation’s finances, he’d let them.
It would be excellent financial news for those of us left behind if Obama were to grant a number of the rebel states their wish “to withdraw from the United States and create [their] own NEW government” (the petitions emphasize “new” by capitalizing it).
Red states receive, on average, far more from the federal government in expenditures than they pay in taxes. The balance is the opposite in blue states. The secession petitions, therefore, give the opportunity to create what would be, in a fiscal sense, a far more perfect union.
Among those states with large numbers of petitioners asking out: Louisiana (more than 28,000 signatures at midday Tuesday), which gets about $1.45 in federal largess for every $1 it pays in taxes; Alabama (more than 20,000 signatures), which takes $1.71 for every $1 it puts in; South Carolina (26,000), which takes $1.38 for its dollar; and Missouri (22,000), which takes $1.29 for its dollar.
But this is all rather silly.We don’t take online polls seriously, recognizing that they’re not representative. Why are we pretending that these “petitions” are meaningful? t’s quite probable that a large number of these “signatures” are some combination of a lark and the same yahoos signing multiple times.
Even if the quoted numbers were actually genuine residents of the states in question, though, the numbers are absurdly small. Louisiana has 4.6 million residents; 28,000 signatures represents 0.6 percent of them. Alabama has 4.8 million residents; 20,000 is 0.4 percent of that.
James, the only people taking these petitions serious are some of the signers and even they aren’t really serious. If they were serious, they would self deport to some capitalist paradise like Mexico.
Agreed, but low response or not, I don’t feel comfortable shrugging it off. There is an appropriate level of shame that these petition signers should be feeling, and they are just not feeling it.
Ask me to sign one of these and the answer will not only be “No,” but ‘Hell no.” Not even under the name of Seymour Butts.
it was a good headline, most people didn’t bother reading it and realize there were a bunch of red states in there as well. like any could actually secede and succeed!
I could probably sign one for Texas.
As of this morning, all fifty states have secession petitions. There are 67 petitions in all; some states have more than one.
It’s hard to view this as any more than the practical–or impractical–joke that it is.
@James “Why are we pretending that these “petitions” are meaningful?”
It seems to me that they are taken seriously mainly by those who write them. For the rest it’s more a subject of levity.
The WH would be well inspired to make fun of it in its response. Something along the lines “We thank you for your desire to help balance the federal budget by renouncing our assistance. Stay assured that your offer will be given all the attention it deserves”.
It’s an amusement. Gets the Left all churned up. And reveals the ignorance of those who write about it. First, individuals petitioning the federal government, much less the White House, to secede is a joke.
Only the States, not their citizens have standing to ask to or to secede or have all the pundits lost any semblance of their education on civil government in the United States? If the citizens wish to explore secession, then petitioning their State legislature is the first move. I understand the chatterers are just fanning for page views but at least one of them could point out the reality of our structure and actually inform their readers of something of value.
But some people are having a laugh signing and others are having a laugh at those people. The sad part is people thinking they have to ask the permission of the president for anything. It reveals the sorry state of our civil society with our lives run on the whims of technocrats rather than living as free people.
@JKB: “Only the States, not their citizens have standing to ask to or to secede or have all the pundits lost any semblance of their education on civil government in the United States?”
Talking about education, you don’t seem to be aware that a civil war took place in this country some 150 years ago to make it clear there is no path to secession.
Thanks for the laugh.
No way, man. Texas is awesome.
And really, guys? Signing this as a joke or for amusement? I guess I just don’t run in the crowd that finds secession talk all that “amusing.”
I take elected Republicans advocating secession, or even just flirting with the idea, a bit more seriously.
There’s a counter-petition to allow Austin to remain as part of the Union if Texas does secede. I’m imagining a West Berlin-style airlift of supplies. Maybe we can draw one tiny stretch of highly fortified road to connect Austin to San Antonio and the border counties in South Texas.
There has been a simmering to mid-boil secessionist movement in Scotland for many years – Sean Connery is a member – although since the UK’s union is politically and legally different from ours, it would be more accurate to call it “separatist” rather than secessionist.
The funny thing is that more English support Scotland leaving the UK than do Scots.
(I know, technically Scotland, Wales and England form Great Britain; the UK was formed from those lands plus Ireland and Northern Ireland – Ireland subsequently leaving the union. And contrary to popular myth, the English monarch’s coronation while enthroned atop the Stone of Scone is irrelevant to the political union of Scotland with England.)
Actually, the Civil War only made clear that there was no peaceful way to unilaterally secede from the United States, assuming the 21st century population having the sentiments of mid 19th century union states.
The United States could agree to a secession or they could simply not be able to rally the public support for another war of aggression.
And, there is the path of unilateral secession, war, negotiated peace with recognition of the secession.
@Donald Sensing: Yes, well, there’s also the fly in the ointment that if Scotland secedes from the U.K. there’s no guarantee that they have the right to remain part of the E.U. Most legal opinion holds that they would have to reapply, separately, for membership.
And it would probably be an open question whether the EU would let them in! Or, for that matter, whether Scots would vote to apply.
All merely academic, though.
BTW, does anyone remember that in 2004, Vermont threatened to secede because of Bush’s reelection?
I am awaiting commenters above to heap the same scorn upon the Democrat malcontents in Vermont then as they are heaping now upon Texans.
And there were also disgruntled Dems in 2005 promoting the “Secessions of 2005,” hoping that the following states would secede from Red Amerika: Washington, Oregon, California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia.
@JKB: [sigh] Sure, JKB, states _could_ secede if the federal gov’t _chose_ not to enforce the Constitution. Technically, that’s true. But still ridiculous, in that none of your scenarios has even the slightest possibility of happening.
@Donald Sensing: Yes, some Dems had similar responses to Bush’s re-election. We didn’t heap scorn on them; we just laughed uncomfortably and proceeded to ignore them, because we knew they were just ranting. Did anybody really think Alec Baldwin would go away? But plenty of scorn and derision was cast on them by their Republican-voting opposites. Now, Dems are deriding Republicans who’ve lost it, while many of their own (even Erick! Son Of Erick!) are trying to politely ignore them. so far, it’s a pretty similar situation.
Okay, fair enough.
Although these secessionist petitions will not cause an actual dissolution of the Union at this time, nevertheless they should be taken as seriously as the friction between the North and the South in the years leading up to the Civil War. Something serious is going on here. The parallels with the 1850s are worth noting.
The cause of Southern secession was nowhere else better stated than by William Yancey. He argued that it was the North that broke the U.S. Constitution first, and in this way. The clause on fugitive slaves was expressly put into that document as the accommodation by which the Northern States and the Southern States could cohabit in one federal Union. But abolitionists openly flouted this provision, especially as put into operation by the Fugitive Slave Act. When it was pointed out to them that their actions were in open defiance of this clause of the Constitution, the abolitionists said they were following a “higher law”.
How would you feel if someone broke a contract with you by citing “higher law”? Yancey felt the same. “A compact broken in part is broken in whole”, he said, quoting well established legal theory. The North was not willing to live up to its end of the Constitution, he asserted, and the compact was broken. Yancey’s position was that the South did not seceed; instead the compact was dissolved beforehand by actions in the North.
Now, in 2012 rather than 1860, the issue behind the disaffection is changed, but the underlying paradigm is not. The vast majority of things done by the current U.S. Government were never granted it by the Constitution. Anyone who knows what the terms even mean— plenary powers to the States, enumerated powers to the United States— knows that the current exercise of federal power in this country cannot be reconciled with the compact called the U.S. Constitution.
Whether it is health care, social security, or welfare, the Congress is doing things it was never ordained or established to do, but which are to be performed by the States through their plenary powers. In fact, the federal Legislative, Executive, and Judicial departments routinely issue dictates to the States as if they were fifty puppet governments. But even without the Constitutional theory, the federal government is so deep in debt, and it it piling up higher so quickly, that clearly something is very, very wrong with the current system. More often than not, the activities of the current federal government are patently unconstitutional, but, more than that, its actions taken together are utterly incompetent, as no one will be able to deny once the federal government goes bankrupt.
Yes, it is easy to dismiss these online petitions as the actions of a bunch of Yahoos, but the underlying sources of disaffection need to be taken seriously. No one wants the particular chapter of history called “The Civil War” to be repeated.
Yes, but in stopping there, you (and Yancy) fail to recognize the Constitution as a living document – one that must change over time, just as does the society it describes. It it true that, when the Constitution was first written, slavery was the accepted practice of the day. But we moved beyond that – recognized it at first as a necessary evil, and then as an unnecessary one. The compact did change – that was inevitable – but that does not constitute a breakage. That Yancy, and many in the South, could not accept that was unfortunate, bot for them and for this country. but it happened, and it happened by the design of the Constitution.
As time has marched on, so too has society. Other changes to the compact have been made. Women’s suffrage would be just as unthinkable to the Founding Fathers as Abolition (and Prohibition, for that matter), yet the the compact remained. The same applies to welfare and Social Security. Now it also applies to health care and gay marriage. Like it or not, this is what the evolution of a society looks like: it changes. But that does not end it.
In answer to Legion’s post:
Clearly I am arguing from an unfavorable position to cite slavery as the precedent in a discussion on secession, but it is, nevertheless, the historical fact, and we must draw what parallels we can from the study of history. And, in fact, I do not agree with Yancey’s position: the actions of the abolitionists were not sufficient to justify the rupture. Congress did, after all, pass the Fugitive Slave Act, and did so over the strenuous objections of the abolitionists.
To call the Constitution a living document is a pleasant metaphor, but it is not a property of living organisms to change their shape and nature completely, unless perhaps they are caterpillars turning into butterflies. And any organism, even a caterpillar, twisted, turned, and changed in the way the Constitution has been these past fifty years, would not be alive but dead.
Women’s suffrage occurred by an amendment duly passed, and the Thirteenth Amendment expressly prohibits slavery, though it is strangely ineffective at abolishing that arbitrary exploitation of labor of people with no political rights, known either as undocumented immigrants or as illegal aliens depending on which side of the political spectrum you sit.
But the other things, such as social security, welfare, and now health care, do not follow from the text, nor follow they from any reasonable construction of the Constitution as a “living” document, but from increasingly tortured and even absurd interpretations of its provisions. And now we see a government going bankrupt trying to be all things to all people, when all this would have been avoided if it had just stuck to its enumerated powers in the first place and let the States be states rather than provinces.
I grant that the Constitution cannot be interpreted like statutory law. If Congress funds the Army and Navy, and does not fund the Air Force, then we may know that that is how the Congressmen actually intended. But when the Constitution mentions an Army and Navy, but not an Air Force, that is because the document was drafted in 1787. Courts must grant lenience to the fact that the authors of the document are no longer alive.
But just because one must grant some flexibility in Constitutional interpretation, one is not justified in going into an utterly irresponsible, “anything goes” interpretation either. Any text that can mean anything means nothing.
The Constitution was ratified by the people, and the people never ordained or established a federal government with anywhere near its current reach and power. They never ordained or established a federal government to reduce the States to mere provinces. They established a federal government of clearly enumerated powers. And they ratified a document with real and stable meaning. If we have something different now, then it is because we have left the original constitutional order, not because the constitutional order changed beneath our feet.
That is the silliness of it, the sheer numbers against. Then again, I may sign the petition requesting that the planet, Alderaan, be allowed to secede from the Empire, peacefully. It makes about as much sense.
The Pink Flamingo
I understand, and I don’t mean to pull slavery out as a tool to make mock with – it’s just one of the easiest and most clear-cut examples of something that was very clearly OK in the original Constitution but had to be changed as society moved on. True, it was finally abolished with an amendment, but that just largely codified nationally what had already been done by patchwork state acts and the Emancipation Proclamation – which was just an Executive Order, and would have been met with howls of protest by modern conservatives. Think about it – an E.O. (and later an amendment) that redefined an entire concept of “private property”! Imagine the cries of “Socialism!” that would elicit today!
I think you overstate the “damage” done to the Constitution by the changes you criticize. Several amendments (14, 15, 19, 24, 26) have completely re-defined the right to vote, which is about the single most fundamental concept in a free, democratic society. The Civil Rights Act of 64 and the Voting Rights act of 65 are just laws, but just as important.
A whole lot falls under the heading of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Yes, I know that’s the DoI, not the Constitution, but it’s still a guiding document for how American government ought to be.
What a lot of people don’t recognize is the fact that when the Constitution was written, the US was a large, but mostly powerless, new country. We spent our first 150 years or so _building_ a world power, but only the last few decades _being_ a world power, and that’s a huge cultural shift I don’t think many people recognize – largely because relatively few countries in all of history make that transition. We are now well and truly in the realm of securing and maintaining our nation, and requires a significant change of focus. American just isn’t a bunch of rugged individualists, carving a nation out of the raw countryside any more. We already did that. Now we’re worried about things like taking care of our weaker, younger, poorer, and older citizens in ways (and with resources) that simply didn’t exist prior to the 20th century. I’m sure there are things that could be done under the Constitution that would make it unrecognizable and end it’s usefulness, but we’re nowhere near that point.
As long as the people continue to drive (or reject) the changes, it’s still Our Constitution. Lots of things have been tried that haven’t been successful & were turned away from – Prohibition comes to mind. If we go too far into creating a state that takes care of us, rather than simply provides for us, we certainly have the ability to move back – have more faith in We the People.
When the founders wrote about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they were not talking about a giant government that redistributes wealth, and in fact, they were clearly opposed to such an idea.
Regardless of whatever position our country is in now, that is no excuse for making deranged interpretations of the constitution. It was indeed designed as a living constitution. But that doesn’t mean the government can ignore it whenever it feels like it. It means it should be amended, the process through which it allows itself to evolve and “live”, if some part of it is considered out of date. Back when the federal government made the mistake of outlawing alcohol, at least they did it the right way: by amending the constitution. But 60 years later the government has been able to escape that obligations. It just outlaws drugs and whatever else it feels like with no legal authority to do so, and mandates whatever it feels like, without being granted the legal authority to do so.
If you want to know the reasons. The NDAA and the NDRP puts the government above the law. Don’t like slavery? Too bad the government can arrest and detain you and force you to work without pay for them. Love the Bill of Rights? Then the same two acts violate the Constitution 14 times.
As of now, the the secessionist petition for Michigan has 18,624 of the 25,000 signatures required by December 10, 2012 – and they just filed their petition on 11/10/2012!.
This is, of course, whacky nonsense; but I would prefer that the rest of the country not think of the citizens of the Great State of Michigan as whack-jobs, so I have created a petition to : “AFFIRM the State of MICHIGAN as a proud member of these United States of America:
PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD so that we can cancel out their efforts – and allow the government to work on issues that are more pressing than nonsense such as this. We need 25,000 signatures by DECEMBER 16, 2012.
Until this petition has 150 signatures, it will only be available from the following URL and WILL NOT BE PUBLICLY VIEWABLE on the Open Petitions section of We the People. We have only 30 days to get 25,000 signatures Please pass this along! 🙂
You can sign the petition AFFIRMING Michigan’s statehood here:
@Rob: Could you describe for me a form of government that _does not_ redistribute wealth in some manner? Because the reason governments – of any type – exist is to provide certain benefits to an entire group of people (citizens) that they could not individually enjoy or provide for themselves. Wealth redistribution – moving resources from where they are to where they’re needed – is the only way to do that. “Provide for the common defense… promote the general welfare” and so forth? The Founding Fathers were not opposed to it; they were opposed to the British way of doing it: “taxation without representation” and all that. Governmental regulation doesn’t ignore the Constitution – passing laws you don’t like is not evidence of that. Congress passes laws they feel they can get away with, and sometimes they’re wrong – public outcry forces the law to be repealed, or the courts declare the law unconstitutional. The fact that such things happen is not evidence the system is broken – quite the opposite.
If you want to live in a despot then go ahead. If you want to live in a country that allows the government to be above the laws then go ahead. If you want a government that can arrest you for any reason whatsoever then go ahead. If you want to live in a prison nation then go ahead. The people with negative comments saying that we are not educated then they are nothing but sheep following a tyrannical shepherd. Millions followed hitler and remember that.
The Constitutional order is so shot that almost no one even knows what it is anymore. I was once of that number, but my eyes were opened by reading the book The American Constitutional System by Westel Woodbury Willoughby (and viewable online). I recommend the book highly. It was printed in 1904, well after the effects of the Civil War had a chance to sink into the American consciousness.
The book, from cover to cover, is about the separation of powers, not between the branches of government as we are all taught in Civics class, but between the powers of the States and of the Union. The book asserts that the State and Federal powers should not be intermixed, but be carefully separated from one another. This is the only way our system can be made to work.
Do you believe that the State governments should be providing general public education, caring for the poor, and acting as a commonwealth for their citizens? I do too. And so it follows that we should not have the Federal government involved in any of those things. Do you believe that the Congress has power to declare war, regulate interstate commerce, and oversee relations with foreign countries? I do too. And so it follows that no State should be engaged in any of those things.
Such a simple system, direct and clear. It served this country well from its foundation to the New Deal. Now we have gone off track. Social Security. Welfare. Revenue Sharing. No Child Left Behind Act. Federal Health Care. And, of course, fiat money is not gold or silver.
We no longer elect people to serve our interests in the State Legislatures, County Councils, and School Boards, but all these elected officials have become servants of the federal legislature and executive bureaucracy. And the exertions the States have to go through to follow the whims of the federal judiciary is appalling, as is put on display every time a jury condemns a murderer to death in this country.
This isn’t the nature of a democracy. This isn’t a republican form of government. And it isn’t countenanced by the U.S. Constitution as actually written.
Only the States, not their citizens have standing to ask to or to secede
Nope, when Texas was admitted in 1868, Supreme Court ruled that secession is not possible, revolution is however, such as when the Articles of Confederation was thrown out for the Constitution, but succession–nope. Andrew Jackson and James Madison, especially James Madison were especially vitriolic on the subject. Secession is illegal under the mandate that the States must form a more perfect Union, we can admit new states, and reorganize, but lose some–nope! Manifest Destiny and all, even if it’s out of vogue these past two centuries. Hence why Puerto Rico is such a pickle, we can let them in, but we really can’t let them out. If it was just about the prosperity of a state, I’m quite sure we would have flooded Alabama for the world’s largest swimming pool years ago.
The sad part is people thinking they have to ask the permission of the president for anything. I actually like We the People, and you aren’t exactly a technocrat if you can file a petition, even topless car wash owners with the education of a Marxist peasant do it!
Actually, the Civil War only made clear that there was no peaceful way to unilaterally secede from the United States No, the Civil War proved that you cannot dine and dash on this fair nation, especially when your quality of life is built on 3/5 of a human being and if you do so, then Tecumseh Sherman will rightly burn your house down en masse for shooting at your fellow Americans. Mechanical labor was catching on quite quickly, and one of the main reasons nobody wanted the slaves freed is the same reason why the Greeks didn’t want slaves freed when they discovered steam and hydraulic power–what the heck do you do with all those slaves? Again, not the North’s problem. Willful disregard of progress of a geographic area leading to an antiquated social order is not a reason for Bleeding Kansas and border skirmishes, if it was we in the Rust Belt should have lit the West Coast on fire a long, long time ago for rendering our manufacturing culture practically obsolete.
war of aggression
Let’s call it what it really was, the War Against Ignorant Ultra-Conservative Agrarian Plutocrats, sorry but when your culture revolves around a warped notion of medieval Fiefdoms and willful disregard of human life you really didn’t deserve to see the dawn of the 20th century, that stuff is so last millennia.
@legion: Well friend if you can still read please look up the NDAA and The NDRP. I would also suggest you look up the Acts called Patriot acts and the Nazi enabling acts. These had been put in by Bush Hitler.
@OzarkHillbilly: Then you are a blind, ignoranty sheep that loves living under a tryannical shepherd.
@Murray: You are also an ignorant blind sheep that loves living under a tryannical shepherd. The NDAA and the NDRP both strip away the bill of rights. They violate the Constitution 14 times.
@OJ Simpson: If two laws invalidate the Constitution then we have the right to invalidate the Government. Read the NDAA and the NDRP. Check into Bush Hitler’s enabling acts called the Patriot acts. Set the two sets of laws together. The Enabling acts of Nazi Germany and The Patriot Acts and you will see they are the same.
Hey, can’t be any worse than Alien and Sedition, Lincoln’s Sedition Acts, FDR’s Internment Acts. Government didn’t end with them and as long as the lunatic fringe is ignored, will be preserved now. How about next Congressional election you go and vote for a Progressive like Bernie Sanders or a Libertarian instead of instantly running to secession. 🙂
@Herb: Alos you do not havbe the right to protest. It will gag the people. That does away with the First Amendment.
Trying to tell these people about the NDAA and the NDRP and the new law about the first amendment being destroyed is like trying to talk to a herd of sheep.
If there were any empty land on the planet I think more people than you could imagine would be saddlin’ up to leave this “liberal” fiasco-to-come. We may want to go where the un Affordable Health Care act isn’t in force but those of you who want to stay may find yourselves in Greece, or Portugal, or Spain, without ever having to cross the ocean. Bernanke has already eroded so much of your hard-earned dollar that if you have any wealth in paper its going and soon may be gone. Think Germany when the mark collapsed.
Why don’t you just all go back where you came from anyway; most of those places are well down the socialist path with hardly any innovations in medicine, if you leave out organ transplanting industry.
Realize if you stay you may all have to adapt to Shariah law before its all over.
(I just wish you’d done it to your homeland.),
Personally, as a resident of the other Illinois, that which is not Chicago, I would like that city and any of the collar counties around it to secede from the state creating their own.
We need to protect the Fatherland from the Polish Menace. We need to protect the Homeland from the Iraqi threat. Sound familiar? The former is a quote of Adolph Hitler. The other frm Bush Hitler.