The party of Lincoln v. the party of Jeff Davis

Zach Wamp, having taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, threatens secession. Resolution of censure, anyone?

Congressman Zack Wamp of Tennessee, running for Governor of Tennessee, becomes  the latest prominent Republican to threaten secession if his side keeps losing in the political process created by the Framers. Of course, he puts in the usual extortionist’s polite “Nice-country-you’ve-got-there/shame-if-anything-happened-to-it” formula, but the threat is clear:

I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government.

Note that Wamp as a Congressman, and Rick Perry, as a Governor, have both sworn to uphold the Constitution they now threaten to shred, as provided for in the third clause of Article VI:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution.

Fine Christian gentlemen that they are, no doubt Wamp and Perry swore this oath “so help me God,” with one hand on the Bible and the other raised to Heaven. By breaking an oath sworn in such terms, they have violated the Third Commandment (the Second, if you’re Catholic): “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

But let’s leave Wamp’s and Perry’s perjury and blasphemy to their own consciences (if any) and concentrate on their political apostasy. They – and much of the Tea Party wing of the GOP with them – have chosen to stand with Calhoun and Jefferson Davis on the side of nullification and secession. How anyone, having done so, could then have the effrontery to appear at a Lincoln Day dinner is beyond my poor powers of comprehension.

If the Republicans found time on the Congressional schedule to denounce Move-On over the “General Betray-Us” ad, surely the Democrats could find time to censure Zach Wamp – who, unlike Move-On, is subject to Congressional discipline – for violating his oath of office. If all the other Republicans want to vote in favor of sedition, bring it on.

Footnote This does not require the consent of the leadership. A motion of censure is a privileged motion.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

29 thoughts on “The party of Lincoln v. the party of Jeff Davis”

  1. So, it sounds like you're finally realizing that the Democrats, no matter how much better than the Republicans they happen to be, are spineless pieces of shit who refuse to stand up to the traitorous and mindless parasites who compose the Republican party, parasitic "people" who would tear down the Republic in a fit of pique for no reason other than that anyone other than reactionary idiots wants otherwise and the parasites are sure they don't like anyone who isn't a reactionary idiot.

    Welcome to the reality-based community.

  2. If people like Wamp and Perry followed through and seceded, the remainder of the United States would have fewer people like Wamp and Perry sabotaging its political process, hobbling its economy, damaging its environment, and threatening global stability.

    That strikes me as a good thing. It might actually be possible to pass global warming legislation–or even tax increases–without the red state boat anchor fastened tightly around everyone elses' neck.

    If the red states want to secede and form a New Confederate States of America, then they should be encouraged to leave. The United States would be better off without them.

  3. Completely aside from the either childishness or irresponsible opportunism (take your pick) these little temper tantrums display, I have to admit to occasionally feeling like Curmudgeon here. I'd be tempted to call their bluff, and let the money-sinks like Tennessee seriously consider if they'd like to become a third world country by doing without the huge infusions the evil feds pay them in return for this silly abuse.

    Having gone to high school in Tennessee, the cognitive dissonance amazed me – all these rugged individualists four-square behind family values and self-determnation, and those who sat on top of the heap were huge welfare queens. Come to think of it, not unlike a certain Tennessee state employee with tenure who happens to support a strange form of libertarianism that always favors a corporatist big-government approach to looting the state into rugged self-responsibility.

  4. The general consensus is that secession is permitted by the constitution if mutually agreed. If that's the right reading–and I think it is–then the question is, is that the sort of action that Wamp is referring to? It seems to me that his statement fits the constitutionally permitted secession procedure. The next question is, is support for a constitutionally permitted secession consistent with the oath of office, and there again, I think the answer is pretty clearly yes. And if there's no violation of the oath, then there's no violation of the commandment.

    So, what does that mean? Well, it looks to me that Kleiman is wrong on every count here, per usual. An ugly combination of ignorance and religious prejudice, perhaps. Maybe another way to phrase it would be to say that Mark is bearing false witness.

  5. "Q65. "Where in the Constitution does it mention states' right to secede from the union?"

    A. The Constitution does not permit a state to secede once it is a part of the Union. However, it does not prevent it either. It could be argued either way. The Supreme Court added its opinion in Texas v White (74 US 700 [1869]). It said that the entry of Texas into the United States was its entry into "an indissoluble relation." It said that only through revolution or mutual consent of the state and the United States could a state leave the Union (it is interesting to note that Texas benefited from the decision that it had unconstitutionally attempted to leave the Union).",

    My question is this: Barring a vote of the citizens of the state in favor of secession, can an official of the U.S. broker, or foment, such an act on behalf of the seceding state?

  6. Wamp probably agrees with me that since the Federal Government fails to follow the Constitution, the only way to keep an oath to uphold the Constitution is to resist the Federal Government. To rephrase: Wamp can't shred the Constitution — The Supreme Court already shredded it. Wamp's side is not losing in the political process created by the Framers — That process is no longer occurring.

  7. This kind of thing may be more common even than you imagine. The last Republican Presidential nominee is currently staking his renomination as Senator on a degenerate suburban Sheriff — the rising star in AZ Republican politics — who denounces the President as a borderline traitor & overtly appeals to the conspiracist, racist, militia lunatic fringe. These people are sorcerer's apprentices.

    Note that Wamp isn't just making a claim about the legality of secession. He's threatening it.

    Thomas: "religious prejudice, perhaps." Would you care to elaborate on that insinuation?

  8. Thomas, it seems to me that our country rather emphatically and bloodily demonstrated its opinion of whether states had the legal right to secede. Now, you might feel that states should have the right to secede, and in theory I'd be tempted to agree with the idea that if any entity that can join an organization ought to have the power to leave it (though I hope we can all agree that the secession movement that became the Confederacy was a bunch of utter bastards motivated by a desire to keep their fellow humans in bondage and that whatever our theoretical opinions of secession we have no sympathy for them or their cause). But, on whatever basis, it's an extremely point of what you might call the case law that secession is rather decisively not permitted.

  9. Please excuse at least two errors in my comment ("that if any entity that" and "an extremely point"). I really ought to proofread gooder.

  10. The neo-confederates have a sweet ride and they know it. They just love to get their ignoramous base fired up and don't the sound of their own voice sound sweet in their ears? If it ever came down to it they would never pull the trigger.

    Warren Terra: Hey, it's the internets. You proofread gooder enough just fine.

  11. Q65. “Where in the Constitution does it mention states’ right to secede from the union?"

    I'm pretty sure that would be the tenth amendment; Since the Constitution IS silent on the subject, the 10th amendment requires that the question be resolved in favor of the states. But, as Matt notes, that's irrelevant because the Constitution, today, is irrelevant.

    "Thomas, it seems to me that our country rather emphatically and bloodily demonstrated its opinion of whether states had the legal right to secede."

    While I agree with you about the motivation of the Confederacy, the problem with 'proving' things by killing people is that they stay 'proved' only so long as everyone believes you're still willing to kill them if they disagree. Nobody today believes that the federal government will kill you for threatening to secede, though the suspicion lingers that it would kill you for trying. Hence, you get threats, but no real action. Should the latter suspicion fade, you'll get the action, too.

  12. if you truly blieve this is a socialist/communist/fascist/marxist gov't, go right ahead. just rememebr this: if this was truly a socialist/communists/fascist/marxists gov't (how you can be all of those, i don't know), then you would not be allowed to say those things. there would be no freedom of speech. obama would send his menions to your home in the middle of the night to send you away to a unknown resident to be tortured, beated and murdered. your whole family would be murdered also.the gov't would know your every activitiy, all of your movements, if it were 3 of the above things.

    that being said, let them break away, by all means. but, just let them no that their welfare checks will cease. along with their mail, their subsidized rent, farming, social security, etc. no fema, no fda. all of this will cease with them leaving. after all, this is all a part of the socialism they despise. no unemployment checks. and for states like texas that are on the gulf coast, they will have to manage on their own during hurricans season, won't they? heaven forbit should the other states experience flooding, tornadoes, eartquakes, etc. they are on their own.

    how will they pay for these things? let 'em eat cake, and live in caves

  13. If you truly believe the constitution has already been shredded (and was effectively a dead letter as of Marbury v. Madison) then unless you had specifically campaigned on this point, taking an oath to uphold it would have to be in bad faith.

  14. I joined this condo association. Well, I didn't, but my parents did, and left me the condo. The bylaws have been amended a few times, and over time, it seems like everyone agrees that leaving toys by the pool and having the help plant different flowers outside is OK. But it isn't, because they just agreed to it.

    I want my unit to no longer be subject to the rules. I have the right to make it separate, even though the plumbing is all interconnected, I'm on the fifth floor, and there's no realistic way that money they spend won't benefit me.

    But but but… bylaws!

  15. Folks,

    In the late 90s, I was a town administrator in East Tennessee. About 1997 or 98, I met Zack Wamp after he had given a speech to the Tennessee Municipal League. On that day he had talked about "wedge issues" and how some politicians were winning by using these wedge issues to hurt the country as a whole. He was very well received because he hit on the perverse practice of building a political career by tearing the nation apart. That Zack Wamp has apparently gone over to the dark side, making a Faustian bargain he will come to regret. Short and simple, what Wamp is doing is SEDITION and TREASON, and has been recognized as such since 1865. On a final point, to get an idea of what life would have been like with a Confederacy surviving the Civil War, look up Harry Turtledove's 11 book opus that starts with "How Few Remain." In this series he imagines life in North America with a USA and a CSA from 1863 to 1945, and it ain't pretty.

  16. Secession would lead to the dissolution of the United States, followed by war and the collapse of world markets. Secession would not work out well for any of the parties involved.

  17. Warren, I think that, to the extent the Civil War settled anything, it settled whether a state may unilatererally secede. That's not the only variety of secession, which was my point.

    Proofread? Who proofreads comments to a blog? There's not enough time for that, and your comment was clear enough.

  18. Tom Cannon:

    Treason against the United States consists only in levying war against them, or adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. How does Wamp qualify for treason? I am going strict constructionist, reasoning that if his action was intended to be regarded as treasonous, the framers would have added “or being a knucklehead” to Article III.

  19. Wouldn't it be the perfect irony to have the New Confederate States of America led out of the union by the Party of Lincoln? What Democrat now living would be capable of the nerve required to "Save the Union" yet again? I hardly think the Hedge Fund Democrats (HFDs are definitely NOT DFHs) would be troubled about it. The Cayman Islands aren't a U.S. territory either. Haven't the elite already "gone Galt" to the balmy climes of the Caribbean Sea?

    Are we talking about United States on this blog? For a moment there, I thought maybe it was the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Talk about crumbling empires.

  20. You notice he never considers the scenario that the people DO go to the ballot box and the votes STILL don't go his way? Golly, that would mean it was his policies that the People were rejecting… ever see a right-winger's head explode?

  21. Remember when Jesse Helms sang "Dixie" to Carol Mosely Braun in the Senate elevator? I only wish she had loudly sung back, with special emphasis on the second line:

    The Union forever! Hurrah, boys, hurrah!

    Down with the traitor, up with the star;

    While we rally round the flag, boys, rally once again,

    Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

  22. Wouldn't that be great if welfare states like Tennessee left the Union? Then people living in donor states would be so much richer. Maybe we can preemptively expel a few other states, like Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, and West Virginia?

  23. JR got it, two comments up above! Wamp said,

    "I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government."

    So basically, if the popular vote (that's the actual people who vote, by the way) doesn't go the way of his party or political views, then ergo, a state or states (which is, by the way, not a party or a political platform) must secede from the Union.

    What a ridiculous, inconsistent, irrational, not even plausible, not even colorable, position.

    This demonstrates the disingenuousness and insincerity of the whole Wamp/secessionist argument.

    It's not even an internally consistent policy position, or a sincere belief in some version of the Constitution. It's just rabble-rousery.

  24. Folks, we're letting this discussion get a little out of hand here. The question should not be, "Is it right/proper/legal/whatever for 'red' states to secede," but rather, "Why isn't our Union stronger than the fleeting politics of now?"

    There's a reason why we're called the *United* States. The Union is stronger for the inclusion of all those redneck knee-jerking reactionary Bible-thumping one-toothers, just as it benefits from the presence of all those elitist armchair-liberal godless hedonist Yankees. It is our diversity from which we draw our strength, and we, as the supposedly "informed" sector of society, should keep that in mind. Even if turds like Wamp and Perry and Gingrich and others talk Big Talk about splitting up the Union we know that it's just talk. Like all other bullshit, it will eventually walk.

    Try to get a grip, eh?

  25. "Folks, we’re letting this discussion get a little out of hand here. The question should not be, “Is it right/proper/legal/whatever for ‘red’ states to secede,” but rather, “Why isn’t our Union stronger than the fleeting politics of now?”

    Because we're not a federation any more, we're a nation. Federations are a mechanism for a heterogeneous population to cooperate on the matters that need cooperation, while going their own way on the matters that don't. The determination that policies have to be national in scope is precisely intended to prevent subsets of the population from going their own way. It therefore deprives a federation of it's ability to allow a heterogeneous population to get along peacefully.

    In short, the stronger the Union becomes, the weaker the Federation becomes.

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