By Sarah Becker ©2016
On June 23, 2016 more than 30 million British voters participated in a referendum, an electoral review of Great Britain’s 43-year membership in the European Union. They chose to exit 52% to 48%. Not unlike America’s 2016 election campaign, voters’ decision-variables included: national identity and culture; income and wealth; immigration, borders and security; and life-style.
Readers now ask. Will the State of Texas, whose economy is the world’s 15th largest, follow Brexit’s lead? Will Texas secede from the United States? On June 25 Daniel Miller, head of the Texas Nationalist Movement, sent a tweet to Gov. Greg Abbott requesting a statewide referendum on Texas independence. As my May column explained, Robert E. Lee & the Mexican War, Texas became “a free, Sovereign, and independent republic” in 1836; America’s 28th united State in 1845.
“Texit is in the air,” Miller told CBS News. Texas last seceded from the Union on February 23, 1861.
In November 2012 a qualified petition for Texas secession was received by The White House. The mobilizing moment: President Barack Obama’s reelection. Only “maggots” backed Obama and Texas signatories wanted to “protect their standard of living.”
The Texas Republican Party, in December 2015, rejected a proposed, non-binding ballot initiative that would have let voters consider secession during the March 1, 2016 presidential primary. State GOP leaders also abandoned a 2016 party platform plank that would have supported a secession referendum. The issues are complex, neighborly relationships are complicated, and in Great Britain Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron resigned.
Voters are angry, both here and abroad. The British are dissatisfied with the changes EU membership has imposed. Texans argue “the beliefs of the founding fathers are no longer being reflected by the federal government.” The Texas Nationalist Movement claims a quarter of a million followers.
Nationalism is defined as “devotion to the interests or culture of a particular nation.” Nation is defined as a “relatively large group of people organized under a single government.” Globalization is transnational, in contradiction to the nationalist’s need for self-determination.
The EU offers differential integration. Great Britain, for example, rejected the EU’s only currency, the euro. It also did not sign the Schengen Agreement, a geo-area Agreement which enables more than 400 million EU citizens to cross internal borders without passports. That said independence was incomplete.
The most threatened worker: the white, working class male. The combined effects of immigration, free trade and technology have made their jobs less secure. Immigrants and robots, such workers claim, negatively impact wages. The Middle East refugee crisis; illegal Hispanic immigrants are in addition.
It was a Texan, Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson who signed the Immigration Act of 1965. “This bill says simply that…those wishing to emigrate to America shall be admitted on the basis of their skills and their close relationship to those already here,” Johnson explained.
“Men of needed skill and talent were denied entrance because they came from southern or eastern Europe or from one of the developing continents,” Johnson said. “Families were kept apart because a husband or wife or child had been born in the wrong place.”
“The accent on reuniting families…has drastically altered the immigration mix,” The Washington Post reported in 1966, “so much so, in fact, that an American-Irish Immigration Committee was formed recently in New York City to protest the unaccustomed difficulty that the Irish were having getting in.” Immigrants increasingly are of color.
In 1981 President Ronald Reagan described the U.S. relationship with Mexico as “special. A number of our states [Texas among them] have special labor needs.” In 1986 Reagan signed legislation which legalized approximately 3 million undocumented aliens who had been continuously, unlawfully present since 1982. Legalized aliens’ families had to otherwise “wait in line.”
In 1990, on Texas Republican President George H.W. Bush’s watch, Congress approved broad immigration changes including a permanent “Family Unity” provision. Approximately 1.5 million relatives benefited. The downside: by 1995-1997 the educational level of new immigrants was lower, immigration applications for Supplemental Security Income higher.
In 2013, the U.S. Census American Community Survey estimated that 29.6% of Alexandria’s population was foreign-born. This compares to 13% nationally, 3.2% locally in 1960. Today the means test relates more to family reunification than job skills.
The Immigration Act of 1965 “changed the racial narrative in America.” In 2008 Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Barack Obama [D-IL] spoke of cultural diversity, of heritage and “a new generation of Americans.” By the time of his 2012 reelection, residents in more than 40 states had voiced their disapproval; filed secession petitions. Most expressed opposition to the Obama administration’s “We the People” program; Texas more vigorously than others.
To what extent is America’s first African-American President taking the heat for low-wage work-related policies, especially agricultural policies which started with Texas and now, perhaps two generations later, must be resolved by Congress? The question asked the Texas economy makes it “practicably feasible for Texas to withdraw from the union.”
“I see history as a book with many pages,” President George H.W. Bush said in his 1989 Inaugural Address. “The new breeze blows, a page turns, the story unfolds.” Fifty-one years later the Immigration Act of 1965 is hardly mentioned when recounting the high points of 1960s liberalism.
The dangers associated with Britain’s EU departure are many. Great Britain is the European Union’s second largest economy. Yet the referendum has been years in the making, the geographical-divide great. London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay. Almost all other shires, including England’s industrial cities, chose to leave. London, a financial capital, risks thousands of job losses.
Working men in particular face an unexpected world. It was Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who upon taking office in 1979 crushed the British unions. She, like Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair who followed, favored globalization. Thanks to the PMs free-market gamble, Great Britain is [or was] on the economic rise.
Texas, a former Confederate agricultural state, is harder to analyze. Is the answer as simple as mid-19th, 20th century southern conservatism; low wage laborers of color? Mexico is, as some politicians claim, the largest source of unauthorized U.S. immigrants. Mexicans are also 28% of all U.S. immigrants. This despite a 2009-2014 U.S. Census Bureau report which claims more U.S. families left the United States for Mexico than Mexican nationals left Mexico for the United States.
Perhaps the problem is one of manly pride; declining salaries and the growing need for two income families. Or maybe it is the rise of populism, a political philosophy which opposes the concentration of power especially in the hands of government and or the capital class. The 2016 Republican presidential nominee is of the latter class. Yet pro-Brexit Brit Nigel Farage, in Mississippi in August at the Republican Governor’s request, acknowledged Trump as America’s Mr. Brexit.
Former Texas Governor and 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry considered secession. While he shares the Texas Nationalist Movement’s frustrations, Perry believes nothing should be done “to change the greatness of our Union.” Miller, on the other hand, is “buoyed by the British vote” and plans to introduce another secession petition in 2018.
Great Britain meanwhile adjusts. Theresa May is now Prime Minister. She voted to remain in the EU as did Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, a longtime proponent of Scottish independence. The pound recovers but caution is advised. Britain’s banking regulations, its trade policies are still EU connected.
By 2018 we should know how well Great Britain disengages. The Treaty of Lisbon’s Article 50, the EU’s exit clause, has never before been activated and May has requested a planning delay.