Since we don’t have enough to keep ourselves busy—what with expanding regional wars in the Middle East, labor revolutions across the economy, and the endless grind of an election year—Texas governor Greg Abbott has helpfully offered to start another Civil War, as a treat.
At this moment, Abbott is in defiance of federal and international law, the Supreme Court (yeah, really) and the Constitution itself with his stated insistence that Texas has the authority to police its own borders however it sees fit. To catch you up, Abbott erected razor wire along the border last month, after which the Supreme Court ruled the Biden Administration could remove it, given that immigration is the job of the federal government. The Texas Governor decided that he only had to remove existing wire, but that he could add new wiring along the border if he pleased.
To back up his fighting words, Abbott has instructed and allowed officers under state authority to block access for federal border control agents to a section of said border under their control. Already this has led to deadly consequences for a woman and two children, who drowned in the Rio Grande as Texas law enforcement stood idle.
For all the moral and ethical transgressions represented by this depraved stance, the politics of treating desperate and unarmed refugees seeking a better life as an invading force is also—you might have guessed—super fucking illegal. Not only is it a violation of any conceivable moral law, but it’s an explicit violation of international treaties the U.S. has signed, the Constitution which holds those treaties as supreme law, and the basic structure of the United States which gives power over immigration to the federal government. Abbott is so blatantly and undeniably wrong that even the corrupt Supreme Court has said as much.
Where this goes from merely “obviously evil” to “cause for a new Civil War” is in the continued defiance of federal authority. The first Civil War kicked off when South Carolina (and then others) rejected the legitimacy of the federal government and the Constitution that framed it because an anti-slavery executive would be in charge for four years. This was pretty obviously against the plain language of the terms and conditions, but who has time for reading when there are crimes against humanity to commit, amirite?
To back up his own soulless depredations, Abbott has cribbed the language-–if not the explicit rationale—of his secessionist forebearers, claiming that states have the right (mhmm) to defend themselves against invasion regardless of the mandates or presence of federal authority. In fact, Abbott insists, states can just ignore the federal government altogether if they really, really don’t like who is in charge! And he’s not alone: 25 GOP governors have co-signed his modern case for secession and nullification, with the only abstention, being the Republican governor of Vermont—you know, the state that elected Bernie Sanders to represent them.
I’m not exactly sure what to call half of the nation’s governors—insisting that they can contravene and outright ignore federal law whenever the opposition party is in charge—but it’s not good. Added to the fact that Abbott and co have strong political incentives to escalate—especially with the probable GOP nominee and legally-recognized rapist Donald Trump actively encouraging the conflict—it’s very unlikely that this current secessionist schism gets better any time soon.
So far, in response, Texas Democrats have called on President Biden to federalize the Texas National Guard, a move reminiscent of Dwight Eisenhower in his enforcement of desegregation ordered by the Supreme Court after Brown v. Board of Ed. (I’m sensing a pattern here). On one side, with Abbott and the Republican Party spoiling for a fight, any effort to respond with force could just further fuel the phenomenon. And on the other side, a lack of swift and decisive action tacitly accepts the premise that states can do whatever they want, unconstitutionally, and expect no consequences. It’s a genuine national crisis!
There is no clear answer for how this ends—though we’ve seen this story twice before, and the federal government (and the Constitution that governs it) usually wins out. But for us, the people of the United States, it seems increasingly obvious in this election year that the only way to keep the bloated corpse of Southern secession from rising again is to put cement shoes on it.