If at first you don’t secede, try, try again
Sunday, May 10, 2009
The story behind a poll showing 32 percent of Georgia Republicans would like the state to break away from the U.S.
BY PATRICK BRAY
At a rally in Texas last month, Gov. Rick Perry motivated an audience to chant “secede” after landing a few solid rhetorical hits against Washington, D.C. Another notable Texan, Chuck Norris, said he’d be willing to run for president of the Lone Star State if it were to secede. Even Texas congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul went so far as to say secession is not un-American.
So maybe it was Texas that gave Georgia the idea.
A recent Daily Kos poll of 600 likely Georgia voters shows that 32 percent of Republicans would now be in favor of Georgia seceding from the United States. These results have been reported by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, WSB radio and various political blogs. The Republican Party of Georgia has not commented on the poll and would not do so for this story.
But Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, a columnist at the Washington D.C. newspaper The Hill and founder of the political blog Daily Kos, would.
“Since Obama’s election, there has been a rash of sovereignty resolutions being passed in states all around the country, Georgia among them, that use language designed to stoke anti-federal government sentiment,” Moulitsays says in an e-mail to The Sunday Paper.
Sovereignty resolutions are also known as 10th Amendment resolutions. Georgia’s emerged in the form of state Senate Resolution 632, which states that any act by Congress, the president, or judicial order which assumes a power not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution shall constitute a nullification of the Constitution by the federal government.
Opponents of the measure have labeled it a secession bill.
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and all that talk of sovereignty was the smoke,” says Moulitsas. “We asked the question, and of course, the results speak for themselves.”
That is why Moulitsas chose the secession question to be included in his recent poll.
The Republicans, however, are not alone. Fourteen percent of Independents and 5 percent of Democrats say they’d cut the cord from the rest of America, too.
Georgia’s resolution was spawned by the firearms debate, and was passed to ensure that the only crimes that can be prosecuted by the federal government are those cited in the Constitution: slavery, treason and piracy.
SR 632 may be Georgia’s version of a 10th Amendment resolution like those many states passed in conjunction with tea parties staged in April to protest President Obama’s policies. The measure revolves around the claim that anything not mentioned in the Constitution is reserved for the states.
“While the politicians are careful not to go specifically into overt secessionist talk, it’s clear that such words are appealing to certain fringe individuals who wouldn’t have a problem discarding the USA,” says Moulitsas.
The same question was posed by Daily Kos in Texas and nationally. In Texas, the results were much higher than in Georgia, with 51 percent of Republicans favoring secession and 37 percent of respondents of any political outlook favoring it. However, the national poll showed that in the South, 61 percent of those polled favored remaining a part of the U.S.
That probably wouldn’t have been the case on Jan. 18, 1861, when Georgia seceded from the United States and joined the Confederacy. History gives numerous reasons for secession at that time, and though slavery is by far the most glaring point of contention connected to the South’s secession and the war it triggered, historians still argue over the fine details.
Chuck Rand, chief of staff and member of the board of directors for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a bipartisan historical preservation society, says the argument about the 10th Amendment and sovereignty was just as much an issue prior to the Civil War as it is now.
“Every state did not have to join the Union. Originally only nine states joined. The others came later,” says Rand, adding that the states could just as well have walked away.
Rand also points out that secessionist talk is not only about the Civil War, but has been ongoing in various states throughout U.S. history. For example, New England threatened secession over the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and discussed it again during the War of 1812 at the Hartford Convention.
More recently, the topic was raised during the 2008 presidential election over Gov. Sarah Palin’s husband’s links with Alaskan secessionists.
How much of a taboo is talking about past failed secession attempts? Consider Confederate Memorial Day activities and celebrations, which take place in many Southern cities. In Auburn, Ala., this year, a city councilman removed the Confederate States of America flags from rebel soldiers’ graves.
“Many people have ancestors who fought in the Civil War,” explains Rand. “This is a deep wound for them. They have a lot of emotional sentiment.”
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