By Ryan Blodgett
In case you missed it, there was a presidential election last week. A lot of people are pretty happy about how the whole thing turned out, but a vocal minority is very upset, and they want to secede.
We the People is a government website set up by the Obama administration to allow people in the U.S. to make and sign petitions requesting government action. If a petition created on this website receives 25,000 signatures within a month of its creation, the administration will post an official response.
Soon after the November 6 election, some people started making petitions on this website requesting that the federal government allow their states to peacefully succeed from the Union. There are now at least 40 of these petitions covering at least 33 states, with several repeated. Texas appears to be at the forefront of this movement, obtaining over 60,000 signatures, which is far over the amount needed to require an official response.
But perhaps surprisingly, this is all perfectly legal.
Oh, not actually seceding from the Union. That’s obviously illegal and stupid. The Supreme Court has even ruled that states don’t get to secede. No, I mean petitioning the government is legal. It’s in the First Amendment, right after freedom of speech, religion and the press.
Petitioning the government has produced some commendable results in recent history, like revealing a recipe for delicious beer.
Secession isn’t a good use of the petitions, however. Secession isn’t a new idea, but in the case of modern America, it is a joke to almost everyone who thinks about it. The desire for secession in a modern world can be motivated by any number of things: racism, ignorance or possibly even an odd sense of humor. Regardless, absent significant and systemic political change, state secession remains a terrible idea that has no chance of going anywhere.
Just like the birther movement, secession is a fringe idea entertained by the super-far right and we shouldn’t pay much attention at all to it. I’m sure the official response to the Texas petition, if there even is one, will be (justifiably) equally dismissive.
Ryan is the Supreme Court blogger for Politically Inclined. Read his bio here.