The Texas Secession Microcosm

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This weekend, the leaders of the Texas GOP provided what might perhaps be one of the best microcosms of the difficulties currently facing the Republican Party since Donald Trump.

State GOP leaders, in a predictable but closely watched vote, have defeated a proposal to ask Texas voters whether they favor secession.

In a voice vote Saturday afternoon, the State Republican Executive Committee rejected a measure that would have put the issue on the March 1 primary ballot. The ballot language would have been non-binding, amounting to a formal survey of voters on whether they would like to see Texas declare its independence from the United States…

Opponents of the proposal argued it would have been an unproductive way for Texans to register their dissatisfaction with the federal government, however strongly they feel. One of the opponents, SREC member Mike Goldman, said he was “sorry we are even having the conversation” about secession.

The pro-secession measure was sent to the full body on Friday after approval by its Resolutions Committee. The ballot language before the executive committee Saturday afternoon read, “If the Federal Government continues to disregard the Constitution and the sovereignty of the State of Texas, the State of Texas should reassert its prior status as an independent nation.”

There are several telling aspects of this issue which should not be overlooked.

First and foremost is the fact that the measure failed to pass. What’s more, it was widely expected to fail by pretty much everyone prior to the vote. Additionally, many of the same people behind the secessionist-temperature-taking measure have been trying diligently for years to get the signatures required for a similar ballot measure. In Texas, a state with a population of about 27 million, one needs but a paltry 75,000 signatures to do this. Still, they haven’t come anywhere close to getting it on the ballot. It would be a mistake, therefore, to suggest that the GOP — or even just its Lone Star contingent — is chock full of nut jobs wanting to secede from the United States. Indeed, the numbers suggest the exact opposite. If pro-secessionists can’t even quite get 0.3% of the state to get behind even considering a measure, then this measure is clearly a product of a small and extreme fringe on the conservative tablecloth.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that this fringe somehow has found itself not only elected to state office, but to an internal part of the party’s executive committee. Worse, though they were doomed to fail, this group — representing an extreme and infinitesimal percentage of the state’s population — somehow had the juice to force the committee to debate and then vote on the measure. And far worse than that, the party’s grown ups felt it necessary to take a voice vote on the measure. In politics, voice votes are what you do when you don’t want the public to know exactly who or how many people actually voted for something that could potentially embarrass the party.

This is a good microcosm of the Republican Party throughout the country right now.1 A national party full of reasonable and intelligent members, who seemingly can’t keep their own extreme fringe from having far more power and influence than would make sense, given the relative size of said fringe.

We have quite a few Texas folks here, and so I’d like to ask them to chime in with their perspective. Does anyone from the Lone Star State know how this could have happened? For that matter, what about Tanya Robertson, the Executive Committee member who championed the measure? How on Earth did she ever get enough political capital to make party leaders do something this politically suicidal?

For everyone else, is there an equivalence on the other side of the political fence? Is there something as nutty as seceding that a major Democratic Party committee would be forced to vote on to appease its furthest fringes? I can’t for the life of me think of any.

[Image via Wikipedia.]

  1. Though, it must be said, on a scale I don’t see happening in the Pacific Northwest. []

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Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular contributor for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter. ...more →

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222 thoughts on “The Texas Secession Microcosm

  1. Probably not anything to do with the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, but, in today’s political climate, who can even guess?


  2. You don’t see it happening in the PNW? Cough-Jefferson-Cough…

    As far as crazyness on the left that the party has to deal with, I’d say the whole campus activism thing right now.


      • This is the essence of the “both sides do it” claim: equate people with actual influence on the one side with irrelevant fringe members of the other. Since, as I often point out, no position is so idiotic that someone somewhere doesn’t espouse it, this “both sides do it” strategy can be invoked for anything.


    • Jefferson is pretty kooky, but it’s not an attempt to secede from the United States (a cynical view is that it’s just another one of those million attempts to game the hideously unrepublican allotment of seats in Congress) — are you thinking of the much-loved-by-libertarian-sfnal-fans Cascadia?


        • My favorite line from that piece:

          [One] of its governing beliefs is that the 1958 vote for statehood was illegal because voters were not presented with the entire range of available options — remain a territory, become an independent country, become a US commonwealth, or become a state.

          How can you not love a movement that declares that any measure that doesn’t list all possible alternatives one might possibly conceive of that differ from the one on the table illegal?


          • Well… I’m not entirely unsympathetic. The term “illegal” is wrong, but as a basis for requesting their independence now I think that it wasn’t an option for them when they became a state would be an argument in their favor. On the other hand, the lopsided vote would be an argument against. I’ve actually been reading up on Alaskan statehood because I’m imagining a novel wherein a foreign power pushes Alaska towards independence so that it might become a client state.

            I’ve been going through biographies of early presidents. One of the interesting things is that in several of them northern secession is talked about. Varied a great deal from one book to the next, though, in between “a silly idea by silly people” to “a serious security threat bordering on inevitable.”

            In any event, I plan on using northern secession as an example of the question of “Should states, if not wanting to do so over slavery, be allowed to secede from the union?”


            • See, I don’t think it’s so nutty that some people in the early years of this country might have been asking themselves from time to time when things didn’t go their way, “maybe we should cut our losses and make our own country?”

              It seems to me to be a far less serious question — and maybe more of a primal scream, really — in 2015.


              • You and Michael Cain should have a Leaguecast debate!

                There’s a reason that secession movements rarely pick up steam. But I don’t consider the very idea of it nutty even in modern day.

                And if there were a list of states I’d most likely be willing to hear them out, Alaska would be #2. But the idea just hasn’t gotten much traction. Turns out, being in the USA is a pretty good deal.


                • It would come down to scenarios about what the intermediate future looks like. Just for example… Texas is currently a part of a global nuclear power whose military is unmatched. Some Texans think that’s important (eg, Sen. Cruz’s remarks a few days back about carpet bombing parts of the Middle East). If the US as a whole were to lose that position — eg, the toys just become too expensive to build and protect [1] — then the Texans who want to be part of a global nuclear superpower no longer have that to lose in a partition.

                  [1] There was a lively comment exchange at LGM as part of the response to one of Farley’s posts, based on the question of whether the F-35s were going to wind up being so expensive that no one would be willing to risk losing them in combat.


                  • My own view is that the intermixing of the populations make such a partition pretty unlikely. I’m not sold on your east-west partition, but at least in that case you have migration habits occurring disproportionately within the two spheres. If you look at Texas, or anywhere in the south, you’re dealing with an awful lot of people with family and ties to somewhere else.

                    This is part of why migration is so important with regard to the EU if it is to become more of a singular entity. People there identify very strongly with their individual nation, and that nation is identified with people being there for generations and generations.


                    • There are days when I’m not sold on my east-west partition :^)

                      That said, I think the public lands issues will get more contentious. I think the electric grid issues will get more contentious. I think the West will relatively quickly become a pot-smoking commission-redistricting vote-by-mail region where the state legislatures are kept from getting too extreme, no matter which party is in control, by the threat of the citizen initiative [1]. I expect a lot of eastern head-shaking about those nuts out west.

                      [1] In Arizona, one of the more conservative members of the legislature is advocating pot legalization. Because if the legislature does it, they get a say; if it’s done by initiative, the legislature can’t touch the statute for five years.


                    • Indeed. There’s a whole world currently counting on the fact that the US maintains a (very expensive) military capability to force an opening of the Strait of Hormuz if Iran decides to declare it closed, and trusts that the US won’t make “only shipments bound for the US” a condition for doing the forcing. So long as the US can be trusted to not limit trade through the Strait, all of James’s game theory applies and says that the proper strategy for the rest of the developed economies is “let the US pay for it”.

                      OTOH, a WSA with a population of 75M could cheerfully give up any nuclear weapons capability and leave it up to the 225M in the ESA to cover those costs. After all, what does a Department of Defense for the WSA have to worry about? Canada? Mexico? A strike force from Asia by way of Hawaii, trying to sneak across 2,000 miles of empty ocean? The ESA, sneaking across 500 miles of Great Plains? To paraphrase Heinlein in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, how many bombs does it take to wipe out the WSA? Nine, although a few of them would have to be awfully big: Seattle, Portland, the San Francisco Bay area, LA, San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Denver. But for conventional warfare, it’s a really hard problem.


        • James Cascio’s The Long Crisis scenario with the US just sort of falling apart has an eight-way split in 2039. Some of it’s just silly — the remaining “US” stretches from upstate NY across the Great Lakes states, most of the Great Plains, the Rockies, and the Great Basin, with its capital in Chicago. He describes its strength as “military power”, and lists it as one of the world’s major military powers, despite the fact that it has no ocean ports. I call it silly because in most any things-fall-apart scenario, the Great Plains is a 500-mile-wide depopulated buffer zone. Cascio’s summary slides have gotten hard to find, except via the archive at the Wayback Machine (largish PDF).


          • General question about buffer zones – how would those work? Presumably each side has a vested interest in keeping them empty/depopulated (since they could be used for stealth attacks, quick raids and espionage, though in the modern world a lot of this can be handled remotely), so can either side fire freely into a buffer zone, with no repercussions?


            • So much of any debate about this depends on the scenario in question. Assume a peaceful separation of the US into multiple parts. Now look at the Great Plains (use the map here, the Great Plains counties are shown in white). For that region as a whole, the population peaked in 1930 and has been declining ever since. If you look at where the east-west interstate highways cross, you see basically the same routes that were used for the transcontinental railroads in the 1870s and 1880s. I-25 runs up the west edge, I-35 stays well to the east. In round numbers, agriculture has been tried on a third of the area, grazing has been tried on another third, and the remaining third is largely untouched as unsuitable for either. Under almost any climate change forecast, the region gets warmer and dryer and less suited for either agriculture or grazing in the future. The exception to the slow collapse is areas where there are large hydrocarbon deposits. We’ve gotten good enough at extraction that much of those will be gone in 25-30 years. The main split in the US power grid is pretty much down the center of the GP; the eastern grid extends thinly in from the east, the western grid extends thinly in from the west, and there are a few minimal interties that help with local reliability in those very rural areas in the middle.

              So, consider splitting up the country. Any piece east of the GP that wants to include Denver has to maintain infrastructure and connectivity across that 500 mile buffer. Any piece west of the GP that wants to control Kansas City has the same challenge. Heck, ask about how well El Paso (west of the GP) is “connected” with the rest of Texas today. Here’s a population cartogram based on the map above; El Paso looks like part of New Mexico, not Texas. The GP is a big empty space, getting emptier, that has little to offer. Anyone trying to do a practical partition would be well served to start by drawing the north-south line down the middle of the GP, saying “We’ll conduct trade across that as practical”, and then get on about their business.


              • So you are saying that it would be more-or-less naturally-depopulated without intensive efforts to prevent that; and everything up to the line down the middle would belong to the respective sides (that is, there would be no ‘neutral’ area that is technically not under jurisdiction of one side or the other?)


        • I also think that the complaints of the people of Jefferson and their proposed remedy aren’t totally crazy. I do business up there as a liberal life-long resident of the SF Bay area, and it’s clear to me that we’re two very different places with different cultures and needs tied together under one state legislature by historical accident. That would be fine if important decisions were super-local, but they’re not. State laws and regulations are important and they affect everybody.

          I don’t think there’s any reasonable way to break up any state, so I seriously doubt it will ever happen. There’s too much at stake and most of the solutions cause more problems than they solve. But a rural territory with very little in common with urban California has a legitimate gripe that they’re just being dragged along for the ride in real ways that aren’t in their best interests.


          • You could make the claim that any rural territory in a modern age with indoor plumbing is dragged along for the ride no matter which state they are in. Short of a partition plan that makes independent city-states of any urban metroplex and then extant states of the remaining rural areas it’s not going to change because even in the most rural states the majority of the population lives in the metroplexes. If you go outside the NCR and look at Nevada as an neighboring example, over 70% of the state population lives in the Las Vegas metroplex.


            • I think this is right, at least to an extent. It does vary from state to state, though, on the degree of urban rule and just how it shakes out politically. It’s neither feasible nor desirable to draft state lines along this basis.

              That’s not to say that it can’t influence such things. I would favor splitting Idaho into North Idaho and South, and in doing so I would take from Oregon and Washington populations that would fit in better in North Idaho or South Idaho. But even that would have to be balanced with other considerations. Preventing South Idaho from becoming too geographically large, for example, and looking at population numbers.

              Population numbers also being one of the reasons that I would try to pull from WA/OR to begin with, to prevent the admission of a state with only a few hundred thousand people in it. Which was the big problem with the North Colorado proposal. Just not enough people. For that to work, you’d need to pull from Kansas and Nebraska, and the parts of Kansas and Nebraska you’d be pulling from are themselves sparsely populated which in turn might mean you have to grow too large. And all of this overlooks that North Colorado’s main population base would be… part of the greater-greater-greater Denver area.

              And, of course, the more states you’re pulling into it, the less likely anything is to happen, which is also the problem with ID-WA-OR.


              • I should also add that even North Idaho and South Idaho would have urban anchors in Spokane and Boise. That being said, they’re smaller anchors and the urban/smallcity/rural balance would be quite different, just as the dynamics are different between current Idaho and half of its neighbors.


              • Here’s a post I did after the Colorado election that had a the-county-commissioners-should-look-at-it advisory item on the ballot in a few counties. Will’s right on the mark about all the points. The biggest share of North Colorado’s population would still be Front Range suburbs. I did the exercise of drawing a real rural state (no town bigger than about 25,000) out of parts of Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska. The population cartogram suggests that even pulling from all three states, the population would be far to small.


            • This is true. I also think it’s a reason why conservatives tend to prefer local control of things. Liberals in California are perfectly happy when stuff is legislated at the state level for everybody because our policies are the ones being legislated. We might think more carefully about what’s good for us vs what’s good for other cities if Sacramento primarily legislated the preferences of the State of Jefferson.


    • I grew up in Redding, and have a few things to say about the state of Jefferson, at least as far as the California side of things goes:

      1) “Jefferson” is a regional identifier that draws its name from a 1941 secessionist-themed publicity stunt. Since the biggest participant in that identity is the regional NPR affiliate, the people who most recognize and respond to the label are the area’s Public Radio listeners–and they’re mostly a crowd that’s not keen on taking power from their liberal state government and giving it to their redneck neighbors.

      2) Over the past few years, a secessionist movement in Northern California has been operating under the Jefferson name–But its biggest successes have actually been in the northern part of the California Central Valley. This isn’t really a movement of or in the pacific northwest–It’s mostly an aspect of California’s coastal vs. inland divide.


    • This is a bit closer, but (1) California is sort of its own special thing, separate from the PNW (as Texas is from the Souths both West and Deep), and (2) it’s not the political party directly, but an important member’s spouse doing the stupid.


  3. I’m trying to think of a Democratic equivalent but coming up empty. The Dems just aren’t beholden to their noisy fringe the way the GOP is. When was the last time you saw a Democratic Politician have to take a knee and kiss the ring of a noisy popular on the left but toxic in general left wing opinion maker?

    As for Texas secession, color me unimpressed. In Canada the Quebecois came within a pecentage point or so of actuallu seceding. The Quebecois also have used the threat of secession to extort enormous amounts of goodies from the rest of Canada for generations whereas the general response to secession threats by Texas around the US is “good riddance”. The Texans are being outdone by the French.


    • I would argue that HRC has been forced to go a bit further left than she wanted because of BLMs and Bernie Sanders. She is not able to pull off any Sister Soulja-Triangulating yet. Maybe she can in the general. You might be able to argue that minimum wage hike positions are a result of base agitation.

      However, there is a different kind of discontent that brews when politicians can count on votes and not have to pay any lip service to populist ideals. There has been discontent against Rahm Emmanuel* and Andrew Cuomo in New York**.

      I am not sure it is completely good that the Democratic Party can easily ignore its liberal base more often than not in favor of too clever by half policies favored by wonks and Wall Street types. This can lead to situations like 2000 where I think there was enough of a defect to Nader to cause Gore to lose the election.

      You are right though that the Democratic Party does not need to pay heed to people who talk about “decolonizing your diet” or think everything should be a commune.

      *I would say Rahm’s mayorship is largely a disaster especially in terms of privatizing essential government services and closing down schools. Rahm is the Mayor of Chicago but he seems to treat his primary goal as running the city for the suburbanites. He also got very lucky when is most powerful opponent was diagnosed with brain cancer.

      **Cuomo is a more interesting case because Zephyr Teachout won among affluent progressives in the Northern Suburbs and Cuomo still carried NYC. I would say he snubs NYC a bit too much though simply because he can.


      • Oh I agree Saul that there are weaknesses and strengths that accrue to a party that is not beholden to its noisy fringe. Being a soulless centrist myself I, of course, see the strengths as greater than the weaknesses but I would wouldn’t I?

        The Dems candidates can get hauled leftward, absolutely, particularily as the new paradigm seems to be emerging that states that the centrist third of the electorate is a unicorn and most of the undecideds are distinctly decided which means that elections will turn heavily on turnout. That being said when you compare it to the GOP where the default position is flat out right-wingnut and the hauling is by the establishment to try and nudge candidates towards the center or by the fringe trying to haul the candidates towards flat out cray-cray the eartugging that Bernie has had on Hillary is pretty small peanuts by comparison.


  4. I’d say both that its both a blessing and a curse for the GOP that its strong conservative faction is larger than the Democrats strong liberal faction, not to mention more unified and more convinced of their electoral strength.


  5. The fringe votes early and consistently, at least on the Right. so the Party has had to swallow ever more increasingly reality altered issues and approaches in order to get candidates selected and on the ballot. Its a state level microcosm of the national trend that still has Trump in first place.

    Its also a reflection of the fact that the Right Fringe is made up of scared people who feel a loss of power and control. Just as much of the Gun Rights battle is not about guns, this isn’t about Washington per se, or even Republicans per se. Its also about 4 or 5 decades of a Party saying its going to fight a certain kind of fight and then not doing so.

    I see no parallel on the Left.


    • The occasional moments when I wish for a left version of the Tea Party, I recall my days in Occupy, and the pointless stupid self destructive actions which result from the passion of the politically naïve.

      I prefer Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama to guide my party, thanks.


    • The far-right made a tactical decision a long time ago to work within the Republican Party no matter their grumbling. The American Conservative crowd is loyal to the GOP even if they hate the neo-cons.

      The left is still arguing about whether it makes sense to vote Democratic or not. Loomis at LGM is as strident a leftist as anyone can meet but he is still thinks it makes sense to vote Democratic for tactical reasons. There are plenty of leftists like Freddie De Boer and the Jacobin and Salon crowds that seem to prefer living under Republicans than dirtying themselves by voting Democratic.


                  • Sending money is easy… [Fund Wikileaks]
                    (And didn’t I mention that the trolls decided to walk away from Trump?)

                    For some people (like Damon), politics is all about being amused by what the crazy people are doing.

                    For other people, well, They ARE the crazy people. Betcha you’ve never won a bet against Hillary Clinton, though!


              • I suspect that there are a lot of low-information voters who know, deep down, that Trump doesn’t give a crap about abortion or taking rights away from women in general.

                I also am a lot less confident that Trump will lose the general than many around me. I mean, I was sure that he’d be gone by now.


                • Google’s betting on Hillary.

                  Me? I’m just betting on the quality of people who got Trump famous in the first place. Well, that and on them playing all sides AND the middle at once. Because that’s how they do.


                      • True enough, but the ones who might have been swayed by “THIS OBVIOUSLY RELIGIOUS PERSON WANTS YOU BY THE UTERUS!” argument will instead see a guy who so very obviously could not possibly care less about any uterus that is not within inches of him.

                        Trump’s not going to do a damned thing about abortion.

                        That issue is, effectively, off the table.

                        And it wouldn’t be for a, say, Carson.


                        • A Repub congress with Trumpy as prez might certainly do something about abortion. Would he fight them or go along? If the R’s’ have the prez, the house and maybe the senate the anti A groups are going to want to get their agenda passed.


                          • Am I allowed to use Hurricane W. Hitlerburton’s America from between 2004 and 2006 as a template for the shenanigans that Republicans are likely to try to get away with regarding abortion when they have all of the power they could have ever asked for?


                            • Dumbya demonstrated that, when the rubber meets the road, abortion is something that is far more useful as something that exists than something to get rid of.

                              When Obama will veto? Send a bill! Send a message! LOOK AT THESE VIDEOS!!!!

                              Put a Republican in the White House and, well, it’s complicated.


                              • Bush Jr did most of what he could on abortion within the first few days – namely put the Mexico City protocol in line with the previous 2 GOP prez administrations (and opposite of how Bill and Barack did in their first fee days). The other thing he did was (of course) nominate SCOTUSians (and other federal court peeps) that would tow the lion.

                                All the action on this issue is at the state level, been that way since at least Casey v Planned Parenthood.


                                • So could we count on Trump to do half this much?

                                  When it comes to his SCOTUSians I am not confident that any theoretical Trump appointment would care about anything but the rights of corporations to have offshore tax shelters.


                            • Hmmm I’ll alllow it, Thanks for giving me that authority, I’ll be generous. I think the Tea Partyish climate now is a bit different from Bush’s midprez time. And Bush is a bit different from His Trumpness. The hard line conservatives on the R side have made a point of ousting establishment R’s who didn’t fight hard enough and win everything. The hard right wing is furious with the leaders for not shutting down the gov over Ocare and the budget. Do you think they will suddenly stop being who they are. And have you noticed the many many state level restrictions on abortion. At the state level R’s are driving strong for the hoop to eliminate abortion. So i don’t think Bush’s term indicates what you think it does.


                                • Obligatory disclaimer: Trump is not going to be the nomination. I don’t think he’ll be close. I remain confident he wins none of the first four primaries.

                                  That said, Trump has had a lousy time with interactions with women. His go round with Fiorina was one of the low points of his campaign performance (in terms of optics and poll reaction). Hillary would simply have to not let him steamroller her in their debates to probably come out ahead in those interactions. I will grant that a Trump presidency would not be as reliably anti-abortion as, say, any of the other GOP clown posse would be. A hypothetical President Trump, however, would be dependent on the GOP Senate to approve his SCOTUS nominations and his hypothetical staff would likely steer him in the direction of pro-life candidates. So Trump would be bad for abortion rights like a bullet in the gut as opposed to a bullet in the head from the likes of Cruz. Would Trump rile up the pro-choicers like any of the others would? Maybe not. But they won’t need to be very riled up to despise Trump and the Dems, united behind Hillary, would not need especially energized pro-choicers to beat a Nominee Trump with a GOP frantically focusing on containing the down ticket damage.

                                  This is all academic, of course, because if Trump were the GOP nominee a lot of my assumptions about the electorate and the party would be proven incorrect or incorrectly weighted so my general election presumptions could be similarly flawed. Despite that if we had to have a GOP president selected from the current clown car roster I’d rather Trump over any of the rest. He’d be the most likely to buck the party orthodoxy and would be the most likely to be ineffective.


                  • I’d damn well vote for Trump in my State’s primary just to stir the pot, if he ever made it. Given my state votes reliably Dem, it wouldn’t matter anyway–and not just “centrist” Dem.


                      • It’s not that I’d vote for Trump because I support him, I’d vote for him because it’d piss off 1) all the dems in the state (oh lordy, Trump won the republican primary in our State. OMG OMG OMG, the sky is falling) and 2) just to piss of the republicans who are RINOs in this state and have no political power.

                        It’s called “stirring the pot”.


                          • Yeah, well, in my state, voting anything but democratic is wasting your vote 99.999% of the time, so it really doesn’t matter how anyone votes in the primary does it?


                              • You may think of it as the tat for the tit to my liberal friends, who constantly say “I can’t believe you think like that” on any political issue. Those who are so narrow minded that they assume someone thinks the way they do because “only intelligent people would think that way”. They occasionally need to be reminded that they live in a bubble and that there’s a lot of people who think differently from them across the Potomac & west of the Mississippi.


                                • I’ve been told by liberals here that I’d rather talk to a fascist than a liberal. Now, I’ve spent the last month reading fascist Italian novelists/poets/playwrites, so maybe that’s true, but even if it’s not, it doesn’t make me want to get liberals back. Know why? Because I know who I am, and their foolishness doesn’t get to me on a level that would cause be to actually vote for a proto-fascist to stick it to them in my head. I pity you that it does get to you on that level.


                                  • And I know who I am as well .

                                    And this is me…stirring the pot. Do I care what they think of me? No. But I do enjoy stirring since they are so easily worked up.

                                    There’s a bumper sticker hereabouts that says “choose civility”. It’s typically on an SUV that cannot maintain lane disciple, minimum speed limit, or drives erratically. I’ve considered for months getting a bumper sticker that says “I’ll choose to be civil when you learn how to drive.”

                                    Frankly, i fail to see how voting for trump in the repub primary is even going to make a difference. My state will go for hillary or bernie so my vote for trump DOES NOT MATTER.


                                    • If you vote for Trump, it gets him closer to winning the Republican primary.

                                      If he wins the Republican primary, he could theoretically become president.

                                      So far, he’s argued for expelling Hispanic people from the country and banning Muslims. Voting for him gives the political impression of support for those positions, and makes him very slightly closer to being able to implement them.


                                      • You fail to understand that my state always votes democratic in the electoral college. Even if trump won the primary in my state, he wouldn’t win the general election in my state. Add’ly my state allows for dems to vote in the repub primary, so it’s unlikely he’d even win that.


                                        • It doesn’t matter how your state votes in the general election.

                                          Voting for Trump gives him a better chance of winning the PRIMARY. That puts him closer to the presidency, which is dangerous.

                                          If you lived in the UK, would you vote for the BNP as a ‘joke’? Because this is the same thing.


                          • And voting for Ned Lamont wasn’t?
                            Can’t shake the feeling that Trump makes a good money-shakedown just like Lamont did.

                            Voting for strategic reasons rather than tactical is often a good idea.

                            A Sample: Recession is coming! Vote in the party you dislike! Let them get blamed for the necessary cuts.


                          • Well, if you expect that society will circle the drain of fascism or totalitarianism one way or the other, and that we are all doomed to die in the fire after the Visigoths come over the walls, who gives a damn whether it’s Trump or Hillary or the anti christ?

                            Everyone said that Obama would bring “hope and change” or was the devil. I’d say he failed on both accounts. Why should Trump be any different.


                              • You know, this raises an interesting philosophical question, and I’m not trying to pick on Damon here.

                                I wouldn’t vote for Trump, because IMO he’s pretty despicable, so voting for him would be an immoral act for me from my POV (conceded that if, as Damon says is true in his state, there’s no chance of my vote making any difference, then that potentially mitigates the immorality, especially if I am attempting some sort of strategic vote for what I consider a greater good.)

                                But I WOULD fish with a phone pollster, pretty much for five minutes’ entertainment, especially when I was younger and had more free time.

                                Now, that’s not a vote; but if my phone-pollster-fishery indirectly helps a (again, from my POV, I have no wish to debate Trump’s actual merits, whatever they may be) despicable candidate gain political or financial traction – have I done something immoral by my trolling of a pollster? Is there an inherent obligation not to lie to a person who interrupts my dinner for their own purposes, or provide even minute indirect support to a despicable candidate as a joke?


                                • What I’m getting at, essentially, is the “ethics of entertainment”. I think you could make a case that me trolling a pollster IS immoral, especially if it assists in leading to a bad result.

                                  The problem is that that takes you to some weird places. Let’s say Hillary Clinton commits some gaffe which The Daily Show spends the next six months mercilessly mocking and satirizing, thereby helping contribute to a shift in public opinion that gives Trump a leg up.

                                  We wouldn’t say that TDS has an obligation not to do comedy/entertainment which might indirectly help the bad guy – they should do their job, which is to be funny, and let the chips fall where they may (in fact, if we suspect they are pulling their punches when it comes to Hillary, we’d be disappointed in them as comedians and satirists and even quasi-journalists).


                                  • Actually trolling a pollster is difficult, to be honest. You’d have to do the Rabid Puppies thing, have a sufficiently large group of interesting people willing to believe in oddball crap that they don’t really care about… And then have the pollster take the bait, repeatedly.

                                    Just lying isn’t actually trolling.


                                      • Getting people riled up is all about getting the amusement out of their responses.
                                        It’s difficult to rile up pollsters. Trolling the GOP, otoh, is fairly easy. In fact, someone even wrote a research paper about the DDOS their trolling caused… (they were writing defenses against ddos, and saying that Kerry was going to win caused a massive firestorm).


                                    • But that was an ‘election’, not polling – i.e. what people said directly mattered on some level. Now, it was an election over an almost inconsequential thing – a literary award – so it isn’t like futzing around with a city council, but it is a categorically different thing than tanking a poll. (even if almost wholly excusable because of the stakes involved)


                                      • The principle: getting together a ragtag bunch of people to vote(or answer the pollster’s questions) for something that they may or may not care about, is the same. People jingle polls all the time (it’s considerably more difficult to get people to vote opposite to what they believe, but ringleading something is fairly easy).


                                  • Glyph:
                                    What I’m getting at, essentially, is the “ethics of entertainment”.I think you could make a case that me trolling a pollster IS immoral, especially if it assists in leading to a bad result.

                                    polling *is* a game though – it’s not like elections, which are Serious Business.

                                    The only thing wrt polling of questionable ethics are pollsters (themselves) that do push polling. And even then, the game has evolved sufficiently for most to see through such transparent gamesmanship.


                                  • I imagine there are two independent lines of ethical argument that would conclude the Daily Show shouldn’t hold its punches, even if not doing so means a Trump gets a leg up. 1.) That’s what The Daily Show is, and it should strive to be as good at it as it can, regardless of the target, and 2.) While it may be the case that TDS not holding its punches regardless of the target might be will occasionally give a Trump a leg up, the weakest and most problematic candidates will generally be the best, and easiest targets for what they do, so 4 times out of 5 they’ll prevent a Trump rather than help.create one.


                        • I’m a RINO in a blue state. This is because I am in a solidly red county. The Republican primary is the relevant election on the local level. I figure that my vote there matters a lot more than it would on the statewide level in the Democratic primary.

                          So who will I vote for in the presidential primary? Heck if I know. I may skip that category entirely. I was figuring on voting for Trump for the “stirring the pot” reason, but that was back when he was merely clownish. Now that he is going openly fascist, I don’t think that is a morally acceptable option anymore.


                • Here’s the rub Jay.

                  If Trump got the nod and then won then either the GOP is enormously stronger than I think or the Dems/Hillary are enormously weaker than I believe.

                  If you lined the GOP slate in front of me and said “One of these clowns is going to be the next President” I would have a hard time picking someone over Trump. He’s the least likely to be a rubber stamp for the GOP clowns in congress. Also a Trump Presidency would have the GOP as a near hostile presence in Congress. They’d definitly limit how much damage he could actually do with regards to the pure nonsensical stuff he talks about.


                  • Trump being where he is is not a sign of the GOP’s strength. It’s a sign of the GOP’s weakness.

                    How much the GOP hates him is something that makes Trump more appealing to the lion’s share out there, not less.

                    That also might make him appealing to low-info Dems (who do not belong to a particular interest group, anyway).


                    • Mmm so you are positing that Trump could win the lot of it whereas an non Trump GOP candidate would fall to Hillary? I consider that extremely unlikely; so unlikely that I’d still root for Trump based on my criteria above and based on my own belief that a Trump candidacy would be absolutely defenestrated by the combined factors of a united Democratic Party* behind Hillary and a divided GOP behind Trump.

                      *Assuming the Hillary/Bernie race proceeds as it so far has. The Good Senator has conscienciously avoided the kind of bloody campaigning that would damage her in the general.


                      • It’s more that Hillary knows how to fight against a Jeb or even a Carson. (Same for the Democrats in general, for that matter.)

                        While the GOP might be divided by Trump, it’s the elite GOP divided by him. The blue collar types are herded.


                        • If Trump wins the nod, it raises the question of whether there are enough blue-collar conservatives to outvote every group that Trump animates to operation. So far Trump has managed to insult nearly everyone.


                          • Especially Latinos but, interestingly, Latinos are geographically concentrated in a way that limits their impact of the Presidential contest. Women, on the other hand, are not restricted in that way and Trump does very poorly with them.


                              • Florida is just about it though and it’s complicated by Cuba. Otherwise they’re concentrated in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and especially California. Texas remains safely in the red column so the only state they’d likely swing easily is Arizona which nice, ya know, but not earth shaking.

                                Nate Silver’s outfit has an interactive set up on it. It’s shocking how high the turnout and how skewed the vote has to be (both together) before states start flipping colors.


                                  • Doesn’t that depend on where the whites live because of the electoral college? What if Romney won 5 percent more of the white vote but all those voters lived in states like Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Alaska, Alabama, Utah, Mississippi, etc.


                                    • Yeah. That assumed equal distribution in both scenarios. In all likelihood it would have come disproportionately from swing states. There weren’t a whole lot more white votes in Utah left to get. A lot in Ohio and Pennsylvania, though.

                                      I brought up the tool. Romney would have had to win 79% (or +52%) of the Hispanic vote to win California, and therefore the election.

                                      He would have had to win 66% of the white vote (or +6%) to win Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, putting him over the top.

                                      Some of that is simply that there are more white voters than Hispanic ones, so a 1% change means for votes. But quite a bit of it is distribution. Romney would have needed 38% (or +33%) of the black vote to carry the election, as opposed to the 79% of Hispanics.

                                      This is all reflected in the popular vote totals. The white votes would have brought the popular vote to a tie. The same is about true for the black vote. However, with a bolstered Hispanic vote, Romney could win the national vote by more than five points and still lose the electoral college, because so many of his gains would be sunk in so comparatively few states.

                                      (All, again, assuming equal distribution.)


                                      • Something worth mentioning is that unlike the black vote Republicans do better with Hispanics in places where they do better with whites; in last fall’s election the Republican candidate for governor got about 45% in Texas and Georgia and about 25% Hispanic vote in California and Illinois.


                                        • Thought I had last night. Trump says something like “Eff Muslims.” Clinton explains how Islam is a Religion of Peace… and whether this is likely to be followed by dismissals of how Trump has 20% approval among African-Americans (as opposed to, say, 4%) or 35% among Hispanic-Americans (as opposed to 25%).


      • Honestly, Saul, I think mostly these are people playing hard-to-get. Not all of them, of course, but the election is a long way off still, and there’s lots and lots of posturing going on out there. And the fact that we know that it’s posturing kind of makes them posture harder, too.


  6. To take a contrary view (not held all that strongly), I think that there is a fair chance of secession and dissolution in the next 50 years. The South and Great Plains states really have a dramatically different view of the role of the federal government from the New England / Pacific states, and yet at the same time the Blue states send a lot of money to Red States. (yes, that’s a really complicated issue that includes the relocation of retirees. but perception may be more important than reality on this issue.)

    California, Oregon and Washington make a very nice power bloc if combined into a single Republic. So does New England, with some of the mid-West states as non-adjacent elements.

    (yes, some rational people might recognize that giving Democrats control of the entire Western coastline might be a bad idea, but if secession fever really ramps up rationality will be nowhere to be seen.)


  7. ” Is there something as nutty as seceding that a major Democratic Party committee would be forced to vote on to appease its furthest fringes?”

    Oh, I think I could come up with a few…..


  8. I’m a former GOP operative in Texas. Nothing executive, but I attended conventions and committees, and did some work on some campaigns.

    Here is how it shakes out. About one in four Texans either support secession or like to pretend they do. If asked to vote, with an anti-secessionist campaign, that number would probably fall to about 10%. After that, once it’s clear that the initiative is going to fail, it might bounce back up to 25%.

    In addition to being non-binding, though, the wording of the referendum is smart:

    If the Federal Government continues to disregard the Constitution and the sovereignty of the State of Texas, the State of Texas should reassert its prior status as an independent nation.”

    The word “If” does a lot here. It takes it from “I want to do this right now” to “I might want to do this depending on what happens.” So in the eyes of a lot of voters, it would be a non-binding contingency and not even a non-binding resolution. That’s what I suspect scares the GOP more than anything. Because with that wording, you might be able to get 40% instead of 10% or 25%, even though actual support is somewhere between the latter two numbers.

    Historically, like in a lot of other states the Texas GOP has made a bargain. The crazies get to write the party platform, but then the party leaders get to ignore it. It worked this way for a long time, right up until the Texas Democratic Party essentially folded into the national party and into state irrelevance. Then, with no Democrats around, the hard cores started wondering why it is that they’re not getting what they want.

    The answer is that it’s because the elected politicians don’t want to do it. Speaker Straus ends up the bad guy more often than not because he’s only major figure in the state who is not directly accountable to voters (outside of his district). Except the party executives, who also don’t have to worry about being primaried. They do like to get their name in the paper, though, in case they decide they want to run for the legislature.

    I don’t know whether Tanya Robinson is ambitious, or whether she’s trying to reach out to those outside the chamber who like shaking their fists. It’s not clear that she herself supports secession. My guess is that she’s courting some people whose vote she might need to get into some political race somewhere. They owe her a solid now.

    It’s mostly an extension of the same bargain as the platform. It came up to engage the excitables with a empty gesture so that they’ll come out and vote. It was defeated it was decided that the optics alone made the gesture something besides empty.


    • What you said about the Texas Dems can easily be said about the California GOP. The California GOP made itself irrelevant by becoming more like the national party and less like California.

      So state parties are becoming more closely linked to the national party and this plays differently in different states.


        • Democratic machine politics differs considerably from Republican machine politics because the Dem’s factions come together on a different governance level than the GOP’s factions do. Extended one party rule of the Dems creates tension between good governance technocrats, public sector unions, different ethnic groups, and well off people that like to keep their money but don’t care for Christian Evangelicalism.

          eta: to wit – the current Chicago Mayor and the current New York Governor – neither are going to be confused with Henry A Wallace.


        • I think one party rule can be bad for the reasons that it makes parties take too much for granted. This is true in Texas, California, and Rhode Island. The problem is that I think parties should stand for things and it doesn’t make sense to sacrifice too many principals and ideals for state-competitiveness.

          The Democratic Party might be big tent enough to avoid the problems currently facing the GOP and I can’t really think of many times except United States of Canada when secession was talked about as a viable solution by the left.

          If read Loomis, the big problem in Rhode Island is that a lot of people just become Democratic members even if they are not Democratic in sympathy.


          • If read Loomis, the big problem in Rhode Island is that a lot of people just become Democratic members even if they are not Democratic in sympathy.

            I’m sure this is true in any de facto one party state, at least after enough years for that fact of life to get established in people’s minds. On the local level, I mention elsethread that I am a RINO. This is because the Republican primary is the relevant level for local elections in my county. Anyone naively looking at registration numbers would conclude that the county is ever so slightly more Republican than it really is. I vote for the least bad candidate in the primary, then cast my protest vote for the Democrat in the general.

            The state as a whole is blue, though we have a Republican governor this cycle. In normal cycles my county’s legislative delegation is prone to ideological purity posturing, then wondering why it is that they don’t get anything they want passed. There are plenty of intra-party divisions within the state Democrats that they could easily form tactical alignments and get stuff they wanted, but they are too pure to grub around like that, acknowledging that other people have interests as well. Things are a little different currently, what with a Republican governor. He just gave the county schools an extra four million. But you can’t count on such things long term. I expect that the next cycle will return to a Democrat in the state house.


        • California has done a lot to avoid the stagnation of one-party rule in recent years. We had a token republican governor for a while, and then voted for the democrat who ran on a platform of fiscal restraint and followed through. We changed the way we draw up districts, and the way we hold our primaries. We had strict term limits (thought those were stupidly loosened in a recent referendum). Not all of those things are appropriate for everywhere, but they’ve been working for us, at least for my adulthood.


          • I’m not actually a big fan of term limits. Assuming everything else is healthy, they shouldn’t be necessary. You know, if the longer terms create a problem, throw the bums out!

            But if that doesn’t happen because of one party being non-competitive, it’s a way to dilute the power of the majority party – make them be run by inexperienced people.


            • ,
              I’m not necessarily a big fan of term limits either. But I think they make a lot more sense in California’s one-party big government environment than the do anywhere else.

              To wit: The primary benefit of term limits is that they reduce the inertia of incumbency, reducing the ability of politicians to permanently occupy safe seats and turn them into long-term sinecures. In a functioning two-party system, the best way to accomplish that goal is with elections, but California doesn’t have a functioning two-party system.

              Contrawise, the primary drawback of term limits is that they force people out of office before they develop the necessary experience to do the job well. But because California is such a big state with so many levels of government, being forced out doesn’t mean what it does elsewhere. California’s politicians are nearly all career politicians. They might go from a few short terms on the city council to a term as city mayor or county supervisor to a seat in the assembly to a seat in the senate. They’re not people who don’t know politics thrust into a role they don’t understand and therefore are doomed to do a bad job. They’re people moving up a track that rewards political success and is generally skeptical of outsiders who claim their corporate experience makes them suited for a high-profile political post.


              • I agree with what term limits was going for. The problem is that term limits did not solve the problem that term limits themselves were trying to fix.

                Instead of putting power in the hands of the guy/gal you vote for (or vote out), it puts it in the hands of the deep state bureaucrats who advise the guy/gal you vote for (or vote out) and there is no way to get rid of that person.


                • it puts it in the hands of the deep state bureaucrats who advise the guy/gal you vote for (or vote out) and there is no way to get rid of that person

                  You said “bureaucrats” but I think you meant “lobbyists”.

                  Especially given that letting those lobbyists do the heavy lifting means there’s a cushy job waiting when you’re term limited out.

                  ALEC springs to mind.


                  • The incentives are perverse all around.

                    But let’s say we wanted to change Chicago. We’ve got a problem with the black sites, say.

                    Is there a single thing we could vote for to get rid of these things? Sure, we can have a protest and we can write a letter and all that and embarrass the powers that be into getting rid of them (or rebranding them or whatever).

                    But is there a single person (or thing) we could vote for that would change that?

                    It doesn’t strike me as obvious that there is.


            • The main reason I support term limits for the executive is that there are usually a lot of appointments along the way, and favor capital, and other ways to consolidate power that grow with time. There’s a difference dealing with a governor who won’t be there forever, and one who might be or can at least threaten to be.

              I’m more indifferent when it comes to legislatures. I can get on board with term limits, but I’d be talking about a couple decades rather than a couple of terms. It takes them longer to become that powerful. (Still happens, though.)


              • I got the impression that California’s problems were mostly self-inflicted. Some ridiculous ballot initiatives, an angry minority JUST big enough to block any solution they felt like (which was, by and large, any solution), and boom — never-ending problems.

                So I don’t think it was so much your Governor as finally breaking that super-majority logjam and being able to make some fixes that didn’t require cooperation from people whose job security was pretty much invested entirely in saying “No” to not-quite-a-super-majority of the Leg.


                  • Tax hike had been permanently blocked by the GOP rump for what, two decades?

                    It wasn’t until the Dems managed a super-majority (necessary for tax hikes, per one of those ballot initiatives) that a tax hike was even possible.

                    Everyone’s known that taxes had to go up in California (why do you think they were constantly raising fees? They needed the money, and “fees” weren’t taxes and thus didn’t need a 2/3rds majority to raise) but it wasn’t happening as long as the GOP was sitting on 1/3 of the votes.

                    Jesus could have been governor, but without breaking that GOP logjam, he wouldn’t have gotten anything done either.


                      • Well I’m just happy they got it done. Getting California back into working order, doing it relatively easily, doing it by sidelining the GOP nutbags and doing it through a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes was collectively the cruellest thing the Democratic Party could have done to the GOP and conservatives everywhere.


                      • True enough. But until that super-majority problem was fixed, no solution was possible.

                        It’s laudable that the Governor moved quickly, once the possibility finally opened up. But I’m not going to blame past Governors for being unable to act effectively on that particular issue. They simply lacked the power. (They, of course, can be judged on the things they did and didn’t do that were actually possible).

                        Maybe past Governors would, maybe they wouldn’t. “Raising taxes” simply wasn’t a possible choice for them, though.


    • We can’t allow this wack job vote on succession, we’d loose our phony baloney jobs in congress!

      We can’t NOT allow this wack job vote on succession, we’d loose our phony baloney jobs in state gov’t!

      Harrumph!! harrumph!!!


    • This is an outstanding comment, thanks for leaving it. I suspect that if you picked the right parts of the Pacific Coast or Northeast cities, you would see similar percentages to a question asking if Texas (or other parts of the Deep South) should be allowed to go, or even kicked out.


    • , Looking at what Texas has done in the past few years I’m curious as to how you think the crazies aren’t getting their way. You’ve got open season carrying guns in public, open season carrying guns in schools to threaten teachers or for teachers to threaten students, open season carrying guns to threaten professors in higher ed, a raft of creationist wackjobs in the state leg and the governor’s administration, a creationist homeschooling wackjob who wants to eliminate public education and replace it with total privatization as the head of your state board of education, some of the most restrictive and unconstitutional voter suppression regimes in the country, and to top it all off you’ve got a state attorney general who has twice sued himself in court in order to get a court order that he wanted so he didn’t have to release public record documents.


    • Not really. There are plenty of women who support Bernie Sanders. I think of the left-wing fringe as being people who would think Sanders is too far to the right.


      • Your compatriots at LGM and Balloon Juice love to assert the sexism argument any time someone makes a case that Sanders is a preferable presidential candidate to H. Clinton. 3 post in the last 24 hours on LGM by my count, with one comment thread even connecting support of Bernie with affinity to Gamergate.


        • I think you are misstating the argument a bit. I don’t think the Balloon Juice or LGM crowd are opposed to people who vote Bernie in the primary. They are opposed to people who think that they are too pure and good to vote HRC in the general if she were to win the primaries and get the nod. There is truth to the fact that the politics are purity types are probably going to suffer least because of GOP policies.


          • I’m with kolohe, at least with regard to lgm. Lemieux implied the other day that telling lefties to withhold support from Clinton in order to heighten the contradictions via a Cruz presidency was sexist, because a Cruz presidency would be bad for reproductive rights.

            I might be persuaded that people who buy that sort of logic are more likely to be male or less likely to prioritize feminism, reproductive rights, etc than those that find such arguments fatuous and dumb, but there was simply zero support for this accusation.


        • well, no. This simply is not correct. Dating back to December 3, there is not a single article in which the author takes that position. (You’ll have to slog through comments yourself if you want to find cites for your position.)

          What you do see argued at LGM in the last week is that the articles at Salon which argue against voting for Hilary in the general election are idiotic, asinine and in no way promote the values of the Democratic party. This is because (a) every Republican candidate is way to the right of HRC, and (b) heighten-the-contradictions voting for the opponents (i) doesn’t actually work to move the next election left and (ii) is incredibly cruel to those members of the Democratic electorate who are not rich white guys.


          • While it’s true that Lemieux doesn’t say so explicitly, the sexism charge isn’t particularly subtle subtext. Here’s a post from today, discussing an anti-Hillary article in Salon. In the very first line, Lemieux refers the salon piece as “Dudebro wankery,” implying from the get-go that the gender and gender politics of the article is relevant to him. From yesterday, we have another lemieux piece
            about the same article referring to anti-Hillary liberals as “affluent white guys.” And then there’s this later in the piece:

            But my favorite part is that someone advocating a substantial risk of Roe v. Wade being overruled choosing to use an egregiously sexist metaphor to make the case. I’m guessing this guy isn’t much of a poker player.

            Now I guess you can argue that when Lemieux repeatedly emphasizes this guy’s gender and race, then suggests that his use of a sexist metaphor is related to reasoning behind the rest of this guy’s argument, and does so while accusing him of being indifferent to the suffering of women under a hypothetical future Republican administration, he’s not actually calling anybody sexist. But I don’t buy it. Just because he doesn’t say it in as many words doesn’t mean that the argument isn’t there, and clearly available to anybody reading the piece. Lemieux says that the guy only thinks the way he does because he doesn’t care about the interests of women and doesn’t personally have anything at stake from policy changes that Lemieux thinks are bad for women. What, exactly, is the distinction between that and sexism as defined on the liberal internet*?

            *as opposed to the Conservative internet, where sexism is all too often defined as either “is a serial rapist” or “supports abortion rights.”


            • but earlier you wrote: “Your compatriots at LGM and Balloon Juice love to assert the sexism argument any time someone makes a case that Sanders is a preferable presidential candidate to H. Clinton”

              I still do not see the sexism argument being raised in the comparison between Clinton and Sanders. I do agree that both LGM and BJ posters would argue that a purported Democrat voting for any of the Republicans over Clinton is being sexist.

              Do you disagree? Is there any current policy proposal being offered by any mainstream Republicans and not by Clinton, which policy is so important to someone who claims to be a Democrat that justifies the undeniable impact a Republican President would have on poor women?

              Or, put more simply, yes you can be a Republican, vote for Bush, and legitimately reject the label of sexist (in my view).

              But if you’re going to call yourself a leftist or liberal and insist on voting for one of the Republicans, especially if you’re doing it to teach Democrats a lesson, then a lot of your fellow liberals are going to be pretty outraged and call you names — and sexist is probably one of the nicer ones.

              And I think the name-callers have a point. What possible justification exists for a strong liberal voting for any of the Republicans over Clinton? If you’re reduced to “teaching a lesson” or “the worse, the better” then you are pretty much a horrible person who knows nothing about politics and cares nothing about the impacts your vote could have on millions of poor women.


              • Again, were the people that voted for Nader sexist or just stupid (assuming the premise that a 21st century Bush presidency is something best avoided)?

                edit: bonus question – is being against Nader a sign of anti-Arab-American bias?


              • First off, I didn’t say that. did. I don’t know how he feels about left-of-center electoral tactic debates, but I agree wholeheartedly with you and Lemieux on the underlying issue: refusing to support Hillary Clinton in the general because she’s not lefty enough for you is a terrible idea.

                What it isn’t, and I can’t believe I have to make this argument, is a categorically sexist idea. Negligence is not an intentional act. The fact that somebody stupidly brings about one result while desiring another, or prioritizes between different values and different outcomes poorly, absolutely does not mean that they have any kind of antipathy towards women or don’t really care about reproductive rights.

                The proof of this is that, by your logic, Stoller is actually hostile to every single liberal value that he professes to believe in, because his heighten the contradictions idiocy would fail to produce the outcomes he wants on virtually every policy front, not just abortion. This is nonsense. The fact that somebody has come up with a terrible way to achieve a given objective doesn’t mean that he never really wanted to achieve that objective. it just means that he’s a fool. Even if Stoller is somehow really a sexist scumbag deep down, what he’s written doesn’t begin to prove that.

                The fact that you and LGM have picked up feminism and reproductive rights, rather than, say, surveillance or inequality, just reflects the fact that sexism is a much more charged accusation than merely calling someone a fool. That goes double in the progressive blogosphere, and triple when used against a male writer criticizing a female public figure. this claim is a cheap shot deployed against a dumb argument that will fall just as easily if we don’t drag the kind of hair-trigger ‘ism’ accusations that conservatives always accuse liberals of using into the spat.


  9. Robertson got to that position, as did the other secessionist, the way that all such local party committee folk do: be active (work with campaigns) and give money. She, unlike some of the others, comes from a small town in a really wealthy, overwhelmingly white part of the Houston suburbs, in a district that spans some extremely conservative areas (south Harris County, Galveston, and the rural and suburban areas in between), and is I assume active in the party there. The Texas GOP selects a man and a woman from each district to serve on the state committee, and it was apparently her turn.

    I mention that her situation is not necessarily normal for the secessionists on the committee because, while there are certainly secessionists in the really conservative districts, the ones on the committee seem to be from Texas’ more liberal cities, like Austin. There’s probably a interesting lesson about the dynamics of local parties in places like this in there.

    Interestingly for this blog, one of the criticisms of the movement from Texas conservatives is that it is the result of libertarians trying to gain power in the state party.


    • You can understand an awful lot about the Constitutional views of the GOP (especially in the South) if you simply realize that they’ve never given up on the Confederate Constitution.

      It’s what they’ve always thought the US Constitution SHOULD be, and merely losing a war was insufficient for them to change their mind.


            • There’s a great deal of picking and choosing.

              In the end, the default state of most people is “Government is good when it does what I like, and bad when it doesn’t” and then it’s not so much a stretch to imagine the Constitution enshrines your personal ideology.

              In the South, we’ve enshrined a lot of the Confederate Constitution — which draws a lot from the original Articles of Confederation, except for the very heavy hand of slavery. They had some things they wanted firm when it came to owning people.


              • The Confederate Constitution didn’t draw from the AOC much at all. It has far more in common with the USC than the AOC and made changes within the framework of the USC. They didn’t want an AOC. They wanted a Constitution to gave a little more power to the states (and inhibit industry), and not a confederation of quasi-independent states.

                Which, when one considers that the south didn’t actually secede over state’s rights, makes a good deal of sense.


                • I suppose I’m a bit blinded by the “States Rights!” contingent down here, who both worships the Confederacy for their pro-States Rights stance (history not withstanding) and whose views on states rights are straight out of the AoC unless it’s something they’re really big on, like abortion, in which case the Feds should be knocking over those states that don’t do it right.

                  Admittedly, these days I mostly just respond to them by quoting bits of their respective state’s letters of secession. (Typical conversation: “The Civil War was about State’s Rights, not slavery. Me: Interesting tidbits from Texas’ letter of secession. Starting at the top.” It shortcuts a whole bunch of mess. Not that it convinces them. The fact that it’s about States Rights not slavery was them “breaking away from liberal indoctrination to reach the truth” so history bounces off. They’ve already unearthed the buried history of the Civil War.)


                  • Part 1 of the civil war was the war. The north won that part. Part 2 was reconstruction. The south won that part by attrition, and afterwards rewrote the Lost Cause and the mythology of “states rights” and the “war of northern aggression” into what they so very loosely call history books. Part 3 of the civil war is currently playing out as society has moved past the time when 99% of the population lived their entire lifetime in a 5 square mile area with little outside communication and the fake history taught to generations of southerners is being challenged by the facts.


                    • I am continually stunned at how widespread and stubbornly persistent the noble Lost Cause myth remains.
                      I think you put your finger on it, that the Civil War continues to this day in different guises.
                      Other people have noted how racism is the poor mans aristocracy, one of skin color. The allure of some sort of natural aristocracy that places others beneath us is a pretty seductive notion I guess.


                    • This is a recurrent theme on the blog of SF author David Brin (slogan: “More of a crackpot than John Scalzi, not as much as Eric Flint”).

                      He actually has eight phases:
                      1 – Concurrent with the Revolution
                      2 – Start of “American” politics through 1852 (Fugitive Slave Act)
                      3 – Hostilities short of armed conflict
                      4 – Armed conflict
                      5 – Reconstruction (1863-1877)
                      6 – Progressive Era (1880-1940)
                      7 – Civil Rights Era (1945-1970ish)
                      8 – Southern Strategy flips the parties (1968/1972-today)

                      He’ll tell you all about it. At length. It’s one of his hobby horses.


                        • Referring to him as such was mostly friendly ribbing on my part – I still have his blog in my newsfeed, after all. And you’ll note, I compared him to Flint, who is another of those guys who is perfectly normal 90% of the time, then bolts over to the door and spends ten minutes barking at something only he can see.

                          The worst thing I can in truth say about Brin is that he’s very, very confident in his own smarts (and he is a smart guy) and carries that confidence over to the truth – and explanatory power – of the conclusions he’s come to.


                          • Yeah, Brin seems like he’s on a “mission to civilize” the more right wing folks about. Which is fine, most of the time.

                            At least one time in twenty, Brin’s barking about something that does actually exist, even if it’s really hard to see. [Case in point: he’s got something up about conspiracies. He’s been in at least one of those himself…]

                            (and I really ought to write about “leaderless” movements, one of these days).


  10. As a hypothetical, from the perspective of a movement conservative… What is the difference between the tariffs and other laws starting in 1828, which had at least the secondary purpose of transferring wealth from the South to the North, and the succession of Medicaid expansion, same-sex marriage, and regulatory decisions that seriously penalize the use of coal for electricity generation? And why those shouldn’t be viewed as as serious a threat to a regional culture and economics as the Tariff of Abominations and its assorted follow-ons? Serious enough that the only way to avoid the tyranny of the majority is to somehow get out of the Union?

    I’m only a hack historian, but my perception is that the North believed “Oh, no, they’re just talking, they won’t possibly resort to violence and try to leave; if we just keep pushing, they will accept that we have the better argument.” And the price to enforce the argument that the South should abandon a major aspect of its culture, and accept the transfer of wealth, was a million lives?

    There are days when I’m terrified about what might happen.


    • Isn’t it a problem for this comparison that one of your three examples constitutes a net transfer of resources from the North to the South? More broadly I think that people’s perception of regional differences is far weaker than it used to be, largely because the reality of regional differences has declined dramatically since the mid 19th century. I’m from North Carolina, as are both of my parents. Growing up, this put me in a distinct minority of my peers.

      If you look at your list of potential grievances for a neo-secessionist South, you find that there is substantial division within each region on those issues. Support SSM, environmental regulation, and the ACA in the South today, and you’ll find between 40-50% of the population will at least partially agree with you. If you want, you can easily live and work in an enclave where almost everyone will see things your way. Such was hardly the case for an abolitionist in 1850, or a (white) civil rights advocate in 1950.

      Our country has grown so economically interconnected, with such massive amounts of internal immigration, that the various regions can barely maintain distinct accents and sports team affiliations at times. I don’t see how such weak layers of identity can possibly be the source of real conflict anytime soon.


    • I don’t think it was a matter of bluffing or calling a bluff. It was a matter of being out of schlitz after 1850 with which to compromise. Plus, a sizeable portion of the North found the final pre-war compromise of 1850 unpalatable anyway, leading to a complete transformation of poltical parties in the North within a decade. The new party system had a different view of North/South/West political equilibrium than the previous 80 some odd year run.


    • The difference is one of time, culture, and circumstance.

      To my mind, at least, the difference between someone wanting to secede in 1800 vs 2015 is akin to the difference between breaking up with your girlfriend of two weeks vs. leaving your wife and kids. Neither is necessarily wrong, and there are certainly circumstances where either might be best for everyone involved. But the latter decision inherently carries a lot more weight, and should therefore require a lot more thought than the former. (e.g.: Making “because she’s not a Knicks fan” your main reason with the former makes you a fun, kooky Madison Garden diehard; with the latter it makes you the worlds biggest d-bag.)

      The United States isn’t what it used to be, for good and ill. In it’s early days, it was largely a concept being taken out for a test drive. States continued to be fairly self-sufficient, had their own militias for their defense, etc. People born in Maine lived and died in Maine, more often than not never left Maine, and rarely if ever met anyone that wasn’t in exactly the same boat. Things are very different today.

      When I hear people talk about secession today, the talk generally falls under two distinct categories.

      The first is what I might call Libertarian Think Tank Secessionist Theorizers (LTTST). LTTST discussions tend to be disconnected from reality in an entirely appropriate academic fashion. LTTSTs are not seriously considering taking up arms or lawsuits to remove their state from the Union. Rather, theirs is more of a philosophical salon-type discussion. All right, we’ve agreed the state shouldn’t be allowed to forbid this — but what about if it forbid this other far more extreme thing? It’s a stoned dorm room discussion about whether our planet is really just an atom in a gigantic being’s body for sober, intellectual, Cato-set adults. This group doesn’t really have much to do with what’s just happened in Texas.

      What just happened in Texas falls into the very different second group, which I think of as True Patriot Secessionists (TPS). TPSers generally believe that there was a point in America’s history — (usually it is the incorporation of Washington, DC right after the Civil War, but there are other theories) — where the country was illegal taken over by foreign forces, and has been secretly run by a shadow cabal ever since. Unlike LTTSs, TPSs’ desire to secede is not academic; it’s real and it’s urgent. Moreover, it’s driven by a belief that a True Patriot of the original-but-dead United States should accept nothing less.

      Politics aside, it would have been relatively easy in 1800 for, say, Maine to have seceded had all parties been amenable to the idea. That’s just not the case any more. If Texas’s secessionists were to actually succeed tomorrow, what happens to Texas’s federally-paid-for infrastructure? What happens to suddenly-foreign corporations doing bunnies there? There’s likely to be a large percentage of tax-paying citizens living there who don’t want to suddenly live in a different country — how does Texas handle that? Their economy is deeply integrated with 50 other states — what does cutting those ties mean? As this group had already declared the US government as the #1 national enemy, how to they go about setting up a national defense that at minimum makes it feel safe, and at best is able to topple its version of Evil Empire threat? The next time a major hurricane hits and causes a billion dollars in damages that can’t be offset by the tax dollars of 49 other partners, what effect will that have on it’s short- and mid-term economic prospects? And that’s just a couple out of thousands of questions that need to be addressed, and which might well make many in Texas decide it’s more of a risk than they’re willing to take.

      The reason modern I believe secession movements like Texas’s are silliness and not worthy of serious consideration is that those who peddle them don’t even begin to consider that those kinds of questions exist — let alone begin to consider them. Trust me on this. I’ve talked to a lot of secessionist over the past two months as part of a long-term assignment I’m working on, and I can tell you that to a man/woman, not one of them has thought past, “If we could pull it off, we’d be able to do X.” (X is usually a combination of taking over federal lands, eliminating sinful and/or liberal media, and creating a mandatory religious test in regards to public policy and officials.)


      • Dang, everyone here is a better writer than I am.

        Broadly, I don’t disagree with anything you write here. As an intellectual exercise, I predict exactly one partition — east-west with the Great Plains as the dividing line. I do so on the basis of various trends that are now occurring and are likely to continue in some fashion into the future. For much of my career, it’s what was called a “Mike project” at the places I worked. Given several trends, what happens if you extend them? Does the forecast include interesting possibilities? If the partition happened in less than 25 years I would be shocked, for precisely the reason you and others have given: significant linkages of various sorts across urban America. I’m interested in other secession “plans”, but don’t predict that they’ll happen.

        What sorts of trends? There are reasons to believe that air and land transportation is going to get much more expensive in money and/or time in the future. Cheap petroleum is getting harder to find. Growing political pressure to control CO2 emissions. Imagine a generation that grows up in Portland for whom Times Square is a place they see pictures or videos of, but almost no one visits. Imagine a generation of New Yorkers who have never visited one of the big national parks in the West. Moving across the country becomes more difficult The cultural linkages get weaker. I claim that Friedman’s The World is Flat predictions of an ever-shrinking world came out just when circumstances suggested the trend was about to reverse :^)

        It’s a nerd specialty, but I think there are going to be enormous pressures put on the US electric grid in the future. The two sides of my hypothetical partition are already headed down different paths. The western path leads to, I believe, a system that requires a regional strategy that won’t work in the East. The current federal policies for how reliability is to be achieved were designed with the Eastern grid in mind, not the Western. Maybe the federal government is flexible enough to allow both, but I have my doubts.

        Most of the people you’re talking to would be very, very disappointed in how I think my partition would work. Ranchers who think they’re going to suddenly get unfettered access to those millions of acres of public lands, for example. But a WSA would be very heavily urban/suburban, so wilderness and preservation are going to be well represented in the debate. Certainly there would be some differences — western states would almost certainly have a much stronger interest in land exchanges that break down some of the god-awful checkerboard patterns the feds created in the 1870s. The libertarians will be disappointed, too. Regulations follow urbanization; it is no surprise that California, by population the least-rural state in the country, does so much regulation.


      • These aren’t questions that can’t be answered. In fact, they have been and they probably will be again. The whole Russia-Ukraine war was at least partially a product of the negotiations after the fall of the USSR. Scotland and the UK would have had to answer the questions, but there was no question that they wouldn’t be able to. See also Quebec, and see also Catalonia. Secession is a thing, even if it hasn’t happened here and is unlikely to.

        Texas or Westonia would have a claim to most of the basic infrastructure, on account of the fact that they paid taxes, too. US would probably remove any nukes, but Texas/Westonia would have a claim on at least some of the military stuff (probably not all as a disproportionate amount of it is in those states). They’d be responsible for their own natural disasters, and wouldn’t be responsible for the natural disasters occurring elsewhere. Citizenship could be messy, but not unsolvable. Westonians/Texans would still be American citizens and most would probably automatically have dual citizenship. People born there or that lived there would probably have to apply but with a relatively loose standard (at least within the first X years).

        These are things that would need to be negotiated, though, and as such I don’t see a unilateral right to exit. I do think that the larger government should, absent a good reason not to, negotiate in good faith. For the US, the main thing I would want to make sure of was that the Americans in Texas/Westonia/wherever would be treated fairly. If it’s clear that they’re going to pull off some nasty business upon exit, then you don’t let them go (hence the North was right in the Civil War). The bar is typically set at 50% (for Scotland and Quebec, anyway), which seems kind of low to me. I’d also want to see that support is across regional and racial and religious lines. That could be a problem for Texas, but wouldn’t be for Westonia.

        But yeah, there are things that would need to be looked at. In the current context it is silly because I completely believe you that the people you’ve talked to haven’t throught it through. And also because there’s no substantial support for the idea in any state.

        I can come up with a lot of scenarios, though, where the tide could turn in one state or another for some reason or another. Whether I would have an open ear depends on which scenario we’re talking about. Texas would have a harder time than Alaska. Aztlan would have a harder time than Hawaii. But if a state did want to leave, and had acceptable reasons for wanting to do so… sure. That wouldn’t be silly at all. It’s something we have peers confronting as we speak.


  11. Tod Kelly:
    If Texas’s secessionists were to actually succeed tomorrow, what happens to Texas’s federally-paid-for infrastructure? What happens to suddenly-foreign corporations doing bunnies there?

    They’d probably be OK as long as they restricted it to corporate premises:

    Sec. 21.07. PUBLIC LEWDNESS. (a) A person commits an offense if he knowingly engages in any of the following acts in a public place or, if not in a public place, he is reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed by his:
    (1) act of sexual intercourse;
    (2) act of deviate sexual intercourse;
    (3) act of sexual contact; or
    (4) act involving contact between the person’s mouth or genitals and the anus or genitals of an animal or fowl.
    (b) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.


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