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With the border crisis in Texas and the backup from many states (mostly in the South), how likely is a secession of state(s), and which ones are most likely to secede? (if any). How similar is the situation to 1861? Of course, now it is much less, but how close are we? For example which level of event could escalate things to a 1861 level?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ys7t6rx6-oQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcGfsI3KcUA

links and comments therein.

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  • I feel like if TX leaves , then AZ will follow soon after but im not sure on other southern states. Feb 6 at 22:30
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    Random YouTube videos don't make for good evidence regardless of how many followers they have. The comments on them have even less value.
    – Joe W
    Feb 6 at 23:15
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    @RootGroves Your personal feelings are not persuasive to anyone but you.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 6 at 23:17
  • I mean there is something going on , I dont know if its that serious or not.Also Texans have a history of believing in more to their state than the whole country so I guess go figure. Feb 6 at 23:19
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    This might have been more relevant edition.cnn.com/videos/politics/2024/02/04/… Anyhow your 2nd link is disspointing clickbait from a MSM (Global News) -- doesn't discuss secession or civil war much if at all. Feb 7 at 3:00

2 Answers 2

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As a matter of U.S. Constitutional law, Texas does not have a right to secede and neither does any other U.S. state. See Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1868).

Instead, secession would require an abrogation of the entire U.S. Constitution and the governmental regime based upon it.

This makes secession less likely now than it was back in 1861 when the circumstances under which a state could leave the United States was not the subject of any binding legal interpretations of the U.S. Constitution.

And, disentangling federal government operations (and the federal debt) from individual states is much harder now in 2024 where the federal government is far bigger and plays a more pervasive role than it was in 1861, when the federal government didn't do nearly so much.

Also, the current situation, in which the President has the power to activate the Texas National Guard and bring it into federal service to put down an insurrection, leaves Texas without any meaningful military capacity to resist U.S. government military forces in furtherance of its efforts to secede. See 10 U.S.C. § 1211, et seq. Every member of every national guard unit has been carefully trained about how this works.

One could image a departure of some U.S. states from the United States by mutual agreement, if a wide bipartisan consensus were reached to do so, but this is not where U.S. politics stand today, and is not likely in the near future.

A serious effort to actually secede unilaterally would leave its proponents dead or in prison for life in short order.

Short of secession, states could also attempt the unconstitutional act of purporting to nullify federal laws that states don't like. The governor of Texas has appealed to rhetoric to that effect. But even an extremely conservative U.S. Supreme Court will not tolerate that legal doctrine. Prior attempts to recognize that by state supreme courts have been shot down with summary, unanimous, scathing orders from SCOTUS. See James v. City of Boise, 577 U.S. 306 (2016) (which rejected the Idaho Supreme Court’s, view that when the Supreme Court construes federal law, it “does not have authority to limit the discretion of state courts where such limitation is not contained in the statute.” In just one-and-a-half pages (more than one-tenth of which consisted of a single quote from the Court’s 1816 decision in Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee) the Court clarified that “[t]he Idaho Supreme Court, like any other state or federal court, is bound by this Court’s interpretation of federal law.”).

Something akin the U.S. federal government trying to enforce desegregation in the American South during the Civil Rights Movement (e.g, in Little Rock, Arkansas) in order to insure the supremacy of federal law, is more likely today than actual secession.

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    There is also the massive federal debt that all the states share that would need to be considered.
    – Joe W
    Feb 6 at 22:53
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    @RootGroves There is every reason to think that the Texas National Guard would obey Presidential orders. The national guard has been activated to enforce federal government mandates in far more fraught circumstances where the federal government action was less popular, and the U.S. military likewise gave clear signals that it would not support electoral mischief leading up to January 6, 2020.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 6 at 23:03
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    @RootGroves Not when called up by the federal government.
    – Joe W
    Feb 6 at 23:07
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    @RootGroves. Not that simple as every National Guard member has been carefully trained to know. See 10 U.S.C. § 1211, et seq. uscode.house.gov/…
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 6 at 23:08
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    @RootGroves The Texas Rangers are the state police of Texas, separate and apart from the Texas National Guard, and lack military firepower.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 6 at 23:10
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In addition to the correct, but more legal-oriented answer, let's bring an international and economic perspective into this.

Unless it was mutually agreed upon secession, and it had been recognized by the US, Texas would have trouble getting recognized by other countries. That would almost certainly apply to Mexico and to Canada which being part of NAFTA weigh heavily. Ditto the EU, where Spain, for example, has a massive vested interest in keeping breakaway states non-viable.

So trade issues with the rest of North America and the EU. Y'all expecting China to step in to "help"?

Domestically, the risk would be much like Quebec, where a number of larger companies moved their headquarters out of Quebec to less-worrying other provinces at the height of separatist fervor.

I'm sure it sounds cool, to some, in theory. In practice it would be a mess.

Transnistria much?. But even without going there, look at Brexit, which was a way less fraught event, politically.

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