If you happen onto the Obama administration-created website — We the People at petitions.whitehouse.gov — prepare to be taken aback, at least a bit. People from (as of this writing) 33 states have filed petitions to secede from the union.
Yes, you read that correctly, tens of thousands of Americans are so burned by the results of the election, they want out of the United States. The largest numbers of petitioners, some 60,000, come from Texas. GOP Gov. Rick Perry, even though he talked secession in 2009 in the run-up to his own presidential primary campaign, has renounced the current petition drive.
I remember thinking about peaceful secession after the 2008 elections.
We are clearly a country deeply divided about governance and where we need to head. Conservatives want lower taxes, less government and an end to the deficit and debt. Progressives want more government aid to pull us out of the non-existent (according to the government) but clearly present recession, to create more jobs. They aren’t much concerned about our burgeoning debt. How can the two sides compromise?
Ne’er the twain shall meet. Watching Capitol Hill in action recently makes it perfectly clear that there will be no compromise anytime soon.
But secession? Really?
The last time that concept was taken seriously was just before the Civil War. We have a long history of debating states’ rights, dating back to our first government when the 13 former colonies formed a loose confederation with a weak federal government. When the South declared secession and fought and lost the Civil War, Congress reacted by making all future secession attempts illegal under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
It’s curious that the Obama administration would provide a platform for the online secession movement. It introduced We the People, in September 2011 “in a bid to create ‘an unprecedented level of openness in government,’ according to the website. Signatories need leave only their first names, the first initial of their last names, and the names of their locations.”
The White House promises to review each petition that garners 25,000 signatures or more and put together an official response. Don’t hold your breath on this one. That official response may never materialize.
Obama supporters have already shot back, setting up counter petitions on the website calling for secession supporters to be exiled from the United States. OK, kids, it’s time for Miss Barbara to step into the Romper Room and split up the arguing kindergartners.
There are some truly important issues sorted out on this website. One, for example, petitioned the Army to stop the heinously cruel and unnecessary use of monkeys in Army chemical casualty management training courses. In September the Army issued a release on the website saying a “long-planned” halt to the practice had been put into effect.
But the to and fro on the secession issue is unlikely to resolve economic policy differences between America’s right and left wings. Perhaps the secession petitions, which strictly call for “peaceful” secession, are a harmless way for Romney supporters to blow off steam. Maybe they are more than that: in the rough and tumble of the online world petitioners have been called sore losers, hate-filled and racist.
Personally I don’t find tremendous value in the government providing a platform for angry citizens to spout off. But big picture seers will say that only in America could one find a government open and tolerant enough to allow this type of public dialogue to take place.
Bonnie Erbe writes for the Scripps Howard News Service.