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Following the November 2012 US presidential election, just about every state in the US petitioned to secede from the Union. At least according to some somewhat sensationalist news reports, such as the CBS article titled 'States petition to secede from union. Well, let's walk that back just a bit and make a more accurate statement of the situation. Some months ago, the White House set up a website whereupon citizens could petition the government for things, and established rules to the effect that any petition receiving over 25,000 signatures would be responded to. To start a petition, or to sign somebody else's, the petitioner need only to provide their name, zip code, and a valid email address. There appears to be nothing in the way of verification of the sort which would, for example, prevent an individual from signing a petition fifty times under fake names, but let us give this process the benefit of the doubt.

The first petition for secession was initiated not long after election day, and reads: "Peacefully grant the State of Louisiana to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government." The capitalization is as in the original, and the petition has so far garnered 36,536 "signatures"-- but since the first names and locations of the signers are viewable, it is immediately evident that a majority of people having signed this petition are not actually from Louisiana, but are from all over everywhere else-- Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, California, Colorado, etc., etc. One might immediately gather the impression that a handful of Lousianans are eager to secede, and the rest of the nation is quick to be rid of them. But, naturally, Louisiana was only the first shot. Petitions have since been initiated for all fifty states (most using essentially the same language as the Louisiana effort, including the all-caps 'new), though neither the initiators nor the signers necessarily reside in those states. So it is inaccurate to claim either that any state has petitioned to secede, or even that x number of people from any state have so petitioned, given that most of the petitions have many people from outside each state pushing its secession, for various possible motives.

The most serious of these petitions in terms of numbers is the Texas petition, which boasts as of this writing over 115,000 signatures. And going through the first few pages of them, it seems that about half are actually from folks claiming to reside in Texas. Now, some in the media have claimed that collectively (for the 50 states) some 600,000 people have signed these petitions, but again, noting that out-of-staters are able to sign, and that each state's petition is a separate petition so far as the website is concerned, it is fairly likely that there are at least a fair number of people who have signed multiple petitions, and perhaps even all fifty petitions. (And to put this in some perspective, presuming that there are 600,000 individual signers, and that all are indeed US citizens, this is .15% of the US population.) Noteworthy as well is the inevitable springing up of some counter-petitions. Some call for the secessionists to be stripped of their citizenship, deported, or otherwise punished. Some petition for the same states to not be allowed to secede. Some call for the secessions to be permitted, but only after the states in question pay their portion of the national debt. And there are quite a few which call for parts of this state or that to secede from the state, but stay part of the USA (for example, one petition calls for Austin, Texas to split from a seceding Texas and remain under the umbrella of US sovereignty; another makes the same call on the part of Atlanta, Georgia).

Now, though the import of these efforts has clearly been overblown by a sensationalist press, the underlying question posed is really quite legitimate. After all, we live in a unique time in the history of America, wherein a demographic tidal wave has begun to flow over the country, wiping out its historic white majority and bringing to ascendancy a collection of fast-growing minority groups which have traditionally been favorers of an expansive government presence, of economic redistribution, and of an extensive regulatory structure. Put in the simplest terms, the face of the nation has changed to an ever-more liberal one, and there is no going back. And so, even as we see Puerto Rico reaching out for US statehood, it is entirely reasonable to suppose that the conservative majorities of the 'deep red' states would despair at the highly probable prospect of a complete and permanent subjugation of their political preferences. (Indeed, it is somewhat ironic that the most conservative of American ethnic groups, Southern Whites, are on a trajectory to be in the diminished political position that Blacks were in half a century ago.) In that light, it absolutely makes sense that those citizens would wish to withdraw from a nation kerning ever further to the left.

So we come to the ultimate question of the debate: ought it be permissible for states to withdraw from these 'United' States? Some might contend that this question was decisively determined a century and a half ago, but this is simply not so. What the Civil War decided was that if some states sought to leave the Union by force, others could prevent them from so doing, by force. There never was, nor has there ever been, a definitive determination that no political process could achieve this end. And even if, as some (apparently including conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia) have postulated, the Civil War did determine the Constitution to mean just what the critics claim on this point, there is a higher level of outlet -- to amend the Constitution itself!! If the naysayers are correct in doubting the capacity of states to extricate themselves from a political union, there can be no doubt that the formative document of the union itself can be amended to clearly state conditions under which the disunion of a state would be permitted.