Thursday, October 3, 2013

Secession, by Another Name

South Carolina just made the political crisis over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) crystal clear: this is Secession by another name. Their State House of Representatives proposes making any step to implement the Act a punishable crime. This goes along with a new far-right campaign to label ACA itself "criminal."

“Secession,” this time around, is a rebellious refusal to abide by the fundamental rules of the Republic. South Carolina, the Tea Party Caucus, and, for the moment, the Congressional GOP leadership don't want to leave the Union literally. They simply refuse to honor the Constitution’s method of creating and implementing law. Congress passed ACA; the Supreme Court upheld it; it is the law of the land. Democracy in the U.S. means that the majority rules.

If you don't like this, you work to change the mind of the majority, and get legislators elected who represent you. If they gain majority power in Congress, you may get to change the law. Neither States nor political parties get to pick and choose which laws they will honor. That’s the way the United States work.

Unless people secede from the social contract, and secede from honoring the Constitutional set-up.

Replaying an old tape

This stubborn refusal to recognize the validity of a Federal law thrives particularly in the South, but don’t imagine the secession impulse has ever been limited to the South. In the early Republic, New England muttered threats to secede more than once in response to the Southern slavocracy’s demands. North and South struggled to see whose vision of the American future would prevail. Now GOP controlled states in other parts of the country, both west and north, play virtual secession to one degree or another. They bandy about the word itself with varying degrees of seriousness. 

We’ve been here before; the tactics are familiar: states reject any Federal law that doesn’t suit them. State’s Rights trump Federal authority.  So great was the split over slavery it took a war to decide which view would prevail. If you don’t like “secession,” call it “insurrection.” Whatever you call it, it ain’t politics as usual.

No shooting war is at hand. The tactic now is refusal to govern. This is not the usual "gridlock." It is a Constitutional crisis not unlike the one in 1860-61. Objections to the Affordable Care Act cloak the real issue: the authority of Federal institutions—and, alas, which man is President. Obama is the new Lincoln, a President one sector of the country refuses to tolerate.

But, one might say, these folks simply demand the right to uphold their conscience-driven convictions. That was, of course, exactly the point of the secessionist movement of 1860-61 that led to what the rebels called "The War of Northern Aggression."

In any case, the future of the Republic hangs on how this crisis is resolved.

1 comment:

  1. I have only just now discovered your blog, but want to take this opportunity to say how much I love your books, which have had a central role in my spiritual development over the last 7 yrs. Thank you