One of the great joys of the Internet age is the voice it gives to myriad people whose opinions previously remained silent, unknown or at least badly misrepresented by whatever sundry politicians and journalists set themselves up as mouthpieces for what the regular folks really want. Unfiltered by those mouthpieces, and speaking through the medium of the White House's petitioning mechanism, what lots of folks very, very unhappy with the result of the election want is take their states out of the union. That's the sort of sentiment that often raises hackles in the United States, though there's nothing inherently unreasonable about it. It's also a sentiment that's almost certain to remain frustrated, at least in the short term. But with thousands (err ... tens of thousands) of Americans signing petitions to make the union rather less united, it's worth considering the top-down policies and fear of D.C. that have these modern-day secessionists so upset.
There's nothing sacred about national borders, of course. And this isn't the first time in recent memory that people dissatisfied with election results have fantasized about redrawing this country's boundaries. Remember those Jesusland vs. United States of Canada maps of the terrible Bush years (that dark interregnum in this country's history when the federal government engaged in undeclared wars overseas, spied on Americans at home and went on a massive spending spree)?
In 2008, before the last national election, 22 percent of Americans voiced support for the idea that "any state or region has the right to 'peaceably secede from the United States and become an independent republic.'" The results were pretty consistent region to region, too, though more liberals than conservatives favored the idea.
Just looking at the past, it's as near to a sure thing as you'll find outside a John Cusack movie that the borders of the United States will not only move a little or a lot in the centuries to come, but they'll eventually cease to exist and the whole country will end up as a chapter in a history textbook published somewhere in the Greater Hawaiian Empire (come for the conquest, stay for the all-you-can-eat luau).
But that's for the future. What drives today's would-be movers of borders? The petition for Texan secession cites "blatant abuses of their rights such as the NDAA, the TSA, etc." and boasts that Texas "maintains a balanced budget and is the 15th largest economy in the world."The petition for Oregon complains about "the Federal Govenrment increasing it's size much larger than our Founding Father's intended, and it's abuse of power trumping over the rights of State constitutions, and the forcing of unconstitutional laws over it's own citizens." The Montana petition quotes Benjamin Franklin saying "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." A whole bunch of the petitions quote the Declaration of Independence to the extent that:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
It's hard to argue with those sentiments, though I might quibble with grammar and spelling. There's no doubt that the residents of many states have a bone to pick with the feds, just judging by ballot initiatives passed last week. Colorado and Washington voted to completely legalize marijuana. Alabama, Missouri, Montana and Wyoming voted to block enforcement of the federal Affordable Care Act. Medical marijuana gained new adherents in defiance of federal law, and gay marriage, while not a direct challenge of D.C. policies, was approved by do-it-our-way voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington.
In response, the feds are making noises about suing to block the marijuana legalization initiatives, or simply threatening anybody who tries to take them seriously. They aren't even paying attention to the Obamacare initiatives, beyond planning to implement the health care program without the cooperation of a good many state governments. That's a fairly high-handed come-back from a government founded on the idea of federalism, under which the states would be able to set their own policies, so long as they abided by a few basic guidelines. You can see why plenty of Americans might feel a tad ... stampeded by the government in Washington, D.C. They're sufficiently alienated from that political entity to fire a few symbolic warning shots the White House's way via the online petition mechanism.
As it stands this morning, residents of about 20 states, in varying language (and varying degrees of literacy) have created petitions calling on the federal government to permit the secession of their home states. The White House has committed itself to respond to petitions signed by 25,000 people within 30 days. At the very least, the residents of Louisiana and Texas are likely to rate a few quasi-presidential kind words, considering that their secession petitions have been signed by 12,883 and 16,568 people respectively, with lots more time to go.
None of those petitions has a chance of succeeding — right now. But things change. The unassailable central government of today might well be the weak figurehead of a generation or two in the future. Whether or not the people living under the laws passed by that government work to extend its lifespan will depend on how badly it pisses them off between now and then.