Last week signs emerged that America’s much-loved democracy might be beginning to turn on itself. More than 200 years after James Madison oversaw the construction of the constitution (the document of supreme law that united America’s states) petitions have emerged from every one of those 50 regions calling for secession from the very union that Madison and his contemporaries fought to create. From Hawaii to Alabama, thousands of Americans have used a website launched by the Obama administration to express their desire for separation from that government.
The Obama administration created the “We The People” online petitioning system in September 2011 because it wanted to hear from its citizens. One year on and the website has turned against its creator. Following the re-election of President Obama two weeks ago, many Americans who are unhappy with their leader’s second term have used the website to demand separation from the federal government of which he is the head. The administration states that any petition with over 25,000 signatures warrants an official response. While previous petitions that have influenced legislation include issues such as online piracy and the commercial sale of puppies, the White House will now have to respond to states like Louisiana, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, which each house more than 25,000 residents who have petitioned to secede.
The most ready to disunite from the United States of America is the state of Texas, where nearly 115,000 people have signed a petition that asks to “peacefully grant the state of Texas to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own new government”. With a GDP of $1,308bn (€1,024), if Texas became its own country it would be the 14th largest economy in the world. The largest exporting state in the US, the $100bn (€78bn) made in Texan international trade each year would certainly be missed by the federal government.
So what if the 26 million residents of the Lone Star Republic really did want to secede? It would likely take at least a decade for any sort of referendum on the issue to be called. Current governor Rick Perry isn’t going to encourage separation so a secession-happy candidate would have to be found for the upcoming gubernatorial votes. The 15 US army, navy and air force bases would be withdrawn and a Texan force would have to protect the new country’s borders. New sources of income would have to be found to replace the federally funded highways, universities, student loans, Pell grants and welfare benefits. And without US satellites the brand new nation of Texas couldn’t even predict the weather so it would have to build or buy its own spacecraft (though Texas is home to the Nasa Johnson Space Center so finding talent for that wouldn’t be too hard).
There could be a rapid expansion of the Texan coastline with Galveston growing to rival Shanghai or Singapore as a huge global port. And perhaps the nation of Texas would invest more in its diplomatic and commercial engagement with Mexico and other Central American countries, thus capitalising on relationships south of the Rio Grande that the US has failed to.
Since its declaration of independence the United States has seen its fair share of secession attempts. From the Civil War to the ongoing independence movements in Hawaii and Alaska to the libertarian militia groups that spawned Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, none has yet been successful in fracturing the Union. And while it seems nearly impossible that petitions like those currently gathering momentum could effect actual change, if it came to it would the United States really go to war over Texas?