Secession fever: Don’t catch it

by Steven Greenhut | November 19, 2012 2:25 am

[1]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[2]” 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.

[3]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[4] — 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].

  1. [Image]:
  2. We the People:
  3. [Image]:
  4. state of Jefferson:

Source URL: