Why Texas Should Have the Legal Right to Secede From the Union
Texas Republican Party Chair Allen West made waves Friday by floating the idea of secession after the Supreme Court threw out a Texas lawsuit aimed at overturning the results of the presidential election.
Commenting on the decision, West said: “Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the Constitution.”
The remark drew immediate rebuke from Democrats and some Republicans, who bristled that both the outcome of the Civil War and a Supreme Court decision from 1869 established that secession from the union was illegal.
Adam Kinzinger, Republican Rep. from Illinois and frequent Trump critic, for instance, said: “My guy Abraham Lincoln and the Union soldiers already told you no,” which, to be honest, sounds a lot like a mobster husband reminding his wife what happened the last time she told him she was filing for divorce.
In 2012, in response to a petition asking to grant Texas the right to secede from the Union, the White House responded similarly, saying that the Civil War “vindicated the principle that the Constitution establishes a permanent union between the States.” I’m sure every dictator who ever suppressed an insurgence wholeheartedly agrees with this line of reasoning, but of course principles are never vindicated by war; they are merely enforced by it.
But honestly, though, what does the Civil War—a conflict that was fought over 150 years ago—really have to do with a state wanting to secede from the Union today?
We’ve all been taught the Civil War was never actually about states’ rights, that the South just used that as an excuse to protect the institution of slavery. But if that’s true then I don’t see why Texas can’t secede from the union now. I mean, last I checked Texas had no intention of reinstating slavery.
Ah, you say, but Texas does not have the right to secede because the Supreme Court already said so. This is true.
In Texas v. White (1869), the Supreme Court argued that states had entered a “perpetual union” by signing the Articles of Confederation (99).
Of course, the Articles of Confederation have not been valid since 1789, but the Court said the Constitution carried the torch by being “ordained ‘to form a more perfect Union.’” And, the Court added, “What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?” (99), which is a lofty—and slightly creepy—way of saying that striving for an ever more perfect union can never end in divorce. I’m sure that was true in the 19th Century (when divorce was near impossible), but in the 21st Century no one in their right mind believes that all marriages are final.
The Court went on to state that when Texas became part of the United States “…she entered into an indissoluble relation….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” (101).
In other words: you can’t break free unless you’re willing to go to war over it (and win). Now, given that the country was still reeling from a civil war that had left 620,000 Americans dead, the Court’s position in Texas v. White is understandable. But it was still wrong.
Because whatever its history, a people should always have, and can never lose, the right to choose its own destiny, just as every generation has the right to decide its own future. No union should therefore be deemed “perpetual.”
During the 20th Century, President Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt both championed peoples’ right to self-determination, a principle that was eventually enshrined in Chapter 1, Article 1, part 2 of the Charter of the United Nations.
And what is secession other than the right to self-determination? In other words, why should Texas not have the right to secede? Just because nine men said so over 150 years ago?
But even aside from the right to self-determination—which every true progressive should wholeheartedly defend—Democrats especially should be watering at the mouth at the idea of Texas leaving the Union.
After all, without Texas, by far the largest red state, the country’s political map would skew heavily Democratic. Democrats would run the table at every nationwide election and could finally build the country they always wanted.
Who knows, if a few more states would follow Texas and secede as well, we might even be able to change the Constitution. Just imagine: getting rid of the Electoral College and the Second Amendment, adopting a right to education, a right to universal health care, change to a proportional representation system that clears the road for a true multi- party system where everyone has a voice. We could have real change.
A few days ago, Texas state Rep. Kyle Biedermann announced he planned to introduce legislation that would allow a referendum on whether to secede from the United States.
I say, let them have their referendum. Why demand that red states stay in a loveless marriage with blue states they despise (and vice versa)? Why not let them go, have an amicable divorce? Honestly, we would all be better off.
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