Perhaps the timing of President Barack Obama’s re-election and the release of Steven Spielberg’s Abraham Lincoln biopic “Lincoln” isn’t a coincidence. Residents in all 50 states have recently filed petitions to secede from the Union.
The petitions were filed on the We The People petition page on WhiteHouse.gov. Any petition on the webpage with more than 25,000 digital signatures will prompt an official response from the White House.
Several states already have more than enough signatures—Texas had more than 100,000 at press time. The petitions were started a week after Obama’s re-election, implying that his achieving a second term is enough to make some people want to renounce their citizenship.
A Nov. 12 article in the New York Daily News called the petitioners “sore losers,” but that may give them too much credit. Democracy isn’t a game with losers and winners; it’s a political process in which we all participate. If the response to an unfavorable election is to leave the country, then why vote at all?
These petitions have hundreds of thousands of signatures altogether, but not enough to regard this as a serious movement in any of these states to secede from the country. Supreme Court decisions, history and common sense have established that there’s no legal way for a state to secede, so Obama probably isn’t the right person to petition.
Would these states be a better place if they went solo? Probably not. Of the states that have filed petitions, more than half receive more in federal spending than they pay in federal taxes, according to an investigation done by Mother Jones, an independent magazine and news site. Mississippi, which has a petition to secede with more than 17,000 signatures, receives $2.47 for every federal tax dollar the state pays.
However, the oil-rich land of Texas pays more than it receives in federal money. The state was an independent republic before it joined the U.S. in 1845 and always seems to be the one closest to secession. Gov. Rick Perry even hinted that he supported secession at a Tea Party rally in 2009.
“We’ve got a great Union,” Perry said, according to an April 16, 2009, article on CNN.com. “There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.”
Texas is a financially prosperous state, so maybe it doesn’t need the federal government. But that is not the whole truth. In the summer of 2011, Texas asked for a disaster declaration and federal aid for wildfires. Perry also asked for more federal assistance to secure the Mexican border in 2010, according to an Oct. 16, 2010, El Paso Times article. Texas may be financially stable, but it isn’t completely self-sufficient.
Perry has finally backed away from any past statements he made regarding secession, telling The Dallas Morning News on Nov. 13 that he doesn’t agree with the online petition and he “believes in the greatness of our Union.”
A counterpetition with almost 25,000 signatures is asking the White House to deport everyone signing secession petitions. There’s also a chance that some of the signatures on the secession petitions are from rational people in other states who would be fine with getting rid of supposed secessionists. Regardless, these petitions have no legal effect. The White House website has passed petitions asking the administration to address the Citizens United decision, but Obama won’t be touching that any time soon. There shouldn’t be any concern of a second Civil War, but that doesn’t make this response to the election results any less ridiculous.
The White House will have to respond to the petitions that receive more than 25,000 signatures. Judging by previous White House responses to online petitions, the reactions will be very tame. But if any of this turns into a real discussion about secession, the president’s statement should be short and sweet: Goodbye and good luck. If the results of the democratic process are enough to make you want to leave the country, then you probably should.