By Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk
Should Texas be allowed to secede from the Union?
Since President Barack Obama’s re-election, more than 100,000 people have put their name to an online petition demanding Texas be allowed to peacefully leave the United States and form its own government.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry repudiates the movement, but secession petitions are now emerging in other “red” (and some “blue”) states as well.
Didn’t Abraham Lincoln settle this issue? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate.
Why do Republicans hate America? Settle down, settle down. I’m just kidding. Really. Those thousands of Texans have signed a secession petition because they hate Obama more than they love their own country? They’re a clear minority in both their state and in their party. Once the pain of losing the presidential election subsides, many of the signatories will eventually feel duly sheepish about their hasty action.
Still, the secession movement didn’t come out of nowhere.
In the hours and days after Obama’s re-election, there were plenty of Republicans who started the hard task of looking at themselves and their party and asking hard questions about why the GOP has lost four of the last six presidential elections — and five of six, if you go by popular vote counts. But too many of their conservative colleagues gave themselves over to petulance instead, deciding, that America had proved itself unworthy of the conservative vision.
You probably heard it in the comments of your Republican friends that “America was getting the government it deserved.” And it made itself most explicit in Mitt Romney’s declaration this week that the Obama campaign essentially bought his majority vote with “gifts” to various constituencies — as though the Wall Street billionaires who supported his candidacy were merely altruistic, expecting no gain in return.
Many Republicans have convinced themselves, then, that they lost because of the moral superiority of their ideology, that Americans just aren’t up for the grizzled Ayn Randian self-reliance it requires.
It’s an attitude both contemptuous and contemptible, and it’s easy to see how it would eventually express itself in a secession petition.
If Texas wants to leave, let it: It’s not worth another bloody Civil War to keep the Union together. In the meantime, Republicans will have to rein in the contempt for their fellow citizens if they want to again earn their votes.
Every four years or so, a sizeable minority of Americans — sometimes upward of 49 percent or even more — wake up the morning after Election Day to a country they claim not to recognize.
The thought of four more years of an Obama “recovery,” the implementation of the president’s ghastly health insurance law, and the prospect of a judiciary remade along left-liberal lines — it’s too much for many Republicans to bear.
Rather than suffer the indignity of living under this man’s administration as more and more of our God-given liberties fall away under an ever more regulatory state, wouldn’t it be better simply to part company? No, it would not.
Petulance is a two-way street, of course. Eight years ago, millions of Democrats woke up to the horror of George W. Bush’s second term. Red America was suddenly “Jesusland.” San Franciscans became more smug and insufferable. And soon, people like Kirkpatrick Sale and Lawrence O’Donnell were in the pages of the left-wing Nation magazine and on cable television making an earnest case — or whining, depending on your point of view — for a “blue-state secession.”
It was foolish talk then, and it’s even more foolish now.
We lost an election. Our liberties are always in jeopardy, regardless of which party has the majority. The country will be a different place in four years. Very possibly, Republicans won’t have the presidency again for a generation. That’s politics.
None of those things justifies secession, which is, as the very first Republican president put it, “the essence of anarchy.”
“A majority,” Abraham Lincoln said in his first inaugural address in 1861, “held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or despotism.”
Republicans are not well suited to anarchy. For conservatives, now is not the time to lose faith in the Constitution and the principles of America’s founding. Nothing lasts forever — certainly not republics. But silly secession fantasies are nothing more than preemptive surrender.
Ben Boychuk (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Joel Mathis (email@example.com) is a writer and blogger in Philadelphia.