The speed with which America is coming undone is almost impossible to track, or even process. The Supreme Court ruling to end a woman’s reproductive rights and loosen state gun laws are mere precursors to the direction that justices are steering the republic. Clarence Thomas, who seems to analyze with an intent more on vindictiveness than understanding the law, clearly is hoping for a case before the court that will enable changes in gay marriage and contraceptive rights. No logic drives any of his legal interpretations, though it is telling he did not mention Loving v Virginia, which declared bans on mixed race marriages as unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment. Thomas is married, of course, to a white woman, who called for the arrest of reporters and various Democrats after Trump’s defeat, and their imprisonment in barges off the coast of Cuba while awaiting trial at Gitmo.
Conservatives have long been fond of the politics of convenience, which serve only their belief systems and not fundamental American rights. President Reagan banned research using fetal tissue to cure diseases, but when he began to suffer from Alzheimer’s, his wife led the fight to approve the use of stem cells from destroyed embryos. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter Mary is a lesbian, was at odds with President George W. Bush when he used a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage to drive evangelical voter turnout. Liz Cheney, the heroic Republican standing up to Donald Trump, later acknowledged she was wrong to be against gay marriage rights, perhaps, because her sister is a lesbian. In the closet and leading the anti-gay marriage campaign in 2004 was Ken Mehlman, head of the national GOP. He was unbothered by his rank hypocrisy harming people like himself.
The latest rulings on abortion rights and state gun laws have accelerated the Balkanization of the United States. We are about to enter a time when states are divided by their laws. Guns will be easy to access in states where abortion is illegal, and firearm safety will be codified in states where abortion is accessible under state laws. Unless there are unapparent changes coming in federal cases or congressional action, we will continue to be increasingly separated by our belief systems. My view is we will begin to see significant trans-migrations from conservative red states to those that have more progressive laws regarding guns and abortion. As these movements of voters and jobs and businesses accelerate, our antipathy toward people who think and believe differently will also increase, along with incidents of violence.
I suppose it is far-fetched to suggest America will tear itself asunder, but down here under the Lone Star we are developing a template for tragedy. Anyone wondering where unrestrained conservatism and Trumpian ideologies are leading need only to look at the Texas Republican Party platform, released during their recent state convention. The litany of crazy is as entertaining as it is frightening. The Texas GOP still refuses to acknowledge Joe Biden won the election and continues to support Trump’s Big Lie while also promoting its own version of an Electoral College to end direct elections of candidates like U.S. senators. Attendees voted against any restrictions on gun ownership and booed their own U.S. Senator John Cornyn because he helped to facilitate a compromise bill, eventually signed by the “unelected” President Biden.
Of all the evil, twisted language that sang of Republican politics in this state, however, none was more venomous than revisiting the notion of secession from the union. Our states are presently in an ideological drift that is pulling them apart politically and to even talk about secession in just an historical perspective will give radicals dangerous ideas. Although a state representative from the Texas Hill Country introduced last year a bill authorizing a referendum on secession and the creation of a committee to begin preparations, there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that allows for a state to leave the union. Legal interpretations regarding the creation of the U.S. did not even view the secessionist states of the Confederacy to ever be anything other than rebellious, and not legally or formally separated from the nation’s political body. Secession is not possible, and according to historic Supreme Court precedent, the union is permanent and “dissoluble” as a political construct.
The secession of Texas would, undoubtedly, be good for the rest of the country, though. The “Final 49” would no longer face any real prospect of a deranged Republican as president. The 40 Texas electoral votes, which have been historically reliable for the GOP candidate, will be removed from Election Day calculus. The Texas governor can shut down all public schools with an edict and use that money to send more cops and soldiers to the border where they will sit the sun with guns and spend their free time trying to decide who has the best Number Two Mexican Dinner within a hundred miles. No federal investigators will need to be deployed to examine Greg Abbott’s use of Covid funding to pay for his Project Lone Star on the border. The rest of the nation, no longer dragged down by Texas, will be able to pursue progressive policies that protect the environment, women’s reproductive rights, improve gun safety, and provide universal health care and higher education.
If we did secede, (or “succeed,” as much of the low intellect right has it), vast amounts of federal money would also leave. The military forts from Hood to Bliss and Fort Sam Houston and Dyess Air Force Base, among others, would be ghost towns without soldiers and airmen or any heavy military weaponry. Maybe those resources will be deployed by the Final 49 along the Red and Sabine Rivers to protect America’s remainders from being invaded by undocumented Texans smuggling guns northward. The state would also be forced to finally raise the gasoline tax, which hasn’t been touched since 1991, because Washington would not be sending funds for roadbuilding, or, more likely, a policy expanding privatization would enrich multi-national corporations who come here already and build toll roads while the state dodges its responsibility to properly fund infrastructure.
But Texas cannot legally depart the union. Precedents, of course, are being tossed away like so many Bret Kavanaugh beer cans, and there are probably an increasing number of Americans who would like to bid Texas a fond adieu. We are the state that enabled the slaughter of 19 school children and two teachers and then covered up the incompetence and cowardice of the law enforcement that should have saved lives. Even as the Texas governor was lying about the actions of the police and expressing condolences, he was leading the state that was last in the nation in terms of accessing mental health care services, and had just a month earlier vetoed a $211 million dollar increase in funding for the Texas Mental Health Commission. Greg Abbott, then, unironically, blamed mass shootings on mental health problems and not guns. He put on his disaster khakis and hurried to Uvalde but wasted no time changing into more appropriate attire as he raced to the NRA convention in Houston to defend unregulated weapons of mass destruction and pick up a big check for his allegiance to guns.
The rest of America ought to view Texas as a conservative crystal ball and get an honest read of the potential future under unrestrained Republican leadership. If the GOP effectively implements the party’s policy planks into public law, teachers will be prosecuted for any discussions of sexual orientation, and sex education would be removed from schools. Homosexuality will be defined and treated as an aberrant “lifestyle choice,” and marriage will be an institution only for one biological man and one biological woman. Abortion will be completely outlawed from fertilization to natural death, and prayer will be put back into public schools along with the Ten Commandments, only a few of which the Texas GOP observes. It is, however, hard to be righteous when you are demanding an end to the Voting Rights Act, abolishing birthright citizenship, and demanding a convention to rewrite the U.S. Constitution to reflect radical conservative ideology more favorably, the kind that might even make Trump blush.
The people who have developed this type of reactionary political thinking are in control of more than simply the Texas GOP. They hold statewide offices and appear intent on turning our former republic into a digital gulag where the citizenry is consigned to fighting over crumbs left behind by rapacious politics and corporate malfeasance. They are busily implementing discriminatory policies that seemingly are designed to harm others by suppressing the vote and placing the tax burden on homeowners instead of corporations being made rich by spineless regulations. That is not, of course, sufficient to please the Texas GOP. An imposition of ancient morality is the capstone of their controlling machinations. You must live like they tell you to live, love who they allow you to love, and learn what they will let you learn. Otherwise, you will find yourself outside the law and sued for trying to save your life instead of your ten-week-old fetus’.
The table for the dissolution of American democracy, then, has been set and Texas has the chefs in the kitchen. A day after the Roe ruling ended reproductive rights for women, U.S. Senator John Cornyn called on the court to do Plessy vs Ferguson and Brown vs Board of Education. The only rational interpretation of his request is that he wants states to be able to institute “separate but equal” racial segregation, which was affirmed by the Plessy ruling in 1896. The senator also seems to think equality no longer needs to be codified into law and those foundational rulings ought to be tossed by the Supremes. This is the kind of irrational thinking that surfaces when policy at the state level subsumes what is truly in the national interest. We are supposed to be more than a series of contiguous states; we are a union.
Except, we are threatened. The high court’s ruling in Citizens’ United allowed an unrestrained amount of corporate money to be infused into the political process. The consequence was that lies were used to shout down facts and no one knew the truth. Airwaves are jammed with candidate and issues ads, paid for by Super PACS and wealthy donors, and those who refuse to participate in the largesse have little chance of winning. The American version of democracy has long been run on money and the infection of cash is becoming terminal for our body politic. Ignorance spreads like a contagion while money vaccinates us against the truth.
If you have watched only a portion of the January 6th hearings, you know that the barbarians are at the gates. Authoritarianism under Trump was prevented only by a handful of honorable Assistant Attorneys General in the Department of Justice. Trump demanded they claim the election was “corrupt, and then leave everything else to me and the Republicans in Congress.” Instead, they defied the president and threatened to resign en masse, which would have left the country without a DoJ. Those who facilitated the president’s profligate lies apparently were self-aware enough to know they were breaking the law, and they asked for pardons in advance of their future convictions.
Trump, though, still went chasing after every institution in the government to try to legitimize his lies. He asked for voting machines to be confiscated and even bought into a fantastical claim that Italian satellites were being used to switch votes on electronic machines in critical counties and precincts. Americans, who have trusted the processes of their politics for more than two and a half centuries, have been betrayed, and the deception has not ended. Republicans are putting into power state election officials around the country who will almost certainly not certify votes in this fall’s election if they show Democrats as victors.
Where, exactly, do we go from here?