Texas secessionists take the spotlight

Texas Governor Rick Perry's talk of secession last spring has fed the efforts of a group of Texas secessionists who say it's time for the governor to follow through.

At a "sovereignty or secession" rally last Saturday on the steps of the Texas state capitol, members of the Texas Nationalist Movement called on the governor and the state legislature to either support Texas sovereignty under the 10th amendment and or to put a referendum on the state ballot asking if Texas should leave the union.

While whipping up a crowd at an anti-tax "tea party" last April, Perry, who's running for re-election in 2009 against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, touted states' rights and flirted with the idea of secession. Perry's known for pandering to the far-right elements of the GOP, but his remarks last spring have in many ways moved the most marginal of far-right groups - what political observers are calling "fringe" elements - to center stage.

As the Texas Observer reported on their blog:

The turnout for the rally wasn't huge -- 200 would be a generous estimate -- but it was enough to show how much Perry has helped galvanize and embolden the right wing "hate America" fringe. After all, the governor of the second most populous state in the nation had suggested that secession was a possible solution to federal over-reach. Republican political leaders have helped bring "death panels" and the Obama birth certificate nonsense into acceptable discourse; Perry's contribution has been bringing secession into the mix.

Perry has voiced sympathy for secession and for HCR 50, a resolution asserting Texas "sovereignty" from the federal government under the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The resolution currently has over 70-plus legislative supporters and goes far in encouraging secessionists within the Texas Nationalist Movement that they have mainstream support.

Political observers say its dangerous for mainstream politicians to pander to extremist political fringe groups. In April, Media Matters reported that these Texas secessionist groups had former leaders responsible for numerous acts of domestic terrorism. "From bomb threats, to kidnapping, to planning attacks using biological weapons, the Texas Nationalist Movement has a long violent history that cannot be ignored," Media Matters Action Network Managing Director Ari Rabin-Havt said. "Governor Perry should be ashamed of his association with these domestic terrorists."

As Media Matters further explained:

Governor Perry should know better. The Texas Nationalist Movement is not a random group. In a 2005 article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC] described the secession movement in Texas as "very hard-line anti-government groups whose views involve anti-government conspiracy theories." Their associates have been responsible for numerous acts and attempted acts of terrorism.

And yet Governor Perry encouraged their extremist views.

Of course Perry nor any of the lawmakers supporting HCR-50 showed up for Saturday's rally, which disappointed the crowd. But neither have Perry nor state lawmakers supporting the sovereignty bill made public moves to distance themselves from the secessionists.

You can see video from Saturday's rally below: