Tea Party Heaven
Journalist John Burnett keeps the secession scenario alive with controversialNPR bit imagining Texas' independence
Here's the set-up proposed by Austin-based journalist John Burnettfor a lighthearted not-quite-April Fools' Day radio piece on National Public Radio's All Things Considered: It's 2012 and Texas has seceded from the United States.
Burnett imagines an independent Republic that puts Rick Perry's long-standing secessionist threats to the test with the help of scholars, business leaders, journalists and Kinky Friedman. The writer is quick to note that none of his interviewees want Texas to secede and that recent polling statistics reveal only one in five Texans want to break away from the U.S. (which seems pretty high, right?).
"The former state has reinvented itself as a sort of Lone Star Singapore, with low taxes, free trade and minimal regulation," John Burnett writes.
"The former state has reinvented itself as a sort of Lone Star Singapore, with low taxes, free trade and minimal regulation," Burnett writes. "It enters the community of nations as the world's 15th-largest economy, with vast oil and gas reserves, busy international ports, an independent power grid and a laissez-faire attitude about making money."
Right off the bat, the Texas business community is hot to market the new Republic as vibrant haven for free-market capitalism, a land without the Transportation Security Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency to get in the way of commerce.
Supporters of the Tea Party movement are loving the new streamlined, no frills government.
"What is the Republic of Texas charged with actually doing? [It's] charged with defense, charged with education, charged with a few things that you have to do, and the rest is wide open," Felicia Cravens, a high school drama teacher active in the Houston Tea Party, explains to Burnett. "Liberty may look like chaos, but to us, it's a lot of choices."
But then comes the "independence hangover," as citizens realize the bare-bones government would have to pay for duties formerly carried out by Washington — duties ranging from meat inspection to foreign affairs. A post-secession "Texodus" soon sweeps the fledgling nation, putting the whole imaginary land in jeopardy.
Tale from the dark side?
There's something a little nefarious about playing Burnett's game, especially as Dallas-based Tea Party member Ken Emanuel celebrates the hypothetical new Republic as an "empowerment" as opposed to a "caretaker" society.
"You will be a productive member of society and our environment doesn't allow for people to not be productive," Texas Tea Party member Katrina Pierson says about her vision of an independent Republic.
Admittedly, it's also a little difficult to hear the term "secession" and not think of the institution of slavery and the Civil War, the latter of which was on Houston listener Peter Bowen's mind when he wrote to NPR. All Things Considered hosts Robert Siegel and Audie Cornish read his comments along with a string other complaints.
"It is interesting to me that you would do a story that, despite its spin, puts on the table the breakup of the United States and (an independent Texas) which your reporter said was not very popular," writes Bowen. "But giving the idea air time is to promote the discussion of (secession) . . . which the bloodiest civil war in history was fought to defeat."
Listen to the full radio piece:
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