What do people not get about the term "Union?"
The United States of America is a Union, not a loose confederacy of states. We tried such a structure with the Articles of Confederation that preceded the Constitution, and it did not work.
Can we step over the orange thingy for a little chat about the primacy of the Union and the impossibility of "secession"?
As a Union, the United States of America is "one nation, indivisible." "We, the People" are all the individuals that compose that nation—including every individual in every state. The individuals and the states are parts of this indivisible whole, and no part can exist outside the whole to which it belongs. This was the consequence of joining the Union, which is to say, merging into the indissoluble whole that is the American People.
Therefore, no state or group of states can dissolve the Union by "seceding." That was the principle under which Lincoln prosecuted the Civil War. The Confederate states never "seceded" because it simply was impossible to do so. They just had to be pummeled into recognizing that fact, and then they had to resume the roles they had tried to leave behind. Even Antonin Scalia, the favorite Supreme Court justice of every "conservative," has said that if the Civil War proved anything, it was that there is no right to secession.
On the other hand, no state or group of states can "give permission" for any other state or states to "secede." It is just as impossible for a part of a whole to let other parts leave as it is for parts to leave the whole on their own initiative. And for the same reason, neither can the Federal Government—a group delegated by the People, and therefore only a part of the People—"give permission" for parts of the whole to "secede."
The only way for states to gain the right to "secede" would be to hold a new Constitutional Convention and have the whole American People produce a new Constitution that specifically rejects the notion that there is such a thing as the American People, and either returns the relations among states to something like the loose confederation that failed prior to the Constitution, or simply gives up the notion of federation altogether, leaving fifty independent sovereign states where once there was only one.
And what would be the consequence of either path? Think a few steps down the road. Yes, that's right. War among the states. Why? Because there would be no power to adjudicate conflicts. The edges of comity were getting frayed under the Articles of Confederation after only six years. Could we last that long today, when minor disagreements can be escalated into major flare-up almost instantly through electronic media?
We have lived 150 years without serious conflict among the states. It seems unthinkable that the states would ever take up arms against one another again. But what would there be to stop it if there were no federal courts to decide competing claims among the states?
This is why Lincoln's cause was saving the Union first, and settling the slavery question second. Without the Union, no problem—neither slavery nor anything else—would ever be settled.
Now I know that the idea of freeing ourselves from our misguided and unenlightened fellow citizens is very tempting. But we cannot do so without destroying the Union. And it is only the Union that protects each and every one of us from being drawn into conflicts among the states.
The trade-off for these benefits is that the less enlightened must be constantly pushed by the more enlightened to be more just, whether they wish to or not. And the more enlightened must be constantly exasperated by the foot-dragging of the less enlightened—a frustrating way to live for both sides, but much better than being continually at war.
Those who are clamoring for secession are not enlightened enough to understand the legacy they want to reject. Their cries are just another manifestation of the stupidity (and superannuated anti-federalism) that finds its natural expression in today's Republican party.
But the rest of us? We should know better. We should not give in to the understandable but wicked temptation to cut the knuckle-draggers loose. It's uncharitable, because who will be left to prompt them to lead better lives? And it's self-destructive, because once left to their own devices, their stunted sense of justice will soon lead them to turn against the very people who gave them what they so much wanted: the "freedom" to live miserably.
The Union still endures, still protects, still enables justice to spread. It remains the historical model on which all true self-government, government by the People, is based.
Though we must suffer each day to live alongside the unenlightened among the People, let us bear that sacrifice steadfastly rather than relinquish the treasure of the Union to the uncomprehending and selfish hordes.