Why No Secession or Talk of Secession?
jfnbl at earthlink.com
Wed Jun 28 08:17:54 PDT 2006
I don't think the country is particularly polarized compared to, say,
the Civil Rights era, or the Viet Nam era. I look at the closeness of
the last couple of presidential elections as evidence of a
"coin-toss" mentality more than a sharp division among the general
population. The political elite, the pundits, the politicians, the
press, all portray a sharply polarized society, but it's imaginary.
The general public is not up in arms over anything. And the people
who are up in arms aren't oppressed. Talk of secession would have to
come from the politically oppressed, but those who are most "angry"
aren't oppressed -- they're in charge.
Even if there was motivation, it couldn't get off the ground.
Families are spread across the country; companies have regional and
state offices. We're all tied together by a national economy that
isn't segregable. Federal and state government spending is
intertwined; and the first thing that would happen to a seceding
state or region is the loss of the federal assistance, e.g. the
federal contribution to medicaid and medicare, which runs from 35-75%
of the total cost depending on the wealth of the state. It would only
make economic sense for the states that are net payers of federal
taxes (vs. receivers of federal assistance) to secede, but those are
the states that take the best advantage of a national economy to
attract investment and spending.
Also, today, everyone is an "American" first. Each side of the divide
accuses the other of abandoning "American values." It would be easier
to organize a "de-accession" movement than a secession movement, with
the red states exiling the blue states, or vice versa.
Lastly, unless you assume that the federal government is going to
wave good-bye, you're talking about an armed insurrection. The Civil
War was closely fought. I don't care how many states join the
secession movement, the federal government has overwhelming military
power, and, finally, the nuclear option.
At 10:17 AM -0400 6/28/06, RJLipkin at aol.com wrote:
> I have a queer question--so what's new?--that perhaps is
>off-topic. Although I do not pretend any expertise in historical
>scholarship, I've developed an interest in the periods in our
>history when there was talk of secession, for example, 1790s, 1800,
>1814, 1830s (that's as far as I've gotten). One striking feature, of
>course, is the degree of political polarization at least among the
>ruling elites. My sense is that presently the American electorate is
>as polarized as any earlier time at least in my lifetime. The war in
>Iraq, alleged abuse of executive power, torture, presidential and
>media leaks, and so forth are just some of the examples. My
>question is this: Why is there no talk of secession? Believe me, I'm
>not advocating secession. Nor do I think it is a remotely plausible
>or desirable proposal. But what has changed in American political
>society from earlier eras to the present that renders secession an
>impossible (ridiculous?) prospect? Is the simple (and completel)
>answer: "Duh, it's the Civil War, stupid."?
>Robert Justin Lipkin
>Professor of Law
>Widener University School of Law
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