As Trump spent what seemed like hours at his CPAC speech on Sunday spewing more of the Big Lie -- how the election was "stolen" -- it's important to remember than Republicans who remain in power are echoing him and white supremacist terrorist groups by openly talking of secession and formation of a white ethnostate, and introducing legislation calling for leaving the country.
After days of insisting they could paper over their intraparty divisions, Republican lawmakers were met with a grim reminder of the challenge ahead on Sunday when former President Donald J. Trump stood before a conservative conference and ominously listed the names of Republicans he is targeting for defeat.
As Democrats pursue a liberal agenda in Washington, the former president’s grievances over the 2020 election continue to animate much of his party, more than a month after he left office and nearly four months since he lost the election. Many G.O.P. leaders and activists are more focused on litigating false claims about voting fraud in last year’s campaign, assailing the technology companies that deplatformed Mr. Trump and punishing lawmakers who broke with him over his desperate bid to retain power.
In an address on Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, his first public appearance since he left the White House, Mr. Trump read a sort of hit list of every congressional Republican who voted to impeach him, all but vowing revenge.
“The RINOs that we’re surrounded with will destroy the Republican Party and the American worker and will destroy our country itself,” he said, a reference to the phrase “Republicans In Name Only,” adding that he would be “actively working to elect strong, tough and smart Republican leaders.”
Mr. Trump took special care to single out Representative Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, and Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader. He called Ms. Cheney “a warmonger” and said her “poll numbers have dropped faster than any human being I’ve ever seen.” Then he falsely claimed he had helped revive Mr. McConnell’s campaign last year in Kentucky.
It gets far worse when you realize Trump has spent months telling Republicans that elections can't be trusted, and he did so again on Sunday.
Yet even as he dutifully read his scripted attacks on his successor, the former president drew louder applause for pledging to purge his Republican antagonists from the party.
“Get rid of them all,” he said.
"Get rid of them all" is not an idle threat.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Texas is leading this charge. As The Daily Beast reported, a Texas state lawmaker — one who attended the Capitol rally on Jan. 6 and claimed it was “the most amazing day” — recently filed the first serious secession bill the country has seen since the Civil War. The Texas Republican Party promptly endorsed the bill, which would give Texans the right to vote in a secession referendum later this year, with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott refusing to denounce the legislation.
Of course, state-level secession remains illegal in the U.S.; as the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in 2006, “If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede.” But that hasn’t stopped conservatives from defending the bill, claiming that it’s simply giving Texans a “voice.” (It’s unclear if these figures think Texans should be able to vote on other illegal acts in the interest of expressing their voice.)
While much of the secessionist rhetoric remains couched in claims about things like fiscal responsibility and burdensome federal regulations, it doesn’t take much to discern the ethno-nationalism driving the push. Just like so much of Trumpian America, secession in places like Texas is rooted in a combination of nativism, xenophobia and white racial grievance. Texas secession Facebook pages are saturated with fantasies of forcing Democrats to leave the state, seizing their property and forcing them to “convert” (to what is unclear). Just like the Confederates before them, this modern secessionist ethos is rooted at least in large part in maintaining white supremacy and authoritarian governance, regardless of the costs.
On their own, the increasing marriage of secessionist chatter and GOP ideology would be cause enough for concern. But this month’s disastrous winter storm in Texas also points to how idiotic such secessionist dreams truly are. Thanks to an electric grid carved out separately from the rest of the country, Texas remained effectively stranded while storms wrought rolling blackouts, boil-water advisories and dozens of deaths thus far. Scenes reminiscent of catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina illustrated what state-level collapse looks like in modern America.
Thanks to the devastating storms, Texas secessionists have gone quiet for now. Meanwhile, regular Texans have begun looking to the federal government for help, with Washington already announcing plans for federal disaster assistance. As it should.
But imagine, for instance, if Texas somehow managed to declare independence in the near future. Rather than simply carrying on with the status quo ante, as many secessionists and increasing numbers of Republicans appear to assume, any independence push would presumably shut off the federal tap, which currently sends Texas tens of billions of dollars more than it receives from the state. A successful secession push would likewise (and presumably) send industry, spooked by political instability, scattering, gutting Texas’s vibrant economy.
Along the way, millions of patriotic Americans would promptly uproot, taking their skills elsewhere, exacerbating knock-on economic struggles. Washington would probably try to dissuade other states from joining Texas by placing punitive economic measures — blocking Social Security checks, imposing new tariffs and removing federal installations, perhaps even launching a naval blockade — on the breakaway region. Texas would be, in effect, stranded.
And this isn’t even touching on the political violence that could ensue. Given that Texas’s economic powerhouses remain the primarily Democratic cities of Houston, Austin, and Dallas — and that America’s primary political divides remain on an urban-rural axis — who knows how messy that could get. (In other words, blinkered liberals should stop trying to thoughtlessly encourage GOP secessionism.)
All of which is to say: The devastation in Texas highlights but a small sample of how awful an actual secession push would likely be. As University of Houston Professor Robert Zaretsky wrote this month, the “spirit of secessionism… carries terrible human costs.” And he’s exactly right. It’s a terrible proposal, with terrible consequences, of which Texas is getting but a taste right now.
Again, we live in an era where one party is "radical" for wanting civil rights, and the other party is radical for wanting white rights. The parties are not the same, and anyone saying it after the last four years is part of the problem.