Wednesday, November 14, 2012
I have to take a time out and comment on the latest internet based political argument. Supposedly, up to thirty states now have some sort of internal call for secession from the Unite States. This is not some official act by any of these states’ governments, but citizens signing petitions on the internet, asking that their state (i.e. Texas) to secede from the United States, just like the Confederacy attempted in the 1860s.
I’ll speak to some specifics about this in a moment. But are we really serious about this? Look, republicans/conservatives lost the election. A close election (by popular vote, anyway) mind you, but those of us who aspire to conservative values lost the election. So are we going to take our ball and go home? How mature! There are plenty of real, practical ways to work towards getting the nation back on track. The concept of secession is absurd.
Why won’t secession work?
It’s illegal. It’s unconstitutional. Our Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation, which was basically a loose-fitting regime of sovereign states involved in multilateral negotiations with each other. The Constitution replaced that with something much better – the democratic rule of law. Every State in the Union has ratified the Constitution. This means the Constitution is “the supreme law of the land.” This is clearly present in the ratification debates which led to the adoption of the original Constitution. Its’ clear in the preamble’s reference to a “more perfect union.” Our founding fathers never considered an “exit option.” The Constitution is not an “at will” contract. It is, by definition and the will of the people of every State in this nation, the “law of the land.” Instead of each sovereign State being able to engage in multilateral negotiations, the Constitution sets in place national democratic institutions with authoritative dispute resolution by the federal courts. This was the concept the southern states failed to recognize in 1860. The US Supreme Court, in interpreting contractual disputes involving the Confederate government during the Civil War, settled on the concept that such contracts were void because the Confederate government never had a right to exist. Not because they lost the war, but because as a matter of law, there is no authorization to secede. Those who clamor for secession today also refuse to see this fundamental and foundational concept.
Does anyone honestly think there is unanimity of purpose in any single state for secession? I’d be willing to wager my annual income that no one could find even 75% unanimity for one side of the political spectrum on their own city block, let alone across an entire state. We are a nation divided, indeed, but not based on geography. The threat of secession doesn’t make any sense at all.
Is anyone clamoring for the secession of states like Indiana or Nebraska thinking of the practical implications? What happens to all the federal property within these states? (Property paid for by the collective tax support of all 50 states). Will Indiana reimburse the federal government for the unwarranted taking of this property? And what about access to services, communication, travel etc. provided by the federal government or other states that choose to remain in the Union? Will Indiana be able to access the drinking water from Lake Michigan? Will they pay the federal government for such access? What about currency, or a monetary system? What about mail delivery? What happens when the corporation you work for, which has its headquarters in a state that stays loyal to the union, pulls out after secession? What happens when airlines simply refuse to serve seceding states? What if the seceding states are blockaded, like during the Civil War? How soon after secession will there be food on grocery store shelves, or consumer goods, or gasoline for your cars? What happens when the federal government closes the interstate highway systems leading into the seceding states? Our states are so intertwined with each other and the federal government, to even attempt to secede would be like cutting your midsection out, and expecting your legs to continue to function.
Finally, the most compelling argument against secession is the federal “gravy train.” Will any state, and its inhabitants, simply agree to forego all of the federal benefits and programs they currently enjoy? The Federal Government currently spends about 3.8 trillion dollars every year. The collective spending of the 50 states amounts to about 1.6 trillion. The 50 states collectively spend about a half trillion on health care. The federal government spends 1 trillion on health care alone. Twice as much. Will the individual states simply agree to forego these benefits for their citizens? What about all the internal state improvements funded by federal dollars? Federal support of education? What about pensions funded by federal funds? How will each of these states raise armies? Where will the money come from? Especially in a state like Illinois, which is basically bankrupt to begin with.
Secession didn’t work in 1860. It won’t work now. Its stupid, foolish speculation. It only serves to allow those on the political left to paint all conservatives as stereotypes -- “right wing wack jobs.” Let’s find solutions that work, instead of this craziness. Let’s pray for the electorate to wake up and realize the wrong path we’re going down. Let’s be sensible and credible.