The tea party movement had its day and then some on April 15, 2009, as citizens from across the country gathered in large cities and small towns to declare their opposition to excessive taxation from an ever-expanding federal government. In the spirit of the Boston Tea Party of 1773, these gatherings were meant to be a line in the sand, a message for tax and spend Democrats in D.C. to hit the brakes on their agenda. And if that message wasn’t clear enough with the thousands who attended Sean Hannity’s Atlanta tea party or Glenn Beck’s party in San Antonio, it was clear after Texas Governor Rick Perry spoke to a modest gathering of 1500 people outside Austin City Hall.
When Perry addressed those gathered in Austin, he spoke as one of them and mocked the Department of Homeland Security’s warning that tea-party participants could be part of “right-wing extremist radicalization.” Said Perry: “I’m just not real sure you’re a bunch of right-wing extremists. But if you are, we’re with you.” He then told the cheering crowd: “We will not stand our pockets being picked, our children’s future being mortgaged, our rights being taken away.”
Yet as important and poignant as Perry’s words were to those gathered outside City Hall, it’s what he said to reporters afterward that set the blogosphere ablaze: “My hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention. We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that.” While Perry didn’t come right out and use the “s-word” (secede), you can sure bet that’s what he meant, and he made it crystal clear by adding: “Texas is a unique place. When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.”
It seems the folks at thinkprogress.org certainly got the message. Immediately after news of Perry’s post-speech comments broke, they posted the headline: “Gov. Rick Perry: Texas Might Have to Secede.” Below the headline, bloggers for thinkprogress.org posted some really intellectual questions about secession. One of the best was: “The South is going to secede? Again? Are they bringing back slavery, too?”
The idea of secession gets under the skin of liberals like few other things can. And this is so because secession trumps their power grabs. When someone like Perry says his state has the right to leave the union if the federal government doesn’t uphold their end of the bargain, it’s a stark reminder that “the federal government exists by and for the states, not the other way around.”
And Perry has been open to the thought of breaking with the union as a last resort for some time now. Just last week, on April 9, he announced his support for Texas House Concurrent Resolution 50 (HCR 50), one of the many Tenth Amendment resolutions currently being passed at the state level.
According to the Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” In light of these words, Perry supported the Texas legislature in demanding that the federal government “cease and desist” the usurpation of states’ rights and its blatant disregard of the U.S. Constitution. The Texas resolution also demands that, “all compulsory federal legislation that directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties … or that requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding be prohibited or repealed.”
When Perry announced his support of HCR 50, he said: “I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential Tenth Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union. … I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state.”
Although 15 other states — Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Kansas, Washington, New Hampshire, Arizona, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and South Carolina — have at least introduced a Tenth Amendment resolution in their state assemblies or legislatures, none have enjoyed the forthright gubernatorial leadership Texas has experienced with Perry.
Texas is its own place, and with a governor like Perry it will certainly remain that way.