As Scotland was preparing to vote whether or not to obtain their independence from the United Kingdom, Americans were asked a similar question. In a poll taken by Reuters, 24 percent of Americans said that they were in favor of a peaceful withdrawal from the Federal Government of the United States. The fact that thoughts of secession are so much more prevalent than has ever been reported is another sign that Americans feel un-represented in Washington. The poll was taken of 8,952 individuals from August 23 through September 16. The reasons given for those who believe in secession were anger with Washington gridlock and the handling of issues such as healthcare reform and the Mideast situation of increasing Islamic military attacks.
There was a large separation between Democrats, Republicans, and Independents as to the most important reason for secession, but all three groups were included in the 24 percent. Roy Gustafson is a man from South Carolina with only payments from disability as an income. He summed up the opinions of all three voting groups saying that he felt strongly that there was little difference between parties when it came down to actual impact being made. He expressed frustration that nothing was being accomplished in Washington, and felt that the states would be better off making decisions for themselves.
State by state, voters displayed their lack of faith that issues important to them were being deliberated. For example; Daniel Miller, who leads the secession movement in Texas, states that the voters of his state have one major concern which Congress refuses to even discuss. He cited as an example the issue of immigration and the security of the borders. He said that despite the fact that immigration was polled as the primary issue concerning Texans over the last eight years, it was his opinion that the government had still refused to take any significant action to resolve what he refered to as a crisis for residents of his state.
Historical scholars and legal analysts are quick to point out the secession is a legal impossibility. The Constitution holds no provision for such action according to Sanford Levinson, a constitutional scholar at the University of Texas Law School. He explained that it wa a matter of politics. He cited the Supreme Court decision from 1867 in the case of Texas vs. White as his basis. He argues that it is pointless in light of that decision for any state to attempt secession. The opinion in the case given by the Chief Justice concluded that the union between the states was absolute failing an act of revolution or the mutual consent of the states. The poll indicates, however, that many Americans are holding a different view. The erosion of confidence in the government and the prevalence of these thoughts of secession being voiced more often than ever paint a picture of a country divided against itself.
The 80th U.S. Congress ran from January 3, 1947 to January 3, 1949. President Harry Truman was in office and became angry at Congress’ lack of effort to pass legislation. With Republicans holding the majority in both houses, and Truman a Democrat, a total of 906 bills were passed in two years. He labeled it the “do nothing Congress.” With that being the case in the case in the late 40’s, many are pointing to the 112th, and 113th in contrast and wondering what Truman might have called these modern-day sessions. The 112th enacted 162 bills into law. The forecast is for the 113th to pass a total of 251 bills. Harry Truman may have had it easy.
The current system has people feeling the need to question the purpose of any individual seeking election at the federal level. given the lucrative nature of the positions in the modern era, people have felt compelled to question whether representing the American people is truly their goal. The fact is that after serving two or more terms, Congressmen become millionaires. Around 20 percent of those who are elected to the House and Senate do not finish their term when offered more lucrative positions such as lobbyists. The average Congressman works about 100 days a year. Although ‘legislative days’ number 137 in the House, there are no members who are present for every vote.
These ever-more prevalent thoughts of secession from the Union are an apparent sign that Americans feel unrepresented in Washington. With legal precedent set against it as an option, however, a lot would have to change in order to make that an option for the resolution of the frustrations behind those thoughts.
By James Turnage