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Texas Republicans Talk Drastic Fixes For Federal Frustrations, Including Secession

Gov. Greg Abbott
Christopher Connelly
Gov. Greg Abbott called for a convention of the states to enact constitutional restraints on the federal government and boost states' rights.

Many Texas Republicans have a testy relationship with the federal government these days, a fact that was on full display this weekend at the GOP convention in Dallas.

An effort to encourage Texas to secede from the United States was considered, but failed. Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott gained support for his effort to change the U.S. Constitution. 

Nate Smith from the Texas Nationalist Movement says secession is not actually a crazy idea. Texans have more than just their independent spirit to fall back on.

“Texas is the ninth largest economy in the world,” Smith said. “Texas is No. 1 in exports of the United States. We’re leaders in agriculture, leaders in manufacturing, we have our own independent electrical grid, unlike any other state.”

Smith’s group wants Texans to have a chance to vote on secession like Scotland that did last year. He says less government means better government.

“When the people of Texas express their will on something, the Supreme Court or the feds can overturn it,” Smith said. “States are supposed to maintain their sovereignty, and that’s a relationship that’s not respected in the union right now.”

While a number of county GOP organizations endorsed the secession plank, in the end, advocates didn’t muster enough support to make it into the party platform.

A different, but no less dramatic, idea did. And it’s got backing from Abbott. The governor wants to organize a convention of the states to amend the constitution – think of it as a fundamental edit to the document.

From the stage, Abbott told the crowd the founding fathers put Article V into the Constitution as a way to rein in a federal government too messed up to fix through less drastic means.

“As the person who holds the record for suing the federal government, I can tell you it takes more than lawsuits to fix what’s broken in Washington, DC,” Abbott said.

This isn’t a full-scale constitutional re-write… this convention of the states would be more limited, Abbott says – focused on curtailing federal power and spending, and boosting states’ rights.

“It will propose things like term limits, a balanced budget amendment, and restoring the 10th amendment the way it was intended by the founders,” Abbott told the crowd.

Convening a convention of the states won’t be easy, though. To get up and running, 34 state legislatures have to pass resolutions calling for a convention on identical issues. It’s never been done and critics worry it could create more problems than it solves.

David Watrous of Denton County has a more measured approach to fixing the federal government. He’s not a fan of a convention of the states or of secession. He thinks getting more people more engaged is the better focus for the GOP.

“You can’t just sit around and vote, you have to take some time out of your busy schedule and be involved,” Watrous said.

The system isn’t broken, Watrous says. People just need to take control in order to make it work the way it should

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