"You Can't Govern Us; We Quit"

Secession anyone? The last time there was a groundswell of support for the states to secede from the union, we ended up fighting a bloody civil war. One hundred and fifty years later, there are new calls for secession. Just how serious is the new secession movement?

The mainstream press has not reported much on the rush of secession petitions posted on a website maintained by the White House. At week’s end, petitions had been filed from all 50 states. Texas leads the way, with more than 100,000 signatures on its petition. Connecticut’s petition had 2,500 or so signatures. 

It’s tempting to write the new secessionists off as a bunch of crybabies, or bored Tea Party members, looking for a new theme to rally around. The whole powdered wig thing has gone a little stale, after all. But do these new paper revolutionaries really want to fly the stars and bars at their next rally?

I suspect they do, and that’s what scares me.

The heaviest concentration of secessionist activity seems to be in the red states, those unhappy territories still reeling from the re-election of Barack Obama. If you juxtapose a pair of maps, one identifying slave states and territories just prior to the Civil War, the other identifying today’s Red states in thrall to the GOP, the result will shock you: Johnny Reb was voting Romney all the way in 2012.

But why secession now?

Demographics is destiny. Come 2040, Caucasians will become a minority in the United States. The day after election results were in, the GOP awoke to a brave new world: it’s no longer enough to appeal simply to white voters. People of color, Hispanics, Asians -- the new emerging majority -- have clout. 

I spoke at a community group in New Haven not long after the election. A state representative reported that fellow black activists were gleeful about the results of the election. It was a harbinger of the end of white world, or so they thought. 

The new secessionists sense this glee and are recoiling in terror. Their faux patriotism and expressed desire to leave the union is really just the last gasp of white privilege saying to people of color: “You can’t govern us, we quit.”

Of course, it’s not that simple. You can’t petition your way out of the union. Nothing in the Constitution yields a recipe for state secession. The last time states tried to do so, hundreds of thousands of men died.

I doubt many will die in this pathetic attempt at Civil War re-enactment. It’s one thing to play Internet rebel and sign a petition using a pseudonym; it’s another to raise arms, and seek to sever political ties with bloodshed. This new secessionism is about as revolutionary a risk as was taken by Tea Party masqueraders: lip synching about liberty and bellyaching about tyranny is meaningless when all your prepared to risk is the expense of tricorn hat or a lawn sign.

For how many years did the right taunt protestors of all sorts: “America, love it or leave it”?  They bashed the United Nations, war protestors and civil rights activists. Today they want to leave, but they want to take their property with them. 

The loss of privilege requires readjustment. The secessionists are kicking and screaming their way into a new world. But the union is not about to dissolve amid all this silliness; it will, however, change.

We live in interesting times, a time of ferment, and the forging of new expectations. We need to suffer the secessionists in our midst. They’ve pining away for a world that no longer exists. It’s no wonder they are frightened.

Reprinted courtesy of the Connecticut Law Tribune.



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