When George W. Bush stole the election from Al Gore in 2000, and then again when Bush was, unbelievably, reelected in 2004, liberals and progressives in the United States talked a lot about moving to Canada, though very few did. Mostly this was just a rhetorical way of venting steam. It had a logic to it, though: Canada is a country where no one becomes homeless because of unpaid medical bills, where no one dies of a treatable disease because of an inability to get health insurance, where the government acknowledges the existence of anthropogenic global warming, where gays and lesbians are allowed to marry (this was not fully true until 2005, of course), where politicians who believe the story of Noah’s Ark is literally true are laughed out of office, and where, more to the point, the government did not operate a gulag of extrajudicial prison camps and torture chambers and where trillions of dollars and thousands of young lives were not being dumped contemptuously down the black hole of a war against an invented enemy in Iraq.
But when Barack Obama was reelected last week and conservative and right-wing Americans were equally baffled and outraged, Canada was not really an option for them. Canada was, after all, more or less what America would look like if the folks who voted for Obama had their way completely. No; if right-wing Republicans wanted to move to a country where religion played a central role in formulating laws and where traditional family values were upheld and where gays and lesbians were treated as second-class citizens and enemies of the state were thrown into torture chambers without due process, they would have to move to ... um ... Saudi Arabia or, um, Iran or Syria or the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan. And that would run counter to one of the core values of the Republican Party’s right wing, which is Islamophobic bigotry. What a quandary for the poor fellas!
But the right-wing extremists who had buffeted Bush into power and who organized against the advent of a black president with the Tea Party movement shortly after Obama’s election have finally hit on another solution. If they can’t leave the U.S. as individuals, they can take whole chunks of the U.S. with them as they leave. Yes, the Tea Party has discovered secessionism.
Starting the day after the election on November 6th, the White House’s website began to receive petitions from state residents wanting to secede from the United States. According to the rules for the website’s “We the People” online petition program, any petition gathering 25,000 signatures in the space of a month will “require a response” from the Obama administration.
|The petition page from Whitehouse.gov|
So far, 46 states have also been represented in secession petitions on the website, starting with Louisiana and Texas within 24 hours of Obama’s win.
The former Confederate States of America were among the first to launch petitions, and some of these have the highest numbers (these numbers are as of the morning of November 14th and will be higher by the time you read this): Georgia with 43,306 (though split among three separate petitions, one of them calling the state “georgia” and only one reaching the 25,000 mark), South Carolina with 33,008 (split between two petitions), Louisiana (32,927), Florida (28,706), Alabama (26,365), Tennessee (26,268), North Carolina (25,639), Arkansas (25,190, but split between two petitions, neither reaching 25,000), and Mississippi (15,343). (Virginia, which has over the past decade become an Obama-supporting swing state, has gotten 9,714 secession signatures, split between three petitions.)
|The proud rebel flag|
Texas, of course, which has a vigorous (if usually only rhetorical and symbolic) separatist movement (discussed in a recent article in this blog), has the highest number of signatures: 95,838. Other states with high numbers of signatures include the hard-core red states Missouri (29,166, split between two petitions), Oklahoma (22,660; two petitions), Arizona (17,783), Indiana (17,088), Kentucky (15,611), Montana (11,487), and North Dakota (10,075). Some swing states have also gathered lots of signatures, notably Colorado (18,108), Pennsylvania (17,078), and Ohio (15,368—split between two petitions, one of which calls it the Republic of Ohio). New Hampshire, a red state with one of the country’s few fully active, though small, separatist parties (the individual-sovereigntist, Tea Party–affiliated New Hampshire Liberty Party, discussed earlier in this blog), has garnered only 3,475.
The only states not represented in the petitions are Hawaii, Connecticut, Vermont, and Massachusetts—four of the most Democratic-dominated states. In fact, these may be the four bluest states on the list. (Ironically, Vermont has its own left-wing separatist movement (see a recent blog post on this) and Hawaii has decidedly-not-politically-conservative indigenous separatists, but they are not participating in the petition process. Hawaii is, of course, Obama’s home state.) But there are some true-blue states that are petitioning for secession this week: Delaware with 12,782 signatures (two petitions), New Jersey with 12,000, and Maine with 1,430. This makes little sense. If Delawarean Republicans, for example, feel they have little voice in national politics, they would have even less if Delaware were independent. New York’s 19,659 signatures seem like a lot until you realize that one of the two New York secession petitions originated in North Dakota.
|Flag of the “Second Vermont Republic” movement|
Nor are there petitions to secede from the District of Columbia (the most Democratic jurisdiction in the U.S.), the Northern Marianas, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or, of course, Puerto Rico—which in fact just voted on November 6th in favor of full statehood (as discussed in a recent article in this blog). If all the folks with the petitions, of course, get their way, then Puerto Rico can join Hawaii, Connecticut, Vermont, and Massachusetts in designing a five-starred U.S. flag.
There are also petitions in reaction to the secession petitions: 3,187 have signed a petitioned to allow the secessionist states to secede, while only 1,029 signed a petition to “keep the United States united”—confirming the “don’t let the screen door hit your ass on the way out” attitude that many blue-staters have towards Southern and other Bible Belt separatists. A petition with 1,504 signatures asks that states pay their share of the national debt before being allowed to secede. A paltry 224 North Carolinians signed a petition to stay in the U.S. But 14,170 Americans signed to urge that signers of secession petitions be deported, and 8,410 signed another urging that such signators be stripped of their citizenship and “exiled.”
And in Texas, 3,802 citizens signed a petition asking that Austin, an ultraliberal university town, be allowed to stay in the U.S. if Texas secedes. This would be tricky, since Austin is landlocked and the state capital.
So far, only eight states have reached the 25,000 mark: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Minus the comparatively unpopulous Mississippi—which may well reach 25,000 before the month is out—and the newly branded swing state of Virginia (see above), this is essentially the heartland of the old slave-holding South. Of course, that’s just a complete coincidence.
[You can read more about state secession in the U.S. and many other separatist and new-nation movements, both famous and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar. The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon. Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this interview for more information on the book.]
[Thanks to Amy P. and Mike B. for, independently of each other, bringing to my attention the image used at the top of this article.]