Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What If: Texas Actually Seceded?

[Editor's Note: During my time in Texas, I was preplexed that such an interesting state of made up of a mix of diverse cultures and regions also sustained such a wide streak of parochial, Bible-thumping authoritarian politics. As most of y'all must know, Governor Rick "Goodhair" Perry made a career out of attacking the federal government, and has even made noise about possible secession. Now it seems that there is a petition with tens of thousands of signatures calling for secession.  In the highly unlikely event that Texas would in fact secede, I anticipate that the troops stationed at Fort Hood would very quickly march on Austin, declare marital law, and take the secessionist nimrods into custody. Still, I write these what ifs to examine how the improbable offers a persepective on our reality, so enjoy.]

Texas Secession: Ten Years On

November 14, 2023

AP) Today marks the tenth anniversary of the declaration of the Republic of Texas, which took place in 2013 after Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term and did not accept Texas' ultinatum-backed demand that he step aside. This week happens to mark more than an anniversary for the fledgling state; on Sunday Sally Davis of Tyler became the three millionth Texan to flee across the Red River into the United States since independence.

That massive outflux of citizens well reflects the economic problems that have bedeviled Texas in the last decade. Before secession, Texas did a very poor job of educating its populace, possessing the lowest percentage of adults with high school diplomas of any state in America, while supporting a small number of research universities for a state with its large population. During those years, Texas made up for this neglect by drawing in educated people from other states who now do not want to live in a foreign nation. Texas' oil economy has also taken a hit because without many of its strongest boosters in Congress energy reform has passed and renewable sources of energy have allowed the American government to place a ban on the purchase of foreign oil. After eliminating the minimum wage and prohibiting labor unions as impositions on "economic freedom," the poor and working class of Texas went from living in a bad situation to an impossible one.

Other laws have also been blamed for economic problems. After Texas Rangers "secured the border" by shooting several would be immigrants and the state deported all those born outside of the old 50 states, whether they had emigrated to American legally or not, several sectors of the economy have been severely harmed, especially agriculture and construction. On a more private level, many Texans now grumble about having to brave the country's infamous summer heat and mow their own lawns. Austin, once famous both for its vibrant music scene and high tech economy, now looks like a ghost town. Musicians and other artists fled to America and greater artistic freedom, and the high tech economy could not function with many of its workers deported while others, who mostly did not hail from Texas, feared permanent separation from their families.

In fact, a large number of those who had once moved to Texas for greater opportunity are now fleeing. They tend to be better educated and more economically valuable than the average native born Texan, and their loss has led to much discussion of a "brain drain" in the Republic. That crisis has been worsened by the new policies towards the universities formulated by a panel dominated by Christian conservatives. Once history professors were told that they had to teach students that American was a "Christian nation" and the separation of church was a "myth," and biology professors were forced to "teach the controversy" over evolution, many academics decided to pick up and leave. Those who remain live under the constant fear of losing their jobs if a student reports any deviation from the state-mandated standards. One history professor, James McCann, was recently fired by Texas Northern University after he taught the Constitution without any reference to Thomas Aquinas or John Calvin.

Those Texans who have stayed now face several mounting problems. Since the Republic repealed all environmental legislation, drinking water has become dangerously unpalatable in many localities and the numbers of birth defects have risen steeply. After the Republic repealed all property taxes state services, including education, have been horribly underfunded, with some schools operating only five months out of the year. Under the advice of Secretary of the Treasury Ron Paul, Texas pegged its money to the gold standard, which has resulted in a stagnant, cash starved economy. The Republic has also come close to war with the United States over claims related to Texas' 1836 borders.

Many Texans I talked to expressed the desire to emigrate, but others defiantly supported secession and President Perry. As Bobby Cummings of Longview told me, "We managed to run those eggheaded liberals out, and now I can carry my concealed handgun anywhere, including into the state capitol building. I call that a win-win."

Texas' secession has also had a profound effect on the United States. Since America has reduced its dependence on oil, the economic costs of losing Texas have actually been rather meager. With a large number of the most conservative voices in Congress absent, and a large chunk of reliably Republican electoral votes neutralized, the Democratic party has dominated national politics. Since secession meaningful financial and energy reform has been passed that might have been impossible beforehand. Subtler changes have occured as well. Without Texas' disproportiante influence over their content, history and biology textbooks now reflect much better the scholarly consensus in their respective fields.

For these reasons, former president Barack Obama's decision to let Texas go without a fight now appears to have paid off. At the time he faced little opposition from the now weakened Republicans, who adamantly defended "states rights," to their immense detriment. Much to the surprise of most observers, there is almost zero popular support within the United States for an effort to reintegrate Texas into the Union. Now it appears that the secessionists should have heeded the old adage about being careful for what they wished for.

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