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November 19, 2012

Slate: How Texas could mess with us

(Continued)

Nice country you got there. Be a real shame if something happened to it. Right before he made that comment, Perry had told the same reporter that "when [Texas] came in the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave, if we decided to do that." To the extent that Texas' future right to secede from the United States may have been discussed, argued, and/or wished for upon the state's annexation, the governor was technically correct in saying that it was an "issue." But Perry's wording suggested that a right to secede was built, as some sort of term or condition, into the original joint resolution of Congress that brought the Republic of Texas into the union.

That simply isn't true. Texas' so-called "right" to secede is no more than a politically emboldening myth, the boastful residue of the decade it spent as a sovereign nation before joining America. There's simply nothing in the state's official annexation papers, or in any other contemporaneous documents for that matter, to suggest otherwise. Nevertheless, over the last century and half this myth has proven harder to kill than a mound of East Texas fire ants. As recently as 2009, the pollster Rasmussen Reports noted that nearly one-third of Texans believed their state could unilaterally split off from the U.S. if it chose to do so. In the state's 2008 Republican Senate primary, Larry Kilgore, a secessionist who openly had proclaimed his hatred for the federal government, received more than 18 percent of the vote — representing almost 250,000 ballots cast — in his race against the incumbent, John Cornyn.

But while it may not enjoy any such right, Texas can legitimately claim to be holding an unusual ace up its sleeve, which — should it ever be played — could end up altering the face of the U.S. map even more significantly than secession would. And were it to be played deftly, that ace could even set the stage for the very secession scenario that Micah H. and his separatist compatriots so passionately envision.

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