Editorial: To Canada, Or Texas; Everyone Needs a Political Haven

The secession movement launched by conservatives dismayed over the re-election of President Obama is to be taken no more seriously than post-season vows by Red Sox fans that they’ll root for another team next year. It’s a threat that bespeaks desperation more than resolve. But the secession movement does highlight a fundamental inequality in this country: The right-wing has no credible threat available to fully express its disgust.

The left, of course, has Canada. Since at least the days of George W. Bush, the looming prospect of continued conservative rule has prompted many a true-believing blue-stater to vow to relocate northward if America didn’t come to its senses. When Obama’s re-election seemed anything but a sure thing — that is, until about the time on election night when Karl Rove began arguing with Fox News number-crunchers about the significance of the Ohio returns — the threat could be heard wherever fine wine and brie were served.

Never mind that such a move would result in higher heating bills, prolonged exposure to hockey and social mixing with people who are discomfortingly reasonable and polite. And never mind that the Canadian body politic has made its own rightward lurch in recent years — not that Americans have ever grasped the politics of a country where one party can get away with calling itself Progressive Conservative. The threat is credible because it is plausible: Canada isn’t that far away, most Canadians speak a variant of English and, best of all for the bleeding-heart bunch, their elected representatives prefer to spend money on health care than on nasty foreign interventions.

And even if few ever follow through on the threat — U.S. emigration to Canada did pick up during the Bush years, but most analysts regard the uptick as being economically driven — it’s an important psychological crutch. When things get bad enough, you’re outta here, at least mentally.

But what psychological safety valve do despairing conservatives have? When the much-reviled Obama administration secured another four years, word got out that the disaffected were using the White House’s own online “We the People” webpage — set up to provide a vehicle for people to directly communicate their grievances to the federal government — to seek secession. Although secessionist petitioners came from every state — yes, even Vermont — the majority were Southern, and a disproportionate number were Texans.

We have to believe that secession is being pursued only because there’s no neighboring country that right-wingers can regard as a spiritual sanctuary. Consider this: Back in 2010 when Congress was still debating Obamacare, Rush Limbaugh attempted to convey his unhappiness with the prospect of an expanded federal role in health care by threatening to move to ... Costa Rica.

Costa Rica? Not only does the country have universal health care, it has no standing army and an economy that is increasingly dependent on eco-tourism, which tends to attract tree-huggers. That Limbaugh would think of settling for Costa Rica is the ultimate sign of desperation.

Because we can think of no conveniently located country that is likely to throw open its doors to a crowd that is fond of guns but not so enamored of taxes, it’s time to consider other options that will meet the legitimate emotional needs of disaffected red-staters.

What say we not stand in the way of the Texan secession threat? Yes, we’ll sacrifice some good food and music, but we’ll also lose an electorate that repeatedly afflicts us with politicians like Dick Armey, Tom DeLay, Rick Perry and any number of others who prompt us to check out real estate prices in Toronto. But it’s not about comforting liberals; it’s about doing right by the right. Or righting a wrong to the right. Anyway, it’s only fair.