Secession, secession-lite, and the politics of temper tantrums

SECESSION, SECESSION-LITE, AND THE POLITICS OF TEMPER TANTRUMS…. A couple of weeks ago, Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) talked up secession. “I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government,” Wamp told National Journal. Wamp went on to praise Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who has referenced “dissolving” the Union, for also raising concerns about the U.S. government’s “oppressive hand.”

This Civil War talk has been echoed by other Republicans, including Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), and disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

All of this, of course, is insane. It’s hardly news that contemporary Republicans have become more radical, but this secession talk helps drive the point home nicely.

Dana Milbank takes this one step further in his column today, noting that some of the secession talk among Republicans has been repackaged, though it’s every bit as extreme.

Most conservatives know it sounds loopy to talk about dissolving the union. After all, it didn’t go so well the last time around. That’s why it’s more acceptable to talk about secession’s cousin, nullification. Calling themselves “Tenthers” (for the 10th Amendment, which gives states powers not assigned to the feds) they’re claiming that states can merely ignore any federal law they don’t like. […]

But nullification, like secession, has been tried before, with poor result. In 1832, Andrew Jackson threatened to use force against South Carolina for nullifying federal law, saying the state was on the brink of treason and argued that “to say that any state may at pleasure secede from the Union is to say that the United States is not a nation.” A compromise held off violence for another quarter century. […]

If a state thinks the law is unconstitutional, it can challenge the law in court, as Virginia is doing. If people don’t like the law, they can elect a new Congress and president to repeal it. Or, they can attempt to amend the Constitution, as several Republican lawmakers would do with the proposed repeal of the 14th Amendment, the one with all that nonsense about equal protection under the law. But secession and nullification have all the legitimacy of a temper tantrum.

But that tantrum is nevertheless becoming increasingly common, as evidenced by Tom Emmer, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota, who believes states should reject all federal laws unless explicitly endorsed by supermajorities in state legislatures.

There is no better example of hysterical Republican extremism. Such madness would have been laughed at by the GOP mainstream not too long ago, but is now a familiar component of the Republican message of the 21st century.