Some of the folks who are unhappy about the outcome of this year’s national election are taking some pretty extreme measures—including screaming for secession. That’s right, secession—the solution that slave owners in the mid-19th century sought to the “tyranny” of the federal government.
Remember how that worked out? America fought the bloodiest war in history that ended with 600,000 Americans dead and those living the rebelling states largely left in poverty and desolation for decades after the secession movement failed.
Yet there are some poor students of history who seem to think that secession would have a better chance today. They speak of “peaceful secession.” There’s no such thing. Realistically, the federal government is not going to just walk away from everything it owns in Georgia and Georgia doesn’t have the money to buy all the federal property within its borders. Georgia would have to try to seize federal property by force as South Carolina did in 1860.
One assumption that Georgia’s secessionists are making is that the overwhelming majority of the state would support the idea. First of all, while the Republicans took a majority of Georgia’s popular vote and thus its 16 electoral votes, it was no landslide. More than 45 percent of the state voted for Barack Obama. Moreover, many of those who voted for Obama live in what is still the state’s economic engine—metropolitan Atlanta.
I’m guessing that even among those who voted Republican are many who are far too sensible to embrace the secession idea.
From among those electing to stay the new independent Georgia would have to create its own army and navy and its own state department just for starters. A state that’s not faring that well economically as things are would have to manage without support it now receives from the federal government, including financial support for its interstate highways and airports. Individual residents would have to manage without Social Security, Medicare and other federal benefits. Gone, too, would be all the jobs at such place as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Veterans Administration.
Let’s face it, the whole idea of threatening to secede from the union because of the outcome of an election is pretty silly—much like a child threatening to hold his breath until he turns blue because he didn’t get his way.
While some of the modern day rebels want to compare their protests to the American Revolution, there is no parallel. A key issue in the American Revolution was taxation without representation. Colonists were taxed but denied the right to be represented in Parliament. Every state has elected representatives in Congress. The checks and balances built into our system of government are still very much in place.
Those now calling for secession were allowed fair participation in a democratic election—they just didn’t win. In every election there are large numbers of people who voted for a candidate who ultimately did not succeed. That’s the system. I see no “tyranny” and no “dictatorship.” I just see a collection of very poor losers.