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If at first you don't secede, try, try again

Some citizens petition for secession, though it remains unlikely

By Lisa Babb
On November 14, 2012

  • Head coach Justin Fuente got a good look at his team at the annual Blue-Gray game on Saturday in front of an estimated crowd of 4,000 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. David Minkin

Despite a failed attempt 151 years ago, thousands of Tennesseans are trying to secede again.
After being disappointed by the reelection of President Barack Obama, 27,471 Tennesseans signed a petition on a White House website, as of Wednesday afternoon, for Tennessee to withdraw from the United States and form its own government.  
"The country is going to hell in a hand basket," Ronald Harwell, treasurer of the Roane County Tea Party in east Tennessee, said. "We have the sorriest president the country has ever seen."
Since the reelection of Obama, citizens in all 50 states have filed petitions to secede on the White House's "We the People" website.
"It is a ludicrous idea. The majority wouldn't support it," Barrett Schwarz, graduate student at the University of Memphis, said. "Plus, Tennessee couldn't support itself anyway."
Harwell, who insisted that he does not speak for the Tea Party, said the waves of petitions are less about states leaving the U.S. and more about sending a message to Washington.
"This is more to let them know we are unhappy with the course they are leading the country in than the physical act of seceding, but I would rather see Tennessee secede than live under the nonsense we are living under now," Harwell said.
Despite the fervor of supporters, government officials are not backing the petitions, and secession remains far from likely.
"I can say that it is highly unlikely that these efforts will be successful. Even conservative governors such as Rick Perry [in Texas] and Robert Bentley [in Alabama] are rejecting secessionists," Heather Larsen-Price, U of M assistant professor of political science, said. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam also said secession is not a valid option.
With more than six million people living in Tennessee, less than .5 percent have signed the secession petition on "We the People."
"Tennessee has a lot of great things to offer our country, and it would be a shame to lose those valuable resources," Libby Freeman, senior creative writing major at the U of M, said.
Other students cite the logistics of forming a new country as another reason not to secede.
"It is hard to start a new government. That has been proven. You should stick with what you have and live with it," Abigail Marbibi, freshman nursing student, said.
In order to create or sign a petition, citizens must first create an account on the White House website. The government will have access to some personal information, but only a first name and last initial will be available to the public. After a petition reaches the threshold of 25,000 signatures, officials in the White House will review it and submit a response.
While most of the petitions fall far below the required number of signatures, there are seven states that have surpassed the 25,000 mark:  Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. All but Florida had its electoral votes go to former presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.
Texas received 99,541 signatures as of Wednesday evening, by far the most of any state.
"Any state that is being taxed much more than it benefits should be justified to consider it. But no state other than Texas should," U of M graduate student Sean Brian said.


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