I thought I would take a little time today to wade into an area of American history I normally try to avoid: the antebellum era. It was a period that never really interested me in my history studies. But I am finding myself looking back to that era, because of the growing shrill of the American political right.
I was reading about this news conference that Texas governor Rick Perry held. There was discussion of the dissatisfaction the Texan felt regarding the so-called growing overreach of the federal government (we will ignore the growing overreach of the federal government when Perry's gubernatorial predecessor was in office, because it doesn't count when Republicans do it). Talk of secession has been creeping into the discussions of segments of the political right.
So, I thought I would do a service. First, we need to step back and look at the Nullification Crisis back in the 1830s (see here), where South Carolina, upset with federally imposed protective tariffs, decided that it had the authority to ignore the law. This theory was essentially debunked by the conclusion of the crisis, though it did help to solidify, over time, factions within the country that ultimately wrapped themselves on either side of the slavery issue.
Secession, in my opinion, was essentially nullification on steroids. If, as in the nullification crisis, a federal law that had adverse effects on a state, and theoretically, that state should be able to ignore the law, then it should follow that when the federal government seems to be gunning for your very way of life, then a state should be able to excuse itself from the federal compact altogether (I hope my fellow historians will correct me where I need to be corrected, or elaborate as needed, because this is not my strongest suit, this period).
Naturally, we recall what secession wrought. Therefore, it is interesting that in this year of the bi-centennial celebration of Lincoln's birth, we have the low level discussion of secession creeping into the political landscape. My hope is that these same people understand the full ramifications of what they are bringing to the table. It is reasonable to disagree with the Obama administration on issues of policy; however, I think that it is bordering on outrageous to begin suggesting that we should consider the potential benefits of secession.
As people gather for these "tea parties," I want the rest of us to consider the aforementioned historical issues I've raised. The moves by some of the GOP governors, attempts to avoid portions of the stimulus legislation and funding, seem reflective of nullification. All of this talk of the oppressive and invasive measures of the Obama administration, can move us, if so pushed, down this road again, if we aren't careful.
What is most amazing to me is that the GOP, with all of its blustering about the "victimology" practiced by the likes of the gay community, and racial and ethnic minorities, seems to have become quite adept at victim peddling. And subtle nullification-like moves and calls for secession do nothing more than buttress my observation. It seems to me that the "tea party" participants should stop taking whine with their "tea."