Progressives debate the merits of sealing blue-state borders during Bush's second term, and protest Salon's rough handling of "Not One Damn Dime Day."

By Salon Staff

Published January 26, 2005 10:48PM (EST)

[Read "Long Live Secession," by Christopher Ketcham.]

George Bush's election has so frustrated the sensible liberals of the blue states that they have lost their minds. (As a liberal in Texas, aka "Red World HQ," you can imagine how I feel). Thomas Naylor, a professor of economics in Vermont, has decided it's time for that state to secede from the Union, thereby aligning himself with every racist redneck in the South and every Republic of Texas gun nut.

In his discussion of Lincoln, I think Ketcham fails to do justice to Lincoln's analysis of why secession is wrong, and ignores Lincoln's observation that the states as independent sovereigns never existed.

The Constitution was ratified because the Articles of Confederation, which established the sort of union of sovereign states Naylor seems to recognize, completely failed. It was also notable, said Lincoln, that the Constitution was ratified by conventions, which expressed the will of the people directly, not by state legislatures, which would be the vehicles to express the will of the state qua state.

Anyway, one can argue the theoretical issues surrounding secession forever, though I have no doubt Lincoln was right. But the question no one seems to ask, either of the Southern states in 1860-61 or of people like Thomas Naylor, is this: Even if we have a right to secede if the government denies us our fundamental rights, do we have the right to secede just because the candidate who represent views other than our own won in a fair election? That's just what the South did -- Lincoln was guilty of no usurpation of rights, he just espoused policies concerning the expansion of slavery that the South disliked. As Lincoln said, this is the test of whether democratic government can endure.

George Bush is a man of limited ability and bullheaded, unreflective commitment to policies with which I almost universally disagree. However, the majority of the voters voted for him. Until we can persuade a majority of voters to support better candidates, democracy requires we live with that.

-- Brian Farrington

A state such as California would stand to gain much by seceding. Between controlling one of the largest ports in the U.S. (Long Beach) and therefore container traffic across the country, and having a huge share of the agriculture, software and biotech production, not to mention the television and film industry, the "Democratic Republic of California" would be quite capable of standing on its own. Indeed, given the amount the state pays into federal coffers vs. what it receives in return, the state would potentially see a real economic benefit.

Now that the current administration has made it clear it has no interest in governing from the middle, many citizens would prefer to disassociate themselves from all that is Bush-like. I, for one, predict that if the country continues in its present course, a series of secession attempts, if not outright civil war, is inevitable (sic semper tyrannus, and all that).

-- Lars Skinner

As a disappointed Democrat, I understand why many people in the Northeast and West dream of secession. But it seems incredibly arrogant to ignore the problems of so many people with lower and moderate incomes who can't easily decide where to live. Someone of moderate means, who has been laid off or is struggling to pay bills, has to go where the jobs are, whether it's in a red state or a blue one. (And most of these "secession states" are the most expensive places to live in the country.)

Is secession just for those who can afford to live in Vermont, New York or California?

-- Karen Wheless

Ketcham's article was interesting, but it could have been condensed: the first three words -- "it'll never work" -- would have been sufficient. Naylor sounds like a crackpot with his talk of guerrilla warfare, but anyone who seriously entertains secession is a crank to begin with.

That said, as a Republican, I wouldn't mind if left-wingers became associated with secession: It would confirm the rest of the country's doubts about their patriotism, and it would transform Bush into a latter-day Lincoln to boot.

I'm surprised Ketcham never referenced Andrew Jackson, the founder of the Democratic Party. Thirty years prior to Lincoln's election, he dealt with a secession-ready South Carolina -- and a rogue vice president, John C. Calhoun -- in a similarly stringent manner, though open warfare was averted (or, you might say, postponed). Abe was a Republican, though, ergo evil to the marrow. I can't wait to see what the left will come up with next.

-- Carl Beatty

As one of those "independent-minded Vermonters" touted in this rather silly article, let me assure you that I don't know anyone who wants to remove Vermont's ability to have our say in opposition to the current madness and immorality of the federal government.

Secessionists always seem to live in some romantic twilight of smaller-and-more-responsive governments, uniquely tuned in to the people who voted for them. If you actually spend any time in Vermont towns, you will note that local Select Boards are often detested, vilified and accused of not representing the people who elected them. I happen to think there is no finer place to live, but that is not because we are uniquely qualified to live separately. It has more to do with our belief that if we want to live in a small, responsive community, we get together with a few neighbors and respond to each other -- and then work to get the larger government to support those responses.

-- Suzy Shedd

Am I the only Salon reader who doesn't find this secession business particularly appealing? We may have lost the election, but this is our country too. And despite its flaws, its past and present sins, its consistent failure to meet the ideals of its founders and its most concerned citizens, I still love the place.

Secession, even as the half-joking intellectual exercise repeated lately in Salon, is a cut-and-run solution that leaves all the bombs in the hands of a nut job and no opposition left to stop him from dropping them. Now's the time to stand up and let our voices be heard. As Bush's policies self-destruct around him, believe me, we'll start to make a lot of sense to many of those people you want to secede from.

-- Craig Santoro

[Read "Not One Damn Bit of Good?" by Farhad Manjoo.]

Wall Street and the Republican Party must be pleased to know that Farhad Manjoo's got their back whenever anyone questions their "entitlement" to consumer dollars. Manjoo's "Not One Damn Bit Of Good?" War Room entry displays just how much he doesn't get it -- and how useful that makes him both to Dubya and to advocates of glorious, unbridled consumption.

As the initiator of a corollary initiative to NODDD, www.black-thursday.com, I was -- unlike Manjoo -- in a position to evaluate the efficacy of the project firsthand. Manjoo makes the same mistake in evaluating the boycott as Sean Hannity did: He assumes that the primary goal is immediate economic impact. Nah-uh.

The "boycott" was a means to a variety of ends, namely: media visibility for anti-Bush forces concurrent with the absurd bacchanalia of his recoronation; media attention to the reasons for the opposition (in my case, due airtime was accorded for discussions of WMD and the lack thereof in Iraq, the assault on Social Security, election irregularities, and other issues); an opportunity to reintroduce millions of nonactivist Americans to the concept of a boycott as a political tool that literally anyone can use; and an opportunity to gather names and marshal forces for further initiatives in months to come (already in the works).

Did it work? I can only speak to the effort I was involved in, the comparatively modest smaller sibling to NODDD, Black Thursday. By my estimate, we managed to reach at least 10 million Americans with our message, via our Web site, the Associated Press and other newspaper articles, and broadcast appearances (notably Hannity & Colmes and miscellaneous cable news broadcasts). Not bad, considering a total out-of-pocket expenditure of $40 and a scant 22 days' lead time prior to Dear Leader's day in the sun.

In contrast, Farhad Manjoo -- like so many naysayers throughout the ages -- seems to have relegated himself to the unenviable and marginal position of sniping from the sidelines. History, I would like to remind him, rewards those who act more than it does those who stand and sniff haughtily at the efforts of others.

-- David Livingstone

The smartass critique in War Room of the Not One Damn Dime (non)action fails to consider that symbolic actions may be undertaken more for the sake of the participants than for any immediately visible effect. For the protesters quoted in the War Room piece, it appears the protest was at least in part a secular equivalent to a day of fasting. In a consumerist society, even a short withdrawal from the normal patterns of consumption can help to focus your attention and make you think about your own complicity with the war machine.

To ridicule those who take a modest step toward protest is to reinforce the message that we are in fact powerless against the forces that now control our country.

-- Eric Stenshoel

I only heard about Not One Damn Dime a couple of days ago. I probably spent nothing by default that day because I was working. But how widely and loudly was it publicized anyway, if I only heard about it a couple of days ago?

A way to tell if a buy-nothing day has an effect is to do it once a month, and see if the sales of anything go down on that day. And then see if they go up by enough more on the days before or after, to make up for the down day. And see what we learn from that.

People willing to buy nothing on a certain day can start to identify with each other. They might then be willing to change their buy/sell habits in a more permanent way. It might be a way to start building up a movement of some sort.

-- Joshua Banner

Salon Staff

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