Who would have expected the “America: Love it or leave it” crowd to be leading the exodus?
But that's just what appears to be happening in the wake of President Obama's re-election, as more than 675,000 residents in all 50 states have now signed Internet petitions seeking secession from the United States. As of Wednesday, the Indiana version seeking a “peaceful” withdrawal from the union had received more than 17,600 signatures, closing in on the 25,000 needed to elicit a response from the White House under the “We, the people” program it launched last year. In Texas, which really used to be a republic, more than 94,700 people had signed.
As an expression of political frustration over America's refusal to tame a federal government run amok, it's understandable and perhaps even psychologically healthy.
As a meaningful solution to the country's all-too-real problems, however, one of the leaders of Fort Wayne's tea-party movement fears it could be worse than useless if it draws attention and effort from more fruitful pursuits.
That might not be the reaction you'd expect from Emery McClendon, the delivery service driver who organized Fort Wayne's first tea-party rally back in 2009. “If we don't change, our kids won't enjoy the same America, the same prosperity,” he said at the time. “John Kennedy said, 'Ask what you can do for your country,' but America is changing. Today, people look at what government can do for them. We need to return to the founding principles that made America great.”
McClendon still feels that way, even if the presidential election results argue that the majority of Americans don't. But that's no reasons for people of his political persuasion to talk about secession, he insists – and not just because it was tried 150 years ago and left hundreds of thousands of Americans dead and half the country in ruins.
“You can't 'peacefully' secede. This is a terrible time to split the country,” he said, noting deep divisions create openings for terrorists and other potential enemies. “I still strongly believe in America. We need to be educating people about the Constitution.”
Indiana's secession petition, however, invokes not the Constitution but the Declaration of Independence, which states that “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and institute new government.”
But the problem with that argument should be obvious: Millions of American voters clearly don't like Obama's plans for the country, but a few million more do, which is why he won and Mitt Romney lost. He has been given the “consent of the governed" for four more years – a power the American colonialists could not peacefully exercise.
The secessionist petitions provided fodder for conservative talk radio Wednesday, and although the movement represents real displeasure by real people, it does not offer a real solution. That will come only when conservatives and traditionalists do precisely what McClendon suggests:
Winning elections through the power and persuasiveness of American ideals and principles that have stood the test of time.
Conservatives or members of any other group who insist on imposing a one-size-fits-all style of government on an obviously divided country will inevitably be disappointed. The genius of the Constitution was that it provided a federal framework within which each state could enjoy a certain amount of sovereignty.
“States' rights'' – like secession itself – became identified with the evils of slavery and racism, but the concept that individual states should be left whenever possible to make their own decisions is as old as the Constitution itself, which explicitly reserves powers not granted to federal government to the states and the people.
How much less anger and division might there be in the nation today if the 9th and 10th amendments were enforced instead of ignored? Instead of threatening to secede, you could live as you please simply by moving to a state in which “red” or “blue” are more than colors on a political map.
Until that happens, however – and don't hold your breath – go ahead and sign the petition. While you're on the website, you can also sign petitions to restore objectivity to the media, impeach the president and remove “In God we trust” from our currency.
You can also join the more than 12,000 people who support efforts to deport or deny citizenship to anyone who signs a secessionist petition. But don't worry:
Liberals have proved they don't believe in deportation any more than most conservatives really believe a new country would be better than the one we already have, and hope to improve.