The Secessionist Boom

Well, we’re discovering that at least one segment of the GOP’s conservative “base” has found something to do in reaction to the election results other than engaging in a “struggle for the soul of the party” or discussing what its congressional representatives should do about tax and spending deadlines: petition to secede from the Union!

And what began as a right-wing counterpart to those scattered liberal threats in 2000 and 2004 to “move to Canada” if George W. Bush won has gotten a bit more serious: there have been a reported 675,000 digital signatures on petitions from all 50 states received by the White House’s “We the People” site that entertains public requests to do or look into this or that.

It’s no surprise where the bulk of these secessionist demands are coming from, per the Daily Caller‘s David Martosko:

Petitions from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas residents have accrued at least 25,000 signatures, the number the Obama administration says it will reward with a staff review of online proposals.

The Texas petition leads all others by a wide margin. Shortly before 9:00 a.m. EST Wednesday, it had attracted 94,700 signatures.

I don’t know how these numbers compare with, say, sales of Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016, or Glenn Beck’s regular audience. But by any measurement, it’s a lot of angry and crazy people, probably the kind who constantly alternate between super-patriotism and expressions of rage at our actual country. Given the southern inflection of the secession campaign, you’d have to figure nearly all these petitioners are aware (it is impossible to grow up in the South without being marinated in the memory of the Lost Cause and its consequences virtually from birth) that we had a civil war over this subject a while back, which the secessionists did not win. So it’s an unusually dumb gesture, aimed less at Barack Obama than at their fellow-citizens.

I hope the secession campaign continues just long enough to attract a few politicians and journalists who may perhaps give us a glimpse of their vision of civic life in a revived Texas Republic or a new Confederacy. I’m guessing it would feel a bit like my own surroundings during my childhood in Georgia in the early 1960s, only without those socialist New Deal programs. But it would be good for the rest of us to see and understand fully that the hard core of the conservative “base” isn’t made up of people who don’t want Obama to take away their Medicare benefits, or have been reading deeply in Austrian economics.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.