Local separatism called 'polarization on steroids'
Texas Republicans at their convention this weekend called for a referendum to determine whether the state should “reclaim its status as an independent nation.” This is not the first time that some Texans are in favor of secession from the Lone Star State and the formation of an independent state. Let's try to figure out how great the Texas separatists' chances of success are this time.
Texas Republicans want to secede from the US. Can they do it? “The federal government has violated our right to local self-government. Therefore, federal legislation that violates the rights of Texas under the 10th Amendment should be ignored, opposed, rejected and repealed, ”says the political platform approved by delegates to the Texas Republican party convention.
According to the Independent, calls for secession are nothing new in Texas. After all, this is a state that prides itself on its independence. But do separatists stand a chance in an age of heightened polarization?
Darrell M. West, director of governance research at the Brookings Institution, thinks that's unlikely to happen any time soon.
“There are people in Texas who don't like the direction the United States is headed on a wide range of issues, including immigration, gun control, climate change. But it's one thing to complain about the national government, and another to chart your own course,” he comments to the Independent. “Once they get into it, they will discover how difficult it is. Will Texas need to develop its own currency? Will he have his own army? Will people need a passport to travel from Texas to Oklahoma? And, of course, there is the question of whether the nation will really allow Texas to secede.”
The answer to the last of these questions was already given by the US Supreme Court more than 150 years ago, after several difficult decades that marked the state's youth. As the Independent recalls, Texas was part of Mexico until it gained independence in 1836. It was an independent nation for nine years before joining the United States. Then, in 1861, Texas seceded from the US in solidarity with the “fraternal slave states” and formed the Confederacy, which started the American Civil War.
Even before the end of the Civil War, the Supreme Court declared secession illegal. In Texas v. White of 1869, the court ruled that states could not secede unilaterally and nullified Texans' efforts to secede from the American federation. The state was reunited with the United States in 1870 at the end of the Civil War.
However, some Texans in the Republican-dominated state are holding out hope of choosing their own path again. According to Darrell West, these calls become louder when the White House is occupied by a Democrat. But today the national political atmosphere also plays a role.
“This is the logical culmination of political polarization. There has just been a sharp increase in our internal divisions, and people do not trust each other. Secession is essentially polarization on steroids,” says the expert.
“It just tells us what a perilous time we live in. Crazy ideas that used to be on the fringes are now on party platforms,” adds West.
Dreams of secession are not exclusive to Republicans. When Donald Trump was elected in 2016, the securely Democratic state of California also toyed with the idea of secession—the so-called “Kaliaxite.”
Richard Kreitner, author of Break It Down: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America's Imperfect Union ”, says that although the secession of any state seems a distant prospect today, this does not mean that it will never happen.
“It is quite expected that a party that has been deprived of power in its largest state will think about secession, as liberals did in the largest Democratic state (California) under Trump,” he says. “However, with each presidency, the flirtation with secession, so to speak, has come closer and closer to completion.”
Kreitner argues that the frequent calls for secession from both sides should cause some soul-searching in Americans.
In any case, according to Darrell West, it may soon be time for Democrats to think about leaving again. The next few years will likely mark a shift in power from Democrats to Republicans due to institutional imbalances in the Electoral College and the historic precedent of the midterm elections.
“It would actually be shortsighted for Texas to try to leave now, because By all indications, Republicans are poised to do well in 2022 and possibly even 2024. be at the head of the country. Other people may grow dissatisfied with conservative dominance,” West says.
For Kreitner, the “signal” from the Texas Republicans heralds more serious problems with the American political system: “It confirms what we all already know namely, that we have a completely non-functional political system, completely out of step with the challenges that our society faces, and that unless there is some kind of constitutional breakthrough that leads to a more intelligent top-to-bottom recycling, someone will eventually will decide that it is better for them to leave and go about their business.