Could Texas Really Secede? Experts Weigh in

At its convention over the weekend, the Texas GOP voted on a number of measures to be included in the party's official platform.

And one that made headlines called for Texans to be allowed to vote on whether or not to secede from the United States.

The measure asks state lawmakers to pass a bill in its next session "requiring a referendum in the 2023 general election for the people of Texas to determine whether or not the state of Texas should reassert its status as an independent nation."

Another section of the proposed platform states that Texas "retains the right to secede from the United States."

However, the U.S. Constitution makes no provision for secession and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case following the Civil War, Texas v. White, that states cannot unilaterally secede from the Union.

But as many ponder whether the Lone Star State could have a future as an independent nation, Newsweek asked several experts: What is the likelihood of Texas actually seceding from the U.S.?

Francis Buckley, professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University

"I think that's very unlikely, and that were secession to happen, it would more likely come from the left, were the GOP to take the presidency in 2024.

"As someone who lived through a secession crisis in Quebec, I hasten to add that I don't think this would result in a Civil War. In my book, American Secession, I explain how a break-up would more likely happen through peaceful means."

Walter L. Buenger, professor of history at the University of Texas and chief historian at the Texas State Historical Association

"It may be best to just ignore such craziness, but it is clearly simply grandstanding. As they say in Texas, it is all hat and no cattle," Buenger said. "Secession is illegal. It did not work for Texas to be an independent nation in the 1830s and 1840s. Secession did not work in 1861, and it would not work now.

"Such talk is profoundly unpatriotic, and if such a vote were taken it would not be supported by the majority of good Texans who value being part of the American democracy and remember the many sacrifices that have preserved our nation."

Dan Farber, professor at UC Berkeley School of Law

"Secession is clearly unconstitutional. There's a reason the pledge of allegiance refers to 'one nation, indivisible'," Farber said. "That's as much true now as it was in 1865 when the South (including Texas) lost the Civil War, or 1868 when the 14th Amendment guaranteed all Americans the rights of citizenship.

"I might add that the same plank of [the Texas GOP] platform endorses a nullification. That idea came from John Calhoun, the arch-defender of slavery. I think that says something."

Ryan Griffiths, associate professor of political science at Syracuse University

"The secession of Texas is a very unlikely event. In the absence of some great shock to the American political system or the international system, Texas is not going to secede anytime soon," Griffiths said.

"First, the desire for independence among Texans is very low. In comparison with independence efforts in other developed democracies (e.g. Scotland, Catalonia), the Texas Nationalist Movement is a niche project with dedicated personnel but narrow support.

"Secessionist movements need momentum, especially in a modern democracy where the exit costs are quite high. Second, even if the movement built that momentum, it would still have to reckon with the United States government, which can block its efforts fairly easily. Overall, I don't see this going anywhere in the near future."

Sanford Levinson, professor at the University of Texas School of Law

"There are (at least) two Texases," Levinson said. "There is the increasingly blue Texas comprised of four of the eleven largest cities in the country, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin. There is also the increasingly red Texas reflected in the just-completed Republican convention in Houston.

"That Texas is comprised of the majority who live outside of the main urban centers and who are fundamentally fearful of the diversity and cosmopolitanism instantiated in them.

"So if 'red Texas' tried to secede, that would immediately be met by attempts of 'blue Texas' to secede from the new version of the Lone Star Republic. None of this, of course, is likely to happen, but the very discussion illustrates the extent of the Civil War-like polarization that characterizes politics in Texas (as well as in much of the rest of the country)."

United States Flag and Texas State Flag
Several experts said that they believed it is highly unlikely that Texas could secede from the U.S. The Texas GOP's new platform is calling for a 2023 referendum on secession. Pictured, the United States flag and Texas state flag are displayed at Murchison Rogers Park along Scenic Drive at sunset on June 24, 2021 in El Paso, Texas. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images