All this talk about secession is about the most ridiculous thing that I’ve seen happen in our country for some time! At this writing, the count is up to 49 states who have filed petitions to peacefully secede from the United States. What is even more amazing is that these petitions are making the news. Why? This isn’t even news. This whole secession thing is no more newsworthy then the leaves that blew off my tree from the wind last night!
What makes it even more frustrating is all the blogs and Facebook posts and opinion pieces that are raising these petitions as serious issues, for example, racism. Come on, really? By my count, just eleven of the petitioning states are southern states who seceded prior to the Civil War; the rest are mid-western or northern states. Some are red states while many are also blue states. How can you draw from these petitions that it is a race thing? While I certainly don’t support the idea of secession, my assessment of the 707,738 who signed these petitions is that it is not because a black president was reelected but because a president was reelected who supports issues, not just opposed to many conservatives, but who opposes them to the extreme and with vigor.
But that’s for another post, let me get back to the topic of secession. Why do I find these petitions for secession and the accompanying assumption of news-worthiness so ridiculous?
First, the petitions being signed have no legal or Constitutional authority. These are petitions on the White House “We the People” website. What is this website for? So the president can hear from the American people. What will the White House do with the petitions on this site? According to the website, if any petition received 25,000 signatures, “White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.” Just to show the seriousness of some of the petitions on the site, there is one that has 472 signatures so far that is titled, “Have President Obama Do the Hokey-Pokey.” Now this is the place to bring serious issues!
I’m not disparaging the website, it’s a great idea. If enough people are concerned about a particular issue, the White House will look into and respond to it. But it has no legal authority! The most that petitions on this site will accomplish, if they get the required 25,000 signatures, will be to cause the White House to look into it and issue a response. What will that response be for the secession petitions? “You can’t secede.”
But you say, “it still let’s the president know that people aren’t happy with him, that they don’t like what he believes in, they don’t support what he’s doing with the government.” True, but don’t you think the 59,141,316 votes for Governor Romney and 1,931,237 votes for other presidential candidates (including 49,426 for Roseanne Barr!) tell him that? This doesn’t even count the throw-away write-in votes for Jesus, who isn’t even eligable to serve as President of the United States-nor do I think that He would want to! After all, President Obama just had 51% of the popular vote, he must have figured out by now that the 49% of Americans who didn’t vote for him, in some way disagree or don’t approve of him.
Second, these petitions show the world and other Americans that we are a divided country. It’s true that in some respects we are divided, after all, we have a number of different political parties, all sorts of Political Associations and Lobbies, and any number of publications and websites where we battle out our differences. But with all of our differences, when the election is over real Americans come back together to work toward a better America. We don’t seek to separate ourselves. The actions of the signers of these petitions just create a wider division in our country than there needs to be.
We can (and need to) continue to have our different beliefs about the issues. We need to debate them and seek to convince the “undecideds” that our way is best. We need to prepare for the next election and work to get our issues supported and our candidates elected. But we do this as Americans, not as independent states.
Third, The number of signers on these petitions are miniscule. Consider the population of the United States: 308,745,538. Compare that to the number of signers (at this writing) of these petitions: 707,738. That’s a whopping 0.22923019538504227 percent of the populace, well under 1%! Less than 1/2 of 1% in fact! Let’s compare them to those who voted on election day, about 123,688,647. Those who have signed the petition are just 0.5721931779235971 percent of the electorate who voted in the last election, that’s just barely over 1/2 of 1%.So really, these petitions are meaningless because they represent such a small amount of the American people. The number involved in these petitions is so insignificant that they shouldn’t receive any attention at all, much less all of the attention they are getting. Here’s an update (15 Nov 12): According to an article on the Washington Times website, a University of North Carolina Sociology professor had one of his classes take on these petitions as a project. One of the things they discovered in their detailed analysis was that, “As of 7 a.m. Thursday, there were 789,453 signatures, but since many people had signed more than one petition, the class concluded that fewer than half, or 281,780, were unique.” This just makes the numbers even less significant and therefore, even less noteworthy.
Fourth, a petition from citizens to the President of the United States is not the way a state would secede anyway. The state’s legal business is performed by the elected officials of that state. I would imagine that it would be the state Attorney General, by direction of the state legislature with approval of the governor (depending on the percentage of the vote from the legislature) who would file the legal papers with the Federal government for the peaceful withdraw from the United States. More likely than not, this would still be preceded by a vote by the people of that state. So all of these petitions on the We the People website aren’t even the legal way to go about the whole process of seceding. If they’re going to start a petition, it should be to their state legislatures for them to take it up while in session.
Finally, the bottom line is the states are not permitted to “peacefully withdraw from the United States of America.” Many of the petitions quote from the Declaration of Independence, which is a fine document in deed:
“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.”
“…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and institute new Government…”
But what they must not understand is that the Declaration of Independence was our declaration to the King of England. While it has many nice sentiments and we can gain much insight into the thinking of our founding fathers, it is not a basis for law. United States law is based on the United States Constitution and even though there is no provision forbidding secession, I find no provision in it allowing for a state to withdraw from the United States either.
There was a little-known war a few years back. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Those in the south sometimes call it “The War of Northern Aggression.” Some in the north called it the “War of Secession.” It’s common name is “The Civil War.” Whatever you call it, it pretty much settled the issue of secession from the United States. If anyone wonders about that, it is very likely that the United States today could use the same rationale that President Lincoln did to allow for Federal troops to ensure that the States remain United. He contended that since there was Federal property in those states, such as Post Offices, forts and arsenals, that the the Federal government had a right to secure Federal property and prevent the states from seceding. Lincoln actually had pretty good Constitutional grounds for his argument. Section 8 of the Constitution states,
The Congress shall have Power . . . To exercise Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards and other needful Buildings;”
From the Constitution and from history we see that the question of secession has been settled. States can’t do it.
So the only result coming from all of these petitions to secede is the growth of accusations, bitterness, fighting, and division. All of this at a time when our country needs to come together and see what we can do to make things a little better, even if it is just at the local level where all of us can get involved.
So what would be my advice to all of those who started and signed the petitions for their states to secede from the United States?