Even before President Obama won re-election, there was a segment of the population that was claiming it would rather live elsewhere than have to live for another four years under an Obama Administration. So now that the election is over, I was anticipating a number of people around the country would be making some long-term plans to camp out the next four years in Canada, or take an extended vacation to Costa Rica. Alas, that does not seem to be happening. Yet.
Instead, it appears that all those people who claimed they would not live in a United States with some sort of socialist devil, have decided to “reclaim their country” by taking their respective states out of the Union. I find the whole “petition to secede” movement mildly amusing. I also find it a bit irritating, because there are actually supposedly intelligent people who not only think it is a good idea, but also think it is possible. Just because a bunch of people sign a petition online, does not mean a state or a group of states can legally secede from the Union.
Let’s get the legal portion of this out of the way quickly. Way back in 1868, the Supreme Court ruled on a case entitled Texas v. White, and the result of this ruling was that the court deemed succession of a state or group of states illegal. So before any state can secede, the current ruling would need to be overturned, or a new law would need to be enacted that allowed a state to succeed if it wished. But when you consider that the same ruling that made it illegal for a state to leave the Union, also confirmed that a state could not be thrown out of the Union, would it really be such a wise thing to overturn that ruling?
All that being said, if it was possible, what would it take for a state to secede from the union? It is not as simple as a state, or group of states voting to leave. Since the Constitution does not directly address the act of secession, there are those who put forth the argument that a state can leave the Union upon a mutual agreement between that state and the remainder of the Union. But is this idea even practical? First, the individual state would need to enact some sort of legislation requesting to be removed from the Union, and then both houses of Congress would also need to enact legislation allowing that state to depart. This opens up all sorts of legal questions. Does this new legislation require a simple majority vote? Or does it require a Constitutional Amendment? Can the legislator from the seceding state vote as part of the Congressional vote? Or does the request to secede nullify the votes from that state? If an Amendment is necessary, would it have the backing of 2/3 majority of both houses, and could it be ratified by at least 38 states? If only a straight majority vote is needed and achieved, would it then make it past a Presidential veto? A veto would then bring us right back to needing a 2/3 majority from both houses to overturn the veto. To put this in perspective, in the history of the United States, only 110 vetoes have ever been overridden. That only accounts for 4% of all vetoes.
Given the very unlikely prospect that any state could actually successfully secede, that really only leaves one other option. A state or group of states could try to secede by force. Those who remember their grade school history may recall that this was tried once before, and the outcome was not very successful. The main problem with a forcible secession would be raising an armed force powerful enough to challenge the United States military, and the only real way to do that would be to convince enough members of the current Armed Forces to commit treason. Unlike the Civil War era, there are just not enough like-minded people living in one place to successfully build a force big enough to challenge for independence. Forget treason, most likely, anyone who tried to amass such a force would probably face charges for terrorism.
So where does all this lead us? If we want to be honest, this whole “petition to secede” movement is nothing but sour grapes. We lost the election, so now we are going to pout about it. This is not uniquely a “Republican” position. Most people won’t remember this, but back in 2004 there was a Blue State movement, where people form the various states that voted for John Kerry wanted to secede. Nothing much ever came of that movement, just like nothing much will come from this current call for secession.
The answer is really quite simple. If you are indeed one of those people who feel they just can’t put up with another four years of the current administration, then by all means leave. No one is stopping you. Go!
Don’t let the door hit ya…….
This great country of ours will survive without you.
And probably be better off.