by Kirkpatrick Sale
I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but secession is in the air.
First of all, a fellow named Bill Miller has started a new website, SecessionNews.com, and it is a Drudge-Report-like compilation of anything connected with secession across the land and around the world. It is an extraordinary endeavor, and it reflects a great deal of talk about, interest in, separatism and independence these days. Miller, a retired computer engineer, has undertaken this, he says, because he has a passionate interest in getting Americans to understand that secession is a legitimate and honorable political strategy. Increasingly, it seems, they’re listening.
A regular contributor to the Miller site is Russell Longcore, who has also started up a new site of his own, the bluntly named DumpDC.com. Longcore, who seems to have insurance and publishing businesses in Georgia, writes long and vigorously about secession in his fairly regular posts. “Secession,” he says, “is on the lips of many Americans today. When they look at a Federal Government that is spinning wildly out of control, state secession begins to have an allure as a remedy. American has gone from a nation of sovereign states with a carefully defined Federal Government to a nation where states are but subservient territories of a rapacious, tyrannical ruling entity that entirely ignores any restrictions on its power.” His site figures to do something about that.
Last December another new voice was added to the cause, from something called AttackTheSystem.com that considers itself to represent the “radical Left.” It argued that secession should be supported because it was the best way to bring down the American empire and all that it stands for, including its support for corporate capitalism, longtime goals of the traditional Left. Vermont liberals of the Sanders persuasion should take a look at it (“Why the Radical Left Should Consider Secession).
In January one notable event, carried by the AP to the lengths of the land, was the launch of the campaign by Dennis Steele and Peter Garritano (and others) for an independent Vermont, but you know all that. You might not have known that another secession campaign, or something very close to it, was launched just before that in Texas, where the Texas Nationalist Movement (“Independence. In our lifetime”) announced its support for the Libertarian candidate for governor, Debra Medina. She is “in line with the core beliefs of our organization,” it said, and she believes that the people of Texas should vote on the issue of independence,” a core TNM demand. (Medina rejected the support, alas.)
(Just as an aside: Libertarians, particularly the smarter Paulists, are important allies for secessionists, since they get to the nullification/secession place with only a few prompts if they’re not already there. Ron himself has said it’s a workable option.)
Also in January the invaluable website TenthAmendmentCenter.com began tracking the number of legislatures coming back into session this year and considering bills to reassert their sovereignty and Tenth Amendment rights. By the end of January resolutions were introduced in 11 states (Washington, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Mississippi, Kentucky, Illinois, Maryland, and Rhode Island). Last year (also tracked on this site) Tenth Amendment resolutions were introduced in 33 states, passed both houses in five, and were OK’d by the governors in two. The movement looks to be gaining momentum again.
In February that movement held a Tenth Amendment Summit, in Atlanta, assembling state representatives and candidates from across the country for a one-day closed meeting on strategies, and next day hearing presentations from Judge Napolitano, the Fox commentator, and Ray McBerry, a secessionist candidate for Georgia Governor.
Also in February there took place a remarkable conference boldly announced as on “Nullification, Secession, and the Human Scale of Political Order” in Charleston, South Carolina, maybe the first ever large-scale scholarly conference on secession open to the public. It featured many leading secessionist scholars, including Donald Livingston, Thomas DiLorenzo, SVR’s Thomas Naylor, Marshall DeRosa, Kent Brown, and yours truly, and was attended by upwards of 100 people, an impressive turnout, especially considering the admission cost of $200-$400.
A national Tea Party Convention was also in Febrary, not exactly a secessionist event but a measure of the underlying discontent that is leading people at least to protest the system (and the debt) they’ve been given and start thinking (some of them) about alternatives.
So what’s going on?
Basically, of course, it is the growing dissatisfaction, in blue states as well as red, and the purple and mauves, too, with a government grown too big, complicated, and corrupt to function. It can’t do health care, swine flue, stimulus payments, carbon limits, education, jobs, corporate bonus control, or airport security. It can send 30,000 soldiers to the sinkhole of Afghanistan, because Congress long ago gave up any role in military policy and the peace movement long ago folded up, but that’s what Presidents always do when they want to seem to be strong. Reagan invades Granada, Bush I Panama and Iraq, Clinton Kosovo, Bush II Iraq and Afghanistan. All for no reason than showing that they can do something in Washington.
But there’s more to it than that. There is a deep and fundamental perception that corporate America—briefly, Wall Street—really is in the saddle and runs the country, and for its own benefit, of course. Very successfully, too, and with complete impunity. It cares nothing for public opinion and has no shame. Now this may always have been true, but there used to be the accepted illusion that the corporations had some interest in making the people happy, or prosperous—“What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” But now that the country owns General Motors they make no pretense that they are interested in spreading the wealth at all. And it is because the public perceives it—unconsciously if not knowingly—that there is the general sense of unease, of anger.
Many of those feeling this unease and anger, of course, don’t know what to do about it other than going to tea parties and shouting at town halls. But it is clear that a great many others are following the inexorable logical train that leads to secessionist thinking: this system is broken and can’t be fixed, party (including third party) politics is part of the problem not the solution, armed rebellion doesn’t have a chance against an apparently ruthless state, and the only way to change things and have a chance of a better world is through peaceful secession—getting out, not getting back. It has, too, the virtue of seeming to be doable—not like revolution or regime change or socialism or any other variant of extreme politics.
It’s not that I have any great faith in the mass of people of this nation using logic, but it just feels as if more people are following this line of thinking these days than… than any time since, say, 1865.
Kirkatrick Sale is the Director of The Middlebury Institute. You may reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.