Monday, November 26, 2012

Secession Movement - has it peaked?

Geez, what is it with us Americans?! When we get upset with an election result, or don't like how things are going, our first impulse often seems to be: Let's leave! In 2003, a group of Vermont citizens formed a secession group, the Second Vermont Republic. The Florida Keys ostensibly seceded in 1982 to form the Conch Republic which exists through an annual parade and this website. Texas' current governor, and erstwhile presidential candidate Rick Perry, has asserted that state's right to secede. The link to the Rick Perry quote (from 2009) includes a fact check that tells us that the 1845 compact where Texas entered the Union as a state included an agreement that Texas could split into five states, not that it had a special agreement that it could seceded if it didn't like being part of the U.S. In fact, our blogger, R.G. Ratcliffe, at Chron, tells us that the U.S. Supreme Court in 1869, ruled that Texas did NOT have a right to secede, in the case, Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (second link for full text from Justia; link on the name of the case is to the Wikipedia article about the case for an explanation).

But all that is historical background to say that secession is not just very current events. Because there has been a flurry of petitions on the website, President Obama started a link for petitions to allow an interactive way for the American people to contact the Whitehouse. The commitment has been that there would be a prompt response to any petition gathering more than 25,000 signatures. Since President Obama's re-election, there has been a flurry of petitions from citizens of various states asking to secede. This is, if you think about it, a totally ridiculous and non-legal way to go about beginning a secession movement. It's not really about secession, but about dissatisfaction. There are a number of ludicrous topics. If you sort the petitions by government reform, you will pop up the secession petitions as well as in-your-face challenges asking the President to step down from office for no reason, to allow examination of his birth certificate (again!) as well as his college and university records. But the numbers of people signing the state secession petitions is interesting. They are not necessarily citizens of the state involved.

Here is a fascinating map created by a professor and class at the University of North Carolina examining the signatures on the petitions and calculating the percentages of the population for each state signing such petitions. The notes there say that the numbers seem to have peaked and not be growing much any more.

There are bloggers who assert that the petitions are purely racist and would not have happened were there not an African American man in the Whitehouse. While some of these petitions seem very ad hominem and personal, possibly racially motivated, it's quite clear that there were secession movements before President Obama was elected, and that they crop up for a wide variety of reasons. Some are quite openly racially motivated, and not aimed at President Obama, such as the Northwest Front which plans to take Oregon, Idaho, Washington state and part of Montana to create a homeland for white or Aryan people to live in. It's hard to tell from their website when this movement began, but I presume it predates Obama's presidency. On the other hand, the Conch Republic began when the state police blockaded the single road that connected the Florida keys with the main body of Florida. The Vermont Second Republic seems to have sprung from the trauma of 9/11. There is a very nice survey in the Wikipedia article on Secession Movements in the United States on more secession movements than you can shake a stick at.

The flag with the cut-up snake is from Revolutionary War era American, with a slogan from Benjamin Franklin: Join or Die. Still a pretty good motto. Courtesy of Wiki Commons.,_or_Die

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