Why are Texas Republicans talking about secession?

by | Dec 15, 2020 | Politics, Republican Party

Texas Republicans are flirting with the idea of secession again. The Texas Nationalist Movement (TNM) makes a periodic cameo in the press but this time they have a supporting cast of Republican officials. 

GOP State Representative Kyle Biedermann says he is committed to filing a bill that would allow Texans to vote on secession because the “federal government is out of control and does not represent the values of Texans.” Setting aside the fact that Donald Trump runs the federal government, it’s notable that Biedermann included TNM’s independence campaign hashtag “#texit” in his post on social media. 

It may sound like a radical proposal but it’s not off base for the faithful. Earlier this year Texas Republicans added “plank 65” to the party platform with 93 percent support. The effort failed in 2016 but TNM’s President Daniel Miller credits 2020’s victory to years of organizing and recruiting Republican activists and delegates to the cause. The addition states in part that, “Texas retains the right to secede from the United States should a future president and congress change our political system from a constitutional republic to any other system.”

When Republicans failed to overturn the election results at the Supreme Court, Texas GOP Chair Allen West again threw Texas’ own political system into the national spotlight. West released a statement saying that, “Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the Constitution.”

West initially relished the resulting headlines including sharing one from the Washington Examiner that read, “Texas GOP floats secession,” but soon after, West told Fox News, “I never said anything about secession.” 

In his Monday Message newsletter West pinned an essay entitled “A More Perfect Union,” in which he explained as clear as mud what he meant by his comments. What West says in a roundabout way is that he doesn’t want to secede, he just wants to boot out the Supreme Court and the states that voted for Biden. He blamed the misunderstanding of his position on, “progressive socialist left’s overtaking of our education system,” and indoctrination through “social studies.” A simpler explanation could be that dog-whistling while “straight talking” isn’t something Republicans can pull off in the age of Trump when everyone just says the quiet parts outloud. 

It’s hard to believe the same people who boycott professional sports over kneeling for the flag are the first ones to romanticize abandoning it altogether. Chris Hollins, former Harris County Clerk called West and the Texas GOP “un-American” for “putting forth the idea of a new Confederacy.” Hollins was widely credited for his innovative governance in helping to increase voter options and confidence in the electoral process in the midst of the pandemic. Abhi Rahman, a spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party said, “From Ken Paxton to Greg Abbott to Kyle Biedermann, Texas Republicans are supporting treason. There is no reason these people should represent us. It’s time for new leadership in 2022.”

The Texas Democrats may not be the only major party pining for new leadership. Gov. Greg Abbott faced censure from GOP counties over his executive orders related to COVID and it’s widely expected that multiple bills will be filed to reign in his use of executive power. West, who considered a primary challenge to Senator John Cornyn before running for Party Chair, sued Abbott over his extension of Early Voting during the November election. Ironically, the argument West made against Abbott’s executive order is similar to the failed suit filed by Texas’ Attorney General Ken Paxton against the swing states Biden carried — election rules were changed without proper legislative approval.

It’s almost as if West has no choice but to challenge Abbott for the governorship if Texas is to avoid secession. As he said in a Q&A with the Austin American-Statesman’s Ken Herman, “if we have all of these practices whereby people are violating election law in their respective states all across the United States of America, then the (military) oath that I took on 31 July 1982 to the Constitution of the United States of America, it doesn’t mean anything.”

Photo: Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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Joe Deshotel is originally from Beaumont, Texas, but a combination of live music, politics, and natural beauty brought him to Austin in 2010. He has over a decade of experience in public policy that covers federal, state, and local government and has worked on a number of successful election campaigns. He continues to consult on Democratic campaigns and serves as the Chair of Austin’s Community Development Commission which advocates for affordable housing and solutions for homelessness.

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