Secede? Brilliant Idea!
This is not my first time at the secession rodeo.
Last year, I wrote a cover story for Wisconsin Interest magazinewhere I suggested it was time for conservatives to "confront the crackpots." A good way to launch the effort at quality control, I wrote, was to call them "crackpots."
This was not designed to win friends and apparently had little or no influence on the targets of the piece.
At the time, a handful of state legislators appeared to be toying with ideas like "nullification." I wrote:
The problem here, of course, is that it is one thing to oppose the implementation of Obamacare state exchanges and quite another thing to begin channeling your inner John C. Calhoun and embrace the rhetoric of the 1830s.
Frankly, it is hard to imagine a less effective way to make the case for opposition to an overweening federal government than to adopt positions that fit every caricature of the retrograde right the left/media could ever imagine. As if this were not bad enough, there was also some buzz about secession, despite the fact that we fought a war over that, which as you might recall ended badly for the advocates.
Conservatives need to be aware of the optics. And here, they could hardly have been worse….
In the piece I tried to make the case that "conservatives have a special obligation to be prudent or at least careful in their use of language."
By now, you know the upshot. The State Republican Party’s Resolutions Committee voted earlier this month in favor of a party platform that "supports legislation that upholds Wisconsin’s right, under extreme circumstances, to secede." (Pro tip: The first Republican president was Abraham Lincoln.)
Secession, in fact, is one of the issues that you’d think had been resolved decisively. (Union and Confederate dead: 750,000.) So we can put this decisively in the box labelled; Not Going To Happen. Ever.
But the GOP will get to vote on it anyway. Crazy gets its day in the spotlight. Brilliant.
The resolution is unlikely to survive a vote at the party’s convention in early May but it has already accomplished quite a lot: the media/left has predictably seized upon the resolution as yet another opportunity to caricature conservatives as extreme and just a wee bit batty. It is simply too good a narrative to go away quietly, so the resolution pretty much guarantees that it will also step on whatever other stories come out of the state convention itself. Beyond that, even the most obscure long shot candidate for assembly is guaranteed to get MSM coverage if they back the idea.
Not surprisingly, the flirtation with secession is also getting national attention. Dana Milbank, writing in the Washington Post, notes that the resolution raises "the alarming prospect of a breakaway Badger State uniting with Ottawa in a military alliance that could disrupt the fragile balance of power in the Great Lakes."
So yeah, they are laughing at you, not with you.
As I read about the Resolution Committee vote I tried to imagine the debate, if any. Did anyone raise their hand and say: "Do we really want to strip our fellow citizens of their United States Citizenship; sever our ties with the Bill of Rights, the US military, the American flag?" Did anyone ask: if we seceded, what would happen to veteran’s benefits? Social Security? Would the Second, Fourth, and 14th Amendments still protect the rights of Wisconsinites? (No.)
Not exactly winning issues in an election year....