Politics

05.02.14

Wisconsin’s GOP Secession Panic

Wisconsin Republicans are set to vote on a measure this weekend that would affirm the state’s right to secede from the union. Goodbye, U.S. of A., Hello U.S. of Cheese.

Fear not, America. There will be no import taxes on Leinenkugel. There is no reason to stock up on cheese. Brett Favre does not need to get a new passport.

Wisconsin is not going to secede from the union.

This, despite the fact that at the Sixth Congressional Republican Caucus in the northeastern part of the state, delegates in April passed a resolution reaffirming Wisconsin’s right to secede from the union should it choose to do so.  The measure passed through the GOP convention’s Resolution Committee last week, and is set to be voted on (up or down) at the Republican State Convention this weekend.

But since the measure passed the caucus, Wisconsin Republicans of even the most Tea Party-ish, states’ rights variety have been quickly distancing themselves from it.

“This has been totally blown out of proportion,” said Michael Murphy, vice chairman of the 4th District Republican Party and a former chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a Ron Paul-affiliated outlet. “This is one sentence in one resolution out of 23 that were passed, it is one tag line out of a larger resolution discussing state sovereignty. At no point are we going to the convention and debate that we want to secede from the union, even though some paint that as the case.”

To be clear, the text of the resolution reads, in full, “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we strongly insist our state representatives work to uphold Wisconsin’s 10th Amendment rights, and our right to secede, passing legislation affirming this to the US Federal Government.”

“We should remove it. Nobody wants to secede from the union,” said Todd Welch, chairman of the libertarian-leaning Wisconsin Campaign for Liberty and a member of the Republican  Party. “Obviously, it is an option, but nobody wants to do that. We should focus on the real issues of stopping Obamacare, stopping Common Core, protecting gun rights.”

Wisconsin Republicans say they are not exactly sure how the resolution got through the caucus to begin with.  “It was stuck in there by somebody, and nobody seems to know who,” said Welch.  There was, they acknowledge, a states’ rights fervor in the air at their meeting, with the caucus voting to censure two state lawmakers who support the Common Core educational reforms and calling on them to resign from their position on the legislature’s education committee.

Eric Shimpach, a delegate from Portage, Wisconsin, who has been complimentary of the vote in the press, did not return multiple calls for comment.

In a letter to his fellow Republicans, Sixth District GOP Chairman Dan Feyen said that the resolution came from the floor on the last day of the caucus, and not from the resolution committee, and was passed with only 25 delegates voting in support after three hours of caucusing.

“We need to focus on the Democrats and not be picking fights with fellow Republicans. We can disagree on issues but we do not need to drag these disagreements into the public arena,” Feyen wrote.

Even local grassroots Republicans said they did not know anyone who supported the measure.  This has led some to suspect foul play.  One theory goes that the measure was instituted by establishment Republicans in order to embarrass the Tea Party or to make a case that the resolution process—whereby conservatives are able to vent their concerns over the direction of the party—be shut down entirely.

Although fringe ideas can sometimes be adopted by the mainstream, the notion of secession does not seem to be one of them.

Michael Boldin, executive director of the Tenth Amendment Center, which has been pushing for states to assert their sovereignty and reclaim the right of nullification (which asserts that states can invalidate federal laws they deem unconstitutional) called Wisconsin Republicans “two-faced” if they are willing to talk about seceding from the union but not about legalizing the production of industrial hemp, which is before the legislature but has yet to be taken up.

“Why spend time and money on something you know is not going to happen?” he said. “This isn’t a states’ rights argument. Seceding from the country is saying we are done with the process.  Revolutions just don’t accomplish anything.”

The vote comes at a fraught time for the Wisconsin Republican Party. GOP officials have been hoping that the convention would become a rally of support for Gov. Scott Walker, who faces a tough re-election campaign against Democrat Mary Burke, a former executive at Trek Bicycle Company and a former state secretary of commerce.

“We need to keep the focus on winning elections, and I don’t think this helps that,” said Keith Best, a vice-chairman for the Waukesha County GOP.

Movements from within a state to secede have grown in popularity in recent years, with counties in California, Colorado, and Maryland all trying to organize around the idea of becoming the 51st State and breaking away from what they view as the corrupt, distant leadership of their local statehouse.

But breaking away from the nation entirely is a far different proposition. In New England, supporters of “The Second Vermont Republic” have been trying to break away from the U.S. for close to two decades, arguing that the 18th-century citizens of Vermont did not agree to be part of an empire when they joined the union. The Alaska Independence Party has pushed for a referendum, which they say was promised to Alaskans when they joined the union, and which would settle whether or not the state would be independent, a territory, or remain part of the nation.

Lynette Clark, a leader of the Alaskan Independence Party, said that she was encouraged by the news of out of the Badger State.

“With fascism alive and well in Washington D.C., there are a lot of states that are looking to affirm their rights as republics,” she said. “Look at what is happening with the BLM and our good friend Mr. Bundy. Government agencies are out of control. It reminds me of Europe in the 30’s.”

Even Wisconsin Tea Partiers admit that, while no affirmative vote on secession would likely occur this weekend, one still could at some point in the future.

“I do believe that a state has the right to secede if the voters wish. I just believe it is necessary at this time. We are not at the point. We are talking about nullification,” said Lewis. “We are led to believe that the Civil War ended that debate [on secession], but it didn’t. The Civil War was a war; one side won, one side lost, and because of that they didn’t secede, but we can still have the debate.

“We are not saying we need to colonize the moon or anything crazy like that,” he added. “We are fighting for our constitution.”