Disgruntled by high taxes, wars in far-away countries, bailouts for fat-cat bankers, a growing number of Americans are pushing their states to defy federal laws and some are advocating secession.
“Our government is operated and owned by Wall Street and corporate America,” Thomas Naylor, a retired economics professor who heads the Second Vermont Republic movement, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Sunday, October 11.
“The empire is going down — do you want to go down with the Titanic, or seek other options while they are still on the table?”
The US fell into the grip of the worst economic crisis since 1930s in September after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the fourth-largest investment bank, and the financial woes of a number of Wall Street giants.
The fallout has developed into a full-fledged recession, threatening personal finances as home prices fall, retirement funds shrink and access to credit and jobs evaporate.
The recession, government growth and the explosion in federal spending are infuriating many Americans.
“The US government has lost its moral authority,” says Naylor.
Twenty-five states have passed laws preventing the 2005 Real ID Act, which sets federal standards for identification cards, from being implemented.
Also, 13 states have legalized marijuana for medical use, in defiance of federal anti-drug regulations.
As tensions grow over health care reform, 15 states are pushing laws that would exempt them from federal health care regulations.
Montana and Tennessee have even passed laws exempting weapons and ammunition produced in their states from federal regulations.
“There is more talk today about nullification (invalidating federal laws) and secession… than any time since 1865,” said Kirkpatrick Sale, who heads the South Carolina-based Middlebury Institute, which studies separatism, secession, and self-determination.
Sale says there are active secessionist groups in at least 10 US states, including Vermont, Hawaii, Alaska, Texas, and the US commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
“Secession is our only answer because our federal government is broken and cannot be repaired in the current political system,” agrees Dave Mundy, a spokesman for the Texas Nationalist Movement.
The US is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district.
It was founded on July 4, 1776, by thirteen British colonies that defeated Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War.
But Texas was an independent republic from 1836 to 1845, as was Vermont from 1777 to 1791.
Texas last seceded in 1861, when it joined 10 other southern states to form the Confederate States of America.
The Civil War soon broke out, and four years a later, the union was restored.
J.R. Labbe, editorial director at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper, doubts secessionists can gain grounds.
“[They are] a minority voice whose time has come because of one thing: technology,” she told AFP.
“Digital cameras that can upload images and soundbites — and 24/7 news channels that are always looking for the most bizarre clip they can find — have given them a much broader audience than they, or Texas, deserve.”
Lyn Spillman, a specialist on nationalism at Notre Dame University, agrees.
“Considered generally, secession movements — which are quite common in American history — are extremely unlikely to have significant political consequences.”
But Sale contends that a collapse of the dollar and anger over foreign wars, combined with calamitous climate change triggered by global warming, could push communities towards energy, water and food independence.
“A conjunction of events over the next few years might increase the talk about secession.”
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