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November 19, 2012

Slate: How Texas could mess with us

By last Friday, three days after the re-election of President Obama but before the final tally of electoral votes had been confirmed, a curious phenomenon was already taking place on the "We the People" website, which the Obama White House set up in 2011 as an easy way for Americans to petition the executive branch for the redress of grievances. Disgruntled individuals in various states — generously taking it upon themselves to speak for the rest of their states' populations — were announcing their desire to secede from the union and formally requesting permission from the federal government to do so.

As of earlier this week, petitioners in more than 30 states had expressed their keen interest in severing ties. According to "We the People," any petitions that earn 25,000 signatures within 30 days of their original posting will automatically receive an official response from the White House — which, if and when it comes, is almost certain to resemble the kind of "official response" routinely dispensed by immensely powerful corporations that feel compelled to acknowledge customer dissatisfaction, but who can afford not to offer any form of actual recompense. ("Thank you for your interest in seceding from the United States of America. We appreciate and share your concern about the fragile state of our union. Unfortunately, at this time . . . ")

It's unclear just how many of the state petitioners will be able to meet the signature threshold. But even if every one of them finds 24,999 like-minded souls to sign their names, one state will enjoy an advantage over the others. It will probably come as no surprise that the state in question is Texas, which has always prided itself on doing things its own way.

My home state is an odds-on favorite to stick it to the federal man in a secession battle in part because it's been spoiling for such a fight since Reconstruction. But it's not just the state's vaunted independent streak that gives it a leg up: Thanks to a strange quirk of its original annexation agreement, Texas may actually be in a slightly better position than any of the other 49 states to back up its tough-guy talk.

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