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Secession and the GOP

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy may pose with the American flag, but he refuses to pay court-ordered grazing fees for his cattle.
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy may pose with the American flag, but he refuses to pay court-ordered grazing fees for his cattle.

Wisconsin Republicans are slated to vote next month on the right of secession.

And you thought we had that conversation 150 years ago, a conversation — actually a war — that ended with the defeat of the right to secede from the Union.

Despite the seeming finality of the Civil War, secession is back. Earlier this month the Resolutions Committee of the state Republican Party voted for a proposal supporting “legislation that upholds Wisconsin’s right, under extreme circumstances, to secede.”

Last month, one of the state GOP’s regional caucuses passed a version of the so-called “state sovereignty” resolution as an assertion of the state’s 10th Amendment rights. Top party officials hoped to kill the fringe proposal during a meeting of the resolutions panel on April 5 in Milwaukee. Instead, the committee adopted it on a split vote, putting the matter on the agenda at the Republican Party state convention in early May.

Governor Scott Walker opposes the resolution. "I don't think that one aligns with where most Republican officials are in the state of Wisconsin — certainly not with me," Walker said.

Walker reportedly has ambitions for higher office. No doubt, those ambitions do not include a stint as President of the Republic of Wisconsin.

Secession fever is not just rife in Wisconsin. Texans have never forgotten that their ancestors once lived in an independent nation. Two years ago, more than 115,000 Texans signed a petition calling for the state to secede. The document was sent to the White House days after President Obama’s reelection.

Governor Rick Perry, who ran for president in 2012 and who may be gearing up for another try in 2016, has said Texans have a “different feeling about independence. When we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, were a stand-alone nation. And one of the deals was, we can leave anytime we want. So we’re kind of thinking about that again.” (He’s wrong about the leaving “anytime we want,” by the way.)

Of course, this talk of secession is just that: Talk. Still, there’s some incongruity in the party of Lincoln morphing into the party of secession.

It’s another instance of the extremist fringe of the GOP dictating the party’s agenda. And it’s dangerous because toleration of secessionist talk only encourages the treasonous activities of men like Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher locked in battle with the federal government over his refusal to pay grazing fees. The federal government owns 87 percent of the land in Nevada. Bundy refuses to recognize federal authority, continuing to graze his cattle on federal land despite repeated court orders asserting the right of the Bureau of Land Management to collect grazing fees.

Recently, footage of a BLM agent using a stun gun on Bundy’s adult son went viral on right-wing internet sites. Armed militia supporters from neighboring states flocked to Bundy’s ranch to protect him from federal agents enforcing court orders. States’ rights groups, echoing Ruby Ridge and Waco, came armed and ready to fight. “I’m ready to pull the trigger,” one anti-government activist said.

Not eager to spill blood over livestock, the BLM has backed down for now.

And where are Nevada’s Republican officials on the enforcement of judicial decrees? Republican Governor Brian Sandoval says, “No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans.” And Republican Senator Dean Heller? He refers to Bundy supporters as “patriots” and says, “law-abiding Nevadans must not be penalized by an overreaching BLM.”

The Republican Party claims to favor limited government. But in Nevada limited government has become no government and opposition to federal power borders on anarchy.

Which is precisely what the first Republican president said in his 1861 Inaugural Address. “It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Secession is the essence of anarchy,” said Abraham Lincoln.

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