Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

July 24, 2010

THE RETURN OF THE GOP'S SECESSION TALK.... The Republican Party's flirtation with political radicalism has been one of the more disturbing developments of the last 18 months. Rhetoric and arguments that were once considered extreme -- if not entirely beyond the norms of American mainstream discourse -- have become almost routine, not just with the Republican base, but with Republican lawmakers and officials.

But perhaps nothing -- not even frequent Republican efforts to compare the president to Hitler -- reflects GOP radicalism more than talk of secession.

This first popped up in earnest in April 2009, when Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) complained that the United States government has "become oppressive in ... its interference with the affairs of our state." He added, "We think it's time to draw the line in the sand and tell Washington that no longer are we going to accept their oppressive hand in the state of Texas." Soon after, Perry said he wasn't advocating secession, "but if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that."

A year later, we're hearing similar talk in Tennessee.

Rep. Zach Wamp (R-03) suggested TN and other states may have to consider seceding from the union if the federal government does not change its ways regarding mandates.

"I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government," said Wamp during an interview with Hotline OnCall. [...]

"Patriots like Rick Perry have talked about these issues because the federal government is putting us in an untenable position at the state level," said Wamp, who is competing with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam (R) and LG Ron Ramsey (R) for the GOP nod in the race to replace TN Gov. Phil Bredesen (D).

Wamp isn't just some crazy person on talk radio -- he's an eight-term member of Congress who hopes to be the chief executive of a state next year.

To be sure, the right-wing congressman has a history of saying bizarre things. A month ago, Wamp suggested publicly that improvements to Chattanooga's economy were a divine reward from God for the city's lack of abortion clinics. The man has even said he sleeps with a gun, just in case.

But dabbling in Civil War talk is irresponsible, and frankly, dangerous. Those who love the United States should not go around carelessly threatening to secede from it. Even by modern GOP standards, this is just crazy.

If our modern politics were more grounded, we'd hear widespread denunciations of Wamp's talk, and he'd be forced to apologize for such extremism. In 2010, however, Wamp will face no punishment at all, and his gubernatorial campaign will probably not be affected, since he's appealing to the extremist elements of his party base anyway.

Be afraid.

Steve Benen 11:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (60)

Bookmark and Share

In 2010, however, Wamp will face no punishment at all, and his gubernatorial campaign will probably not be affected, since he's appealing to the extremist elements of his party base anyway.

If it's affected at all, it'll be in a positive way for him. The Tea Party nuts love this shit.

Posted by: TR on July 24, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

"Those who love the United States should go around carelessly threatening to secede from it."

missing a not?

Posted by: tt on July 24, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

I think you meant should not go around carelessly threatening to secede from it, unless you are trying to attract a new Tea Party audience.

Posted by: map on July 24, 2010 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe that "The Tree of Liberty needs watered..." shit of the teabaggers is right. It's been 150 years or so since we whooped their ass good and proper; maybe it's time to do it again.

Posted by: cr on July 24, 2010 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe we who love the country should secede from it and leave the right-wing nuts with the consequences of their irresponsible behavior.

Posted by: freelunch on July 24, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK
The man has even said he sleeps with a gun, just in case because no one else will.


I wish they would fuck off and have done with it. Hell, I'd even join a militia group to stop illegal redneck immigrants from sneaking across the border.

Posted by: The Answer Was Orange on July 24, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

It is all part and parcel of the rules change when a Democrat is in the White House. Another example: Obama vacations too much and the bleating right wingers get to decide where and when he gets to have a family holiday (the Gulf Coast, natch, preferably Tar Ball Beach). Can you imagine anyone suggesting that Bush vacation in post-Katrina New Orleans?

Posted by: BerkeleyMom on July 24, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

This would be a great deficit/debt reducer. Most of the states pushing this line are the ones who receive more back in federal dollars than they pay in. We could close every federal office, military base, and any other fed spending in these new foreign countries. Do these morons even know what they are suggesting?

Posted by: flyonthewall on July 24, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Boy, where do the sane begin to engage such crazy shitass stuff coming from the likes of Wamp?

Don't these idiots know their nation's history, or are they truly imbeciles?

Hey you'll Teabagging Dipfucks: The signers of our and your beloved Constitution were FEDERALISTS who wanted FEDERAL authority, and sewed their framework up in what we'll revere! Though hearing Wamp, there are many out there who don't know jackshit about the Constitution's origin, intention, or enduring qualities!

I guest people like Wamp are merely exercising their Constitutional rights to be stupid! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on July 24, 2010 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

20 % of bachmann's teabagger group is from the lone star state...i wish various blue cities would offer every high tech company in austin money to move them out of texas...then that place can seceed...

i'd love to see sxsw become sxsa....akron,oh that is

Posted by: dj spellchecka on July 24, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

It's a party policy created by children, and this is only the most-extreme example: Let us have our way, or we'll blow it all up. They've been acting like this since they lost the presidential election, and it's amazing they get rewarded for it at all.

Posted by: Keith on July 24, 2010 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

'Look, honey, for almost 150 years it's been a bad marriage. You hate me. You hate the kids. You hate the neighbors. So, instead of just threatening over and over again, go ahead and leave. The kid's and I won't miss you.'

Lincoln tried, but he was wrong. Let them go, already. But they can't come back. Ever!
They may want to think about it, because these are all the state (except Texas) that gets far, far more in federal tax aid than they pay.
Bye! Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on July 24, 2010 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

He's an eight-term Congressman? So on at least eight separate occasions he has pledged to defend the Constitution of the United States, which makes no provision for sundering the perpetual Union. Someone needs to ask him whether, if Tennessee secedes, he would oppose it or join it. If the latter, he's admitting that he's an oathbreaker.

Posted by: Bernard HP Gilroy on July 24, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Texas and Tennessee--the new Quebec???

Posted by: golack on July 24, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

To me it would be great if Tennessee seceded, it would cut down the driving time from Atlanta to Cincinnati :)

Posted by: Shivas on July 24, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

On the other hand, imagine the state of politics and the economy in the "Blue states" for the last 40 years if the Dixie south and all the other malcontents had already seceded....no George Bush (I or II), no Reagan (he wouldn't have the votes from the North east), no Tom Delay, no Karl Rove. No Whitewater. No Dick Cheney in the White House. No FL 2000 election fiasco. No constituency for Blue Dogs. Yeaahhhhh!

You'd already have single payer health. The list goes on.

Tell me why this would be such a bad thing, again? Perhaps it's time to buck up and *call* their bluff.

Hard to see a downside.

Posted by: Observer on July 24, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

We must prepare to open our homes to the thousands of refugees who will be flooding out of the Confederate State of Insanity.

Posted by: gelfling545 on July 24, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Just for a few laughs we need right now. The classic Onion article - from 2000 - about the South and rising again.


Posted by: phoebes-in-santa fe on July 24, 2010 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Well there is one major downside to letting the Teabag states secede: lunatic assholes with nuclear weapons. Very scary.

Posted by: Stephen Stralka on July 24, 2010 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Ultimately, breaking up the country may be the only solution to the hyper partisanship that has evolved and is killing us now. It won't happen peacefully, however. Lots of people would be displaced, but just think what life would be like if all the right-wing crazies retreated to the United Fascist States where slavery would once again be legal, homosexuality and abortion capital offenses, the ten commandments the legal code, and only white Christians could become citizens.

Which states would likely go? Probably five: Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, MIssissippi, and Alabama, and maybe Tennessee. With the exception of Texas, these states get more money from Washington than they send. Now there's a way to help reduce the deficit I heartily support.

Such a split would also kill American imperialism for a long time, probably forever. The American empire would crumble. China would become the lone superpower. Texas would try to get the bomb, of course, and our intelligence services and military would be tied up with the enemy on our newly created southern border. What a salutory effect that would have on the rest of the planet.

Posted by: rrk1 on July 24, 2010 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

"Patriots like Rick Perry have talked about these issues. . . "

These aren't issues.

These people are assholes, that's the issue.

Posted by: cld on July 24, 2010 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

I say, once again: Build the damn wall! On the Mason/Dixon line. . .

Posted by: DAY on July 24, 2010 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen meet The Second Vermont Republic at www.vermontrepublic.org. Then I'll introduce you to Kirkpatrick Sale as well. Then you can revel in your centrism. Or better yet, "Cosmoism" because that really what defines our divisions these days.

Secession is not just a sentiment of the "right" whatever that is.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on July 24, 2010 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

...the United Fascist States where slavery would once again be legal, homosexuality and abortion capital offenses, the ten commandments the legal code, and only white Christians could become citizens.

Like Lincoln and his kind before, there are many of us who, at the cost of our lives, would never allow that to happen.

Posted by: cr on July 24, 2010 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

In 2007 alone, Tennessee received 8 billion in Federal funds. That's 8 BILLION dollars out of a State budget of $40 billion. They want to secede? Fine. But we want our money back.

Posted by: fradiavolo on July 24, 2010 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

There's a companion argument that needs to be made. We have no mechanism in the Constitution to allow a state to secede.

But what about ejecting a state? Can a majority of states elect to dismiss one of their number?

That might be a worthwhile argument, for two reasons.

First, it gives those of us who seek a more peaceful, free and egalitarian Republic a tool to use against those who wouldn't be part of it. Removing those states that seem intent on leaving anyway would make for a more peaceful transition, and preserve public resources for those who remain.

Second, for those who insist on secession arguments, it shows them the other side of the debate: it's a lot less attractive to leave the club when you're told you're not wanted. Let's see how many of them call for secession when faced with being dismissed from the Republic.

Posted by: boatboy_srq on July 24, 2010 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Dear Secessionists:

Yes, please. Get on with it already. All this blustering and puffing is only resulting in rancid hot air.

Without you and your ilk, we would be well on the road to alternative energy production. We would be reducing our portion of the deficit by streamlining health care with single payer. Oh, and when you go...you get the bill for your portion of the deficit. Or did you think that you could trash the place with your policies and then check out?

Secessionists, you are the something for nothing crowd. It's too bad that your leaving will never really happen.

Posted by: jcricket on July 24, 2010 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

I read that a right-wing book favorite is "The South was Right"... well, I think the proper response should be Sherman was right...

Posted by: r_m on July 24, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

I live in E.TN and the funny thing about Wamp, besides the zanier things you'll hear him say this campaign season,is his agenda seems pretty dependent on a lot of federal help.

His political fortunes have always been tied to all the billions he's brought back to the national laboratories in Oak Ridge and who do you think is going to put up the money for his grand "defense corridor" running through the middle of the state?

Posted by: rmadson on July 24, 2010 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Patriots like Rick Perry..."
That's a laugh. A patriot loves his country, by definition. An advocate of secession is at best a subversive, at worst a traitor.

Posted by: Jose Hipants on July 24, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

The man has even said he sleeps with a gun, just in case.

Just in case what? He wants to accidentally shoot himself in his sleep?

Posted by: Colin on July 24, 2010 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

To Sean Scallon at 12:36PM

Yes, there are secessionists on the left. They have two big differences with those on the right.

First, both of the ones you refered to in your post specifically advocate for non-violence. Their goal is to convince society as a whole that we would be better off as smaller nation-states. By comparison, the recent secessionist talk on the right frequently (not always, and maybe not even usually, but definitely frequently) couches itself in term of violence (second ammendment solutions, etc.).

Second, those engaging in fantasies of secession on the right include elected Republican officials, major party candidates and representatives of prominent organizations in right-wing politics. There is no comparable presence of secession talk among Democratic politicians.

Note: it is the fact that this rhetoric has spread to the ranks of Republican lawmakers and officials that was the subject of Benen's post, so your attempt to create a false equivalency was particularly dishonest.

Posted by: tanstaafl on July 24, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

I just wanted to point out that being an eight-term GOP member of Congress doesn't exempt one from being a crazy person.

Just sayin' ...

Posted by: RJ on July 24, 2010 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

jordanto,Inc. We are the best online dealer,about all kinds of jordan.run retailing and wholesale trade wordwidely for years. Free Shipping And Customs,Super Sale Off Retailing,With 1Week Delivery to your door.


Thank you for your support.

Posted by: jordanto on July 24, 2010 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Probably sleeps with a gun 'cause no real woman will sleep with him ...

Posted by: G.Kerby on July 24, 2010 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

This first popped up in earnest in April 2009

Actually, Steve, did this not first pop up sooner than that with the state legislatures passing resolutions in support of nullification?

['Just wondering. I suspect the earliest mention of secession would be November or December 2008.']

Posted by: max on July 24, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

rrk1 makes good sense. What's the problem with secession? It did wonders for the Czech lands and Slovenia. It's stupid to call it extremist. All peoples have the right to self-determination by CCPR Article 1, highest law of the land. They may freely determine their political status and freely pursue their development. People in these states are a different kind of people than me. Let them go their own way. The more advanced states should secede as well. It would cut down on America's capacity for unlawful war.

Posted by: none dare call it sensible on July 24, 2010 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

If Texans knew any history, they'd be aware that the 10 years of independence they had as a Republic were basically a disaster - constant conflict with Mexico (which the Texans usually lost), corruption and inefficiency in government, power struggles, economic problems...

Posted by: Speed on July 24, 2010 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Downside is, the secessionist states of America would probably join OPEC, if they could get along with Hugo Chavez and the A-rabs (and vice versa).

Calling their bluff is a darn amusing idea. Too bad most of the left (except for Alan Grayson) is such a bunch of wusses.

Posted by: dr2chase on July 24, 2010 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Let me say, I am not advocating that any state secede, but when these clowns talk about secession they seem to think it's a threat to the rest of us. Tennessee gets way more from me than I get from Tennessee. Leave, please, if you feel you "must."

Posted by: Barbara on July 24, 2010 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Governor Good Hair of Texas is always chattering about secession. Oh wait, not when the latest hurricane just blew through and Texas needs another billion dollars in Federal aid.

Posted by: Mandy Cat on July 24, 2010 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

To the republicans from southern states who want to secede ... Please yes do it soon !

Posted by: rbe1 on July 24, 2010 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

"Oh yeah, secession. Been there. Done that. Got the T shirt."
U.S. Grant, April, 1865

Posted by: Ned Pepper on July 24, 2010 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

A state could be ejected through a Constitutional Amendment.

There's nothing at all that disallows this.

A Constitutional Amendment, by definition, cannot be unconstitutional no matter what it is.

Posted by: cld on July 24, 2010 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

The United States as we knew no longer exits - hasn't for decades. Secession of the Neanderthal states is a GREAT idea.

American ideals are IDEAs! The are not aphysical cofiguration of pitical boudaries.

Posted by: Pluege on July 24, 2010 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Oak Ridge Tennessee is home to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the nation's largest civilian nuclear-qualified laboratory, which plays a key role in nuclear energy development. Nearby is the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, which is currently engaged in nuclear bomb dismantling and also contains a large fraction of the world's weapons grade uranium, including materials purchased from Russia under the Lugar-Obama act. Secession of Tenn. from the USA would pose a profound national security threat. Zach Wamp may think he can score points with the Confederate Wingnuts, but what he is proposing if taken seriously leads toward nuclear terrorism. The GOP should be challenged to either reject these statements or explain why they should not be classed as a terrorist threat.

Posted by: Experimental Physicist on July 24, 2010 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

Those nuclear materials aren't actually owned by the State of Tennessee.

But that is a great point --why isn't talk of secession if you don't get your way all the time described as an implicit threat of violence?

Posted by: cld on July 24, 2010 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

@cld: there HAS to be a less involved solution than that. Two thirds of the states, plus supermajorities in both houses? We DO want to get rid of these ignorami, yes?

As for the national assets in TN, those should be comparatively cheap to relocate: intellectual property is compact and light, personnel are relocated fairly easily and the heavy lifting would pay for itself in the long term. And I daresay if the net result is a more sane set of policies on environment, energy, foreign policy, etc., then a lot of environmentalists and armament-skeptics would tolerate a nuclear power plant somewhere within the remaining 40 (plus or minus) states.

Posted by: boatboy_srq on July 24, 2010 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

Experimental physicist (and Steve Benen):

You're both way too experimental.

On Monday morning, President Obama, the Commander-in-Chief, should order the Federal presence at the Oak Ridge Laboratory out of Tennessee. Transport all weapons-grade material, personnel, and management to a safe Blue, non-Confederate State.

Then destroy the facilities. Level them. Blow them up.

Also, shut down the Tennessee Valley Authority. Recall FEMA from Memphis. Begin jackhammering Federal funded highways and infrastructure into tiny pieces.

To be fair, shut down all other Federal facilites, including IRS offices in Tennessee. Stop collecting Federal taxes there, too, since we are charitable people.

Federal employees' lives should not be endangered by the Republican subhuman filth in the border states.

Further, he should order the cessation of all Federal transfer payments to the states of Texas, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

On November 1, 20% of America's nuclear arsenal should be redirected toward those three states and Wasilla, Alaska.

Summon John McCain to the Oval Office and declare Arizona next. Show him the drone that will track him down.

Quick fucking around. These people are more dangerous to the future of the United States than al Qaeda.

Posted by: John Thullen on July 24, 2010 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

John Thullen, @22:13,

To be perfectly consistent with your vision... No one from any of those states should be allowed to join any of the US military "arms" (Army Navy, Air Force, etc); too much risk of counterespionage.

Posted by: exlibra on July 24, 2010 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose an amicable separation could be accomplished with an amendment to the Constitution. It would say that certain states were no longer part of the union and maybe add some other conditions. Following that we'd need a treaty to settle various claims.

What would they use for currency? Probably dollars for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: JohnK on July 25, 2010 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

Can we all email Wamp and ask him to please go ASAP, can we ask him how he intends to return federal dollars?

Posted by: js on July 25, 2010 at 6:36 AM | PERMALINK

I just emailed Zach Wamp and asked him to please go now, and let us know when he will return any excess US currency over and above what his state has contributed to the treasury. It felt so good!!!

Posted by: Joan on July 25, 2010 at 6:44 AM | PERMALINK

What is it about the sort of people that should be reporting on/denouncing this sort of thing, and aren't?

Posted by: neil b on July 25, 2010 at 7:49 AM | PERMALINK

Fortunately, the polls show Wamp trailing Haslam by double digits. Even in Tennessee (and I've lived here most of my life), the crazy will only get you so far.

Posted by: Brock on July 25, 2010 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

But do we really want a failed, poverty-stricken fascist state on our border?

Posted by: T-Rex on July 25, 2010 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

"But do we really want a failed, poverty-stricken fascist state on our border?"

Just think of the immigration problems? Would they send their pregnant women to the US to give birth to 'anchor babies?' Would they mind if the police kept asking them for their papers?

Posted by: athena on July 25, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Let him go. Of course, he will publicly forego his large taxpayer subsidized federal pension, correct. And he will tell his constituents they will no longer be eligible for Social Securiy, Medicare, Medicaid, postal service, federal college aid, electricity from the TVA and coverage by the FDIC before they leave.

Posted by: aline on July 25, 2010 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Tickles me to no end: These are the same folk who were spouting patriotism so fervently just a couple of years ago. My my...to coin an oft used phrase: if they don't like the US why don't they just leave?? (dripping with sarcasm)

Posted by: Evergreen2U on July 25, 2010 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

What violence? Name me the specific secessionist groups that specifically wishes to violently seceed from the Union? Hmm? What a red herring!

The only violence that come we be from the centraliststrying to reassert their authority.

Of course Wamp isn't exactly too bright, because if he was he would know east and middle Tennessee were pro-Union during the War Between the States. I doubt he's going to win.

Still it is nice to know secession is no longer a "taboo" topic. It is supported by those on both sides of the political spectrum. Perhaps those on the Left, instead of trying to control the empire, might want to start paying attention to and study the arguments of the SVR.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on July 26, 2010 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly