One of the most puzzling reactions to President Barack Obama's re-election last week is the growing movement by residents of more than half the states to secede from the Union. Tens of thousands are signing petitions that in effect seek the ability to form their "own new government." What nonsense.
The petitions posted on the White House website "We the People" have been signed by hundreds of thousands of people. Tennessee and Georgia are among the states are represented, but they are hardly alone. Residents of at least 30 states have signed petitions, though it appears to some who have scanned the signatures that some individuals have signed petitions for multiple states.
It is pretty clear that those who want to secede from the union are unhappy with Obama's re-election. Those who have signed the petitions and who have commented publicly about them are pretty coy. Most, in fact, don't mention the president by name but say things like "We're fed up with the way things are ..." or "It would be a crime against the people of any state to hold them, against their will, in a Union that they desire to leave."
It's not hard to divine what drives many, but not all of those who signed the petition. Some observers of the contemporary political scene mince no words, in fact, in what they perceive as the reason for the nascent secession movement.
"It's nothing but race," says Tyrone Brooks, president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials. "Some people are upset at the fact that we have an African-American president." That's not so, says one Georgia signer of the secession petition.
"The racial issue has been checked at the doorstep for a long time," said Danny Dukes, of Canton, Ga. The petition is "like the Boston Tea Party sending a message saying, 'We're fed up with the way things are.' We want progress and direction and leadership and don't agree with the route things are taking."
Many Americans likely share at least some of those feelings, given the number of votes garnered by losing Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Most, thank goodness, don't think secession is the way to resolve hard feelings about the election. Indeed, many familiar with the petitions have made their skepticism or disgust with the secession effort well known. Good for them.
Truth is, the petitions mean little. Most are posted on the White House website established by the president last year as an easy way for citizens to approach the administration on any subject of their choosing. No one, it would seem certain, expected secession to become the topic of choice.
As a practical matter, the current petition movement means little. It has no force of law. "It [the petitions] is largely symbolic," says Christopher Banks, a political science professor at an Ohio University. "It's a venue for venting. Even tea party officials agree. "It's [the petition drive] kind of a waste of time said one Ohio party official.
If would-be secessionists hope to kindle a political movement, they're in trouble. David Smith, a spokesman for Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, said "the governor is aware of the petition. Tennessee isn't seceding."
Haslam is not alone in his viewpoint. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal won't even comment on the topic and Ohio Gov. John Kasich said via a spokesman that "The concept of seceding hasn't entered into our policy discussions." Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that "nothing should be done to change" the Union.
Cooler heads understand that secession is a non-starter. The Civil war is a useful reminder, of course, in that regard. More modern proponents of succession should consider not only history but contemporary truths. If secession was possible -- and it isn't -- the states that left the union would find the going difficult.
Just for starters, the states would have to provide some sort of monetary system and provisions for defense for its citizens. They'd have to find alternative ways to travel since the Intestates and many other major roads in most states are federal thoroughfares. Then there's Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The list goes on.
All the talk of secession is in a way of reaffirmation of American principles. Americans have the right to say and promote whatever they want in almost every circumstance. With that right comes the additional right to publicly embarrass themselves by their speech, by their writing and by their actions.
Those who blindly advocate secession as a way of resolving their unhappiness with the election or as a solution to the nation's problems are clearly availing themselves of the latter.