I know you have probably seen the news articles from about two weeks ago that discussed the “fringe” group at the Texas GOP Convention that rallied for a vote on secession. Many of you who aren’t from here probably think secession talk is nuts. Others of you probably welcome the idea of eliminating the one stick-in-the-mud state who is constantly halting “progress” and suing the federal government. So, let’s unpack the secession discussion from the floor of the convention to the historical precedent to the current situation.
First, it is important to note that the discussion on the floor of the convention was equally passionate on both sides of the issue. Proponents were not advocating for secession, per se, but merely allowing a vote to be put before the Texas voters on whether the Lone Star State should return to its republic roots. Because the rules of the convention allowed only for three speakers for and three speakers against the amendment that would add language for a vote on Texas independence, the delegates did not get to hear much from the extensive lines behind each of the four microphones. The green and red lights indicating speakers for and against blazed hotly at the GOP Chairman Tom Mechler* who struggled to keep the convention on track to discuss more of the Texas platform. Of those we did hear from, I noticed the speakers who fought against the amendment argued of their American heritage or veteran status superseding their Texas ones. And the age of the anti-independence orators was markedly older than the secession proponents. For this delegate, it seemed that the baby boomers who served in Vietnam were the loudest group against a secession vote mostly because they want to keep their veteran’s benefits. This might be a bit of a leap, but my next post will dive deeper into the generational gap that exists in the Republican party, in general, and the convention, specifically. While the amendment was voted down, it was an extremely close vote suggesting that the “fringeness” of the pro-secession group is not quite so extreme or liminal as first reported by more liberal sources.
Now comes the historical understanding of Texas independence. Most of you should know that Texas was its own country before being annexed to the United States not long before the Civil War – don’t worry, we are getting there. A handful of countries recognized Texas as an independent nation, some even exchanging ambassadors at embassies located here. So, how did Texas gain independence from Mexico? Stephen F. Austin actually led 300 settlers (called the Old Three Hundred) to settle Texas territory from the US. They went to ask the Spanish governor, got permission, then had to request settlement again from the newly independent Mexican government just about the same time they were attempting to settle. Ruffled by the number of Americans coming to settle in Texas, the Mexican government sought further control which wasn’t exactly consistent with the settlers’ ideal circumstances. In 1836, Texas declared Independence. This is where modern Texans derive their secession beliefs from, not the Civil War. Knowing our ancestors fought off Mexican armies as mere settlers gives Texans the confidence and swagger for which we are often derided.
The US just scooped up the “poor, war-torn” Texas then, right? Not really. Within Texas there was a faction, led by Mirabeau B. Lamar, that desired a sustained Republic of Texas that would continue to expand west to the Pacific. It was feasible, but not a popularly-held belief. The majority, however, assented to reluctant annexation by the United States as yet another slave state. Soon, the slavery situation came to a head and secession became a Southern phenomenon. While universities and Yankee textbooks often discuss the Civil War as a conflict over the morality of slavery, Southerners see the issues of states rights and state sovereignty. We can see the truth in the Southern viewpoint with the change of terms surrounding the name of the Union. Before the Civil War, people would say, “The United States are…”; whereas after the war, it became, “The United States is…” While this may not seem significant, the change of tense from plural, indicating multiple sovereign states, to singular, indicating a single government, shows the seat of power shift from the multiple states that make up the country to the federally-held positions in the nation’s capitol. Also, noteworthy here is the fact that Yankee politicians banned Southerners from holding national public office for decades after the war. So much for “We the People.”
Where does that bring us to today? With Obama’s considerable pile of executive orders ranging on issues from immigration status to gun control, Texans, who often take lead in decisive actions against the federal government, have begun to reach peak levels of frustration. How else do you explain someone like Donald Trump reaching such heights in political realms? For those of you who do not like Texas or Texans with our mix of Southern charm and Wild West tenacity, you look forward to a possible secession and the, what you consider to be inevitable, demise of Texas.
What you might not know, however, is that Texas has the 8th (or 12th, depending on the metric you use) largest economy in the world, not the country, the WORLD. If Texas’ jobs weren’t included in calculations, the US would have a negative job growth rate, meaning we are creating more jobs than you lose. What that means for you folks in the rest of the country is that, if we leave, you would be the ones who would economically collapse. Texas has been building a gold depository in the past couple of years. Why, you may ask? So we can print money. What should we bet that Texas dollars will be more valuable than American ones after secession? Economically, Texas has the advantage.
Should we even discuss military? Texas disproportionately sends her sons and daughters into harms way for America at large. This does not even account for the bazillions of guns y’all think we store up or carry around like Pez dispensers. Plus, we have training posts or military bases for all branches of our Armed Services right here at home.
All this isn’t to say that we are knocking on the door of Independence. I don’t think the majority of Texans would vote to secede, partly because we have been infiltrated by refugees from liberal states that can’t keep companies from relocating to warmer, and more profitable, climes. All Texas really wants with the threat of secession is to make the point that our values are no longer represented, and that we should have the ability to self-determine our state’s path within the context of the US without fear of breach of the Constitution by the federal government. Pull back so each state can self-regulate. Massachusetts can have their gay marriage. California can fund painting their cities in urine-resistant paint so the homeless can piss on everything. Washington can support death with dignity euthanasia laws. Leave Texas to be the last bastion of self-governance.
*It is worthy to note that Tom Mechler, Texas GOP Chairman, was challenged by a pro-secession advocate from Houston Jared Woodfill. While the challenge was unsuccessful, the vote, which was rather close, showed some dissension among the GOP ranks.