About Barry Smitherman’s “Island Nation” Comment On Texas

Texas Railroad Commissioner, and candidate for Attorney General, Barry Smitherman, made a bit of headlines last week when he told WorldNetDaily he was doing all he could to make sure Texas could succeed on its own.  He used the terms “island nation,” saying “Texas can operate as a stand-alone entity with energy, food, water and roads as if we were a closed-loop system.”

The comments have generated several reactions.  Huffington Post made the point that Smitherman didn’t call for Texas to secede, which is true.  Think Progress, obviously, laughed at it; then, almost off-hand, made a snarky reference to how Texas “and a handful of other states tried secession once before. It didn’t end well.”  That’s obviously a reference to theCivil War and the 625,000 casualties total.  The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Dallas Observer also got a chuckle, but at least Bud Kennedy was willing to calls up Smitherman’s political consultant to see if he actually meant secession.  The consultant says, “No,” while WND says, “yes.”

Does it really matter if Smitherman made these comments?  Yes, because he could end up being Texas’ top lawyer.  He’ll be the one defending the state in lawsuits against the federal government.

Is his attitude wrong?  Probably not, because it shows how important it is for a state to be able to stand on its own and have its own economy without being reliant on the federal government for help (see Illinois and the slow moving high speed rail project).

Should he have said it the way he did, and should it have been to WorldNetDaily?  No and no.  There’s nothing wrong with making Texas as independent as possible, but using the “island nation” comment isn’t smart.  Plus telling it to WND (they of the Barack Obama birth certificate theory) probably isn’t that smart either.  It makes Smitherman look “fringe” even if he isn’t at all.  Will it matter in the GOP primary?  Probably not, but Democrats would enjoy using it in the General Election.

One of the things about Texas, which separates it from the rest of the United States, is the feeling it could survive as its own nation.  Texans have a sense of independence which occasionally dwarfs residents of other states, stemming from the breif period in its history when it was indeed a sovereign nation.  Texans are almost libertarian at their core, which is probably why the idea of Texas striking out on its own appears appealing at times.  In fact, Slate recently reviewed three Texas secessionist novels.

But every Texas leader and resident needs to ask, “Is secession worth it?”  Certainly, Texas has the infrastructure to survive, and could easily create its own military based on the resources and logistics.  The state is in a much better place than it was when it was created in 1845 when it joined the US.  That doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

The better question is whether it’s something the Founding Fathers would want.  Both James Madison andThomas Jefferson argued for “nullification” following passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.  It means states can rule certain federal laws “null and void” if they violate the Constitution.  While federal courts have ruled against nullification, it doesn’t mean their decisions are correct.  It may be better for Texas to consider nullification steps instead of going out on its own.  Of course, were all hell to break loose, Texas is primed to be able to survive.  Let’s just hope all hell doesn’t break loose. Ever.

Also, just a note to Think Progress: Texas Governor Sam Houston resigned his position because he wasn’t in favor of Texas joining the Confederate States of America.  Just an FYI.