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Will the 2016 Election Ramp Up Discussions About Secession?

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By Joe Boatwright:

Secession has been part of this country since colonial America seceded from England, and dialogue to promote it, in various areas of this country, for many different reasons, continues to this day.  Of course, one of the greatest Secession attempts in history was during the United States Civil War. A few states even came into ‘being’ after previously being geographical parts of other states. After the 2012 presidential elections, secession petitions pertaining to all fifty states were filed with the White House. It is a topic that does not go away and seems to heighten before and after presidential elections.  In addition, it is a somewhat inevitable topic when stakes are so high for both sides, and particularly when certain elections are especially impassioned.

Also, the debate over whether secession is even legal or constitutional has existed from the beginning even with the framers of the Constitution. However, most constitutional experts believe secession is unconstitutional.  The benchmark Supreme Court ruling of Texas v. White asserts that states cannot secede. Although, both anti-Federalists and Federalists indirectly left the door open for the idea of secession due to intolerable oppression by the government. Re-stated: some believe that when all peaceful and constitutional means have been exhausted to address tyrannical extremes, then secession could be morally justifiable. Of course, what is justifiable may just be political, economic, or social events that impact negatively on an individual’s perspective of life.

This election may be a watershed event to test how strongly the U.S. truly feels about Secession. A Reuters’ survey in 2014 discovered that approximately one in four Americans want their state to secede peacefully from the U.S. What is even more surprising (assuming this is surprising), is that whether you divide the groups by age, region, income, party affiliation, and etc., that they were strongly inclined to the idea of secession.  In addition, there are a multitude of grievances that are addressed by the recent consternation with the U.S. government. The current election, arguably the most contentious in history, should provide further fodder to see how deeply the secession sentiments are.

Regardless, of how vehement the secession talk will be, it remains extremely difficult for anyone to be so prophetic to predict when secession will actually start. When I was in the Brazilian staff college, that current class had been a half generation away from a previous coup.  Inflationary extremes alone were significant enough for the officers periodically to have meetings away from the foreign officers to discuss the seriousness of not changing the government by force, in spite of the dire economy. The economic situation did usher in a new government, but not by a revolutionary change such as a secession event.  Maybe the pains of the previous coup were significant enough to keep them from a violent change, but who knows?

There is a concept (Inherent Vice) that can explain when something begins to fail or completely breakdown. It is an insurance principal, where through statistics, history, actuarial charts, and other ameliorative or pejorative factors, one can help predict how long something will take to damage or destroy itself. In other words, it is how long something will function before it begins to fail or completely breakdown. The principal should apply to any construct, organism, or ‘living’ system, such as an organization, or even government. However, even the most prescient political scientist can’t read the social event tea leaves enough to know when and where our society will reach its breaking point.

Regardless, of not knowing how or when there might be a calamitous event, it is clear that the rhetoric, in recent years, has increased in both volume and intensity. However, how serious should we take it, or is it just the ‘around the water cooler’ kind of normal Monday morning quarterback talk? Will a new president that has impeachment already inherent to the new presidency; or a new liberal Supreme Court Justice that guarantees a lifetime of new or changed liberal policies; or when all the liberal bizarre actions of our universities are now enacted officially by the court systems; or when all of the scheming liberal press remains or collisional government officials remain or are replaced by new ones be enough? There is going to be a great deal of angst no matter which candidate is elected. Fortune.com reported that recent polling of both parties after their respective conventions showed that voters hold a greater negative view of the opposing party than at any time since this type of polling began in 1992.  The report further showed that feelings have risen to the level of outright fear and anger, often more powerful than the positive feelings voters have about their own party!

Recently, I was exercising my 2nd Amendment rights and made the rounds to some of the small family owned firearm businesses in my community. The conversations were mostly about what type of weapon and ammo to buy. However, the talk inexorably moved to things such as the potential erosion of gun ownership rights by the implementation of unnecessary gun restrictions, regulations, and laws, and of course, secession. Many of the customers (and the owners) were either retired military, law enforcement, or from some other government agency. These were educated Christian business owners, farmers, and caring citizens who believed a certain moral, social, and political direction of our country over the last couple of decades, or even longer, was wrong and getting worse.  Maybe there is no possible way anything can foretell something as significant as secession, but in 30 days that possibility might be tested in some way.

Joe Boatwright is an OpsLens Contributor and a retired Military Intelligence officer with experience as a senior analyst throughout the intelligence community, to include the CIA, DIA, the State Department, National Counterterrorism Center, Defense Threat Reduction Agency and National Reconnaissance Office.

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