Secessionists unite

What is it that unites granola types from New England and unreconstructed Southerners?  Secession!

In an unlikely marriage of desire to secede from the United States, two advocacy groups from opposite political traditions — New England and the South — are sitting down to talk.

Tired of foreign wars and what they consider right-wing courts, the Middlebury Institute wants liberal states like Vermont to be able to secede peacefully.

That sounds just fine to the League of the South, a conservative group that refuses to give up on Southern independence.

"We believe that an independent South, or Hawaii, Alaska, or Vermont would be better able to serve the interest of everybody, regardless of race or ethnicity," said Michael Hill of Killen, Ala., president of the League of the South.

The two groups met this week in Chattanooga, Tennessee to exchange ideas and lay out strategy.  Among others represented there were the leaders of Vermont's secessionist movement, which I discussed earlier this year.  It's worth revisiting a key point of that post:

You're not comfortable with the notion of secession?  Well, that's the product of your public-school indoctrination, which has programmed millions of Americans to equate secession with slavery.  (How many people are aware that the abolitionist firebrand William Lloyd Garrison favored Northern secession from the union?) 

It's a tragedy that secession got a bad name this way, because tied up in the concept of secession is an equally important concept:  Devolution of power away from a centralized authority.  The League of the South's president sums it up this way:

If allowed to go their own way, New Englanders "probably would allow abortion and have gun control," Hill said, while Southerners "would probably crack down on illegal immigration harder than it is being now."

I expressed it a little differently in a Whiskey and Gunpowder article this summer, in the course of gently chiding Rep. Ron Paul for missing a golden opportunity to bring around left-wingers to the notion of devolution.  Asked by Stephen Colbert to raise his hand as Colbert ticked off the names of various government agencies Paul wanted to abolish, I wished Paul had stopped him as soon as he identified the Department of Education.  What I then wanted Paul to say was something like this:

“You know, there was once a time when most Republicans wanted to abolish the Department of Education. But a funny thing happened. When Republicans won political power, they realized, ‘Hey, we can use this Department of Education to push our own agenda on the rest of the country.’ And that’s why you have these endless fights now over how our kids are supposed to be educated, Republicans and Democrats each wanting to impose a one-size-fits-all solution on the entire nation. It’s crazy. If they want to teach creationism in Oklahoma, fine, let them. If they want to teach condom use in New York City, that’s fine too. Why should this all be imposed from Washington, D.C.? You know, there isn’t one word in the Constitution about education, and that’s because the Founders knew that education was something best left to states and communities and parents and teachers. But what do we have now? We have this crazy No Child Left Behind law where every kid in the nation is getting drilled in how to pass standardized tests and they’re not actually learning anything. And don’t forget, that law is the brainchild of Ted Kennedy every bit as much as it is of George W. Bush.”

Oh, and let's deal right here with the canard that the Leage of the South is a bunch of racists.  This is from the Associated Press article reporting on this week's conference:

The League of the South says it is not racist, but proudly displays a Confederate Battle Flag on its banner.

Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, which monitors hate groups, said the League of the South "has been on our list close to a decade."

"What is remarkable and really astounding about this situation is we see people and institutions who are supposedly on the progressive left rubbing shoulders with bona fide white supremacists," Potok said.

[Middlebury Institute director Kirkpatrick] Sale said the League of the South "has not done or said anything racist in its 14 years of existence," and that the Southern Poverty Law Center is not credible.

"They call everybody racists," Sale said. "There are, no doubt, racists in the League of the South, and there are, no doubt, racists everywhere."