CINCINNATI - Even as Americans flock to theaters to see a film about a revered historical figure that reunified the nation after a bloody Civil War, there’s a fresh movement among some political factions to have their states secede from the United States.
In the wake of President Obama’s re-election earlier this month, a flood of petitions has filled the White House’s “We The People” website, seeking federal permission for states to “peacefully” withdraw from the nation and “create [their] own new government.”
Although the petitions are largely a symbolic gesture meant to express some people’s dislike of election results, residents of all 50 states have now filed them. More than 675,000 digital signatures have been collected so far.
Of course, anyone can create a petition on the White House site; under the site’s guidelines, White House staff only will review a petition and issue a response if one garners at least 25,000 signatures.
(For context, other recent petitions have called for nationalizing the production of Twinkies, to ensure their continued existence; and pardoning the Ohio State Buckeyes from “unjust NCAA sanctions” that prevents the team’s “rightful access to a BCS bowl game.”)
Thus far, only secession petitions from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas have reached the 25,000-signature threshold. Not surprisingly, all of those states – except Florida – went for Republican Mitt Romney in the election.
There are always sour grapes by the losing side in any presidential election. In the 1950s, some people alleged Dwight Eisenhower was secretly a Communist; in the ‘60s, critics placed newspaper ads accusing John Kennedy of ‘treason.”
But some observers allege the depth and passion of the current backlash is unique, and has more to do with feelings toward Barack Obama specifically.
“It’s both,” said Gene Beaupre, a political science professor at Xavier University. “It’s what happens after every election but it’s also unique this time.
“There’s always some resentment and frustration after any election,” Beaupre said. “But it’s also due to some structural changes that have occurred over some period of time, particularly the last two presidential elections.”
In Beaupre’s view, the nation has been done a great disservice by the tendency to view itself as a collection of red states and blue states.
“It was fun at first and somewhat useful,” he said. “In reality, there are blue people in red states and red people in blue states… it’s convenient for the media to paint everything in simple terms.”
That viewpoint, he said, tends to oversimplify political debate and analysis.
Much of the push for secession comes from the tea party movement. Just like its counterpart on the liberal side, Occupy Wall Street, the ultra-conservative tea party is a leaderless crusade made up of many different groups and individuals.
But the primary backer of secession mania is the California-based TeaParty.org, also known as the 1776 Tea Party.
One article posted on the group’s website states: “When the Federal Government sets out to ruin the lives of law abiding citizens by making laws that are against God’s law, then it is fit and proper to make a concerted attempt by any state to secede from the union to become a new government should the majority of the citizens agree.”
TeaParty.org’s other current mission is urging its members to “fax blast” every member of Congress and tell them to overturn Obamacare – another goal that seems unlikely to happen, given Democratic control of the Senate and White House.
The group’s leaders, Stephen Eichler and Tim Bueler, didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment. But a passage on its website seems to indicate they realize secession is a far-fetched objective.
It reads: “In general, it’s an overreaction on the part of those who are frustrated with the Government of the United States, of which there are millions upon millions… The petitions are in large part the result of an over zealous [sic] Federal Government that is taking away states rights on many issues.”