'Secessionist' Movements Underscore The Far Right's Hatred Of Democracy

If you needed a reminder where those folks on the far right who naive mainstream Democrats keep mistakenly treating as rational actors are coming from, just survey the "secessionist" campaigns in various states, most notably Maryland at present.

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[H/t Heather]

If you needed a reminder where those folks on the far right who naive mainstream Democrats keep mistakenly treating as rational actors are coming from, just survey the "secessionist" campaigns in various states, most notably Maryland at present.

One of the leaders of a group of western Maryland counties' efforts to secede and form a 51st state (good luck with that), a fellow named Steve Strelczyk, appeared on Fox's America Live yesterday and explained himself, sorta -- brushing off the obvious question: Well, you live in a democracy; are you just unwilling to live by majority rule?

STRELCZYK: In some sort of way, that could be correct. However, the real issue that we see in this state, I think the primary issue, is the fact that the state has been so badly gerrymandered. ... Through the normal electoral process we cannot even change that. So we don't feel that we are being represented there, our needs aren't taken into account, and we simply feel that our differences are irreconcilable, so therefore we are seeking an amicable divorce.

He went on to explain that they planned to create their own state.

Fox News gives the proponents' view clearly:

Strzelczyk said the biggest concerns are increasing taxes, and the Democrat-controlled legislature gerrymander voting district so that the state’s big metropolitan areas have the most representation and tighter gun laws enacted this year, which he calls “the last straw.”

The movement is just one of several across the country that includes the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, Northern California and several conservative northern Colorado counties.

The Colorado effort is backed by the Tea Party movement and has gotten the issue put on the November ballot as a non-binding referendum. The movement was also driven in large part by state lawmakers passing tighter gun-control legislation this year that was signed by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

... Still, secession will not be easy, for a variety of reasons, including that many of these remote, rural regions rely on money generated in their state’s more commercial and populated cities. And secession leaders would need state and federal approval, which seems unlikely considering the last time a region broke off was 1863, when 50 western Virginia counties split to form West Virginia.

As he always does, Joshua Holland clearly and capably explains what's going on here:

Bizarre as it seems, the effort is part of a trend. In Colorado, up to 10 rural counties want to break off and form a new state called Northern Colorado. A handful of counties in Kansas and Nebraska are reportedly thinking about joining them. Several counties in Northern California are hoping to combine with a chunk of Southern Oregon to form the state of Jefferson – an old idea that apparently hasn’t gone out of fashion. And folks in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula fed up with Lansing have also been kicking around the idea of cutting loose.

The media have framed these stories as a symptom of a growing rural-urban divide, and that’s true. Gun safety laws enacted after the Sandy Hook shootings sparked the move in both Colorado and Maryland. Marriage equality for gays and lesbians, and differences over energy policy, immigration (over which state governments have little control) and taxes are often cited as “irreconcilable differences” by these secession advocates.

But it’s also another sign of the difficulty that a group which dominated American politics just a generation ago – a group political scientist Alan Abramowitz narrowed down to married white people who identify as Christians – are having adapting to a country that’s becoming more diverse and embracing a different, more liberal set of cultural values. As Michael Rosenwald noted in The Washington Post, “with secessionists, the term ‘final straw’ comes up a lot.”

An analysis of Census data by Moyers & Company found that non-Hispanic whites make up 93.5 percent of the rebellious Colorado counties, a higher share than the 87.7 percent of the rest of the state’s population. Unsurprisingly, there’s also a significant partisan gap — only around 39 percent of those living in the break-away North voted for Obama in 2012, while the rest of the state supported him by a 52-46 margin, according to an analysis of election returns.

Those divides are even more dramatic in Maryland, where a 26-point gap in presidential preferences separates the five counties considering secession from the rest of the state. Breakaway Maryland is 85 percent white, while whites make up just 51 percent of the population in the rest of the counties, according to a Washington Post analysis.

Go read it all.

This is the reaction we've come to know and expect from people on the hardnosed edges of the American right: At the end of the day, they don't really believe in democracy. They don't believe in putting up with other citizens who believe differently, who pray differently, who dress and wear their hair and their clothes differently and eat differently and most of all who think differently from them.

They like the idea of America as a big all-white nation. They don't like the idea of America as a democracy.

Their antipathy to democracy always creeps out, even in their conspiracy theories (how many times have we heard the far-right refrain, "This is a republic, not a democracy!"), but more importantly in their actions and their political strategies, embodied most recently in the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and the ongoing efforts at voter suppression by conservative Republicans.

And when they realize they are not going to get their way, their solution is not to accept the verdict of democracy. Their solution is to drop out.

That's why we get people like the Threepers and the white supremacists who want to form their own enclaves off somewhere in the woods.

In the 1990s, we had survivalists, "Freemen," Patriot-movement militiamen, "sovereign citizens," and various cranks doing similar things here in the Northwest woods. Here in western Washington, we had far-right factions in rural areas that attempted to secede from the large urban counties in western Washington.

It's always the same old story. And at the end of the day, what they really hate most of all is democracy.

About David Neiwert

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