Ted Cruz says Texas should secede and "take the military" if Democrats "destroy the country"

Calls for secession have become a right-wing trope — but there's no constitutional way to accomplish it peacefully

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published November 9, 2021 11:36AM (EST)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) departs from the Senate Chamber following a vote on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) departs from the Senate Chamber following a vote on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Sen. Ted Cruz has called on his home state to secede from the U.S. if Democrats "fundamentally destroy the country," adding that Texas should "take" NASA, the military and the country's oil supply along with it. 

"If they pack the Supreme Court, if they make D.C. a state, if they federalize elections and massively expand voter fraud, there may come a point where it's hopeless," Cruz said during a speaking event at Texas A&M last month.

"We're not there yet, and if there comes a point where it's hopeless, then I think we take NASA, we take the military, we take the oil," the Republican added. "I think Texas has a responsibility to the country, and I'm not ready to give up on America."

Cruz's remarks came in response to an audience member who asked for the senator's thoughts on the modern Texas secessionist movement. In recent years, the Texas Nationalist Movement, a group claiming 300,000 members that advocates withdrawing the state from the Union, has launched a campaign known as "Texit." Its professed aim is a statewide referendum on secession, potentially alongside the 2022 midterms. According to the campaign's website, roughly 422,000 people have signed onto a petition calling for a secession vote next year.

"Our mission is to secure and protect the political, cultural and economic independence of the nation of Texas and to restore and protect a constitutional Republic and the inherent rights of the people of Texas," the Texas Nationalist Movement's website states. 

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Whether Texas or any other state has a constitutional right to secede from the United States is dubious at best — and as a historical matter, that question was settled at the end of the Civil War. According to The Texas Tribune, the 1845 Joint Resolution for Annexing Texas contains a peculiar proviso under which the Lone Star State may disaggregate itself into five separate states. It's unlikely that could ever happen in practice, and the resolution says nothing about secession. 

RELATED: Psycho secession: Texas' lost-cause lawsuit was the first shot in a new Civil War

In 2006, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia formally affirmed that Texas has no constitutional right to secede, writing that "the answer is clear." 

"If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. (Hence, in the Pledge of Allegiance, 'one Nation, indivisible.')," Scalia wrote. 

Nevertheless, the Texas Republican Party endorsed legislation in February that would allow the state's voters to express their views on secession. State party chair Allen West, said in an interview at the time that "Texans have a right to voice their opinions on [this] critical issue." The bill reportedly drew intense backlash from both sides of the aisle, according to the Guardian. 

Public sentiment does not appear to be on the secessionists' side. In a 2016 survey from Public Policy Polling, just 26% of Texans supported secession, although a different poll put that number at 40% — in the event that Hilary Clinton won the 2016 presidential election. On a national level, about 37% of Americans indicated a "willingness to secede," according to a more recent poll from YouGov from this year, with 50% of Republicans in favor. 

Could the United States really break up with itself? Read more:

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik was a former staff writer at Salon.

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