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April 17, 2009

About The Secession Thing

Iíve noticed in recent weeks a number of bumper stickers on local cars here in Houston that read ďSecedeĒ. While I donít see that as very likely, I donít have a particular problem with the notion that secession is a legitimate option for a state that is part of a federation, especially if its people are in favor of such a course of action. After all, Jefferson noted that the people are ultimately the source of legitimacy for government (which they themselves establish for the protection of their rights) and that

. . . whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

In other words, there is absolutely nothing sacrosanct about the current design of government. Indeed, Jeffersonís words certainly imply the legitimacy of secession. Indeed, the Declaration of Independence clearly notes that at times

. . . it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them. . . .

So as you can see, there is nothing particularly un-American or subversive about secession Ė unless, of course, one argues that the Declaration of Independence itself is un-American and subversive. And Mr. Lincolnís war notwithstanding, nowhere does the Constitution state or imply that the people of the several states surrender their right to alter or abolish their form of government or sever the political ties that bind them to the rest (the decision of the Supreme Court in Texas v. White notwithstanding).

Not, mind you, that I believe that secession is a proper goal for any state at this time, much less that it is a desirable one. But in light of certain statements from my stateís governor yesterday, I feel it important to not that connection to the principles that underlay our nationís struggle for independence.

So let's see exactly what did Rick Perry say?

Later, answering news reporters' questions, Perry suggested Texans might at some point get so fed up they would want to secede from the union, though he said he sees no reason why Texas should do that. "There's a lot of different scenarios," Perry said. "We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot."

Now first off, he isnít suggesting secession according to what I read. It seems to me that he is offering a theoretical, hypothetical argument similar to what I have stated above. Secondly, it is perfectly in keeping with his recent support for a resolution asserting Texasí rights under the Tenth Amendment, and I believe that is what he was probably asked about to begin with. But note, please, that he begins his answer with a clear caveat that there is absolutely no reason to dissolve the ties that bind Texans to the rest of the American people. So for those who have gotten your knickers in a knot, might I suggest that you simply dial down your outrage a notch and calmly consider what he has actually said?

Besides, as pointed out elsewhere, he also noted that there were multiple scenarios under which some separation might happen. Iíd argue that one of those might be the equivalent of an amicable divorce, with both Congress and the Texas legislature jointly agreeing to the split. Or maybe even a constitutional amendment explicitly overruling the precedent in the wrongly decided Texas v. White.

Oh, and for the record Ė while I defend Rick Perry here on this one point, it in no way signals a shift in my previously stated intention to support Kay Bailey Hutchison when she challenges Perry for the nomination for governor next year.





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