In September of 2011, the White House announced the creation of a “White House Petitions” website. The site would allow regular people to write petitions to the government, exercising their first amendment right to petition their government, and if the numbers signed reached a certain threshold – now 25,000 signatures in 30 days – the petition would be forwarded to the White House policy shop responsible for review and possible action. Sounds great right? Grassroots politics at work.
The #1 petition on the White House website right now? A petition from citizens of the State of Texas to secede from the union. It has a whopping 95,292 signatures.
Six other petitions have hit the threshold: Louisiana’s petition to secede has garnered 34,159 signatures. Florida has 29,000, Georgia has 28,000, Alabama 27,000, Tennessee 26,000, North Carolina 25,000. South Carolina, birthplace of secession, only has 22,000, Arkansas 20,000 and a handful of other states – including a number that didn’t try secession last time, like Indiana and Colorado – are in the 15k-18k range.
These petitions have garnered a lot of news coverage (just do a Google news search on “secession”), and if you’re Facebook or Twitter, the chances are someone you know has posted it.
This is unbelievable to me, if only because we are a mere 150 years away from the last time secession was openly talked about, and it’s not as if the results there were inconclusive. History has taught us that it’s simply a bad idea. There are few words in the American political dictionary that are as loaded as the word “secession.” And few that have been the cause of more heartbreak and misery. This isn’t something we should even be discussing as a joke.
The talk needs to stop. Secession is lunacy. No election is so important, no president is so bad or dangerous that their election warrants the destruction of the country. Not Lincoln, not Obama. And when Republicans start talking this way after losing an election, it looks not simply stupid, it looks insane.
My good friend Scott Manning, a military historian who runs a well known blog, wrote recently of “4 reasons why secession is nonsense.” Scott had 4 reasons. Personally, I’ve got 1,147,954 reasons. And every single one represents a life torn about because of that word.
Whether it’s 1861 or 2012, there are simply no reasons so compelling as to justify any state seceding simply because of one election. It was wrong when states seceded after Lincoln’s election, and it’s even more wrong today. Lincoln himself didn’t get a single vote for President from any state that seceded – he wasn’t even on the ballot. So when voters in the South chose to leave the union, they could at least do so in clear conscience that no one had voted for President Lincoln and he did not have their consent to govern. And while President Obama didn’t do well in the old south, he held Virginia – heartland of the Confederacy – and Florida. Even in states he lost, millions of our fellow citizens voted for him. Like him or not, he won the election, and he did so fair and square.
It’s frustrating to me that there are some people out there who would even consider putting their signature on a petition like this. Over half a million Americans died the last time secession was spoken of openly. And as we commemorate the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of that war, we’re back to where we started, with tens of thousands of misguided Americans again openly advocating for secession. Even if it’s a “peaceful secession” – something that is as rare in world history as peace itself – it is still a desire on the part of some to destroy the United States. And why? Because their guy lost. It’s nuts.
There is nothing so wrong with this country that we need to even consider starting over. The folks who signed this petition really need to stop and consider what they’re really asking for. The casualties of the last Civil War deserve at least that much respect.