Judd Gregg: The South may now secede

In Seattle, residents of a section of the city have declared their enclave autonomous and themselves independent.

They have thrown the police out of the area. They have set up barricades and entrance signs, and declared themselves a nation under the governance of the people.

No one has yet come forward as a selected leader.

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But the intent is to have a new state within the city of Seattle, within the state of Washington, within the country.  

The mayor of Seattle has said this is OK.

The governor of the State of Washington essentially says he is comfortable with it, too.

The folks in this new political area are justified in their grievances and thus have the right to secede — or so goes the alleged logic of the mayor, the governor and their media followers.

It is not unique for a section of the nation to choose to leave the union.

In fact, in New Hampshire in 1832, a place called Indian Stream formally declared itself a nation, independent of the State of New Hampshire.

Communication being a bit slower back then, the governor and legislature did not realize for about a year that the people of Indian Stream — there were about 50 folks, mostly farmers, living there then — had set up a separate nation near the Canadian border.

When the state leaders to the south learned of this occurrence, they called up the militia to march to Indian Stream. Their purpose was to reclaim the area and its people as part of New Hampshire — and part of the United States.

Fortunately, before the militia could travel the considerable distance north, the people of Indian Stream formally rescinded their secession.

Of course later, when the entire South moved to secede from the union, it led to the most violent war in our country’s history.

Up until these last few weeks, elected officials have never viewed secession as a good thing.

The oath that is usually required of public officials includes affirmation of the Constitution as the governing law of the nation and the obligation to defend the country.

The State of Washington and City of Seattle appear to have decided on a different course.

They view the city and the state more in the context of a state of mind. They are relative concepts that sort of flap in the winds of the cause du jour — political entities defined by the emotions of the moment.

The dominant mood today, used to justify the separation of a large section of the City of Seattle, is animosity directed at the police force.

This is an interesting cause on which to found a new nation.

The proposition appears to be that the law enforcement element of a government, which is subject to the elected officials of that government, and whose overriding purpose is to protect the citizenry, can be so vilified that the government should be replaced — and not merely by a different government but by the creation of a new independent state.

Even more unusual is the fact that the leadership of the city and state from which such independence is sought should declare themselves comfortable with it.

The approach has gained special appeal on the left.

It is not even deemed a radical idea.

It is, rather, viewed with considerable ardor by the liberal media, as well as by the political movement which calls itself “progressive” and has become the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

The governor of Washington and mayor of Seattle are praised for their tolerance of the secessionists who aim to create a police-free state.

Of course, secession for the intention of continuing a slave society was never going to get very far with President Lincoln.

But today it seems there are other causes for which secession is an acceptable approach.

The potential implications of this are considerable.

“A government even if elected shall not exist” is now the mantra of the Democratic Party’s progressive leadership, at least when they deem the government in question to be politically incorrect.

The claim of the street movements of today is that bodies like cities or states or even a nation really do not have the right to assert their force of governance over people. Those people, if they dissent, are allowed to simply proclaim the rightness of their cause.

This is of course a recipe for anarchy.

Every generation throughout our history has seen protests.

Some have been widely pursued to advance important goals. In the 1960s, there were the marches for civil rights, as well as the women’s rights gatherings and the massive movement in opposition to the Vietnam War.

None of these, although filled with exceptional intensity, had secession as part of their purpose.

Secession is not a protest.

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It is an attack on the structure, purpose and liberties of our form of republican government, where people are elected by the citizens to lead and govern.

It is ironic that when the right under Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) in the 1960s proclaimed “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” the media and the then-liberal establishment vilified him and the entire conservative movement.

Today, when extremism is pursued in the name of various progressive causes of the left, it is lifted up to be almost heroic.

Of course, extremism in the pursuit of almost any political goal leads to the loss of freedom by those who stand in its way, whether justified or not. It is antithetical to pluralistic, democratic societies.

The leaders of Seattle and the State of Washington, in pandering to those who create such a chaotic state, do not further individual rights or community safety.

They are taking a weak, dangerous and counterproductive path.

America did not come together through all these years to be chopped up.

We are a nation where genuine protests are part of our process of governing ourselves and working through difficult issues that confront our society.

But we are a nation. Tolerating secession is not tolerable at any time or in any place.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.