In 1858, a young, yet-to-be-bearded man named Abraham Lincoln campaigned against Stephen Douglas for the United States Senate. During this campaign, he proclaimed, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”, to explain the dangers in remaining a country so divided. Historians recall this time in American history as a dark point in our national history as compromises and buried issues came to a head and polarizing factions ripped this young nation apart. I wonder what Mr. Lincoln would say about politics today.
Growing discontent with the federal government has manifested in recent decades in the form of calls for increased state sovereignty. These calls have been unanswered and now, the discussion has changed from passive calls for the right to self-governance, to whispers of the states’ rights of secession.
To be clear, this author is not advocating any stance, per se. I am, however, illustrating that this once-radical, fringe notion better suited to militias in Idaho has gained acceptance in recent years amongst mainstream society. This fact indicates that while calls for state secession may not be the norm, it is not unusual, and discontent with our current system of federalism seems to be rising.
In a recent Rasmussen poll, 24% of American adults believe that states have the right to secede and form their own country if they wish. Just under 60% said that states do not have that right and 16% were undecided. While the acceptance of the idea of secession is not the majority, it has risen 10 points since 2010, when the question was first asked. In 2011, 21% of American adults agreed that states have the right to secede.
The same survey asked whether the federal government is a protector or a threat to individual rights. The majority- 51% of adults asked- claimed that government was a threat to individual liberty while 34% saw the federal government as the protector of rights. As this is supposed to be a government of, by and for the people, this is startling news.
It’s not hard to see why people feel disconnected from their government; The federal government has been out of the business of public service for quite some time.
- We watched town hall meetings as our supposed representatives made it clear that they didn’t care what their constituency wanted.
- The federal government has militarized major police forces so much that they make the Fascist blackshirts look like a girl-scout troop.
- Premier President Obama has made extensive use of signing statements to justify doing as he pleases regardless of Constitutional permissibility.
This, in addition to a litany of other offenses, would have King George III crying foul. But, the American people have been patient as the gradual overstepping of government increases. It appears, however, that 51% are fed up with the feds, and 24% are recognizing a viable solution to an old problem.
Speaking to a Tea Party crowd in 2009, Texas Governor Rick Perry commented that Texas had the right to secede. Whether someone agrees with it or not, secessionist talk has officially reached the mainstream political discussion when sitting governors may speak candidly about the possibility.
Secessionist talk serves as an interesting manifestation of the discontent by the people for the federal government. While some may have a knee-jerk reaction to regard this growing sentiment as the exclusive domain of militia members and nut-jobs, the fact remains that the polls indicate a growing favorable opinion amongst mainstream society. While most would agree that secession is an extreme action that may not be in the best interest of the people, we must still confront the fact that the federal government seemingly no longer aims to dutifully represent it’s citizens. That is precisely why state governments were afforded considerable powers that have subsequently been usurped by the federal government (See the 10th Amendment for details).