Secession fever: Don’t catch it

Nov. 19, 2012

By Steven Greenhut

SACRAMENTO — Psychiatrists talk about the progressive stages of grief people experience after suffering a devastating loss in their personal lives, moving from denial to anger to bargaining (i.e., trying to strike a “deal” with a higher power) to depression and, finally, to acceptance.

Political scientists ought to come up with a similar series of “grief stages” for people grappling with a devastating political loss. Case in point: Republicans, who were convinced that voters would grant them the White House after four years of failed Obama administration policies.

Discouraged political activists have been expressing denial, anger and depression. Currently, they are going through a stage that should be termed “fantasy,” where they advocate ideas that will never come to fruition and pretend there’s a quick, fun solution to deep political problems that will be solved over time and through hard work and vision.

For instance, more than 675,000 Americans, representing all 50 states, have digitally signed 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.

As of Wednesday, petitions from seven states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas — each had hit 25,000 signatures, the threshold to prompt a “review” by the White House. As the Daily Caller reported, “Launched Nov. 7, the day after Obama won re-election, the [initial secession petition, started by someone in Louisiana] 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 many 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-19th century. 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 struggles. 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.

Texas Republic

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 than even Texans. States are diverse and complex places. Even in Texas, Obama received more than 41 percent of the vote. At the same time, in California, which gave Obama a stunning 59 percent of the vote, 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 so common among media analysts.

A number of people happy with the election results have filed their own online petitions with the White House “We the People” system, calling for the secession petitioners to be deported.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry dismissed the secession idea, despite his differences with the feds. Secession, 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 further to the left than most elsewhere. For example, the new cap-and-trade system to fight global warming, the first (and, let’s hope, last) in the nation, got started this past week, 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 with California outside the Union.

Break up California

The better idea for frustrated Californians (aside from seeking a new home in Oklahoma City or Abilene, Kansas), is to reconsider the notion of breaking our state into more hospitable segments.

Consider that Sacramento County, for example, has a land area not that much smaller than Rhode Island, and a population about 50 percent larger. San Bernardino County is larger, geographically, than nine states. Who says that California, which spans nearly 800 miles north to south, needs to keep its current configuration?

I’d create several California states. Coastal California would run from Los Angeles County through Sonoma County and would offer little to hinder the liberal experimentation popular in places such as San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles. Those living outside this state presumably would be free to visit on weekends and enjoy the cultural amenities, but as nonresidents wouldn’t have to pay for the nuttiness.

My Southern California would include Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties. This state would be politically competitive, but conservative leaning.

So, too, would be my Inland California, which would include most of the vast Central Valley and the Sierras. I would throw the most-northern counties into the already proposed state of Jefferson — reflecting an old-time secessionist movement that would combine portions of Northern California and southern Oregon, a collection of mountainous areas with little population and a distinct culture.

There would be more harmony, and fewer complaints by people on either the left or right, who could find it easier to 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.

Steven Greenhut is vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity; Write to him at: [email protected]


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  1. Ted Steele, Prosecutor
    Ted Steele, Prosecutor 19 November, 2012, 06:43

    The entire movement looks to the ret of the Country like more teabaggy ethos………..I predict the republicans out of power for another decade.

    Reply this comment
  2. Fred Mangels
    Fred Mangels 19 November, 2012, 07:58

    One problem with the State of Jefferson idea is Humboldt and Mendocino counties don’t really belong in it anymore. Too many people have moved up from the Bay Area and tainted the region with their politics. Just look at the recent election results. Both counties voted pretty much authoritarian in all races.

    Despite living in Humboldt County, I’ll have to concede we belong with the coastal California slime, at least as far as current politics go.

    Reply this comment
  3. Ted
    Ted 19 November, 2012, 08:22

    Fred— Are you getting enough oxygen in the bunker?

    Reply this comment
  4. Scab
    Scab 19 November, 2012, 08:50

    Ted’s brain is lacking oxygen from too much pot smoking. The tar has coated his lungs and the THC has permanently impaired his reasoning. As a result all he can remember is the union pledge and that his backend hurts from his choice in life partners.

    Reply this comment
  5. BobA
    BobA 19 November, 2012, 09:00

    This entire article is balderdash. It’s the equivalent of telling slaves that they’re better off staying with their masters than being free. It’s the equivalent of telling a battered wife that she’s better off staying with an abusive husband than divorcing him. It’s the equivalent of saying that the states are property of the federal government and the tyranny of an oppressive federal government must not be opposed.

    If the states don’t have the rights to secede, then it begs the question: are the states a union of sovereign states that make up our constitutional republic or are the states districts of a sovereign federal government? A government that is becoming more dictatorial and absolutist and imposes it’s will upon the states?

    Reply this comment
  6. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 19 November, 2012, 09:40

    Planning secession is sedition. It will not happen. We are not going to have another civil war in this country! You can pontificate all you want about splitting CA into several different states–our diversity is what makes us what we are–no splitting up of my state! VIVA CA! If you don’t want to stay here and support your neighbors, pick the Red state of your choice, and don’t let the door hit you…………………..

    Reply this comment
  7. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 19 November, 2012, 10:33

    BobA – There’s a fine new film out that demonstrates the consequences of secession; it’s called “Lincoln.”

    The only good thing about the rise of a neo-Confederacy would be the opportunity to perform a thorough and correct Reconstruction this time around. That means instead of disarming the seditious leaders and sending them home, we could have a nice period of public retribution and give them the same rewards bestowed upon traitors throughout history.

    Reply this comment
  8. Ted
    Ted 19 November, 2012, 10:40

    “Scab”, if that truly is your name,

    You wrote…”his backend hurts from his choice in life partners.”

    Let me take a guess here. With that kind of low brow, childish, hateful rhetoric be honest with me, are you a tea bag Republican?

    Reply this comment
  9. BobA
    BobA 19 November, 2012, 11:00


    You have a utopian view of reality. What will you have to say when reality imposes itself into your utopian view? Diversity? You mean the islands of relative wealth surrounded by a sea poverty & crime?

    People like you tolerate the worst scum of society in the name of diversity as long as that diversity doesn’t rape, rob, murder and/or drive down the property values in your neighborhood.

    Reply this comment
  10. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 19 November, 2012, 13:15

    @Bob: I don’t tolerate any of what you describe as, “scum of society”. I don’t live by such types and, if I did, it wouldn’t be for very long. Of course I tolerate all kinds of diversity, as long as it doesn’t do those things? What doesn’t make sense about that? If such types don’t do those those things, why are you calling them the, “worst scum”?

    Reply this comment
  11. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 19 November, 2012, 13:20

    One doesn’t have to be a tea bagger to be that stupid, Ted. Anything but focusing on the subject of the article. Just bully the other poster–makes the perpetrator feel so smug, cause that’s all he’s got.

    Reply this comment
  12. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 19 November, 2012, 15:56

    @Bob, Diversity isn’t just about color and financial position. It is also about people who come from all walks of life, regarding education and careers, people with differing policitical and religious views. Then, also look at CA’s diversity of landscape–CA has everything. How boring it would be, if we were all alike and CA’s sights would be only one type of landscape and infrastructure.

    Reply this comment
  13. juggler
    juggler 19 November, 2012, 23:12

    All of the people (myself included) are fed up with the mismanagement of our republic at the federal level. Massive amounts of money (yet again) spent by all of the special interests guarantee the public will not have a voice in the federal government which is supposed to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” I think everyone who signed one of the petitions would agree with the sentiment — we want our government back.

    Reply this comment
  14. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 20 November, 2012, 10:42

    @juggler, other than contacting your representatives and telling them how you feel about certain issues, what else do you want to do to, “take your government back”? What have you done to let your reprsentatives know what you think? Are you advocating that we change to a dictatorship, with you as the dictator?

    Reply this comment
  15. nowsane
    nowsane 20 November, 2012, 10:43

    “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.”
    I would like to take away from this article, the above statement which tells us to do all we can to look at every city and County maneuver/law being proposed and search for better ways of doing things!

    Reply this comment

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