New secessionist movement is a disturbing throwback

The new secessionist movement is bad for America. It represents a refusal to recognize the re-election of President Obama. And just below the surface of it lie some ugly and disturbing attitudes.

More than 700,000 people in all 50 states have signed petitions asking the White House for peaceful secession from the United States. Texas has by far the most signatures — more than 100,000. (Gov. Rick Perry raised the specter of secession a few years ago, though he has distanced himself from the current campaign.)

The White House still hasn’t responded to these petitions. I can’t imagine any other reply than a diplomatically worded but firm no.

This latest effort to secede from the Union is an eerie reminder of the slavery, the Confederacy and the Civil War. And the current one stems, in large part, from similar sentiments. Many Americans simply cannot accept that we have a black man in the White House. Nor can they accept the demographic shift in this country away from a white majority.

As the numerical majority of Americans, European-Americans have been the face of the United States for more than 200 years. Their values were the country’s values. Their politics and economic policies were the nation’s policies. Every president was a white male.

Obama did not win the majority of the votes cast by white people in either of his victories. His victories represent the seismic flexing of the power of a new coalition.

This coalition favors policies that no longer entrench the status quo. Its voters understand that social programs matter, that health care is a paramount concern, that women’s issues such as equal pay for equal work are valid, that the economy needs to serve the 99 percent and not the 1 percent.

This new majority of voters scares the willies out of many conservatives. They should be scared. This new coalition is not only taking power away from them, it’s threatening their sense of white superiority and white entitlement.

You get a sense of that in the mountains of disrespect that they heap upon Obama.

You get a sense of that in Mitt Romney’s post-election comments that Obama bought the votes of blacks, Latinos and young people.

You get a sense of that in Bill O’Reilly’s lament that the “white establishment” is the minority now. “It’s a changing country, the demographics are changing,” O’Reilly said, by way of explaining Romney’s defeat.

The irony is that Obama, while he has enjoyed the support of black people and others around the world and has represented a new maturity in American race relations, has hardly pandered to African-Americans. In his speeches and in his policies, he has always stressed things that would benefit everyone. He has based his presidency, and his entire career, on the belief that, despite our differences, we are all Americans.

And that core belief is just too hard to swallow for the secessionists. Shame on them.

Starita Smith, Ph.D., has been an award-winning journalist at the Gary Post-Tribune, the Columbus Dispatch and the Austin American-Statesman. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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