Musings: Stay Together For The Kids

by | Mar 6, 2023 | 2024 Elections

This past President’s Day, firebrand Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene assertively raised eyebrows across the country when she publicly called for a “national divorce,” invoking the language of segregationists while suggesting we would all be better off if we literally split the sheets as a nation, the red states going one way, the blue states another.

It could be easy to overlook the latest incendiary remark from the second-term member of congress, whose resume is thin on actual accomplishments but long on the type of what-the-fuckery that has become a feature and not a bug of today’s GOP.

Consider, after all, some of the truly wild things Taylor Greene has done since ascending to the House of Representatives after a bitterly contested 2020 primary that catapulted her into superstar status on the right.

In her short career, Taylor Greene has made public comments that seemed to encourage violence against Democrats who held elected office, she assisted the failed insurrection on January 6th, 2021, and was forced to explain old social media posts in which she insinuated that California wildfires weren’t caused by climate change but…Jewish space lasers. 

If all of that somehow weren’t enough, she also appeared at a white nationalist event in 2021 and apparently had no qualms speaking to the huddled masses at that deplorable event.

And so, here we find ourselves, with a duly elected member of the United States House of Representatives suggesting that we would be better off as a nation if we threw in the towel on our constitutional republic and let the red states and blue states separate for all eternity. 

In the interest of fairness, here’s what Taylor Greene had to say: “We need a national divorce. We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government. Everyone I talk to says this.”

When pressed on if her plan could actually succeed, she doubled down by adding “It’s something we should work towards because it’s kind of the vision that our founding fathers had for America, and I think it’s great.”

It is a startlingly stupid idea, even coming from someone with the reputation for clouded thinking that Taylor Greene possesses. After all, her home state of Georgia could objectively be declared a blue state, creating quite the conundrum for the congresswoman. While Republican Governor Brian Kemp managed to defeat Stacey Abrams for a second time in 2022, the last four statewide elections for federal offices all swung toward Democrats, with Joe Biden winning the state in 2020 alongside Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. Warnock was subsequently re-elected in 2022, dispatching Donald Trump’s chosen candidate to keep the U.S. Senate in Democratic hands.

Secondly, suggesting that dividing the country in half would somehow result in less government is…something. If the red states really did split from the blue states, they would effectively need to create their own patchwork version of federalism to function as a nation, standing up a second, separate government. Those challenges don’t even account for the near impossibility of being able to finance any kind of military presence without the tax bases of blue states packed with wealthy Americans. Without all those New Yorkers and Californians kicking in federal tax revenue, how Redland would square the books is an open and difficult question.

Calls to dismantle our beloved republic have happened before, and many of them can be traced back to a certain time and place in American political history.

That time was the 1990s, and that place was, of course, the great state of Texas.

Calls for secession are nothing new in the Lone Star State, and they can be traced back to the state’s origins as its own republic. Calls for Texas to break away from the rest of the United States were renewed in the 90s by the Republic of Texas organization, led by a man named Richard Lance McLaren who based the movement on a massive spread of land in the Davis Mountains. 

McLaren was, as one might expect, truly something else. He built his own “embassy” on the spread in Jeff Davis County and went so far as to issue liens against property and draft an invoice to the federal government demanding some $93 trillion dollars in reparations from the federal government tied to the Civil War. 

The situation eventually devolved until McLaren took hostages and incited a standoff with the Texas Department of Public Safety in the spring of 1997 that saw most of the would-be secessionists surrender without violence, while two of their comrades managed to briefly evade authorities in a search that included a wild shoot out with a Black Hawk helicopter.

The secession movement didn’t die off when McLaren was sent down the river (he remains in prison for kidnapping and other charges and is expected to be released in the early 2040s), it somehow went mainstream within the Texas Republican Party. 

In the mid-2000s, Daniel Miller founded the Texas Nationalist Movement from the smoldering embers of the Republic of Texas organization, but with a more polished political approach. By 2009, the calls for secession were so prevalent in Texas that then-Governor Rick Perry responded to chants of “secede” at a political event by making comments that many felt were supportive of the movement.

Perry quickly backtracked and claimed that he did not support secession, but a few short years later President Barack Obama’s re-election led to a rash of bumper stickers throughout Texas that simply said: “Secede.” 

We can’t overlook the absolutely racist undertones of the secession movement, or Taylor Greene’s comments calling for a national divorce. While calls for Texas secession were nothing new, they intensified to uncomfortable levels after Obama’s re-election, and the maddening Trump years only poured gasoline on nationalist rhetoric designed to drive Americans apart. 

By 2016, when Brexit hit Europe, a decade of extremism inspired initially by the Tea Party movement of the early 2010s only inflamed and deepened divisions across Texas, and by 2020 the secession movement was so mainstream within the Republican Party that Allen West, the former Florida congressman who in 2020 found himself leading the Texas GOP as chairman before resigning to challenge Greg Abbott in the 2022 primary for governor, suggested that Texas and other “like-minded” states could leave the union.

What prompted this observation from West, a military veteran who has held or sought some of the highest-profile elected offices in the country, was a Supreme Court case that held that Texas could not file a lawsuit to overturn an election in a different state, in this case, Pennsylvania. 

That lawsuit was filed by Ken Paxton, the long-indicted Texas Attorney General, in a move that many saw as a blatant attempt to curry favor with former President Donald Trump in the hopes of securing a pardon before Trump left office. Trump would ultimately leave Paxton hanging, but not before extracting a promise from his former presidential rival Ted Cruz to argue the case before the Supreme Court.

Pretend for a moment that we woke up in a world where our nation truly was going through a bad divorce. Would the red states simply sever from the blue states and forge their own path? 

It could never be that simple.

Consider the curious case of Texas alone. Should Texas carve itself out of the American family to live joyously as a red state forever and ever, the secessionists would encounter one big problem in their own backyard.

The largest metropolitan areas in Texas are solidly Democratic, with the exception of Tarrant County, home to Fort Worth. Fort Worth has been trending towards Democrats for a long time in statewide elections but remains the largest swing county in the state by a considerable margin.

Dallas, Harris, Bexar, and Travis counties are all solidly Democratic, with the cities of Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin serving as the economic and cultural heartbeat of the state. Would counties that are overwhelmingly Democratic go along with such an absurdist plan? It’s so incredibly unlikely it’s laughable, and it’s doubtful that either Texas or those counties would choose to just go quietly in a conflict. 

And how would someone like Taylor Greene square their thirst for national divorce with the geopolitical dynamics in their own state? Atlanta is by far the largest city in Georgia, and the most heavily Democratic. What would become of a state like Georgia in a world where Atlanta showed itself out?

All of this is overlooking something inherently simple: math.

More Democrats live in Texas than in any other state with the exception of California. While Republicans have gerrymandered the state so badly that it’s borderline impossible to have a competitive legislative election in the state, a national divorce would literally force our families, friends, and neighbors to decide if they’re willing to live as the resistance in a newly lopped-off red state, or if they should move to a place that more closely fits their values.

Make no mistake, those decisions are already being made. In the aftermath of the United States Supreme Court tossing out Roe vs Wade in 2022, Texas enacted some of the most severe anti-choice laws in the history of our nation. Coupled with renewed pushes to disenfranchise voters and discriminate against LGBTQ Texans, the deepening extremism in red states is pushing younger, more educated workers and residents to find new places to call home.

It’s an unthinkable level of brain drain in a state that, under Governor Abbott, has prided itself on its ability to bribe or entice some of the largest companies in the world to move operations to Texas. It’s given Texas enviable economic rankings year after year, but there is no world where the state can sustain those results if the high-end workforce that brings those companies to Texas simply doesn’t exist anymore.

It’s a nightmare scenario for industry and workers alike, and one that would only be exasperated if the secessionists peeled Texas away from the United States, only to lose the large, educated urban counties that those major corporations love to call home back to The Union. 

There is, of course, a better solution. We could always move past petty partisan divisions and focus on the issues that truly matter, like keeping our residents safe, building the best possible schools for our children, fixing our broken electric grid, or making every Texan truly feel like they belong.

All of that is serious work for serious people. Sadly for Texans and the people that love them, Ted Cruz is running for re-election in 2024 and Greg Abbott is more fixated on his non-existent chances to be president than solving problems.

Senior Advisor | + posts

Joe brings over a decade of experience as a political operative and creative strategist to Texas Signal, where he serves as our Senior Advisor and does everything from writing a regular column, Musings, to mentoring our staff and freelancers. Joe was campaign manager for Lina Hidalgo's historic 2018 victory for Harris County Judge and is a passionate sneakerhead.

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