If some white supremacists have their way, there will soon be not one Texas, but many.
That’s the dream of a handful of vocal white nationalists, who see fracturing Texas as a potential rebuttal to Democratic calls to back statehood for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Prominent voices on the left have increasingly called for expanding statehood as a way to correct the current Senate imbalance.
One New York Times column on Monday, for instance, said that it’s “time to end the longest stretch in American history without a new state,” specifically pointing to Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. It’s a popular prospect for local officials and voters in these regions, as well. As Vox recently noted, “Puerto Rican leaders are pushing for statehood harder than ever,” a position backed by a plurality of Puerto Ricans in last month’s Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Polls out of D.C. the past few years have seen even larger returns in favor of statehood.
Enter white supremacists and Texas. For these neo-fascists, the answer to an increased Democratic presence in the Senate — and the commensurate expansion of minority interests — lies in splitting Texas into five separate states.
The solution was floated this week by white supremacist Peter Brimelow. (Brimelow happens to be the white supremacist Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s economic adviser, partied with earlier this year.) On Monday, Brimelow took to Twitter to suggest splitting Texas into five states. All the better, wrote Brimelow, to “maximize white a.k.a. American representation.” Brimelow added in a following tweet that the GOP “should focus on white votes… THIS IS HOW TRUMP ACTUALLY WON.”
Brimelow pointed to an earlier interview he did with Alan Colmes, in which he claimed Texas has the “right” to break into smaller states. Not only would it help with Republican representation in the Senate, but, per Brimelow, it would also help further the cause of “white rights.”
Brimelow also linked to an article on his white supremacist VDARE.com site, written by Steve Sailer. In the post, Sailer described the proposal as a sensible plan for Republicans — not simply due to the potential expansion of Republican representation in the Senate, but also because it could help prevent the current iteration of Texas from turning blue.
“Splitting Texas makes sense as a salvage operation when the entire state is ready to flip Democratic in Presidential elections,” Sailer wrote. “And that’s not far off.” It would, wrote Sailer, be an “effective Republican counter-gambit.” Brimelow referred to the proposal, fittingly, as “Sailermandering.”
The notion that Texas should be split into five total states isn’t nearly as far-fetched as it sounds; it would actually be far more manageable, at least legally, than splitting up any other U.S. states.
The crux of the idea for fracturing Texas stems from the U.S.’s formal annexation of the Republic of Texas in 1845. The joint resolution adding Texas, which Mexico still laid claim to, to antebellum America provided for the opportunity to carve four additional states out of the current geographic makeup of Texas. (The area not allocated to the new states would remain a heavily truncated Texas.)
The text providing for the diminishment of Texas is relatively straightforward:
New States of convenient size not exceeding four in number, in addition to said State of Texas and having sufficient population, may, hereafter by the consent of said State, be formed out of the territory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the provisions of the Federal Constitution.
The proposal hasn’t been treated as a real solution for years. But it was once touted as a real policy. As Smithsonian Magazine wrote last year, former Vice President John Nance Garner, then a Congressional representative from Texas, suggested in 1921 that the state should be divided up. “An area twice as large and rapidly becoming as populous as New England should have at least ten Senators,” Nance said.
And while no Texas politicians have voiced recent support for the move — some, like former Gov. Rick Perry (R), would appear to prefer outright secession — a 2004 piece in the Texas Law Review detailed the means with which the state could split. As the authors of the 34-page examination found, the decision to split Texas would apparently require the consent of the Texas state government, the legislatures of the states-to-be, and Congress. There would be no Supreme Court ruling necessary, nor any consent from other states.
“One might say that California and New York are in a similar plight,” the authors wrote. “But Texas, unique to the nation, has the opportunity to fix it.”
Of course, even with the consent of the necessary parties, the questions of borders would still come into play — and potentially lead to the greatest threat of civil unrest, or worse. Given the stakes, all interested governments would try to maximize their political gains. It would be gerrymandering on steroids.
The fight over a divided Texas also seems like the perfect opportunity for foreign actors to intervene. After all, Russian operatives built up a Facebook feed aimed at Texans — and especially Texas secessionists — gathering a quarter-million followers along the way. And it wouldn’t take much to update the language on their posts.
As one of the most memorable posts on the Russian page read, “IN LOVE WITH TEXAS SHAPE.” Add in a “NEW,” and an old meme could become popular once more — or at least with white supremacists.
As it stands now, the immediate prospects of a plan to split up Texas into multiple states are negligible. But that doesn’t mean things can’t change. If and when momentum builds for Puerto Rican and D.C. statehood — say, as the 2020 presidential election campaign begins in earnest — there will be commensurate calls from far-right Republicans to answer in kind. And while Republicans could theoretically bank on states across the Midwest and Mountain West to increasingly turn out Republican senators, the text of Texas’ joint resolution will likely attract the attention of those who aren’t outright white supremacists, but simply interested in maintaining a Republican stronghold in the Senate.