Rick Perry, sitting governor of the Lone Star State and living embodiment of Walker Texas Ranger, raised a stir a couple of years ago by floating the possibility that Texas would secede from the Union if it saw fit. His entry into the 2012 presidential race a few weeks ago and his GOP debate debut last night have raised questions on whether a politician who openly toys with the idea of severing ties with the United States can then campaign to be its next president.
Following a speech at a Tea Party rally in Austin, he told a reporter that “Texas is a unique place. When we came in the Union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.” Perry promised that he hoped “America and Washington in particular pays attention. We’ve got a great union. There is absolutely no reason to dissolve it.” Yet “If Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what may come out of that?” Video has since surfaced on Youtube showing Perry joking a month earlier that “when we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, we were a stand-alone nation. And one of the deals was we can leave anytime we want. So we’re kind of thinking about that again.”
While Gov. Perry incurred flak from many directions, including President Obama’s Press Secretary, Texas constitutional scholars have disputed his twisted take on history and law. Sanford Levinson, who teaches law at the University of Texas at Austin, asserts that the 1845 Joint Resolution Annexing Texas to the United States allows the dissection of the former independent republic into five smaller states, but not wholesale secession. Article I Section 2 of the Texas Constitution states that “the faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government, and, subject to this limitation only, they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient.” Nowhere does Texas allow itself to secede, but to “alter, reform or abolish” its own government if epublicanism is threatened. Moreover, the Civil War is generally regarded to have definitively settled the matter of state secession once and for all. In an 1869 Supreme Court case in which Texas and the federal government disputed ownership of some bonds, the Lone Star State was specifically barred from unilaterally bailing from the Union:
When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration, or revocation, except through revolution, or through consent of the States.
Therefore, short of armed insurrection (which of course has been tried before and only legally permissible if the federal government is legitimately tyrannical) the only path to independence is through the wholesale approval of the other states. But should the other states let Texas leave if it made formal motions towards a second secession? Perry’s home state is hardly alone in its discontent over the political direction of the country; in fact, there are movements all across the country that seek to reimagine the boundaries and components of the US. Perhaps it’s time for an American facelift? Here are a few examples.
Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone proposed the division of California into North and South. Fed up with a 2011-2011 state budget that transferred revenue away from counties and cities and raised fees for vehicle licenses, he argued that California is “too big to govern”. According to Stone, counties stretching from Mariposa and Fresno in Central California to Orange and San Diego in SoCal (but conveniently wrapping around liberal metro Los Angeles) would comprise the more conservative state of South California. Although some of his Republican colleagues were bemused by the idea (yet stopped short of endorsing it), Stone is up against history: 220 other attempts to carve up Cali have met defeat since the 1850s.
He also has to reconcile the fact that the only group probably powerful enough to successfully achieve a split from the state is the Scientologists. Imagine the State of Scientologia: excise taxes on Thetans, an intergalactic legislature overseen by Speaker Zoltan the Faithful (R-Seventh Moon of Horace) and of course… Governor Cruise.
Democratic Governor Jerry Brown’s spokesman Gil Duran described it as “a supremely ridiculous waste of everybody’s time” and proceeded to issue forth the most cutting dismissal to Stone’s plan. “If you want to live in a Republican state with very conservative right-wing laws, then there’s a place called Arizona.” Which leads us to…
Pima County, AZ, home to Tucson, is a democratic island in a sea of conservatism. Lawyers here have spearheaded a petition drive to grant statehood to Pima and allow it to secede from Arizona and its right-leaning state government in Phoenix. If it became the 51st state, it would be larger in area than New Jersey and more populace than several western states, including Alaska, Wyoming and Montana. In fact, it once was a separate territory from northern Arizona and was acquired by the US from Mexico 6 years after the northern portion. Proponents have even suggested an alternate name to reflect its heritage: the State of Gadsden.
But critics point out that besides being approved by voters, the Phoenix lawmakers as well as the US Congress would have to give the green light to make Baja Arizona a reality. Additionally, Tucson’s suburbs have seen greater GOP strength in recent years. Democratic US Representative Gabrielle Giffords very narrowly retained her seat in the 2010 elections. So on every level, the likelihood of victory for Baja Arizonans is remote. But Gov. Jan Brewer and her fellow Republicans might be better served considering the proposal; less borderland for them to fence up from the sombreros down south.
Dakota or No Dakota
Talk about embarrassing: an 82-year-old man claims that North Dakota’s admission into the Union in 1889 is null and void because the state constitution does not require an oath of office from the governor and other state officials. This is supposedly in violation of Article IV of the US Constitution, which mandates that officeholders recite oaths or affirmations of fidelity to the national constitution. John Rolczynski of Grand Forks has called for rectification of the matter by revising the North Dakota state constitution, an effort that Fargo State Senator Tim Mathern took up when he introduced a bill this past spring doing just that. If Mathern did so to mollify Rolczynski, he shouldn’t have bothered; the implacable octogenarian is still raising a ruckus over his home state’s legitimacy by calling into question the river that actually forms North Dakota’s eastern border.
I’m not sure if he wants his state to be the 11th Canadian province or a sovereign principality, but Rolczynski is pursuing a novel approach: rather than declaring North Dakota’s right to secede, he doggedly challenges its long-accepted status as a member of the Union. Unfortunately for Rolczynski, North Dakota needs the US more than the US needs North Dakota. In fact, there has been a movement to rename it simply Dakota (because “North” in the name is what really depresses tourism and sullies their national image, not the cold, flat, desolate landscape). I have long promoted the merging of NoDak and SoDak into a single Dak. Do we really need two Dakotas anyways? One can boast four out of the five poorest counties in the nation and the other is known for employing wood chippers as corpse-disposal tools. Consolidate or sell off these two lumbering blocks of nothingness.
The United States is currently in a precarious moment of history. Discontent is widespread as the economic slump festers and neither mainstream political party has assured voters that it can remedy the situation. So it is understandable that in some pockets of this country, people who want to dive off of this sinking ship. Perry’s vague threats of secession are not principled stands for the autonomy of a once-independent republic; he’s just pissed that voters elected a Democrat president. Texas wasn’t winning the game hand-over-fist any longer, so it wanted to take its ball and go home. He did not flirt with such notions when his former boss was in the White House. Even now, Perry is running for that very office himself. A true secessionist would never do so. Even as an avowed States-Righter, he backtracked on his earlier support for gay marriage laws being decided on the local level.
If Texas really wanted to exit these United States, I say why not? From forcing school textbooks nationwide to teach creationism alongside evolution to having the gall to dub the Dallas Cowboys “America’s Team”, the state straddling the Rio Grande has worn out its welcome. But since this is an almost impossible feat, what about the 5-out-of-1 route? Dividing it into several separate conservative states would certainly increase the area’s political power. But rather than allocating the task to Sugar Land gerrymandering extraordinaire Tom Delay, we owe to the American people one last “fuck you” to Texas before it takes over Congress. Let’s Barrymander. Therefore, the newest states would be shaped and named thusly:
Excluding this development, we’re stuck with Texas and its obnoxious political leaders. Perry ‘s defense of an untethered Texas was nothing more than a stunt to curry support amongst his diehard conservative base and the Lone Star State’s small (federal) government political culture. If the United States ever undergoes a facelift, maybe it can borrow a new mug from the two-faced governor.