How divided are we as a nation? You could answer that question by focusing on the tone of the give-and-take (mostly take) inside the Beltway on how best to avoid plunging over the fiscal cliff. Or you could focus on the movement outside the Beltway spearheaded by citizens and groups who feel underrepresented by the current government and have petitioned to secede from the union.
As of Wednesday, the number of such petitions had grown to 50, one for each state, according to the Los Angeles Times. Vermont, a state so blue that one of its two U.S. Senators is a card-carrying member of the Democratic Socialist Party, became the last state to file a petition.
ABCNews reports that Texas now leads the secession race with 101,328 online signatures. The news site also notes that a number of anti-secession petitions have now been submitted, some of them vengeful in their demands. One reads:
Mr. President, please sign an executive order such that each American citizen who signed a petition from any state to secede from the USA shall have their citizenship stripped and be peacefully deported.
One might ask whatever happened to the right to dissent held in such high regard by liberals during the George W. Bush years, but at least the demand is for a peaceful deportation.
If all this sounds silly, that’s because it is. Other secessionist movements have sprung up, including one in the aforementioned liberal stronghold of Vermont, which sought to form its own republic in 2003. No states, however, have succeeded in seceding—and that includes the 11 states that announced their plan to form their own confederacy in 1861.
The reason can be found in Article IV, Section. 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution, which reads:
New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.
In short, without the consent of Congress, no state is going anywhere.
So where did these petitions come from? They are the byproduct of a misguided effort on the part of the most transparent administration in history to give a bully pulpit to the people. Although bills before Congress have never appeared online in advance of votes, as candidate Barack Obama promised in 2008, the White House website foolishly added a page titled “We the People: Your Voice in Our Government,” which includes a section for online petitions. As explained at the site, the White House promises to review and issue an official comment on any petitions gaining more than 25,000 signatures.
It was a cynical and half-hearted gesture to start with, which may explain why so far, the president has remained mum on the three quarter million and counting signatures on secession petitions.
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