A version of this column appeared originally in THE DAILY BEAST.
Some fringe conservatives seem perversely determined to turn a stinging electoral defeat into an epic, sweeping disaster. That’s the deeper meaning of current talk about impeachment, secession, third parties, civil disobedience, and onrushing apocalypse.
The Conservative Majority Fund has announced a new robocall campaign to build support for impeaching President Obama over mishandling of the affair in Benghazi, Libya, and alleged malfeasance on a host of other issues. Meanwhile, petitions demanding the secession of Texas, Alabama, and at least a half dozen other states have already gathered tens of thousands of signatures, while perennial presidential candidate Alan Keyes describes the right to secede as God-given and inviolate.
Radio host and conspiracy-monger Alex Jones also has committed himself to mobilizing national backing for the secession movement, while retiring Congressman Ron Paul (another perennial presidential contender) identifies today’s secessionists not with the doomed Confederates who precipitated the bloodiest war in the nation’s history, but with the heroic Founding Fathers of the revolutionary generation. After all, Paul plaintively insists, the War for Independence affirmed the right to secession, since they “were seceding from Great Britain.” Of course this analogy ignores the fact that the revolutionary struggle began as a demand for a parliamentary voice (“No taxation without representation”) and only belatedly and with reluctance among the Americans became a fight for separation and independence. Today’s conservatives may loathe the prospect of more taxation, but they can hardly complain about a lack of representation: legislators from Texas, Alabama, and other deep red states play prominent roles in both the House and the Senate. Moreover, in 1776, the daunting distance between London and the American colonies provided practical, persuasive arguments for independence, while the distance between Washington and would-be secessionist states not only is less substantial geographically, but utterly meaningless in an era of instant communication and a global economy.
Nobody expects secession or impeachment initiatives to gain serious traction among even the most adamant and unyielding conservatives, but they do reflect a widespread sense that true believers can’t simply return to GOP politics as usual.