Arrow-right Camera


Spin Control: Secessionists miss mark wide right

Sun., Nov. 25, 2012

After spending the Apple Cup as a Cougar fan in the midst of Huskies, it strikes me that would-be secessionists could learn a lot from the annual intrastate rivalry. That’s saying quite a bit about the position on the outer ring of craziness of those petitioning the White House to leave the Union, considering the passion that accompanies the game. 

For those who have willingly tuned out from presidential politics since Nov. 6, an explanation: Folks disgruntled with the outcome of the election have filed petitions on the White House website to allow their state to secede from the country. These petitions create no legal mandate. The president has no magic wand to wave and say to a state, “You’re on your own.” At most, they have a promise for the administration to “address” the issue should the petition reach a certain number of supporters.

There are now secession petitions from all 50 states, including a pair from Washington, where Barack Obama easily defeated Mitt Romney and it’s pretty hard to argue the majority is unhappy with the result. Like many of the petitions, the Washington secession is supported by many people who don’t live here, calling into question how much support it might actually have in the Evergreen State. A quick look at the signers who list their locations, however, suggests it has strong support from east of the Cascades. (Shocking, no?) 

Petitions from other states where Romney outpolled Obama, not surprisingly, have greater support. On Saturday, the Texas secession petition had nearly 117,000 supporters, although not all are from Texas. Some are from nearby states, which makes one wonder if some Oklahomans or Louisianans are signing on with a feeling of “good riddance.” 

Several state petitions have passed the threshold for which a response from the administration should be forthcoming. Other petitions suggest the would-be secessionists be declared traitors or otherwise punished for their requests, or be allowed to leave the nation once they’ve paid some pro rata share of the national debt or the cost of federal infrastructure. All are unlikely to be suggested by Obama. 

The top eight secession petitions, in terms of support, are from states that actually tried this gambit about 150 years ago. Petitioners apparently have forgotten the outcome of that approach to political disagreements – about 750,000 dead, sections of the nation laid waste – or think adding the phrase “allow to peacefully withdraw” will lead to a different response from the nation as a whole. 

This is the political equivalent of taking one’s ball and going home. Such sore loser-hood is a bipartisan phenomenon, of course. In 2000, Alec Baldwin and several other Hollywood celebrities said they’d move out of the country if George W. Bush won the election. Bush won, and Baldwin backtracked and stayed. His only punishment, it seems, is having to play a fat-cat Republican in a sitcom. 

So how does the Apple Cup figure into this, you might ask. As mentioned, my wife and I were the lone Cougs viewing the game in a room full of Huskies. Like the late, grating campaign season, both sides had periods of elation and periods of disbelief. The Huskies’ high-percentage field goal attempt in the closing seconds had UW fans feeling pretty confident, like many Republicans must have felt after hearing GOP talking heads’ insistence on the eve of the election that their statistics said Romney was going to win in a walk.

When the kick went wide, the game went into overtime and the Cougars pulled out a win, Husky fans – at least the ones around us – groused about the plays called, mistakes made and penalties racked up. A few even walked around with the universal loser sign, an upright index finger and outstretched thumb on the forehead. But they didn’t suggest that U-Dub pull out of the Pac-12 or refuse to play in any more Apple Cups.

Instead there was talk about playing better in the upcoming bowl game and winning the Apple Cup next year in Seattle. Would-be secessionists might be better off using their time looking on the bright side, like capturing a majority of governor’s offices, some veto-proof Legislatures and keeping control of the U.S. House of Representatives, rather than seeking an unlikely exit from the country. Ecstatic Democrats might be as careful with their scorn as Coug fans are, knowing that anything can happen, good or bad, the next time around.

Spin Control, a weekly column by political reporter Jim Camden, also appears as a blog with daily items and reader comments at spokesman. com/spincontrol.

There are eight comments on this story »