Someone in Texas, I swear, sells do-it-yourself-at-home lobotomy kits. Worse, about 50,000 Texans buy the kits every year, and give themselves a self-lobotomy. Then, when something happens in national politics or something else that doesn’t please them, having put an ice pick through that part of the brain that carries reason and self-control, and scrambled it, they start spouting nonsense about “Texas ought to secede.”
This issue heated up last just after President Barack Obama took office and stopped the national slide into recession; Texans got ticked off that Obama hadn’t let them slip down the bung hole, and the Tea Party was born to push and make sure no one stopped such a slide in the future. Rick Perry, our peripatetic occasional governor and head coyote persecutor, threw gasoline on the fire. I posted this explanation back then.
Comes the 2012 election, Democrats and other supporters of Obama rise up and re-elect him. One of the previously mentioned fools found a feature President Obama’s team added to the White House website, whereby anyone can start a petition on a subject; Obama being the fair-minded man these fools claim he is not, Obama and his team said they’d answer any petition that got more than 25,000 signatures. Several people started petitions asking for secession.
Think about that for a moment. They’re appealing to President Obama to let the secede, because they don’t like Obama’s reelection. Compounding the irony, they’re using a citizen-feedback system designed by Obama’s team.
But then the pro-secession, anti-Obama people threw all sense to the wind. This process is almost outside official channels. While Congress will accept petitions, there’s no guarantee that these petitions will go to Congress — only that the Obama White House will answer the petition in some form.
More than a few of the signers are convinced that if they hit the magic number of 25,000 signatures, the action becomes semi-0fficial and will get real consideration. Here’s news: You might get a letter from President Obama. Won’t that please them no end?
Gov. Perry already disowned the current round of zaniness. It interferes with the zaniness in the run-up to the bi-annual Texas State Legislature meeting, for which “prefiling” of bills started this week. Even and perhaps especially political zanies can handle only so much zaniness at one time — they’ve hit their zenith of zaniness for 2012.
But the bloggers and Facebookers still jump up and down. Now, Dear Reader, you are a person of some intelligence: You don’t think evolution is “from the pit of Hell,” you vaccinate your children and get an annual flu shot, you haven’t been abducted by alien spaceships recently, you worry that your home insurance will continue to climb until we act as a nation to stop air pollution that causes climate change, you understand Hawaii has been a state since 1960 and so a man born there after that, or at any time after annexation in 1898, is a U.S. citizen eligible to be U.S. president, and you don’t fear the UN is going to come take your golf course away (especially since golf-loving Barack Obama is our president); so I warn you, those yahoos who forgot entirely about the Civil War and think they might get a chance to secede from the U.S. and NASCAR just by putting their name on an internet petition, are not going to believe you, nor will they grant any credence to the facts outlined below, as to just why Texas cannot and will not secede.
But, here’s the explanation, anyway:
Rick Perry put his foot into something during one of the Astro-turf “tea parties” on April 15 . Someone asked him about whether Texas should secede from the United States, as a protest against high taxes, or something.
The answer to the question is “No, secession is not legal. Did you sleep through all of your U.S. history courses? Remember the Civil War?”
Alas, Perry didn’t say that.
Instead, Perry said it’s not in the offing this week, but ‘Washington had better watch out.’
He qualified his statement by saying the U.S. is a “great union,” but he said Texans are thinking about seceding, and he trotted out a hoary old Texas tale that Texas had reserved that right in the treaty that ceded Texas lands to the U.S. in the switch from being an independent republic after winning independence from Mexico, to statehood in the U.S.
So, rational people want to know: Does Perry know what he’s talking about?
No, he doesn’t. Bud Kennedy, columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (still one of America’s great newspapers despite the efforts of its corporate owners to whittle it down), noted the error and checked with Gov. Perry’s history instructors at Texas A&M and his old high school, both of which said that Perry didn’t get the tale from them. (Score one for Texas history teachers; rethink the idea about letting people run for state office without having to pass the high school exit history exam.)
A&M professor Walter L. Buenger is a fifth-generation Texan and author of a textbook on Texas’ last secession attempt. (The federal occupation lasted eight years after the Civil War.)
“It was a mistake then, and it’s an even bigger mistake now,” Buenger said by phone from College Station, where he has taught almost since Perry was an Aggie yell leader.
“And you can put this in the paper: To even bring it up shows a profound lack of patriotism,” Buenger said.
The 1845 joint merger agreement with Congress didn’t give Texas an option clause. The idea of leaving “was settled long ago,” he said.
“This is simple rabble-rousing and political posturing,” he said. “That’s all it is. . . . Our governor is now identifying himself with the far-right lunatic fringe.”
Three false beliefs about Texas history keep bubbling up, and need to be debunked every time. The first is that Texas had a right to secede; the second is that Texas can divide itself into five states; and the third is that the Texas flag gets special rights over all other state flags in the nation.
Under Abraham Lincoln’s view the Union is almost sacred, and once a state joins it, the union expands to welcome that state, but never can the state get out. Lincoln’s view prevailed in the Civil War, and in re-admittance of the 11 Confederate states after the war.
The second idea also died with Texas’s readmission. The original enabling act (not treaty) said Texas could be divided, but under the Constitution’s powers delegated to Congress on statehood, the admission of Texas probably vitiated that clause. In any case, the readmission legislation left it out. Texas will remain the Lone Star State, and not become a Five Star Federation. (We dealt with this issue in an earlier post you probably should click over to see.)
Texas’s flag also gets no special treatment. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard Texans explain to Boy Scouts that the Texas flag — and only the Texas flag — may fly at the same level as the U.S. flag on adjacent flag poles. Under the flag code, any flag may fly at the same level; the requirement is that the U.S. flag be on its own right.
Gov. Perry is behind Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in polling of a head-to-head contest between the two to see who will be the Republican nominee for governor in 2010 — Hutchison is gunning to unseat Perry. He was trying to throw some red meat to far-right conservative partisans who, he hopes, will stick by him in that primary election.
Alas, he came off throwing out half-baked ideas instead. It’s going to be a long, nasty election campaign. [Yeah, those two paragraphs are dated; they are here as historical footnote.]
Update : A commenter named Bill Brock (the Bill Brock?) found the New York Times article from 1921 detailing John Nance Garner’s proposal to split Texas into five. Nice find!
Another update: How much fuss should be made over the occasional wild hare move for some state to secede? Probably not much. A few years ago Alaska actually got a referendum on the ballot to study secession. The drive to secede got nowhere, of course. I was tracking it at the time to see whether anyone cared. To the best of my knowledge, the New York Times never mentioned the controversy in Alaska, and the Washington Post gave it barely three paragraphs at the bottom of an inside page.
More and Related Information:
- Texas Secede! mis-explains the law, processes, and generally fogs up the issues
- Texas secession petition hits mark for a response – The Hill
- No, there’s nothing that says they can’t: Did 15,000 Oklahomans sign the petition asking for Texas Secession? Don’t know.
- Perry: Texas Will Not Secede From US (houston.cbslocal.com)
- White House to respond after 80,000 sign petition for Texas to secede from United States (news.nationalpost.com)
- Rick Perry Reassures The Nation That Texas Will Not Be Seceding (mediaite.com)
- Want to re-fight the Civil War? Some Obama opponents seek to secede (tv.msnbc.com)
- Some N.C. residents signing petition to secede from the U.S. (charlotteobserver.com)
- Texas Secession? A Very Serious Blog
- What if Texas were to secede? TM Daily Post
- Also at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: “Can Texas split itself into five states? Is West Virginia Legal?” September 15, 2008
- Be sure to see Jason Stanford’s writings on Texas Secession at Behind Frenemy Lines: “ICYMI, I engage in name-calling on secession,” “Update: We get hate mail!” and “Should we take secession talk seriously?“
- Update November 17, 2012: Yeah, the grotesque ignorance of secession advocates is just too easy a target, a cheap laugh, almost like watching an old woman crash with a walker down a long stairway; still: “Civics Fail: Alabama Secessionist Petition Originator Blames Obama for State Law.” Seems the guy who started the Alabama petition is ticked off about the government shutting down his topless carwash. Yeah, he didn’t realize it was Alabama who shut him down.