HOUSTON — In the weeks since President Obama’s re-election, Republicans around the country have been wondering how to proceed. Some conservatives in Texas have been asking a far more pointed question: how to secede.
Secession fever has struck parts of Texas, which Mitt Romney won by nearly 1.3 million votes.
Sales of bumper stickers reading “Secede” — one for $2, or three for $5 — have increased at TexasSecede.com. In East Texas, a Republican official sent out an e-mail newsletter saying it was time for Texas and Vermont to each “go her own way in peace” and sign a free-trade agreement among the states.
A petition calling for secession that was filed by a Texas man on a White House Web site has received tens of thousands of signatures, and the Obama administration must now issue a response. And Larry Scott Kilgore, a perennial Republican candidate from Arlington, a Dallas suburb, announced that he was running for governor in 2014 and would legally change his name to Larry Secede Kilgore, with Secede in capital letters. As his Web page, secedekilgore.com, puts it: “Secession! All other issues can be dealt with later.”
In Texas, talk of secession in recent years has steadily shifted to the center from the fringe right. It has emerged as an echo of the state Republican leadership’s anti-Washington, pro-Texas-sovereignty mantra on a variety of issues, including health care and environmental regulations. For some Texans, the renewed interest in the subject serves simply as comic relief after a crushing election defeat.
But for other proponents of secession and its sister ideology, Texas nationalism — a focus of the Texas Nationalist Movement and other groups that want the state to become an independent nation, as it was in the 1830s and 1840s — it is a far more serious matter.
The official in East Texas, Peter Morrison, the treasurer of the Hardin County Republican Party, said in a statement that he had received overwhelming support from conservative Texans and overwhelming opposition from liberals outside the state in response to his comments in his newsletter. He said that it may take time for “people to appreciate that the fundamental cultural differences between Texas and other parts of the United States may be best addressed by an amicable divorce, a peaceful separation.”
The online petitions — created on the We the People platform at petitions.whitehouse.gov — are required to receive 25,000 signatures in 30 days for the White House to respond. The Texas petition, created Nov. 9 by a man identified as Micah H. of Arlington, had received more than 116,000 signatures by Friday. It asks the Obama administration to “peacefully grant” the withdrawal of Texas, and describes doing so as “practically feasible,” given the state’s large economy.
Residents in other states, including Alabama, Florida, Colorado, Louisiana and Oklahoma, have submitted similar petitions, though none have received as many signatures as the one from Texas.
A White House official said every petition that crossed the signature threshold would be reviewed and would receive a response, though it was unclear precisely when Micah H. would receive his answer.
Gov. Rick Perry, who twice made public remarks in 2009 suggesting that he was sympathetic to the secessionist cause, will not be signing the petition. “Governor Perry believes in the greatness of our union, and nothing should be done to change it,” a spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier, said in a statement. “But he also shares the frustrations many Americans have with our federal government.”
The secession movement in Texas is divergent, with differences in goals and tactics. One group, the Republic of Texas, says that secession is unnecessary because, it claims, Texas is an independent nation that was illegally annexed by the United States in 1845. (The group’s leader and other followers waged a weeklong standoff with the Texas Rangers in 1997 that left one of its members dead.) Mr. Kilgore, the candidate who is changing his middle name, said he had not signed the White House petition because he did not believe that Texans needed to ask Washington for permission to leave.
“Our economy is about 30 percent larger than that of Australia,” said Mr. Kilgore, 48, a telecommunications contractor. “Australia can survive on their own, and I don’t think we’ll have any problem at all surviving on our own in Texas.”
Few of the public calls for secession have addressed the messy details, like what would happen to the state’s many federal courthouses, prisons, military bases and parklands. No one has said what would become of Kevin Patteson, the director of the state’s Office of State-Federal Relations, and no one has asked the Texas residents who received tens of millions of dollars in federal aid after destructive wildfires last year for their thoughts on the subject.
But all the secession talk has intrigued liberals as well. Caleb M. of Austin started his own petition on the White House Web site. He asked the federal government to allow Austin to withdraw from Texas and remain part of the United States, “in the event that Texas is successful in the current bid to secede.” It had more than 8,000 signatures as of Friday.
A version of this article appeared in print on November 24, 2011
Residents of all 50 states have filed online petitions to secede from the United States, as part of the White House website‘s “We the People” program. But a HuffPost/YouGov poll, released Friday, found that most Americans don’t embrace their own state severing ties with the nation. Over half opposed seeing their state secede, with 42 percent strongly opposing the idea, while 22 percent said they supported the idea. A quarter weren’t sure.
Republicans were more likely to support the proposition: 43 percent said they were in favor of the idea, compared to 22 percent of Independents and just 10 percent of Democrats.
Although petitions to secede have reached the 25,000-signature mark needed for an official White House response, in some states just over 20 percent of those polled said they’d heard a lot about the petitions, while 42 percent said they’d heard a little bit and 27 percent said that they’d heard nothing at all.
Americans were split on whether other states should be allowed to call it quits: 29 percent said states should be allowed to secede if a majority of their residents supported secession, while 38 percent said they should not, and a third weren’t sure. Republicans were more likely to approve of secession, with 46 percent saying states should be allowed to leave the union.
But a majority agreed that the break-up of the United States isn’t exactly imminent. More than half said it wasn’t likely that, during their lifetime, the majority of citizens in any state would support seceding. About a quarter said it was somewhat or very likely, and 20 percent said that they weren’t sure.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll interviewed 1,000 adults online between Nov. 14 and Nov. 15, with a 4.5 percent margin of error. It used a sample that was selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.
Efforts to secede are nothing new. Here’s a look back at previous attempts:
Citizens from more than 40 states have filed petitions with the White House seeking to secede from the union, and by Wednesday, seven states had gathered enough signatures to qualify for a response to the largely symbolic protest.
The petitions, which have been signed by a small percentage of state residents, have virtually no chance of succeeding. The United States’ bloodiest conflict, the 1861-1865 Civil War, erupted after 11 states withdrew from the union.
The White House has set up a “We the People” page on its website that allows Americans to file petitions on issues of concern. If a petition collects 25,000 signatures, the website says, the administration will review and respond to it.
The petition filed by Texas residents has racked up about 100,000 signatures. Six others from Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee have collected 30,000.
Among the seven states, only Florida gave its electoral votes to Democratic President Barack Obama in last week’s election.
The Texas petition says the United States is suffering from economic troubles stemming from the federal government’s failure to reform spending. It also complains of alleged rights abuses committed by agencies like the Transportation Security Administration.
“Given that the state of Texas maintains a balanced budget and is the 15th largest economy in the world, it is practically feasible for Texas to withdraw from the union,” it said.
A counter-petition has been filed calling for the state capital Austin to secede from Texas and remain part of the United States.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Stacey Joyce)