Friday, April 25, 2014

Let's succeed and not secede

Both political parties have to deal with purists whose enthusiasm overcomes their common sense. Political activists have more passion than most and passion is not always well informed.

So let me say it. The resolution passed by one of the state Republican Congressional District conventions asserting Wisconsin's right to secede from the Union was dumb. It was dumb from a political perspective and on the merits. We fought a civil war to resolve that question. While I suppose, given the breadth of human evil, that you can imagine circumstances in which a state would justifiably wish to secede - say Nazi or Communist totalitarians established a police state in Washington - that remote and theoretical possibility does not warrant revisiting the nature of the United States.

On the other hand, my friends on the left - and on the editorial board of this paper - might want to be careful about treating this as a Republican or "right wing" issue. After George Bush was re-elected, it was fringe Democrats who discussed the secession of the blue states

There has been a left wing secessionist movement in Vermont that has attracted the support of as much as 13% of the population there. Back in the sixties, radicals, including the widow of Malcolm X, proposed creating a black majority Republic of New Afrika in the deep South.

There has even been prior movements for secession involving Wisconsin. Some proposals to create a new state called Superior have included the northern counties of Wisconsin. Less seriously, Winneconne seceded from Wisconsin for one day in 1967 and still celebrates the event.

Nor is it right - and this is why the Sixth Congressional District action really frosts me - to use the support of a few extremists to tar legitimate concerns about federalism. The Tenth Amendment does matter. Our framers did envision a limited role for the federal government and the states do have rights - although secession is not, under almost all circumstances, one of them.

I spend a lot time fighting for federalism and I don't appreciate it when people who are supposed to be on my side run down the brand.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin


Nick said...

I find your special circumstances that allow secession to be rather confusing. Either states have the right to secede, or they don't. Period.

If a "Nazi Police State" were setup in Washington, there are really only two ways that could happen. The first way is that happened due to some act outside of the Constitution, in which case by definition, the United States no longer exists as a legal entity and every state would be on their own anyway. Secession is a moot point.

The second way is that a Nazi Police State were created through proper Amendment to the Constitution. If your argument is that the Constitution does not allow for secession, then even the creation of a Nazi Police State in Washington would not allow for Wisconsin to leave the union.

jimspice said...

I'm not seeing this at Purple Wisconsin.

George Mitchell said...

Then take it up with Purple Wisconsin, jackass.

George Mitchell said...

I would like to apologize for my behavior, since I was the one who in all likelihood that forced Dad29 to monitor his comments due to my antics. Any other negative comments are automatically attributed to me and me only. John Mitchell and any other commenters thereafter have nothing to do with it, so if I continually drag him/them into the fray, it is entirely my doing. Totally ignore my future comments.

John Mitchell said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Billiam said...

Mr. Rick, check your history regarding the founders view of secession. Also, didn't the colonies secede from Britain?

John Mitchell said...

Looks like the deranged anony (5:15 p.m., 6:46 p.m.) who infested Dad29's blog is at it again.

"might want to be careful about treating this as a Republican or "right wing" issue. After George Bush was re-elected, it was fringe Democrats who discussed the secession of the blue states."

While it is true that some on the left have talked about secession, those on the right TODAY have focused on it.

John Mitchell said...

"Mr. Rick, check your history regarding the founders view of secession."

You, first. Get back to us.

Also, didn't the colonies secede from Britain?"

No. The British colonies in North America were NOT equal partners within the British Empire, or contracting agents agreeing to a contract.

The legal existence of the British colonies originated with Parliament and/or the crown.

The colonists insisted, to the contrary of British officials, that they enjoyed the rights of Englishmen. So, refer to the language of the Declaration of Independence--“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” refers to people as individuals, NOT to colonies aspiring to be states. The social contract was between individuals who created a government, NOT between individual states.

Terrence Berres said...

"you can imagine circumstances in which a state would justifiably wish to secede"

West Virginia, 1863?

Billiam said...

Mitchell, I addressed Rick. Not you. The US Constitution was considered a compact. An agreement between sovereign states, not a suicide pact. Jefferson addressed it somewhat in his 1801 inauguration speech. Franklin Pierce mentioned the voluntary nature of the compact in a veto from 1854. As mr. Berres said, West Virginia.

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John Mitchell said...

"West Virginia, 1863?"

Absolutely illegal.

Article 4, Section 3 of the Constitution provides that "no new state shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislature of the states concerned, as well as of the Congress."

Thaddeus Stevens echoed the sentiments of the day...We may admit West Virginia as a new state, NOT by virtue of any provision of the constitution, but under an absolute power which the LAWS OF WAR give us. I shall vote for this bill upon that theory, for I will NOT stultify myself [make myself look foolish] by supposing that we have any warrant in the constitution for this processing."

"Mitchell, I addressed Rick. Not you."

And when has the professor most recently commented to any inquiry? Please, do tell. He has important matters to attend.

"The US Constitution was considered a compact."

I didn't know that the colonies created the Constitution in response to their "seceding" from Great Britain! Thanks for the history lesson!

So, why don't you address my response to your question before you present something that is SEPARATE from that question.

John Mitchell said...

Professor, indeed, I am not seeing your latest scribe at JS. Please inform the big-wigs there of this most unfortunate circumstance, or be so kind to remove the tagline found here indicating it is "cross-posted at Purple Wisconsin".


Rick Esenberg said...


I'd invoke the Bill of Rights, There are certain circumstances in which natural law justifies what is, in effect, revolution. But its something else to say that one can simply secede.

Beyond that, the argument that there are any conceivable set of circumstances under which it would make sense to secede from the US is bad policy and awful politics.

Nick said...


I don't believe the Bill of Rights allows for any notion of Revolution. I believe you're referring to the Declaration of Independence.

Terrence Berres said...

Wasn't this issue briefed in President Lincoln's first inaugural address? For example,

"we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was 'to form a more perfect Union.'

"But if destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the States be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.

"It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances."