Lone star state wants to stand apart from US

By Tim Walker

Texas Nationalist Movement slowly gathering support since President Obama's re-election.

Texas produces 2 billion barrels of oil a day. Photo / Getty Images
Texas produces 2 billion barrels of oil a day. Photo / Getty Images

At noon on January 8, the first day of the 2013 legislative session, around 200 Texans stood stubbornly in the rain on the north steps of the capitol building in Austin. Some carried state flags, others placards bearing messages such as "I want off the sinking ship".

To cries of "Remember the Alamo!" and "Liberty or Death!", Daniel Miller, the leader of the Texas Nationalist Movement (TNM), stepped forward to speak.

The 39-year-old in the suit and cowboy boots has been the leader of the TNM, which organised the rally, since 2001.

His recent book, Line in the Sand, is the movement's core text. Miller turned and pointed to the figure of Lady Liberty at the summit of the capitol's domed roof. "You'll notice," he joked, "that Liberty has her back turned to the North."

There has been enthusiasm for the notion of independence at the far fringes of Texan politics for decades, but the re-election of Barack Obama has significantly broadened the TNM's base.

The organisation claims more than a quarter of a million members, and has registered more than three million hits on its website since November.

It even formed its own Political Action Committee, or PAC, to back candidates who share its goals.

Last month, the Obama Administration rejected a petition calling for the state's secession from the US. Posted on the White House website in November by a student from Arlington, the petition drew 125,746 signatures in just eight weeks. Similar appeals emerged from all 50 states, but the Texan's was by far the most-signed.

In his response, the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, Jon Carson, claimed the US Constitution, "enshrined ... the right to change our national government through the power of the ballot - a right that generations of Americans have fought to secure for all. But they did not provide a right to walk away from it."

The petition was rejected, but this week Texas got its first taste of international diplomacy - and its first ally - in the shape of the former Soviet state of Belarus, ruled by brutal dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

Apparently fed up with constantly being criticised for abusing human rights, the Belarus Ministry of Foreign Affairs levelled the same accusation at Washington for rejecting Texas's call. Whether Minsk's intervention will help the secessionist cause is open to debate.

Texas was briefly a nation, between securing independence from Mexico in 1836 and annexation by the United States in 1845, during which time it had embassies in London and Paris.

Alone, the state would boast the world's 15th-largest economy.

At a Tea Party rally in 2009, Governor Rick Perry gave hope to secessionists by suggesting, "When we came into the nation in 1845 ... we were a stand-alone nation. And one of the deals was, we can leave any time we want.

"So we're kind of thinking about that again." (Last year, Perry's office informed the Dallas Morning News that the Governor, "believes in the greatness of our Union".)

One person who could reasonably expect support from the movement's PAC is Larry Kilgore, a 48-year-old telecommunications consultant, who changed his middle name to "SECEDE" in December. Kilgore received 250,000 votes when he contested the Republican Senate primary in 2008, and has announced his intention to run for Perry's job in 2014.

His aim, he said, is to become Governor and then immediately hold a referendum on independence, before stepping down. "I don't want people to think I'm just interested in power," he explained.

Kilgore's reasons for advocating secession are partly economic. He resents paying social security and federal income tax.

Also, "We're not even allowed to execute people who molest children," he said. "We don't want the US coming in and saying, 'You can't perform this judicial punishment'."

- Independent

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