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Following court defeat, Texas GOP raises specter of secession

While much of the right pretends it has the high ground on patriotism, we're occasionally confronted with rhetoric pointing in the opposite direction.
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Texas GOP chairman Allen West, right, speaks to supporters of President Donald Trump during a rally in front of City Hall in Dallas, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020.LM Otero / AP

It was just last week when Rush Limbaugh, one of the nation's most prominent voices in Republican media, told his listeners, "I actually think that we're trending toward secession. I see more and more people asking, 'What in the world do we have in common with the people who live in, say, New York?'"

The far-right radio host -- a man Donald Trump honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom -- soon after tried to walk this back, insisting he didn't "advocate" for secession and "never would."

But a day later, after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Republican anti-election lawsuit, the concept re-emerged. The Texas Tribune reported:

State GOP Chair Allen West, clinging to a discredited claim that the battleground states broke the law, seemed to suggest secession was the logical response. "Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution," West said in a statement Friday night.

This came almost exactly one month after Mississippi state Rep. Price Wallace (R) responded to Joe Biden's victory by suggesting that his state secede from the United States. (Wallace actually spelled it "succeed." He also later apologized.)

It's probably worth noting that there's some modern precedent for rhetoric like this. Soon after Barack Obama's presidential inauguration, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) said at a public event, "When we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, we were a stand-alone nation. And one of the deals was, we can leave anytime we want. So we're kind of thinking about that again."

A month later, Perry added that he didn't want to "dissolve" the union of the United States, "But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that."

About a year later, then-Rep. Zach Wamp (R), while running for governor in Tennessee, told National Journal, "I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government." (Like Limbaugh last week, Wamp tried to walk the comments back soon after.)

The moral of the story, of course, is that a few too many Republicans respond to Democratic presidential victories by considering breaking up the United States, which really isn't a healthy attitude in response to election defeats.

But it's also a reminder that conservative patriotism has the capacity for being quite weird. While much of the right pretends it has the high ground on love of country, we're occasionally confronted with rhetoric pointing in the opposite direction.

For these Republican voices, there's great love for the United States, but not for its states that dare to vote the "wrong" way. And not for its biggest cities, which Trump prefers to let "rot." And not for its institutions, traditions, and highest ideals.