If you’re unhappy that Barack Obama was re-elected President last week, there’s always secession. At least that’s the solution advocated by the nearly 100,000 Texans who have signed a petition for secession first posted on the White House website Nov. 9. And they’re not alone. Since Obama won a second term, Americans from all 50 states have submitted similar secession petitions, each containing some version of this request: “Peacefully grant the State of __________ to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government.”
This new secessionist movement first got rolling in Louisiana, where Obama opponents submitted a petition to secede just hours after the President was declared the victor of a hard-fought presidential election. Similar petitions soon spread nationwide, boosted by the White House’s promise to review any petition submitted on its “We the People” site that garners more than 25,000 signatures. Sometimes such civic activism spurs change, such as when an Ale to the Chief petition prompted the White House to release its beer recipe earlier this summer. But beer-brewing and union-dissolving are not quite on the same scale, and for obvious reasons, secession is not a viable prospect — not least because the U.S. made unilateral secession illegal after the Civil War.
In a sense, the secessionist bandwagon is just comic relief — the despondent conservative’s answer to liberals who threatened to move to Canada when George W. Bush won a second term. Southern Republican governors like Texas’s Rick Perry — who back in 2009 appeared to float secession as a real recourse to federal interference — and Alabama’s Robert Benchley have flatly rejected the idea.
But there is a seamy aspect to the surge in petitions as well. Little concrete information is known about most of the signatories. Their names have not been verified, and anyone can sign as many petitions as they like. Southern nationalists have rallied around the idea, and many may consider it a last-ditch effort to preserve the notion of white supremacy in the U.S. rather than a post-election joke.
“The election results were really great for our cause,” says Michael Cushman, 36, an advocate of secession and founder of the Southern Nationalist Network. “I think it was better that Obama won because it has revived a lot interest in secession in the South because he is very unpopular here.” Cushman, who works as an industrial worker in Aiken County, S.C, heard about the petitions on the White House site via social media. Unhappy with Obamacare and unemployment rates, Cushman says he is using this opportunity to work “nonstop” this week to urge his followers to drum up support for the secession petitions.
Counter petitions are taking the debacle to the other extreme. A petition to“Deport Everyone That Signed A Petition To Withdraw Their State From The United States Of America” has over 15,000 signatures, and “Strip the Citizenship from Everyone who Signed a Petition to Secede and Exile Them” has nearly 10,000. You know the idea has probably gone far enough when the White House had to remove the petition titled “Peacefully Grant the State of Herp-a-Derp to Withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW Government” for violating the site’s terms of participation. The White House has yet to say how it will respond to the petition wave. Between the lingering controversy over the Benghazi attack on Sept. 11, a CIA “Love Pentagon,” and a fast-approaching fiscal cliff, it’s fair to say that the President has other items on his agenda.