Historians through the years have argued that the Civil War decided, once and for all, the issue of whether states could secede from the union, but that hasn't stopped a growing number of Americans from entertaining the notion these days.
In fact, since President Obama won re-election earlier this month, cries of "Secession!" have only intensified.
Dozens of petitions signed by tens of thousands of people have been initiated on the White House's We The People website to "peacefully" grant as many as 20 states the right to "withdraw from the United States and create its own NEW government."
As of this writing, and perhaps not so surprisingly, the Texas effort has garnered the most signatures; more than 33,000 have "signed" the petition, which reads:
The U.S. continues to suffer economic difficulties stemming from the federal government's neglect to reform domestic and foreign spending. The citizens of the U.S. suffer from blatant abuses of their rights such as the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act), the TSA (Transportation Security Administration), etc. Given that the state of Texas maintains a balanced budget and is the 15th largest economy in the world, it is practically feasible for Texas to withdraw from the union, and to do so would protect its citizens' standard of living and re-secure their rights and liberties in accordance with the original ideas and beliefs of our founding fathers which are no longer being reflected by the federal government. Louisiana is another state with a large number of signatures, according to the White House site, followed by Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and North Carolina.
Elections have consequences
The dramatic uptick in the number of petitions since Obama's re-election, and the large number of Americans signing them, is a huge indicator that many are dissatisfied with the results on Nov. 6.
What is less clear; however, is what it means to garner "enough" signatures. The Texas petition, for example, already has well in excess of the 25,000 signatures it called for; but now what?
What happens next?
"The right to petition your government is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution," says the White House petition website. "We the People provides a new way to petition the Obama Administration to take action on a range of important issues facing our country. We created We the People because we want to hear from you. If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it's sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response."
What do you think the White House's "official response" from its "policy experts" will be to petitions asking to allow states to secede from the country? If they even get a response, that is. Most likely, these petitions will be ignored, as will the people who have signed them.
'You can never leave'
So the question becomes this: How could a state actually secede from the United States in this day and age, if states could not successfully secede (without a fight) from the union in the 1860s?
One thing is for sure - getting into the United States is a lot easier than getting out. Article IV, Sect. 3 of the U.S. Constitution contains provisions for Congress to admit new territories as states. A simple majority in both Houses of Congress is required to admit states. Currently, Puerto Rico is the most recent U.S. territory seeking statehood.
What the Constitution does not contain provisions for; however, is secession. It's like Hotel California; "you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave."
So it remains unclear where these petitions will lead, if anywhere. But for now, they are at least serving notice on the administration that a large number of Americans are unhappy with the direction their country is going, and they are voicing their displeasure any way they can.