Sunday, May 17, 2009

Secessionist Dreams

What is up with Texas?

Honestly, I have to confess that I haven’t been paying that much attention. I didn’t realize it was such a hotbed of pro-Secessionism. There is a sizable population in Texas that wants to leave the union. Perry ran against a pro-secessionist Republican (let’s try to make that phrase sensible. Try not to think of the first Republican.) during the last party primary. He will face the same fellow (Kilgore) in 2010. Some polls have the “yes” on secession vote in Texas as high as the low forties. Is this why Perry has gone all nutty in the media? He must know he sounds like a complete asshole on the news programs. This must be a Texas thing. Perry likes being governor and, since he is pretty young, would like to stretch it out as long as possible. Does he want to be the LAST governor of Texas and it’s first President since Sam Huston? The reasoning is pretty pathetic. There is no plausible argument to be made that the slightly increased tax burden on those making more than $250,000 a year (the median income in Texas is about $31K) so it has to be about something else with Perry. It may be the case that there are a lot of unreconstructed Confederates in Texas who can’t handle the idea of a black president. But even in the South, that has to be pretty fringy. Not something spoken about in polite company. But I am willing to accept that those folks represent maybe 5% of the electorate in Texas . Add a straggling Ron Paul supporter (another sympathizer with secession.) and you may well get a enough support in a Republican primary for a nut like Kilgore to prevail. Perry may be simply hedging. This is a man who knows what buttons to push. If you are a Republican, hate Obama, hate anything outside of Texas, but love all the goodies that come with being a part of the Union (and, yes, we will take all those lovely military bases away, Sovereign Confederacy of Texas. And enjoy begging for help from your Northern neighbor when the next hurricane comes along. You think Mexico has bad water?) you can get behind a “mainstream” candidate like Perry, who will pay lip service to crack pot ideas but will remain essentially sane.

I suppose we might coin the term “rhetorical secessionist” for what Perry is.

California (another former Republic) has more legitimate cause to cry secession. We have our marijuana laws, and the Federals have theirs. The Feds came to California and stormed many a clinic in search of the demon weed. Perhaps more critically, the EPA under Bush put the kibosh on California’s emission standards for cars in 2007, thus restricting a state’s right to set their own environmental agenda. The Obama administration seems sympathetic to states on this matter and may allow waivers to go forward.

Likewise, Oregon may have cause as well. The state’s physician assisted suicide law was held up by the supreme court in 2006, but it is easy to foresee a case where a doctor could be led away in Federal handcuffs after dispensing an armful of pills to a terminally ill patient.

Perhaps secession will be to 20-teens what the militias were to Clinton in the 90s. In other words, a place for racists and radicals to gather and feel good about themselves. I am sure there are one or two dozen Minutemen who need a place to bed down for the night.

Being a secessionist is, by definition, anti-American. .. I mean, if ANYTHING is anti-American. It is surprising to hear such seditious rhetoric to the “all-American” types who, before Obama, would have been the first to snitch on a neighbor playing Pete Seeger too loudly. Perhaps it is a notion of Americanism that needs to be explained to me; an Americanism that defines the term by such narrow, partisan ideological terms that it has no meaning left on which to hang much else than platitudes. I much prefer the more ardent, declaratively anti-American, separatist philosophies of the Lakota Indians and native Hawaiians who perceive, correctly, that they were colonized and later Federalized at the barrel of a gun. I would say that those claims hold more moral weight that those who simply want a slightly lower tax rate and who wish to stick it to what they view as a permissive, liberal culture. (Home schooling and gun rights seem to crop up a lot in the platforms of secessionist parties, even though home schooling is widely practiced and the Second Amendment appears more stable than the First.)

In all cases, secessionism is a kind of romance, like humming “Dixie, ” voting for Nader, or talking like a pirate for a day. It gives folks something to do on a Sunday afternoon. You can put your tacky flag out and talk about arcane historical precedence, like the Alaska Independence Party’s argument that Alaskans never got the chance to vote for the option of independence. (Was there a huge ground-swell in the late 50s? Did Alaskans want to engage the Soviets with their miner’s tools and mukluks?)

Like herpes, sovereignty and secession movements flair up from time to time, usually as a pet project of some libertarian crackpot who fancies himself the reincarnation of Robert Bruce. Joe Vogler, the man behind the third-part ascendency of the AIP in Alaska had the charisma of cranky, less articulate Mark Twain and actively proclaimed his hatred for the United States whenever a platform was available or a microphone in proximity, famously saying at one point “"I'm an Alaskan, not an American. I've got no use for America or her damned institutions." Then again, we should keep in mind that Vogler also suggested that nuking glaciers along the Gulf of Alaska would make for easier transit to the capital.

I wonder if Rick Perry ever eyes Galveston with similar ambitions.