What’s the significance of that number, you might ask? If I were a sarcastic man, I’d say it was the number of Republicans left in the state of Connecticut. But I would be wrong.
In point of fact, 3,711 is the number of wingnuts who, as of this writing, have signed a petition filed on a White House website asking the federal government to “peacefully grant the state of Connecticut to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own new government.”
The petition, dated Nov. 12 and brought to my attention by the Journal Register’s Jordan Fenster, doesn’t bother to cite a list of grievances dire enough for separation from the union. It merely repeats a couple of paragraphs from the Declaration of Independence (“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary …)
Of course, these petitions are nothing new. Similar petitions have been recently filed on behalf of all 49 other states, most notably Texas. That document has more than 115,000 signatories and, unlike its more reserved Yankee counterpart, the Texas petition specifies the outrages allegedly perpetrated by the federal government. Some are said to be “blatant abuses of our rights” in the form of acronyms unknown to most Americans: the NDAA, the TSA.
Presumably in an effort to demonstrate the feasibility of their demand, the Texas petitioners also go to great lengths to brag about their state’s balanced budget and the fact that it’s the 15th largest economy in the world. Now I ask you, fellow Nutmeggers: Do we really want to make a go of it on our own?
If Connecticut were in great shape, then the aggrieved Nutmeggers might have a point that we could govern ourselves without an alliance with the federal government. Ironically, the Connecticut petitioners are really at cross purposes with themselves. On the one hand, the federal government is so oppressive that we need to go it alone. On the other hand, as a state we’ve done such a terrible job of policing ourselves and managing our own finances that any reasonable person would conclude we’d have no business trying to do it as a sovereign nation.
From the mid ‘70s to the early ‘80s I was living in the Canadian province of Quebec, where the separatist Parti Quebecois took power shortly after I arrived as a young college student. Many of my French-speaking friends were convinced that Quebec would break off from the federation.
However, as is the case with most separatist movements, people talk a good game about abandoning ties with their mother country. But when confronted with the reality of having to establish a currency, set their own trade and foreign policies and maintain their own military, Quebecers, whose economy is about 50 percent larger than Connecticut’s, twice rejected national referendums on separation. And their reasons for secession were far more profound than ours. They were rooted not only in politics, but in deep differences in culture and language.
Should Connecticut go its own way? The question seems ridiculous on its face, but as my colleague Norm Pattis has surmised, some of the petitioners are bound to be serious. Well, consider a few facts on how Connecticut has governed itself over the last 20 years: We have been dead last in new job creation; we have seen a thrice elected sitting governor resign and go to prison for corruption; we’ve had a series of big-city mayors on the take; we’ve had two of the largest tax increases in state history, neither of which has been sufficient to satisfy the voracious maw of state government. If we were a sovereign nation, we’d belong in the Third World.
It’s difficult to tell precisely who the U.S. separatists are. I suspect they are mostly white right-wingers who have been driven into fits of apoplexy over the re-election of President Obama. Surely, some of them are racists who cannot accept a black president. Others simply don’t like Obama’s vision of a European-style social democracy for America. Still others are upset at national demographic trends that predict whites will become a minority by 2040.
But the way to repudiate Obama is at the ballot box, not through some half-baked 19th-century notion of independence from a political figure who will be gone in four years anyway.
But thankfully — and I have a lot to be thankful for this holiday weekend — I live in a state that’s smart enough to realize that it’s too incompetent to govern itself as a sovereign nation. As for the 3,711, we could send them to neighboring Rhode Island, which is one of the only states in worse shape than ours.
Terry Cowgill blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com, is the editor of ctessentialpolitics.com and was an award-winning editor and senior writer for The Lakeville Journal Company. He can be found on Twitter @terrycowgill.