Psychiatrists talk about the various stages of grief that people experience after suffering a devastating loss in their personal lives, ranging from denial to anger to bargaining (i.e., trying to strike a “deal” with a higher power) to depression to, finally, acceptance.
Political scientists ought to come up with a similar series of “grief stages” for those people who try to grapple with devastating political losses. Republicans, who were convinced that voters would grant them the White House after four years of failed Obama administration policies, are trying to deal with their recent grief.
Discouraged political activists have been expressing denial, anger, and depression. Currently, they are going through a stage that should be termed “fantasy” by advocating ideas that will never come to fruition, pretending that there’s a quick, fun solution to deep political problems that will only be solved over time and through hard work and vision.
For instance, more than 675,000 Americans in every state have filed online petitions with the White House calling for the secession of their respective states from the union. The Obama administration had created the “We the People” online petition system to encourage the public to more directly participate in the nation’s governance by suggesting ideas that the administration should pursue.
Any petition that hits the 25,000 signature threshold prompts a “review” by the White House. As the Daily Caller reported, “Launched Nov. 7, the day after Obama won re-election, the Pelican State’s spark set off an Internet-driven cascade of disaffected tea partiers and other conservatives looking—as one petition organizer told The Daily Caller via a ‘direct message’ on Twitter—‘just to do something, anything, to show we’re not going away quietly.’”
This certainly fits the “just do something” parameters, but the Obama administration will no doubt provide some three-minute review of the petitions and issue a bland statement calling for the continued unification of our country. This secession movement is typical, perhaps, in a world where people are fixated on Facebook and Twitter.
There’s nothing unserious about secession, despite the idea having been sullied by the unpleasantness of the mid-1800s. It’s the ultimate check and balance on an out-of-control central government, but powerful nations rarely let the unruly provinces break away without bloody battles. This idea, a temper-tantrum really, is not going to happen in a country where, despite the temporary frustration, people still happily spend their weekends at the shopping malls.
One opinion writer argued that Texas could pull this off. Of course, it could, technically speaking. But it won’t happen because the federal government owns more and bigger guns even than Texans. States are diverse and complex places. Even in Texas, Obama received more than 41 percent of the vote. In California, which went for Obama by a stunning 59 percent to 39 percent margin, most counties went for Mitt Romney. It would be hard to disentangle our nation based simply on state boundaries—despite the simplistic Blue State vs. Red State breakdown that has been so common among media analysts.
A number of people happy with the election results have filed their own online petitions at the White House calling for the petitioners to be deported, and the Texas governor dismissed the idea despite his differences with the feds. The idea, then, would be widely opposed even in places where the idea might sprout.
For those of us living in California, secession would mean something even worse than we have now, given that our leaders are much further to the left than elsewhere. For example, the new cap-and-trade system, the first (and, let’s hope, last) in the nation, got started recently with an auction of government-issued greenhouse-gas “allowances” that even the Air Resources Board admits will lead to significant “leakages” (i.e., job losses). The folks who crafted this system would have even more power outside of the union.
The better idea for frustrated Californians (aside from seeking a new home in Oklahoma City or Abilene), is to reconsider the old notion of breaking our state into more hospitable parts. Consider that relatively small Sacramento County has a land area not that much smaller, and a population about 50 percent larger, than Rhode Island. San Bernardino County is larger, geographically, than nine states. Who says that California, which spans nearly 800 miles north to south, needs to stay in its current configuration?
I’d create three California states. The first would run from Los Angeles County through Sonoma County. In Coastal California, there would be few things to hinder the liberal experimentation popular in places such as San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles. Those living outside this state would presumably be free to visit on weekends and enjoy the cultural amenities, but wouldn’t have to pay for the nuttiness.
The second state would be Southern California, including Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Imperial counties. This area would be politically competitive, but conservative leaning. So, too, would be the final state of Inland California, which would include most of the vast Central Valley and the Sierras. I would throw the North State counties into the already-proposed State of Jefferson—reflecting an old-time secessionist movement that would combine northern California and southern Oregon counties, a collection of mountainous areas with little population and a distinct culture.
There would be more harmony, and fewer complaints by people of the left and right who could then live under political leadership that better reflects their values and priorities.
It’s a fun thought experiment, an act of silliness that can help forlorn conservative-minded California voters cope with a grievous political situation. But, sooner or later, we need to move on from fantasy and accept the world as it exists so that we can pursue serious ideas to save our state from the abyss.