Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How will Obama respond to these secession petitions, Update

Obama is not stupid, he is very smart and  has a sharp analytic mind. You may not agree with what he says, but I think it would only be blind partisanship not to recognize that he is smart.

So it occurs to me what will Obama's response be to these secession petitions? I initially thought it would be some reply with legal reasoning that would not get much public interest. Or perhaps Obama might just publish the Gettysburg Address and say "ditto" in a humorous response.

However, I see that these secession petitions give Obama a political opportunity. An opportunity to get his opposition into conflict and trouble with themselves and discredit themselves with the general public.

When Obama first got elected he made a statement that the Republicans shouldn't let Rush Limbaugh be their leader. Obama wasn't being helpful to the Republicans. He wanted Rush Limbaugh to be the face of the Republican party and further show that the Republican party wouldn't reject Limbaugh further giving credibility that Limbaugh was representative of the Republican party. Limbaugh not caring for anyone or anything except himself leaped at the opportunity to promote himself surely knowing he was enabling Obama's strategy. Obama's gambit worked wonderfully helping him to win re-election.

Understanding what Obama did, and that he is a strategic thinker taking advantage of these types of opportunities I think might give us insight as to what he will do. The petitions did get a lot of attention and his response will get a lot of attention. In responding Obama has the opportunity to discredit his opponents or put them in a difficult position with their supporters.

Surely Obama has noticed the response of Rick Perry advocating staying in the Union, but not condemning the secessionists and expressing sympathy to them. Obama surely has concluded secession is a difficult issue for some Republicans.

So Obama in his response to these secession petitions has opportunities. Even though the public is laughing at them, it is the type of thing that entertains the public and there will be curiosity over exactly what Obama's response will be. If Obama does a legalistic response, there will be some commentary about it and the topic will fade out to oblivion. If Obama hands out the Gettysburg Address or some brief historical reference, it will get some response, and fade to oblivion. The conservative movement will further resist secession entering their mainstream but not criticizing Obama so they can avoid being identified with secession.

But Obama might respond in a way that will bait his opposition to respond. Since much of his opposition is  hysterical or at least very excitable or reactive without reflection this isn't so difficult.

I think Obama's response might have many patriotic references and use the "mystic chords of memory" and his defense of the Union will refer to the blessings of the American government from a Democratic party viewpoint. Maybe not in an obvious way. He might refer to the American historical narrative and reference the increasing egalitarian spirit of American life and how opportunity is made available to all. He could refer to the great national enterprises like NASA and the national parks and federal lands. The later might provoke the Sagebrush rebellion types. There might be a reference to immigration, the Statue of Liberty and how America is seen as a desirable place to immigrate to and how immigration is part of the national story.

The response can't be seen as baiting the opposition, so it has to be done just right to provoke, but not at an obvious level.

I think though Obama will simply choose to make his response a general patriotic defense of the nation. But still these petitions give Obama a possible opportunity to create all sorts of trouble for his opposition and surely he must be thinking of them.

I am very curious as to what Obama's response will be.

Update 11/27/12: I think Obama merely has to have the same response to the secession petitions as Lincoln did regarding secession. Obama has to reject secession on the same basis as it was rejected during the Civil War. Without mentioning Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis or the Confederacy it will be clear that Obama rejects the basic arguments of the Lost Cause mythology justifying secession and hence reject the Lost Cause mythology.

Without mentioning the Confederacy by name he can reject it, and given the current geographic location of the Republican party base, this might get a response of those defending the Confederacy. It would put the Republicans in a difficult position not wanting to be identified with the Confederacy, but not wanting to alienate and lose their base in the deep South.

Mainstreaming secession, not so much.

It isn't happening that much. National Review is ridiculing it.

But it seems it is getting a little traction. WND, has an article where one of there writers interviews Michael Hill, president of the League of the South. The link is here:


It could be argued that having WND pick up your cause doesn't represent mainstreaming very much, but rather your fringe status.

Town hall had another neo-Confederate, Bill Murchison, former writer for Southern Partisan, give his take on secession. You can read the article here:


There is this article at the Human Events web page which argues for a political program to avoid the threat of secession. http://www.humanevents.com/2012/11/26/the-spanish-secession/. The author isn't advocating secession but finds it a useful threat.

I am not seeing the radical right pick up much on secession so far. email me links if you know of sources I over looks.

I think at this point not much will happen until Obama responds.

Spain a "megastate"? The League of the South fantasies

In the following League of the South (LOS) blog post Spain is referenced as a "megastate."


In this blog about Catalan efforts at secession the LOS blog claims:

What's the bottom line of all these stories about secession? Simple: The 20th-century megastate is dead. Good riddance.

Really? Spain is a megastate? I could see perhaps a very large nation called a megastate, like the former Soviet Union or perhaps another large country like the United States or China and India. Of course what exactly is a megastate as opposed to a superstate as a opposed to a plain every day state I don't think is well defined. Perhaps "megastate" just sounds more impressive than saying "superstate" or "state."

Again what the LOS fails to perceive with these European efforts at secession is that Catalonia is planning, if it becomes a nation, to join the European Union. That is to join this supranational organization. The European Union has a common currency, national borders no longer count for much, and it is a common trade zone. The reason these European secession movements are possible is that the European Union is superseding the nation state and taking over its functions in many cases and eliminating national borders as boundaries.

The European Union makes the nation state less important. I haven't thought through much other modern trends such as transnational organizations, in particular regarding trade, the global integrated economy and how they might lessen the forces that drove the creation of the modern state of the 19th and 20th centuries. I suspect they make the nation state less needed as the world is integrated into larger structures than the nation state.

The trend has been the integration of European nations into the European Union and not secession. Sure the European Union has some problems, but they can print the Euro and I am sure they will work out something.  There may be some rough spots, but the historical forces of economics is what has driven this European integration from after World War II from the Benelux union to early pre-EU organizations for trade.

The League of the South does legitimately in discussion point out that secession isn't entirely out of the realm of possibility, after all the Soviet Union broke up as well as Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. However, they totally ignore the local and specific historical backgrounds of these break ups in interpreting these events as foreshadowing secession in the United States which is rather odd for an organization which rejects universal values. (Word search "universal" on the LOS blog.)

The large state provides tremendous opportunities in funding research, providing a large labor market with abundant opportunities, large scale industries with their opportunities, great national enterprises such as NASA, research institutes, high energy physics, and all sorts of scientific and technological endeavors, a huge pool of people with all sorts of possibilities for creative interactions.

Small states, when they aren't in a matrix of a larger supranational organization often have many challenges, lesser opportunities, and often depend on larger allies.

It is in the LOS's interests to tout secession as the coming thing to boost the morale of their supporters and gain new adherents. However, others need to critically review their claims to see that they are far less than they seem.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Secession petitions and Confederate symbols

One question that hasn't been discussed is how people might perceive Confederate symbols, statues, flags, etc. with these secession petitions.  Jon Stewart makes reference to them in his comical take on the secession petitions. One can't but notice that the petitions achieving 25,000 signatures and thus promised a reply are from former Confederate states. The following is  a link to Stewart's commentary.


The tolerance of glorifying the Confederacy has been based on the idea that the Confederacy and secession were safely dead. That was the basis of the politics overthrowing Reconstruction, Southern leaders constantly emphasizing that secession was not an option and how patriotic they were. This is the basis of their later politics, especially with the Spanish American war.

With the Confederacy safely dead, the Lost Cause is romantic to some as long as it stays "Lost." People watch Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable in "Gone With the Wind."

If the Lost Cause isn't so lost, such as with 800,000 plus signatures on secession petitions at whitehouse.gov,  then it isn't so romantic. I can't help but think that a lot of people will look at the Confederacy, and its remembrances and symbols with some distaste. They will think secession is very unlikely, but they will not be comfortable with glorifying secession or remembering it. They know that the unlikely can unexpectedly, surprisingly become likely.

Enthusiasm for the Confederacy and secession will no longer be thought as an amusing eccentricity or fantasy, it will be at some level be seen with a little bit of apprehension. People continuing to indulge Lost Cause enthusiasts themselves will not be appreciated.

I plan to make reference to these petitions in our 2013 letter to Obama asking him not to send a wreath to the Arlington Confederate monument.

Further thoughts on the secession petitions

Saturday morning, Nov. 17, 2012,  I went to Whitehouse.gov and printed out the list of petitions and totaled all the signatures for a state to secede. I got a little under 850,000 signatures. I doubt that this means there were 850,000 signers, probably some people signed more than one petition. Also it has been reported a large fraction of those signing some of the secession petitions were not from the state where a resident was petitioning to secede.

There have been numerous articles about these petitions, mostly in a humorous or mocking manner. The articles have become less and less frequent in the news. The next news cycle will be when the Obama administration responds. A great many people would oppose any position of Obama reflexively so there is likely to be some response to Obama's response. If Obama said the sky was blue it would get opposition in some quarters.

Interestingly enough the right media hasn't taken secession up much as an issue. I suppose there is one minor figure here or their that might have taken up secession as an issue, but the right wing media figures largely have not taken secession up. I think they realize that they can hardly portray themselves are more patriotic than thou and still be supporting secession. Also, the great majority of Americans love their country and are against secession. Conservatives know that if they pick up secession or if secession is identified with them the public would develop a real antipathy against conservatism.

So is this movement largely over for the present? I would say yes. There will be some articles when Obama responds, the right wing media will be glad to see the subject pass, and there will be only a residual of signers still interested in further pursing the topic.

The petitions themselves only got traction since they could be posted at the White House website and further if over 25,000 they were promised a reply. If the petitions had been on a website without any guarantee of a White House response they wouldn't have gotten as many signatures and certainly not any media attention.

I suspect that many of those who signed did so only as a way of expressing rejection of Obama without really wanting to secede. Also, they could do it without making public their full names.

However, the longer term impact may be more important. A great many right wing individuals signed their first secession petition for whatever reason. Having signed one secession petition, there isn't a barrier to signing a second one or give secession a consideration. Additionally though a great majority or nearly most of the signers might give it little further consideration, there will be some signers which will develop an interest in the topic and the small movement of secessionists will find a large influx of new supporters relative to their current numbers. Also, the issue of secession is now being discussed. What might seem initially seem wild or crazy becomes familiar and less shocking with ongoing discussion. Secession is becoming normalized.

The signers that didn't have serious consideration of seceding will find themselves open to thinking about it from time to time. They did sign the petition for secession for whatever the reason, and they are now signers of a secession petition for whatever reason. It can't but help affect their identity and their view of secession in subtle ways. We define ourselves individually and as groups symbolically and they have taken a symbolic action which will define themselves. In the future course of events, they will be more open to support secession again and potentially become seriously interested.

For purposes of argument I am going to assume that of the petition signers there was at least 500,000 different signers. I am just making a wild guestimate. I know there must be duplicate signers, how many it is anyone's guess.

In a nation of 300 million, 500,000 is a very small percentage, but a small fraction of those signers would be enough to sustain a small movement interested in secession. A fraction of 5% of 500,000 signers would be 25,000 which would be a very big expansion of the current movement, and many times larger than the Abbeville Institute. http://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/

Nations often have ups and downs and stresses and strains. A movement like this can be like a small fracture in a wind shield, which, with the right stressful conditions, the crack can end up propagating the entire length of glass. The future is full of unexpected events. Though seemingly laughable now, this movement could potentially in the future be a cause for concern.

How big was the initial group of people who thought the Soviet Union should be broken up? The secessionist Scottish National Party used to poll single digits in elections in Scotland, now they dominate the Scottish parliament and secession of Scotland is a real possibility. Every new idea starts with a minority of precisely one as Thomas Carlyle said.

However, I don't want to be advocating that we should be alarmed either. It could be that in 20 or 30 years this whole secession petition effort will be seen as a footnote in history, an odd ball curiosity for amusement in a nation continuing to progress. But it could be the seed, the small fracture that grows, in a nation facing an unexpected stresses. The future is opaque.

I think one key thing to observe is whether a right wing media figure turns to embrace secession to promote his own ratings. He probably won't really support secession, but will advocate it to boost ratings and make him stand out in a crowded and very competitive field of right wing broadcast professional commentators. A field where one gets ahead by being more outrageous than the others.

If he or she succeeds then imitators will follow. So far though even WND isn't that sympathetic to secesssion. You are really out there on the fringe when WND.com thinks that you are out there. These are the people who embraced Birtherism.

I think also this movement will be aided or retarded by how the future is perceived. Right now many see the Democrats as having locked up the future. There is a lot to be said for this. The economy is terrible and Obama has managed to be re-elected despite this. One can only imagine how the Democrats will do in 2016 if the economy has a turn around. However, these projections of long term dominance of one party or another often prove wrong. After the defeat of Goldwater in 1964, there was a fear there wasn't going to be a real two party system anymore.

But if it does appear that there is no future for a certain politics where some people are privileged over others there will be, I think, some support for secession. Some will imagine that they could have their privileged position in some enclave or state. These perceptions would support a politics of states rights for a sort of internal secession or a politics of outright secession.

So at this point, I conclude the door has been open to the topic of secession in national politics. This is a critical and important step in the development of an ongoing political discourse about secession. However, whether it leads anywhere is very much open to question, I think at this point it isn't, unless there are unforeseen developments.

It should not be a cause for alarm but it should be cause for thoughtful concern.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Loads of Laughs: Secession petitions at Whitehouse.gov

Go to Google News and do a search with key words "secede" or "secession" and you will find articles about the secession petitions at whitehouse.gov. It is all over mainstream media. According to reports if you get 25,000 signatures in 30 days the Obama administration promises to make an official reply, with some various caveats. So far a petition asking for Texas to be allowed to secede has gotten 70,000 signatures and other petitions are gaining signatures quickly.

It gives a whole new meaning to the slogan, "America: Love it or Leave It."

This has gotten neo-Confederates excited. For an example go to this link. They think their time has come. It hasn't.

The impact of these petitions will be as follows;

1. It will provide an opportunity for humor. Check this posting.


If you don't think this example is funny remember I said "opportunity" for humor.

2. It will make the opponents of Obama seem silly or crazy.

3. It will result in making some elected Republicans in the South look questionable. For example Rick Perry's response to the Texas secession petition: Rick Perry's comments in "USA Today."  Where Rick Perry states:

"Gov. Perry believes in the greatness of our Union and nothing should be done to change it," Frazier's statement says. "But he also shares the frustrations many Americans have with our federal government. Now more than ever our country needs strong leadership from states like Texas."

Perry wants to oppose secession with out alienating these secession petitioners which it seems he sees as part of his voter base. Perry doesn't want to criticize these petitioners, but sympathize with them.

4. It makes the opponents of Obama seem unpatriotic. After all advocating secession from America is a fairly forthright rejection of America.

5. Runs the risk of further identifying conservatism with the Confederacy. More than a few have observed the electoral map of states for Romney looked like a Confederacy. Now there are secession petitions.

I think it also poses a risk for the conservative media in this country. The temptation is to be the most outrageous voice in the conservative media to boost ratings, but giving into this movement risks running conservatism as a viable movement in this country off a cliff.  Though WND is headlining this secession movement. http://www.wnd.com/2012/11/now-many-states-want-to-secede-from-u-s/

I think in about a month this will be mostly over. The Obama administration will point out that states can't secede and additionally there would least have to be some vote on it by the citizens of a state to see if even a bare majority wanted to secede, and you would think for a serious change like this it would have to be 2/3'rds or a higher fraction of the voters wanting this type of change.

Of course if Obama says he is against something, some people will reflexively be for it.

I do think though that this effort is perhaps a manifestation of a larger phenomenon. I think a lot of people that were opposed to Obama thought that in four years he would be defeated at the polls and he would be gone. Indeed they thought it right up to the end, despite polls showing otherwise. Some of the opposition was hysterical in nature such as the birther movement.  Additionally it seems that with this election that the likely direction of the United States will be towards a different America than what the anti-Obama movement wants.

I think this is a reality that some anti-Obama opponents can't accept. I think the secession petitions are just blowing off steam and few are serious about them, but I do think that the more hysterical opponents of Obama will look for some serious method of opposing the post-election future and that these methods might be cause for concern.

Also, if you do sign an official secession petition, even if your full name isn't given, and you do it as a joke, you still have done it, and psychologically this action changes to some degree your self-identification. It is a symbolic gesture, and we often create our identity with symbols. You will now be a person who did sign a secession petition.

I think the future bears watching.

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