DENVER — November 6 was a rough day for the normally peppy Cathy Cloud. Like many voters, she truly believed it was the most important presidential election of her lifetime.
Then Mitt Romney lost.
That’s why Mrs. Cloud’s digital signature can be found on several of the secession petitions now flooding the White House’s “We the People” website, joined by hundreds of thousands of other citizens. Let other conservatives wallow in their despair — Mrs. Cloud said she prefers to send the message that there’s plenty of fight left in the right wing.
“We’re doing this to let the White House know we’re not devastated,” said Mrs. Cloud, an ex-Californian living in Tennessee. “I’ve signed a bunch of these petitions. They tell people, ‘You’re not alone,’ and that’s what keeps you from jumping off the ledge or moving to Canada.”
And the petitions aren’t just random e-messages in a bottle. The White House website promises an administration official will formally respond to any petition that garners at least 25,000 signatures.
While the secession petitions are unlikely to result in any state leaving the union, several signers say the movement is providing a psychological boost for deflated GOP voters. As John Hancock would attest, there’s something empowering about putting your name on a document that sticks it to the establishment.
With the Republican Party still figuring out how to respond to the 2012 election, the petitions also offer an avenue for action instead of analysis. Still, don’t expect to find Mr. Romney or other prominent Republicans jumping on the secession bandwagon.
Several GOP governors have issued statements emphasizing they are not promoting secession, including Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
“It’s silly,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “We are proud to be part of the greatest country in the history of the world. Whatever our political differences, we are American first.”
Since the first secession petition appeared on the website Nov. 7, petitions to secede from the union have been posted for all 50 states. Six of those — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and Texas — have reached the 25,000-signature threshold.
University of North Carolina sociology professor Neal Caren turned the petitions into a class project by having his graduate students chart where most of the signers lived. As of 7 a.m. Thursday, there were 789,453 signatures, but since many people had signed more than one petition, the class concluded that fewer than half, or 281,780, were unique.
The study also showed that most of the signers were men. “Of the 242,823 respondents with gendered names, 62 percent had male names and 38 percent had female names. This 24-point gender gap is twice the size of the gender gap for voters in the 2012 presidential election,” Mr. Caren’s students concluded.
One signer, Andrew Sullivan of Nebraska, said in an email that he joined in “because the federal government keeps breaking world records in government failures.”
“The states have too many unfunded mandates. The debt and deficits grow,” he added.
The secession petitions have also resulted in several counter-petitions, including one from a Texan that asks the Obama administration to “disregard attempts to withdraw the state of Texas from the union. United we stand, divided we fall.”
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Valerie Richardson covers politics and the West from Denver. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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