Thursday, May 04, 2017

Growing political divide, a largely rural-urban battle, inspires more secession movements

Supporters of a new state along the California-Oregon
border rally in 2016 (Associated Press photo)
The growing political divide in the U.S. has led to an increased number of states seeking to secede from the U.S. and largely rural areas seeking to secede from their state, Mindy Fetterman reports for Stateline. The movement took a big leap forward among red states in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president, and interest grew among blue states in November when Donald Trump was elected president. There are ongoing campaigns for secession both of and from California, and there have been "smaller pushes in Oklahoma, Maine, Utah, West Virginia and New York’s Long Island, among others," Fetterman writes.

A 2014 online survey by Reuters found that nearly one in four Americans wanted their state to secede, with numbers highest in Texas, at 34 percent, Fetterman reports. "The move for independence, whether it’s from the right of the political spectrum as in Texas, or the left as in California, reflects the political division felt across the country." Edward Meisse, a supporter of the Yes California secession group that just disbanded, told her: “We have two diametrically opposed philosophies in our country, and we’re just not getting anywhere. I think we should allow states to secede so California can be California and Texas can be Texas.”

Seceding is not that easy, Fetterman notes. "Many lawyers and constitutional scholars say it’s legally impossible for a state to secede because the U.S. Constitution doesn’t address the issue, and has no provision to allow it. The U.S. Supreme Court declared in an 1869 case, Texas vs. White, that the U.S. is 'an indestructible union.' And the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a 2006 letter that 'if there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede.'”

Nevertheless, Fetterman writes, "Some lawyers, historians and secession groups argue that Article 10 of the Constitution gives states the right to decide many issues which are not in the power of the federal government. And despite the legal obstacles, the desire for self-rule and separation from others with different political, social or moral views remains strong among some groups."

Joining a secession movement is “about being a part of the group as it circles around its sacred values and marks out what is good and what is evil,” Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist and professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, told Fetterman. “Joining a secession movement is an act of both self-expression and group expression.”

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