How Dumb Is That?

When the thirteen colonies were writing their constitutions during the American Revolution, the assumption was that the states could rely on the “public virtue” of its citizens, and the primary concern of the framers of those constitutions was the abuse of power by the executive in each state. Some of the states even refused to give the top executive (who was variously named) any power at all — and all of the states wanted the person in charge either to limit his term in office or to be reelected annually to keep him in check.

By 1787 it was becoming clear to men like James Madison that self-interest was trumping public virtue and the sense of unity that had made a coherent whole out of thirteen disparate colonies during the Revolution was disappearing. The main problem was not abuse of power by the executive in the states, but the unwillingness of the states to take their commitment to the nation as a whole seriously. The states were starting to go their separate directions and it was becoming difficult for the make-shift Congress to regulate commerce and conduct business with foreign powers. As things stood, the Congress had to rely on the cooperation of thirteen states that wanted to focus almost exclusively on problems near at hand. Something had to be done. After several years and the remarkable effort of Madison working with the support of Thomas Jefferson across the pond and John Jay and James Monroe at home, the result was the Federal Constitution. How on earth they were able to get the separate states to agree to a Constitution that would create a federal power greater than the power the separate states would retain is truly extraordinary.

When the Southern states later started to break off from the Union, Abraham Lincoln drew on the ideas of Madison in his attempts to preserve the Union against the separatism that was growing in strength. The Civil War, as we know, was not fought over slavery but over the preservation of a union of states that would otherwise be powerless in a world where bellicose nations threatened on every side. The idea of a separate Confederation of Southern states was no more practical in the nineteenth century than it had been in the eighteenth. A nation divided could not stand, as Lincoln was fond of pointing out. And we now pledge allegiance regularly to “one nation indivisible.”

In this light the current move by at least 20 of these United States to secede from the Union following the reelection of Barack Obama is not only historically blind, it is positively stupid. We know the movement is an exercise in futility on its face and will go nowhere. The President shouldn’t even have to waste his time responding to these fools. But the fact that nearly all of the states that are currently circulating petitions to allow them to secede from the Union are conservative states — the ones in red on the political maps we have become so tired of seeing — is in itself something to note. These states are at the top of the list of those that actually receive more federal monies each year in aid and subsidies than they pay out in taxes. They complain that the Federal Government is a burden and yet they could not survive without it — or the citizens who are busily signing their names to these ridiculous petitions could not.

It is one of the strange phenomena that have bubbled to the surface in recent years that those who complain about the Federal Government’s interference with their “freedoms” are the ones who shout loudest to get the attention of that same government to bail them out or come to their aid in times of trouble. In this case the states that pay the most in Federal taxes and receive the least Federal assistance on a yearly basis are the ones that voted to reelect the current President and give him another four years to help get the country back on its feet. Now there’s irony for you!

17 thoughts on “How Dumb Is That?

  1. When I saw the title of your post, I chuckled as I clicked to read it! I am about to be offline and working on my art today, but I am glad that I read your post, which keeps me up to date with what’s happening outside of my quiet life on the river here in Ecuador!
    Hope it’s a good day for you!

    • You are one of the lucky ones — away from the nonsense that goes on in this country in a quiet place where you can do your remarkable work. Have fun!


  2. I’m pretty sure this will also justify the use of modern weapons to create an uprising in the minds of some–in spite of the context of the 2nd Amendment at the time written!

    Give some people enough rope . . . .

  3. What happened to God Bless America? I say this partly in gest, but partly with sincerity. People have fought and died to make and keep America great for all that it stands. As you note, these machinations should be ignored as unsensible grandstanding. I was thinking what history books will say about this period 100 years from now. There will be a section on the Tea Party and how they held the GOP hostage for several years which led to major changes therein. Two final points, one which you noted in earlier posts. If the Tea Party was not funded by the Koch Brothers as a “lever” for them to get votes to garner favors, it would be less an influence than it is today. A GOP strategist (I cannot remember whom) said in 2008 that success in the 2010 mid-term elections by Republicans will mask the underlying problems in the party. Great post about a less than stellar intitaive. Thanks, BTG

  4. Isn’t interesting that the more extremists of the GOP continue braying that they need to be ever farther right, and that their downfall in this election was the middle ground. The 20 states that want to secede are all net takers from the federal government, and haven’t a clue on how to compromise and work within the system. They are child like, in their “we lost, so I’m picking up my marbles and want to leave the game.” Wouldn’t it be great to say, let ’em go??? See how long they last?

    But I digress. BTG is correct in the Tea Party is too extreme, and I believe without the Koch brothers, would have already died away. Several incoming congressional members have refused to sign Norquist’s pledge, so maybe he is on his way out as an influencer. I’d like to believe that cooler heads will prevail, and I hope they do, but this level of hatred is not good.

    Great post

  5. Emily is right. The John Adams mini-series is very good. Especially the first part when he defends the British soldiers before the Revolution against a mob that wants to lynch them. That is what America is all about – giving a fair trial to people even when they tide is against them.

  6. Saw where Austin has filed an appeal to secede from Texas and rejoin the US if allowed. Maybe cities like Austin making such statements will highlight the inanity of the petitioners. This is more of that “inside the bubble” that Bill Maher refers to. If all people watch and listen to are provacateurs like O’Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh and Coulter, then they’re bound to be provoked into idiotic behavior.

  7. It is now up to all 50 States having a petition, and some counter-petitions to strip the citizenship status of all those who signed one of the petitions. Some are asking for recounts, others are asking for the president to be impeached. It is unreal.

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