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Calls for secession are an effect of the defacto sundering of the nation that has been taking place in America over the past two decades.  The secession movement is not about the President's re-election, or a black President or even taxes. It has much deeper roots in the psychology of conservatives and progressives and their attitude toward personal freedom.  Countering secession and bringing the country back together will be the job of progressives for the next decade.

Last week the daily caller reported that almost 700,00 people in 50 states have signed petitions to the White House asking for their states to leave the Union. Virtually all those signers and the radio talk show and TV hosts and local politicos pushing the secession movement are Republicans or conservatives.

Is this a post-election hangover?  I think not.    In 2004, George Bush won re-election with 62.03 million votes and Progressives warned of pending  doom and started planning their comeback in the next election.  In 2012 Barak Obama won re-election with 62.8 million votes – a whisker more – a Conservatives launched a move to seceded from the union.

What is happening here is much deeper than the election of a black man to president, as some claim, although there is some of that involved.  It raises the question, are conservatives genetically programmed to be spoil sports – to take their ball and go home if they can’t win the game?  Is there something about the conservative personality that cannot abide losing, that is comfortable with democracy only when they win elections, but hates democracy when they lose?

Riane Eisler, in her classic book, The Chalice and the Blade, points out that there is a deep psychological difference between what she calls  “dominators” – people who prefer hierarchical societies controlled by rules and punishments, and “nurturers” – people who are comfortable with ambiguity and networks rather than hierarchies and controls.   In her lexicon, “dominators” are conservatives and “nurturers” are progressives.

She is on to something and I much prefer nurturers, but I think modern society needs a bit of both.  Without hierarchies and control systems, modern economies could not function and civilization would veer toward chaos.  Without ambiguity and networks, creativity and innovation would die, economies would stagnate and society would cycle through a continual series of revolutions and dictatorships.  The genius of American democracy is that it incorporates both in a balancing act that has allowed the United States to become the richest, most powerful, most creative and most free nation in history.

The secession movement is a reflection of the fraying of this genius, of the fraying of democracy.  The country is increasingly divided,  not just over Republican and Democrat, but over conservatives and liberals, patriarchy and women, rich and poor, natives and immigrants, religious and less religious or non religious, urban and suburban and rural, racial minority and majority, coast and center, south and north, densely populated states and wide open space states, employers and employees, workers and owners, and  between those who want to restrict personal freedom and those who want to expand it.

Part of this is due to the natural evolution of our country from native Americans to  English and Spanish Europeans  to multi-ethnic majority European (with black slaves), to multi-ethnic approaching no racial majority.  We have shifted from the original, overwhelmingly white majority Christian colonies to a multi-belief and  multi-tradition nation – a natural outgrowth of the American ethos of personal freedom.

It is not only happening in the US – this is the pattern across Europe and even in the developing world.  People are on the move.  Transportation and communication and trade have made it easy for people, families, clans and whole villages to move to other countries in search of a better life.  And the residents of every country experiencing immigration are pushing back.  The same is true in the US.

But these changes bring ambiguity, which is anathema to conservatives. And so they are seceding.  And liberals, in self-preservation, are doing the same.  De facto secession has been going on for a dozen years at the state level and is now, with the re-election of the President, breaking onto the national scene with a 50-state secession movement.

Consider, starting in January, Americans in 25 states will have Republican governors and Republicans in control of both houses of the state legislatures which cover about 53 percent of the nation's population. At the same time, Americans in 15 states will have Democratic governors and Democrats in control of both houses of the state legislatures covering about 37 percent of the nation's population.  Only 10 percent of Americans live in states in which neither party is in control.  This level of one-party control and separation at the state level has not happened since 1950.  We are effectively sundering the union at the state level.

What are the consequences of this sundering?  Many.  At the political level, it means that political battles take place inside of parties rather than between them.  Hard-liners will increasingly try to oust moderates (or less hard liners) through primary battles as they used to be in the old Democratic South.  Legislators will compete to outdo each other in how extreme they can be in bills they introduce and  in statements to the press.  This will fertilize the ground for radical demagogues who build movements by demonizing those in their party for reasonable, rational positions or for considering the needs and desires of legislators and voters of the other party.

At the personal level, it has worse consequences because of the nature of conservatives and the division of the country.  In each of the Republican dominated states,  the majority has consistently pushed legislation and policies to impose “dominator” type controls by restricting personal freedom.  In Republican state after state, hundreds of bills have been introduced to restrict women’s rights – 1100 in all last year – and marriage rights and some free speech rights.  Additionally, Republican-dominated state legislature have introduced and passed bills to restrict the rights of children, non Christians, consumers and workers.

The opposite is true in the Democratic–dominated states, in which bills and ballot measures have expanded the rights of women, consumers, gays, ethnic and religious minorities and workers.    Personal freedom is a high priority in these states, in contrast to the hierarchical control priority in the Republican states.  

The results are apparent in the different outcomes of state policies.  The top ten states that voted for Obama in the last election were also the top ten states in educational achievement.  Nine of the top ten states that voted for Romney were in the bottom 10 ten in educational achievement – conservative dominators devalue education for control and it shows.  
Conservative dominated states have the highest incidence of teen pregnancies and STDs, while the Democratic dominated states have the lowest. Again, conservative/dominator states value control over education and personal freedom, and it shows.  Technological and economic growth is fastest in the Democratic states on average, while it is lower in Republican–dominated states – a result of restrictions on education, personal freedom and  women’s rights.

These differences auger badly for our nation.  We are rapidly moving to two Americas with two concepts of liberty, two concepts of freedom and two economies and educational systems. The secessionist movement is not the cause of this, it is effect of it.  The real question is not secession, but union…can we rebuild it. This will be the job of progressives over the next decade.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Habitat Vic, David54, exterris, inHI, semiot

    The best gift you can give your friends is your friends.

    by doctor o on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 05:16:12 PM PST

  •  I'm not quivering in my boots (3+ / 0-)

    Even if we take that number at face value... 700,000 is like .2% of the population. And I'm sure just a fraction of that would actually be serious about such a notion.

    •  Well, I'm basically with you. (0+ / 0-)

      These people don't really know how our society and economy and government actually work.

      However, as a "meme", as a political concept that can be especially obstructionist if not destructive, it is a problem, and I think we can easily perform political "jiu-jitsu" on the secession-friendly out there.

      On a serious level, there should always be a tension between local, state and federal governance, even as we learn how to make these institutions work together for the greatest benefit for the people.

      You can't make this stuff up.

      by David54 on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 06:39:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  So as a progressive I "must" do something? (4+ / 0-)

    How about if I do absolutely nothing, at all, in response to a bunch of loonies talking about secession? Because that is my plan.

  •  As a progressive who supports personal liberty (0+ / 0-)

    ...I am against involuntary association.  I cannot see how a progressive can believe otherwise.

    If a majority of people in a state want to secede, I support their right to do so.  If the constitution stands in the way of their right to secede, it should be amended.

    •  I think that's nonsense (5+ / 0-)

      We're all citizens of the United States of America. The idea that any number of people can vote away my citizenship is a ridiculous notion (as it was the last time it was attempted).

      It has nothing to do with involuntary association, anyone is free to renounce their citizenship. But they can't renounce mine.

      •  We've spent the past 150+ years (0+ / 0-)

        ...knocking heads with major sections of the country having fundamentally different ideas about forms of government, economic structure, the role of religion in government, and personal rights.  

        At some point, we have to be open to the idea that these regions might have been too different to be bound together in a single nation-state in the first place.

        Alternatives include secession or a governmental structure that dramatically yields power to the states.  Just because some guy used the word "indivisible" in a patriotic pledge 125 years ago doesn't make it right for all time.  

        The fact that we felt the need to say it may well mean that the idea that the union is "indivisible" has been shaky for that long.

        •  no, we don't need to be open to that idea (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          There is nothing wrong with debating State power versus Federal power. The notion that we are Citizens of our State as well as Citizens of the United States makes that power sharing complex. I've personally been a citizen of Michigan, New Jersey, Florida, and California. I would wager most people wouldn't use the word "citizen" they'd just use the word "resident".

          I find it interestingly symmetric that the place to find exactly these same posts in favor of exploring secession is Redstate. It really gives clarity to the notion that the political spectrum is really circular and if you go far enough left you end up on the right.

    •  By that logic (0+ / 0-)

      you could support the Sovereign Citizen movement.

      Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

      by Wisper on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 06:57:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's what emigration's for. (0+ / 0-)
  •  While I Don't See Any Credible Secession Movement, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice, SlightKC, exterris

    I also fail to see anything magical about the present union that makes it superior to the argument of the opening of its own secessionist foundational document.

    We are presently unable to debate the question of ceasing to drive our planet towards a mass dieoff of billions of our species. The makeup of the union is an important factor in that paralysis.

    Put me down as valuing solutions to this crisis among a number of crises that we presently cannot address, above the value of our parochial union.

    I have the greatest respect for Abraham Lincoln but our time and our planet are no longer his. I would sacrifice the union in the blink of an eye to make a nation that could lead the fight to save rationality, establish global social justice, and save billions from extermination by oligarchy.

    We're the global superpower; we haven't the right or the privilege to let our internal squabbles and paralysis continue to drive worldwide wreckage.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 06:48:58 PM PST

  •  I think you are right (0+ / 0-)

    about conservatives being obsessed with winning for winning's sake.  Even if democrats fully implemented republican policies (sadly, in some cases, they practically have), conservatives would still loathe democrats for beating them.  They absolutely want to win solely so they can inflict punishment on their opponents...who inconveniently happen to be their fellow Americans.

    Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

    by Mark Mywurtz on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 07:17:00 PM PST

  •  Be careful that what you nurture in your (0+ / 0-)

    Bosom  isn't a viper...

  •  You're using an outdated popular vote statistic. (0+ / 0-)

    Obama's tally has increased to 64,811,843.  In some states the count still isn't final.  Since Election Day the President's lead has steadily grown to almost 4,400,000.  

    The number of people, 700,000 who signed petitions is 0.55% of the total number of people who voted in the election, assuming none signed more than one.  

    "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves." - Abraham Lincoln

    by leftreborn on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:33:04 PM PST

  •  Um, no (0+ / 0-)

    If Texas or any other state wants to leave, call their bluff and support a statewide referendum. If it passes, the people have expressed their wishes, and they can go on their way. But it would never pass. Republicans at the national level know Texas' secession would make them a minority party for decades, if not permanently. So we'd either see the Republican Party facing down the fanatics in its own ranks (a good thing), or the rest of us set free of their obstruction and extremism (also a good thing).

    And the idea that a pared-down nation would be "imbalanced" assumes that everyone in a "blue" state thinks the same way. I live in a New York City district that Obama took by 60 points or so, but I can tell you that there are plenty of Republicans and Independents around, plus a wide range of opinions among Democrats. We would still have balance, but the spectrum would move away from Tea Party Crazy. Somebody tell me how that's bad.

    Rather than boilerplate calls for unity, the country would best be served by moving forward. If that means cutting off a ball and chain, I'm fine with that. The task of progressives is to change matters for the better.

    •  They can't go their own way. (0+ / 0-)

      More to the point, the country were to ever look over the precipice of a real secession movement, no one could go their own way peacefully.  Do you know how bad things have to be before Americans start deciding they can't live with their political enemies?  A collapse of order in the cities, the breakdown of commerce amongst the states, famine, and lost civilian control of the military.  Look at Yugoslavia. That's how bad it has to get.

  •  Relax. (0+ / 0-)

    Secession isn't anywhere on the horizon except for the occasional bout of chest thumping over beers.  And the country, while politically polarized, is not nearly as socially, culturally and economically divided as you think.  I suspect your educational achievement rankings are based on Ed Week's or something like that; an index in which the separation between the highest achieving and lowest achieving states is 20 points (a B+ and a C-) the gap between the 10th and the 40th is 7.  State education policy makes for wide movement up and down these ranks, but local school districting is still the first order driver.  I can't point to a measurement one way or another indicating blue state dominance in "technical growth," but there's no evidence that's the case for economic growth.

    The country may vote like its polarized, but she doesn't business that way.  Part of that is thanks to a century of progressive innovations that have percolated up to the federal level to be implemented in law and reimbursements.  Considering the imbalance between state and federal tax revenues, conservatives are left to experiment on the margins.  And that's the way it should be.

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