The BBC reports that more than 100,000 Americans have posted petitions asking to secede from the union to a White House website. The petitions apparently quote the Declaration of Independence, which speaks of when it “becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,” and cite “blatant abuses” of citizen rights such as overly intrusive screening by the Transportation Security Administration. The most popular petition, from Texas, has attracted more than 25,000 signatures.
I suppose the would-be secessionists recognize they can’t really secede — hundreds of thousands died in a bloody Civil War to establish that principle — and are merely hoping to make some kind of symbolic statement. But for what purpose? Saying that you want to secede because your candidate lost is as stupid and mindless as dim-witted celebrities like Cher threatening to leave the country if the Republican candidate wins. In both cases, the sentiment expressed just reflects negatively on the speakers as juvenile sore losers who want to take their ball and go home. What rational American is going to be persuaded by a petition that posits that overly aggressive TSA pat-downs justify secession from the United States?
Rather than submitting silly and counterproductive petitions, people who take their politics seriously would do well to consider the fact that voter turnout fell sharply from 2008 to 2012 and determine why that occurred. I think the answer is simple: Americans turned out to vote for change in 2008 and turned out again to vote for change in 2010 — and no change occurred. They watched an endless Republican primary season that blended into an endless campaign. They suffered through a barrage of negative ads and outright demonization and distortion of the opposing candidates, and they decided they had had enough and just weren’t going to waste their time any more in a process that seems to occupy huge amounts of time, attention, and money without achieving anything.
Thirteen million fewer Americans voted in 2012 than in 2008 — and voter turnoff affected both candidates. President Obama won, but he received almost 10 million fewer votes in 2012 than in 2008 — and in fact received fewer votes in 2012 than John McCain received in 2008.
If our political leaders of both parties don’t figure out how to work together to address our looming problems, and we see only more years of pointless partisan bickering, don’t be surprised if the 2014 and 2016 turnouts continue the downward trend. Americans not only won’t vote, they won’t care.