By Richard Groves
Our pride about our home state
Is the proudest pride indeed.
And we’re proud to be Americans
Until we can secede.
— “One More Stupid Song About Texas,” Austin Lounge Lizards
Recently in this space I commented on the newly adopted Texas Republican Party platform in which delegates to the state convention vented their frustrations about everything from the teaching of critical race theory and sex education in schools to the results of the 2020 election and predatory towing.
An alert reader pointed out that I neglected to comment on what is possibly the most eye-popping of the 275 planks in the platform.
Indeed, I did. After some deliberation I decided that the Republican assertion that, “Texas retains the right to secede from the United States,” merited a column all its own.
You may recall that Texas has been a country before. It won a war of independence from Mexico in 1836 and was an independent nation until it joined the Union in 1845, only to secede, along with North Carolina and nine other Southern states, 16 years later. Baylor University, from which I received a degree, was chartered by the Republic of Texas.
Having once been a country, Texas has some things in place for a second shot at nationhood. The state coat of arms — a five-pointed star wrapped in a wreath that is adorned with what appear to be acorns — is left over from the last time Texas was a country. The state flag — sporting the lone star — was also adopted in 1839.
In addition, Texas has its own “national” heroes — Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and Sam Houston (who refused to sign on to secession in 1861 and was promptly relieved of his duties as governor) — and its iconic shrine, the Alamo, of which Texans are proud and possessive. The recent Republican platform asserts firmly, “Texas’s authority regarding the Alamo shall not be infringed upon by any organization or authority, including … the federal government.”
Independent nations must defend their citizens, and a plank in the Republican Party platform refers to “the Texas Military,” but unless that is a reference to the Texas National Guard, I don’t know what that is.
But one should not overlook the fact that, according to one source, there are 51 million guns in Texas (population 30 million), more guns than in all the countries in the European Union (population 300 million) combined. If you find comfort in that.
Visions of assuming its rightful place among the nations are not new in Texas. Lone Star has long billed itself as “the national beer of Texas.” Texans proudly refer to their state as “a whole ‘nuther country,” and in their state song they sing, “O empire, wide and glorious.”
Novelist John Steinbeck said, “Texas is a nation in every sense of the word. A Texan outside of Texas is a foreigner.”
The question remains: Can they do that? Can Texas or any state opt out of the United States the way one cancels one’s membership in a neighborhood association?
The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whose word I assume carries weight in Texas, said, when asked about the legal basis for secession, “If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede.”
Scalia was echoing the opinion of Chief Justice Samuel Chase who wrote in a majority opinion in 1869 in a case involving Texas, “When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation.” As in “one nation, under God, indivisible.”
Nonetheless, the delegates to the Texas Republican Party convention urged “the Texas legislature (which they control) to pass (a) bill in its next session requiring a referendum in the 2023 general election for the people of Texas to determine whether or not the State of Texas should reassert its status as an independent nation.”
What would the Republic of Texas 2.0 look like? See the Republican Party platform. I know that sounds off-the-wall even for Texas. But think about it.
Dana Milbank, writing in the Washington Post, pointed out that if Texas seceded, Democrats would have a 50-48 advantage in the Senate, and there would be three dozen fewer Republicans in the House. No more Ted Cruz? No more Louie (“Pardon me”) Gohmert?
You think the rest of us could vote in that referendum?
Reprinted with permission of The Winston-Salem Journal.
Richard Groves is a writer who lives in Winston-Salem.