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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/21/21

On Secession (by the democratic states)

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"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation. (S. Jonas, Aug. 2018)

Says it all.  And the Basque have their own language too.  (As does Catalonia.)
Says it all. And the Basque have their own language too. (As does Catalonia.)
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org), Author: Ross)
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Secession is hardly a new idea in U.S. history. It did occur once, of course, and that event led to the First Civil War. But the idea had been raised on a number of occasions before that event. As the Encyclopedia Britannica says:

"Secession, in U.S. history, was the withdrawal of 11 slave states (states in which slaveholding was legal) from the Union during 1860-61 following the election of Abraham Lincoln as president. Secession precipitated the American Civil War. The Confederate States of America consisted of 11 states7 original members and 4 states that seceded after the fall of Fort Sumter. Four border states held slaves but remained in the Union. West Virginia became the 24th loyal state in 1863.

"Secession had a long history in the United States but as a threat rather than as an actual dissolution of the Union. Pro-secessionists found philosophical justification for altering or abolishing a government and instituting a new one in the Declaration ofIndependence. More specifically, those who held that the Union was simply a compact among the states argued that states could secede from that compact just as they had earlier acceded to it.

"While never counseling secession, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson had clearly enunciated the states' rights-compact doctrine in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798. Their political opponents, New England Federalists, briefly considered withdrawing from the Union at the Hartford Convention in 1814. The Mississippi question elicited hints of secession from pro-slavery states, but the famous Missouri Compromise (1820) temporarily quieted the agitation. South Carolinians, however, went to the very brink of secession in the 1830s over the tariff question.

"From the 1840s to 1860, Southerners frequently threatened to withdraw from the Union as antislavery sentiment in the North grew stronger. The Compromise of 1850 eased some of the sectional strife, but the problem of permitting or prohibiting slavery in the western territories continued to inflame opinion on both sides throughout the 1850s.

"The Republican Party [like the present version in name only] formed during this decade around the idea that the territories should remain free; i.e., slaveholding should not be permitted in them. Southerners vowed that the election of a Republican president in 1860 would make secession a certainty. When the Democratic Party disintegrated in 1860 over the slavery-extension question, Lincoln was elected as the first Republican president.

"On December 20, 1860, a special convention called in South Carolina unanimously passed an ordinance of secession. Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana followed in January, and Texas voted to secede on February 1, 1861 still more than a month before Lincoln was actually inaugurated. Pres. James Buchanan denied the right of secession, but he also denied the right of the federal government to use force against the seceded states."

We all know what happened in that First Civil War, which the South lost on the battlefield, but actually won in terms of what happened to the prominence of racism/doctrine-of-white-supremacy as a major determinant of national policy in the century-and-a-half since its end. In fact racism is so prominent in national policy that the last Presidential election was won by a man who ran on racism as his primary reason-for-becoming-President. But as is well-known, that President didn't win this time around. But as is also well-known that did not stop him and his political (and para-military) allies from mounting a campaign to overturn the electoral results. And is further well-known, the Trumpites kept losing in court, no matter in how many ways they challenged the results. Which led eventually to a rather bizarre suit, filed directly by the State of Texas in the Supreme Court, challenging the election results in four other states, because Texas claimed that there were irregularities of various kinds in those states which diminished the value of the votes of Texans.

The purpose of this column is not to argue the legal validity of Texas' argument. The Supreme Court unanimously disposed of it pretty quickly. But then something pretty odd happened. A bunch of Trumpublicans © yelled and screamed about "how could the Court" (with three Trump appointees) do that? The yelling and screaming weren't odd. The Trumpists have been doing that all the way alongside their losing one challenging-the-outcome-of-the-election case after another. (And of course Trump has consistently yelled and screamed that he did win and that the election was rigged, and stolen from him --- the "Stab-in-the-Back.) What was odd was that one of them went further, in a pretty odd direction.

Allen West, a far-right wing Republican who had been in Congress for one term in Florida and then fled to Texas to become the chair of the State Republican party, actually proposed that Texas, plus a bunch of states whose Trumpublican © governments had joined the Texas suit, secede. He would quickly deny that that is what he meant. But here is his original statement. You can decide for yourself what he did in fact mean:

"From the Texas Republican Party 'Austin, TX, Release: December 11, 2020. Below is Chairman Allen West's statement regarding the decision by the Supreme Court to dismiss Texas' constitutionally legitimate and critical lawsuit.:

"The Supreme Court, in tossing the Texas lawsuit that was joined by seventeen states and 106 US congressman, has decreed that a state can take unconstitutional actions and violate its own election law. Resulting in damaging effects on other states that abide by the law, while the guilty state suffers no consequences. This decision establishes a precedent that says states can violate the US constitution and not be held accountable. This decision will have far-reaching ramifications for the future of our constitutional republic. Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution.

"The Texas GOP will always stand for the Constitution and for the rule of law even while others don't."

18 states had joined Texas in their suit: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia. Presumably they would all be included in the group that would be (or should I say should be) seceding. Now, while, as noted, West denied that he was talking about secession, one must ask what else was he talking about in such a statement.

Now as it happens there are certainly some of us (and I have heard from, well, several folks) who think that this would be just a great idea. (And I would encourage several other states, like Mitch McConnell's Kentucky, which get about $2.30 in Federal aid for every dollar it pays into the national treasury, to join them.) First of all, in terms of Federal dollars, as in example of Kentucky, these are mostly primarily "taker" states. That is, they get much more in the way of Federal subsidies for a wide variety of programs than they pay to the Federal treasury in the way of taxes. Second of all, since these are all states which have relatively small populations but have two Senators anyway, we would get rid of the massive over-balance in the current Senate in favor of those low-population states, which has an outsized (and outlandish) influence on national policy. Third of all, we would get rid of a group of states which engage in major partisan gerrymandering for their Congressional seats, which gives a significant overbalance for the Republicans in the House as well.

Here are a few other items that could be accomplished for the New United States of America (and this list is hardly complete). Do away with the Electoral College. Admit the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as new states, should they want to join. For the most part, maintain the same Constitution but either pack the Supreme Court or establish term limits (which should be done for the lower Federal bench in any case), strengthen the 14th Amendment, feature the Preamble to the Constitution as the Statement of Purpose. As for legislation, there could be a national infrastructure program, a Green New Deal, a national health service, expanded support for public education, the end of religious preferences and entitlements, a vastly expanded civil and personal (e.g., sexual identity) rights act, raising a very significant amount of new funds by installing a sales tax on stock transactions, raising the upper income limit on Social Security tax payments, as has been advocated by Senator Sanders for years, to secure its financial viability indefinitely, and so on. The most significant problem to be faced is that the two new nations would be non-contiguous. But with good will on both sides --- and why should there not be, for this time around the states that want to secede would be just let go, with a very fond farewell --- I'm sure that that little problem could be worked out. (One way to do that wold be to have two new, distinct new nations, joined together in an alliance of some sort.)

Secession --- by the states in that list, and indeed any others that would want to join them --- I think that it is just a great idea. Of, of course, the secession could go the other way, with the democratic (note the lower-case "d") States simply leaving the Trumpite States behind.

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An earlier version of this column was published at: Click Here. Since the Trumpsurrection ©, it possibly has more applicability for the future.

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Note: Shortly after I published this column, I came across this supportive article in the Feb. 22/March 1 issue of The Nation magazine: "The Case for Blue-State Secession by Prof. Nathan Newman (p. 18).

(Article changed on February 21, 2021 at 21:54)

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY). As well as having been a regular political columnist on several national websites for over 20 years, he is the author/co-author/editor/co-editor of 37 books Currently, on the columns side, in addition to his position on OpEdNews as a Trusted Author, he is a regular contributor to From The G-Man.  In the past he has been a contributor to, among other publications, The Greanville PostThe Planetary Movement, and Buzzflash.com.  He was also a triathlete for 37 seasons, doing over 250 multi-sport races.  Among his 37 books (from the late 1970s, mainly in the health, sports, and health care organization fields) are, on politics: The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022; A Futuristic Novel (originally published 1996; the 3rd version was published by Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, Brewster, NY, sadly beginning to come true, advertised on OpEdNews and available on  (more...)
 

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