A recent article by this author on sovereignty produced extreme responses from both ends of the political spectrum. Sovereignty for some is states rights constitutionally declared. For others it’s a call to arms enflamed by right-wing radio.
Even the discussion thread of the article revealed that some people would literally proclaim the right to use guns if the federal government moved in ways with which they disagreed. Furthermore others maintain they would simply move to those states that elected to set their own course. Is this real or is this just talk?
At precarious times in the nation’s history the states have declared their inalienable rights based upon the 10th amendment to adopt resistance if there is federal encroachment on states' fundamental, constitutional territories. This happened at the time of the country’s development, at the time of the civil war, and at various times in sprinkles. The problem is that the sprinkle could become torrential rain, given the effect of right-wing extremism, the popularity of talk show radio and the spread of information through the Internet, according to those who are watching.
Add to the issue of secession the growth of extremism that has been picking up speed, and a crisis is potentially possible. Will it happen may be debatable because of the strength of the majorities and the lessons of history fresh enough for folks to have pause. But the schisms in the country coupled with the great separation of beliefs between the political parties means the ingredients for trouble are on the table with some at the ready to make poisonous stew if the right pans and fire are put up as some reputable journals have stated.
Much of this problem comes about because of the psychology of groups. Put a liberal kid in a liberal fraternity, and he will come out more liberal than he or she was. Conversely that occurs with conservative views. Social scientists have conducted many what they call "group polarization" experiments in the past 40+ years and have concluded: Like-minded people in a group grow more extreme in the way they are like-minded. As is summed up in one statement from the reference, “Homogeneity creates extremity.”
In November after the election conservative talk show host Glenn Beck, promoted to Fox, went on the radio and declared: So the question is, do states have the right to secede anymore? Because it was a compact. It’s not perpetual. In fact, in the Declaration of Independence it says it is our right, it is our responsibility to get away from a government who doesn’t listen to us any more.
Do you even have a right to do that as a state any more? Do you have the right to say, “You know what, you guys are going down a path that I don’t even agree with”? Is that even possible?
With 25 states declaring sovereignty some conservatives are telling their constituents and listeners that maintaining state funds separate to defy the federal government is a good idea and that only the socialist Democrats prevent it. John Fleming, the Junior Representative from Louisiana maintained this at a gathering in Natchitoches, Louisiana last week. Although some may sneer that it is just Louisiana, the home of crazy politicians, the fact that there are so many extremist groups and people ready to believe anything should be of concern. That’s true particularly since some of these same people might hold on to their love of the gun as if it were the 11th Commandment from Moses on the mount. It is also true because of the Internet that takes the admonitions to take up a cause and gets people marching before they have boots, the will to fight, or marching orders that are real.
Already the blogs are up all over talking about the issue of sovereignty vs. secession, however reiteration of the 10th amendment at the present time means that people are worried about federal encroachment now. Why the reminder, one might want to know.
The Christian Science Monitor revealed its worry as well as the talk mushroomed from the extremist groups about what they would do following an Obama win. The President may be popular, but the concern about groups that can lead irrational behavior was clearly stated by this respected journal just a short time ago. This is a quotation from the respected magazine:
“But the political marginalization of certain Southern whites, economic distress in rural areas, and a White House occupant who symbolizes a multi-ethnic United States could combine to produce a backlash against what some have heralded as the dawn of a post-racial America. In some parts of the South, there's even talk of secession.
"Most of this movement is not violent, but there is a substantive underbelly that is violent and does try to make a bridge to people who feel disenfranchised," says Brian Levin of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. "The question is: Will this swirl become a tornado or just an ill wind? We're not there yet, but there's dust on the horizon, a swirling of wind, and the atmospherics are getting put together for [conflict]."
The recent moves on the part of New Hampshire and other states to re-declare states rights constitutionally may be routine business, but there are issues like this that could give extra ammo for extreme groups to fire away in one way or another, according to the Christian Science Monitor and those officials tracking extremism.
So while folks debate the what ifs and the issue of sovereignty and independence and the constitution, folks might want to reread the Declaration of Independence, which does not appear to declare the right to secede but simply narrates America's position with respect to English tyranny.