In the wake of Brexit, I have seen a lot of my conservative friend’s joke (half-joke?) about Texas following suit and seceding from the Union.
My initial reaction has been to laugh at the ridiculousness of the thought, but then I picked up the idea and tried to imagine what would happen if a referendum in Texas to leave the Union actually succeeded.
Let me be clear, I don’t think Texit is going to happen, but if it did what would the consequences be? Here are some thoughts.
To start off, I don’t think there would be a war. Most people assume that if Texas (or the South) ever tried to secede (again) that there would simply be another civil war to slap them back down (again). While that seems to make sense on the surface, there are a lot of factors that suggest the political and social realities of today would make that politically impossible for the United States government to do.
First, if Texas did secede, it would only be as the result of a state-wide referendum as opposed to a vote of its legislature.
Like Brexit it would be the expression of the will of the Texan people, and that kind of democratic statement has a lot more influence and power today than it did in the 1850s. With not only Brexit, but possibly Scotland and Ireland setting precedents for this kind of move in the near future, there may be a lot of international sympathy and pressure for the U.S. to respect such a referendum.
Also the world is just so much more connected than it was at the time of the Civil War.
When battles like Shiloh and Antietam happened, no one around the world truly knew the horrific details except the people who were there. An invasion of Texas today would be broadcast internationally, possibly on live television. The violence, the bloodshed, and the massive civilian casualties that would be likely to take place wouldn’t just be abstract thoughts, they would be pictures on everyone’s TV and social media account.
Such images, or even the possibility of such images, would be a huge deterrent to the U.S. government from taking military action.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the U.S. would take no punitive action at all. What is most likely is that the Federal government would declare Texas in a state of rebellion and cut off all financial and trading relationships until it returned to its status of statehood. This could be really hard for Texas, especially if other countries followed suit.
Ironically, the country Texas would probably look to for the most support would be Mexico, and given that bad blood with Mexico is probably one of the reasons Texas would secede in the first place, it seems unlikely that they would find much. It might be extreme to say Texas could be reduced to third-world country status, but it definitely isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Daily life would certainly become much harder for native Texans than it is right now.
One of the few things Texas would have going for it is that it has its own power grid. This means it doesn’t have to rely on power infrastructure from other states in order to turn on the heat and the lights. If it wasn’t for this, a Texit scenario would be next to impossible. All the U.S. government would have to do is flip the switch and black out the entire state (er…nation).
This is also one reason why Texas is pretty much the only state that you can actually have this conversation about.
Again, the likelihood of Texas striking out on its own is pathetically small. Setting aside all the legal challenges, it just isn’t in the best interest of most Texans, at least not yet. Perhaps one day though it might be, and perhaps that might make the precedent of holding a Texit referendum worthwhile to the fiercely independent Lone Star State.
Just to show everyone that they can.