The Ignorance of Texans First, Americans Second and Texas Exceptionalism
Last week in this column I focused on ethnocentrism and how it is a mental disorder. This week I am going to shift from that aspect to the way people form identities. Most of this is in the psychological world and that is not my field, but I want to specifically focus on the way that some people identify with states more than nations. I was engaged in an argument last week with someone who made the claim that more Texans consider themselves Texans first and Americans second. Now on the surface this claim is about identity and in some ways can be seen as possible. However, upon closer examination the claim does not stand. Instead, we find it to be an identity issue.
Let’s look into this. Do more Texans consider themselves Texans first and Americans second? Since I do not live in Texas I can’t answer that with firsthand knowledge. Therefore I went with primary sources in doing some investigating. What primary sources you might say? The ones that live in Texas! I have quite a few friends in Texas so I asked them. The answer was a resounding, “No, but that depends on who you ask.” They explained that most people in Texas do not see themselves as Texans first. However, a certain group does and the individual I was arguing with is part of that group.
As we can see by looking at a map, Texas is a pretty big state. There are a lot of people there too, but with Texas having such a strong Hispanic culture and history, the dominant white culture and identity is changing. More births were Hispanic than white since 2007 and it is estimated that the population change will shift to more non-white identities by 2030. This is a trend also seen nationally and I think it is contributing to the Texas first identity situation.
At the current moment there are two groups of people in Texas who identify themselves as Texans first. The main group is made up of white conservatives. This group tends to hold views that are fact resistant. Their embrace of Texas first is due to their need to have a self-identity separate from others because the majority of America does not hold the factually challenged concepts that these folks have. My friends confirmed this by pointing out that this group not only believes in the Texas first concept, they also are Texas Exceptionalists.
What I found surprising was that as the result of a study into this phenomena, another group exists which identifies as Texas first. However, they definitely have little in common with the white conservatives. The concept is branded as Texas Exceptionalism. In many ways it resembles American Exceptionalism, but on a smaller and more xenophobic way. Those that believe in Texas Exceptionalism believe in American Exceptionalism as well. This is no surprise to me because I run into the adherents of the false American history all the time. Their grasp of history is almost always weak and reflects political ideology more than anything else.
Texas Exceptionalism is rooted in the idea that the state of Texas is a national leader and that the state can go it alone independent of the United States. I do have to say that Texas might be able to do so if secession were constitutional without the consent of the federal government. However, Texas would lose a lot of benefits and income from the federal government were this to happen. It would also incur a great deal of expenses, number one being the border which would now include a huge stretch along the US. Immigrants going to Texas via the US would not find any hindrance on the US side of the border in New Mexico or Oklahoma.
Texas would also find themselves missing about 20% of its income just from military and defense spending. All federal military bases would close and not one cent of US defense spending would be in Texas. While this would be small in the short term, the long term effects would be devastating to Texas. It is the leading state for defense contracts which means a lot of the high tech industry in Texas serves the defense industry. If that industry leaves, the high tech companies will follow because the US will be spending its money within its borders, not that of Texas. Veterans who like to retire in Texas would no longer do so as they would not received healthcare from local federal installations or get jobs in the defense industry. That would result in a net population loss as well as additional federal monies.
Also, all those Texas exports which are not currently taxed would be subject to taxation as they cross into the US as imports. That’s a little Constitutional information for the exceptionalists who overlook that fact. While Texas does have the 12th largest economy in the world were it to be a nation, much of that would slowly evaporate. In addition, the volatility of oil prices would be magnified greatly. Texas would have to pay for its own defense forces which would jack up costs. Currently Texas has no state tax, but definitely would have to have an income tax were it to be an independent state. How far would Texas slide were it to be independent is unknown, but it would definitely lost well over half of its state revenue at the very least plus suffer a brain drain as the US extricates itself from Texas entirely.
I don’t think the exceptionalists bother to think of things like that. Their ideology is long on conservative ideas and short on reality. Since it is linked to American Execeptionalism, the failure to look at things in the long term and even then only with rose-colored glasses is natural for them. Some of this is borne out by the ludicrous Texas educational standards. Evolution is ignored in favor of creationism in their textbooks while the historical texts ignore the importance of race in the shaping of the US. This would have major repercussions because even if Texas left the US, it would still be more Hispanic than White within a generation. The demographics would change resulting in a political change as well.
It is possible for Texas to negate that via discrimination. Its history is loaded with discrimination. The Texas Revolution had its roots in slavery (another historical fact the exceptionalists ignore) as well as the slavery caused Civil War (yet another historical fact exceptionalists reject in favor of fiction). However, before too long the imbalance would shatter Texas and they would possibly end up in a Civil War of their own thus going three for three in rebellions with racism involved in their causes. Of course Texas Exceptionalists disagree, but then these people think their views on this issue are the dominant ones. This is incorrect.
Only about 27% of Texans think Texas first, America second. This was borne out in a study last year: http://www.texastribune.org/2014/04/03/polling-center-texan-first-american-second/. Of the group, a sizeable number is Hispanic and younger whites. Those two groups have their own reasons for identifying as Texans first and it does not appear to involve Texas Exceptionalism. So basically as my friends pointed out to me, the main group that see themselves as Texans first is a minority within the state. My friends pointed out that these people include Jade Helm opponents, right wing extremists, and Teabaggers who are often out of touch with the people of Texas themselves. This group has views that most conservative Texans reject.
So there is your Texas First, America Second concept. It turns out to be a lot less than some people want it to be. How much of it is bound up in identity politics? I’d say a great deal, but the reasons for doing so different within the group. One thing is pretty sure. Texas is not going to go independent, and the person who said all Texans see themselves as Texans first was wrong as usual. Looking at the group she identifies with, I am not surprised. The United States of America comes first. Let's get that straight.