A recent article in Texas Monthly asked if Texas Republicans were “serious about secession.” Hardly a piece of objective journalism, the article cherry-picked its stats and trotted out biased experts. The Texian Partisan breaks down the article, and their arguments just don’t stand up to scrutiny.
Texas Monthly has always leaned a bit to the political left, so it’s no surprise that their recent article on the possibility of Texit was somewhere between “well how about that” and “bless their hearts.” Although this piece was more balanced than some we’ve seen from them in the past, they still trot out the same arguments, choose some polls and ignore others, and have the same cadre of experts from liberal universities to say, “it can’t happen.”
First off, the article title assumes that Republicans are the only ones having a Texit conversation. While there are two Texit planks in the Republican Party of Texas platform, there’s been a plank in the Libertarian party platform for quite a few years. Also, recent polling shows that support for Texit is not limited to the Republicans. When the Texas results from the Survey USA poll were broken down by party affiliation, 76% of Republicans supported withdrawal. 54% of Democrats and 53% of Independents favored withdrawal. Is leaving the union a “right-wing” or “fringe” position? Is it even an exclusively “Republican” position? Clearly not, as it has majority support among all segments of Texans, regardless of political affiliation.
Texas Monthly gets some credit for starting with Daniel Miller from the Texas Nationalist Movement. Having devoted his last 26 years to the cause of Texas independence, Miller literally wrote the book on the subject.
“Given the ridiculous circus coming out of Washington, D.C., the number of people who at least want a chance to vote on Texit increases every day,” Miller told [Texas Monthly] over the phone in September. “We tell our volunteers that independence is not a hope, a wish, or a dream—it’s an inevitability. The only thing we’re debating is the timeline.”
From there, they accurately include the details of Biedermann’s Texit bill in the 87th Legislative Session and give a nod, albeit an inaccurate one, to some leaders who supported the bill. They accurately label Lois Kolkhorst as a supporter, but Allen West only supported the right of the people to vote. West did not ever publicly express support for Texas independence. Texas Monthly said that West “falsely claimed that if Texans ‘voted and decided, we could go back to being our own republic.’” To allow or even acknowledge the validity of a vote on Texit is a far cry from being “a supporter”, although he did sign the Texas First Pledge. How is it that Texas Monthly gets to decide that a future referendum, supported by a majority of Texas voters, is already based on “false” claims before the public has even had a chance to debate the issue?
The article does accurately describe the growth of pro-Texit sentiment in polls since 2005. Interestingly, they stop reporting polls after 2009 where they report that “31 percent of Texas voters believed the state had the right to secede, and 18 percent said they would vote to do so.” Those numbers are true, but it’s dishonest to stop with old data, particularly when the more recent data makes the opposite point.
Our friend Marc Ruiz Evans from the CalExit movement pointed out that the Rasmussen poll that Texas Monthly quotes as “31% of voters” also included that 48% of Republicans support the right to secede. Texas Monthly must have “accidentally” left that one out. Even the self described “liberal Californians” can see right through the bull and come to the defense of Texans who want to leave the union.
One can certainly fault Texas Monthly for excluding the 2014 Reuters/IPSOS polls which showed support at 34% percent among the entire “Southwest.” Breaking down the Southwest data showed 54% support among Texas Republicans, 48% among independents, and 35% among Democrats. That’s a far cry better than the 31% figure quoted by Texas Monthly.
And what about the Survey USA poll mentioned earlier, that showed broad support for Texas withdrawing from the union? As it turns out, Daniel Miller shared that poll including the question by question cross-tabulations with Peter Holley the author directly. When handed recent data that doesn’t fit the narrative that Texas Monthly was shooting for, they chose to deliberately exclude the data. How’s that for objective journalism?
The Texas First Pledge
Texas Monthly gives a nod to the more than 100 candidates who have signed the Texas First Pledge. They do note accurately that Sid Miller and Bryan Slaton have signed the pledge and will likely be elected to office, and that there are other Texas First candidates still on the ballot for November. They gloss over the magnitude of support for Texas First candidates by noting that “many were defeated in the primaries.” That’s true, but doesn’t accurately represent the story.
Although Greg Abbott won his primary with 66% of the vote, 28% of the vote was split among the next three candidates: Don Huffines, Allen West, and Chad Prather. All three had signed the Texas First Pledge. If you want to cherry-pick and slant your stats, you could just as truthfully say that 75% of the major gubernatorial primary candidates pledged Texas First.
Although they are correct that Daniel Miller got “only 6.8%” of the vote in the Lieutenant Governor primary, they fail to give Miller credit. Miller finished second in the primary, with 126 thousand people voted for the president of the Texas Nationalist Movement for statewide office. Having never held a public office, he ran for statewide office against a popular incumbent. While Miller is quick to point out that “just because I was on the ballot doesn’t mean Texit was on the ballot,” that result is much better than “only” 6.8%.
They also fail to mention that all three of the top candidates for Agriculture Commissioner, Sid Miller, James White, and Carey Counsil signed the pledge. Texas was going to have a pro-Texas Ag Commissioner regardless of who won the primary.
Next they throw out this line: “few seasoned political observers take the notion of secession seriously” and liken it to a lunar eclipse, an interesting phenomenon with no actual significant effects. To Texas Monthly, only the seasoned “observers” in their university offices have opinions that count. The people in the trenches, the ones doing the work? They’re not seasoned. Apparently, a cohort of gubernatorial candidates including the former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas (also previously a US congressman) and a former Texas Senator don’t qualify as “seasoned.” Sid Miller, up for his third term as Agriculture Commissioner after serving in the Texas Legislature since 2000? Not seasoned. James White, who served in the Texas Legislature since 2010, who as a representative signed on with the Texit bill? Not seasoned. What about Daniel Miller, who for 26 years has devoted himself to the cause of Texas independence? Not seasoned.
My Experts Trump Your Experts?
A favorite tool of the media is to trot out a series of experts who agree with your position. The article cites the “amused” Cal Jillson from Southern Methodist University who notes that “Republicans—and who are by all appearances normal, thoughtful people—they may tell a pollster they want to secede, but in their heart of hearts they know that the election wasn’t stolen and that Texas isn’t going to secede.” Interesting that Jillson can interpret the “heart of hearts” of the political majority of Texas. As a teacher at a Methodist university, it seems bold to claim to know the hearts of men, a claim usually reserved for deity.
Who is it that knows our “heart of hearts” as Republicans? Jillson, not pollsters who actually use scientific methods to ask questions. A Rasmussen poll released last week showed that overall 55% of persons surveyed believe that “cheating” influenced the outcome of the election. Not surprisingly, the belief is stronger among Republicans (73%) than among Democrats (35%). A majority of persons of all ethnic groups believe that “cheating” influenced the result, with highest support among Hispanics at 62%. Scientific polling shows that even years later, 73% of Republicans believe that the 2020 election was influenced by cheating, but let’s trust Cal Jillson the heart-reader instead.
Next comes William DeSoto from Texas State University, who claims that the Republicans at the convention aren’t “reflective of the party as a whole.” Funny, because the delegates were chosen by their county parties to attend the convention. While they may or may not be “reflective,” it is hard to claim that they are not “representative,” being as they were directly chosen to represent the people from their counties and precincts. DeSoto is also the first in the article to invoke plain old fear, claiming that secession would “sacrifice peace and social order.” As we’ve argued multiple times before, nothing about the movement for Texit is anything but peaceful and orderly. Even the Texas Monthly acknowledged that Daniel Miller (and therefore the TNM) “opposes the use of violence for political ends.”
What about Texas vs. White?
The next point the Monthly makes is to roll out the Supreme Court 1869 case of Texas vs. White. They are correct in their assertion that Texit activists consistently and easily rebut Texas vs. White as irrelevant. Let me remind you of the key reasons why no Texan should care about Texas vs. White.
First, know the basic facts of the case. The case was about whether certain bonds sold by the Confederate government of Texas should be redeemed as sold or returned to the reconstruction government. The case was about money, plain and simple. The Confederate Texans used the money in good faith, but when they lost the war, the reconstruction government wanted the money back.
The outcome of the case was that the court decided that since the Texas government had no right to secede, they did not cease to become a state of the union even though they said they weren’t, and so the bonds should be returned to the re-established “legitimate” government of Texas. In other words, the winners got to keep the money.
It is therefore true that Texas v. White says that states have no right to secede. Texit advocates don’t argue otherwise. But fortunately for us, there’s more to the story. The court that decided Texas v. White had 7 justices, and 5 were appointed by Abraham Lincoln. Should anyone be surprised that the “winners” of the war adjudicated a decision that the “losers” had no right to leave in the first place? Winning by force is hardly a legal precedent. The argument of Texas v. White is a political statement disguised as a legal opinion.
One should also consider other cases where the Supreme Court was clearly mistaken that have not been re-addressed, and cases where the court overturned its previous opinions. In the Dred Scott case, the court effectively ruled that African slaves were not “people”, but property. This case has never been overturned, although nobody today would argue that the precedent stands.
The point is this: The supreme court is always political, always influenced by culture and the times, and always fallible. We don’t care what the Supreme Court said about secession more than a century ago. When Texas votes to leave the union, we won’t ask the Supreme Court of some other country what they think about it. To say that “we beat you in a war, so you have no right to leave” sounds more like an abusive relationship with a bully than it does a binding legal precedent.
“I know you are, but what am I?”
Next comes a fun little twist from Jillson, who asserts that it’s “backwards” for Texas to hold a referendum prior to secession, suggesting instead that we should ask the other 49 states first whether they agree or disagree with us leaving. I’ll go out on a limb and say that Jillson clearly has things backwards. You need only go back to the world’s most recent independence efforts, namely Brexit, Scotland, and Catalonia, to see that the currently accepted standard is to have the vote and then conduct the negotiations. After all, that’s how democracy works, is it not? The people vote, and then the politicians have a responsibility to act on those mandates? It would be impossibly backwards to first approach the government as if to negotiate an exit without first having a mandate from the people. A referendum through the existing legislative process is ALWAYS the modern starting point for a peaceful exit.
Where is it that Jillson gets the idea that leaving a union requires “permission? Is it from the US Constitution? Nope, no mention of secession in there, except for that pesky 10th amendment which says that all powers not delegated or prohibited by the constitution are left to the states “or to the people.” The US Constitution includes the right to secede by virtue of its failure to mention secession, with all things not mentioned clearly delegated to the states and the people.
Does the Texas Constitution require someone’s permission prior to secession? Only the people of Texas. Article 1, section 2 of the Texas constitution states that “All political power is inherent in the people…and they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient.” Whose permission do we need? Only the people of Texas. Did Sam Houston ask Santa Anna for permission? Did George Washington ask King George? Of course not. Separation is accomplished by the will of the people, not by “permission.”
When all else fails, don’t forget to call somebody “racist.” Jim Henson (not the muppet guy), director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, is cited next and claims that “secessionist sentiments often include a racial overtone that shouldn’t be ignored.” I’ll be sure and ask James White and Allen West if they felt discriminated against by the Texas nationalists. The Texit sentiment has a Texan overtone that shouldn’t be ignored. Last time I checked, the label “Texan” applied to folks of quite a few different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Uh oh, impending doom!
They can’t leave out Chicken Little, claiming that the “sky is falling.” Secession would “unleash chaos” if the “firehose of federal dollars” was cut off and initiate “a series of daunting budgetary dilemmas.” Given that the current Federal government hasn’t passed a full appropriations package since 1997, and given that Congress has passed a “continuing resolution” to keep the doors open every single year since 1998, and given that the Federal debt currently sits a bit over 33 trillion dollars, perhaps Texas isn’t the one facing “daunting budgetary dilemmas.”
Put quite simply, the abject failure of the Federal government to manage our tax dollars is one of the primary reasons to leave the union. The USA is in a deep financial hole. They’ve mortgaged our futures without our consent. Even in these dire straits, they continue the “firehose” approach, spraying money all over the place, at every problem, while running out of money at the same time. If Texas is faced with a binary choice between wasteful stewardship and solving our own budget problems, I’ll take the self-determination any time. Can we craft a budget without federal dollars if we don’t blow up countries on the other side of the world? What if we don’t subsidize every industry and institution under the sun? What if we let the free market do its thing a little while, would that work out? To frame leaving as a budgetary dilemma is to ignore the real budgetary opportunities that Texit would bring.
Next they bring out Eva DeLuna, budget analyst from a group called “Every Texan,” a liberal Austin advocacy organization. She says that without Medicare and Social Security “Texas would have to come up with its own way to replace such massive federal programs or leave elderly citizens to fend for themselves.” If you Texit, they’ll starve your grandma, or something like that. Really? They also claim that Texit advocates are “short on details” about how some of these social services would continue. Texas Monthly failed to check the TNM website for answers to those questions.
Exactly how is it that the details of the divorce would be settled? Not by Texit advocates predicting the outcome in advance, nor by fearmongering media who repeatedly assert that Texit will “unleash chaos.” The issues of Texit will only be solved through the process of public debate. Until the public gets a legitimate look at how Social Security might be impacted, with advocates from multiple sides of the issue, there isn’t anyone who can generate the “details” of a solution. By mocking the seriousness of our effort, Texas Monthly attempts to ensure that the debate never even occurs. They can’t have it both ways. When we get to the public debate portions of the process, both before and after the referendum, the details get worked out. You don’t split the household until after the divorce is filed.
Replace the money? It was ours to begin with!
De Luna also points out that Texas would have to find ways to replace Federal dollars currently used in various industries, including aviation, postal services, and highways. She misses a key point: those were our dollars to begin with. If Texas was independent, and if we weren’t spending an outsized portion of our budget on the military, and if we didn’t have 2.5 million unelected bureaucrats to support, our budget numbers would improve. Depending on the source, you’ll find various estimates of whether Texas is a net contributor or a net receiver when it comes to what we pay in taxes vs. what we get back from the Federal government. For the sake of argument, let’s assume the neutral position, that we get back roughly what we put in.
If we get back what we put in, and we stop putting our tax dollars in the hands of the Federal government, where will those dollars go? We’ll keep them. If, and that’s a big if, Texas were to pass laws that matched the current US tax rate, we could theoretically maintain the same level of spending on ALL government programs. Given that we’ve argued that overspending is baked into the Federal process, and given that many of the “priorities” of the Fed won’t extend to Texas, it seems likely that in a Texit scenario our overall tax burden could go down.
De Luna alleges that Texas would immediately be saddled with “our portion” of the Federal debt, thus hampering our financial chances of self-sufficiency from the get-go. She claims Texas’ share would be approximately 2.3 trillion dollars. There they go again, dividing up the spoils before the split is even proposed. How do you decide what “Texas’ share” would be? You could argue it many ways. If we’re one of 50 states, are we stuck with 1/50th? Do we take a share in proportion to our contribution to the economy, or in proportion to the share of taxes Texans pay? There is even a legitimate argument that extreme deficit spending represents “taxation without representation.” Texas herself hasn’t run a giant budget deficit for decades in a row. It is only the Federal government that does that. If the Fed makes financial decisions independent of how we do things in Texas, maybe they should own those decisions. Perhaps Texas has a case that they didn’t sign up for deficit spending in the first place, and so the deficit belongs entirely to those who created it: the Federal government. While the TNM clearly acknowledges that this issue will be a sticky negotiation, the key point will be “what constitutes Texas’ share?” The outcome hasn’t been discussed, much less decided, and it’s definitely not “2.3 trillion.”
It is a bit comical that the fears of a liberal Austin pundit match the hopes of sincere Texit supporters. “If secessionists ever manage to put the question of independence to voters, these repercussions will surely come to the fore of the debate.” Yes, please, that’s the idea. “Many quality-of-life issues in the hypothetical nation of Texas might not be addressed by government at all.” Sign me up for that, sounds great. “Complex issues like homelessness would fall to churches and neighbors.” You’ve got a deal there, De Luna. Sounds like a good plan.
Sincere about secession
Why would the Texas Monthly attack the idea that Texit supporters are somehow mistaken? Because we are winning. We’re making waves. We are moving forward toward Texit. There’s no need for the establishment to attack unless we’re making progress. Miller put it this way, “If the political establishment is right about nobody believing in this cause, then why not bring it to a vote and prove us wrong? The reason is because they’re scared we have public sentiment on our side.” Texit is inevitable. The only thing we’re debating is the timeline.