Texas Nationalists Have Done Their Homework: An Interview With Daniel Miller
Author: Dave Mundy
NEDERLAND, Texas - A decade or so ago, Daniel Miller and a handful of other like-minded types made a small splash in the regional news when they went public with their message: Texas should be independent from the United States. They picked up a few chuckles in newsrooms across Texas and in a few other locales as yet another bunch of anti-government, anti-income tax protesters.
People aren't laughing at them any more.
It's amazing what time, perseverance and the most divisive presidential election in the U.S. since 1860 can do.
"The horse is out of the barn now," says the leader of the Texas Nationalist movement. "People are starting to think about it … when everybody else is pointing out the problems, we're the only ones who are pointing out a solution."
When they first showed up in the headlines back in the late 1990s, Miller's group was called the Republic of Texas movement and included, admittedly, some cantankerous characters - filing liens against government property, driving around with home-made auto license plates and the like, claiming that Texas was already independent based on a faulty annexation in 1845 and improper re-admittance to the Union as a conquered territory after the Civil War. Miller's Texas Nationalist movement has grown wiser, more mainstream and far more savvy since.
"It has been great to be able to finally change the whole culture of the Texas independence movement," the Beaumont-area resident now says. "It took time for us. Originally, they felt so disenfranchised, they felt they could ignore the political process. That we've successfully brought them out is a testament to our resolve … we literally had to kick some people out and sue them because we couldn't tolerate the nonsense."
The group now maintains its own website at http://www.texasnationalist.org, where those original themes have a home in the archives -- but current political events have afforded them an unheralded opportunity. That point was driven home when, during the Tea Party rally in Austin April 15, Texas Gov. Rick Perry used the "s" word aloud - saying that it was his view that Texas has the right to secede, although he sees no reason for it to do so.
"We don't need Gov. Perry to tell us we have a right to secede, but that he did it is important," Miller says. "The footnote to that, what the media failed to report, was that he made that comment because five thousand people in Austin were there chanting, 'Secede! Secede!'
"There's no doubt that he did that for one three-letter reason - KBH (Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, one of Perry's opponents in the coming gubernatorial race)," Miller says. "He has a political motivation, trying to paint her as the Washington insider. But regardless of what his motivations are, the horse is out of the barn now."
The Tea Parties, held nationwide on Tax Day, April 15, attracted thousands of individuals at hundreds of locations around the country and, particularly in Texas, proved to be fertile recruiting ground for the Texas Nationalists. Every rally, at least in Texas, had its share of home-made and pre-fabricated signs, T-shirts and bumper stickers urging Texans to secede and go their own way.
"The Tea Parties were pretty interesting for us," Miller says. "I attended the one in Beaumont, and our people were magnets for attention everywhere they went. No one was hostile to us.
"The media tried to portray this as some right-wing, white, Christian movement, but anybody who attended one can tell you it was far from that," he adds. "One of the most fiery speakers at the Beaumont rally was an 18-year-old black girl who just graduated from high school here. She slayed that crowd."
He says the movement's message caught on for one important reason.
"The Tea Parties were a backlash really to what's going on in Washington. We understand that. We've been dealing with it for more than a decade. But we (nationalists) were on the scene with a solution - Texas independence," he says.
"One of our members is an expatriate living in Ohio," he adds with a chuckle. "This guy went to the Tea Party rally there with a sign that said 'Texas Secede' or something like that on it, and the guy speaking on stage saw it and pointed him out and told the crowd, 'Hey, those people in Texas, they've got the right idea!'"
Should popular sentiment continue to build, the biggest hurdle to Texas independence would lie in Austin with the Governor and the Texas Legislature. In addition to Perry and Hutchison, pro-independence candidate Larry Kilgore is also seeking the GOP nomination in the 2010 race, while several candidates including songwriter/satirist Kinky Friedman, who ran as an independent in 2006, are in the running on the Democratic side.
"Over in my garage I have a Vote Kinky poster," Miller chuckles. "I think the 2010 elections will be a huge roller-coaster ride. Larry Kilgore can get a lot of traction with that independent message. I don't know where (Friedman) stands, it will be very interesting to see."
Miller said his group actively seeks to endorse and back candidates, such as Kilgore, who support the concept of Texas independence, but hedged on whether or not the group would actually seek to run its own candidates in a third-party challenge at some point.
The Texas Nationalist membership has grown, not just in terms of numbers but also in their acquisition of knowledge on how best to accomplish their goal. They've done their homework.
"We've done some studies and we're about to issue a white paper (about the economic viability of an independent Texas)," he says, "assuming a 1:1 shift of funds from Washington to Austin, we're not even talking about tax policy yet. We've studied the budgets of other countries around the world with approximately the same size, the same population, as Texas and what we found was that we would be incredibly prosperous, based on current funding and budgets.
"We have people ask us, 'Well, how are you going to build a military?'… well, our studies show that we would startwith like the fifth or sixth-largest military in the world right off the bat," he adds.
Miller says the first priority for an independent Texas would be in ensuring that government infrastructure is in place to do the job that's needed.
"Initially, once we gain our independence, the first priority would be to establish national infrastructure. The Secretary of State would have something to do other than stamp papers," he says. "The second priority would be to configure a new constitution. This would be a phenomenal opportunity for the citizens of Texas. The key to that would be getting our house in order in Austin. The last thing we want to do is to go to Austin and find Uncle Sam Junior waiting for us.
"There's no doubt that Texas will have its own set of problems, but we'll be able to address our issues on our own terms without interference from Washington," he adds. "We have to clean up our act in Austin first. There has to be vigilance on the part of our citizens."
The movement has also examined issues beyond the immediacy of independence, he adds.
"People say an independent Texas would have an antagonistic U.S. on our northern border. But Texas has always acknowledged our close kinship to the U.S., even as a republic back in 1836-45," he says. "I would think it will be about how the U.S. behaves, Texas will always have open trade and come to the defense of our brothers."
At the same time, Texas would have to strike its own bargains with the international community, and foster understanding with one key neighbor.
"You have issues like Cuba," Miller asserts. "Texas by and large wants relations with Cuba. We have rice production in Texas that rivals most other countries, Cuba is a large consumer of rice. Trading with them would not be a bad idea. Texas can be friends with anyone but we cannot embrace those whose principles we do not share.
"We have some serious issues with Mexico. As an independent nation Texas would be poised to deal with Mexico on terms they can understand. We can engage Mexico, work together, to solve those issues, as long as Mexico respects the border."
One key issue would be immigration - legal and illegal.
"I don't know exactly what Mexico is up to. If we strengthen our border, the point becomes moot," he says. "The Mexican government has encouraged illegal immigration, there are a myriad of reasons why. But if we strengthen our border, it's not a problem."
Miller maintains the biggest problem for his organization and its cause is one of perception. Because the news media does not understand what the Texas Nationalist movement is all about, it's not easy to get the word out to a public which could be receptive. All too often, Miller and his cohorts find themselves trying to explain that they're not necessarily right-wing nor are they affiliated with groups that are.
"There is always the tendency in the media to link us to other organizations. I think the media has a hard time believing we don't have an agenda beyond independence," he says. "That's the position the major media is in, scrambling around trying to find a hand-hold on this thing, because we don't fit any of their categories, they're going back to what they know. They're losing their grip on reality because they can't figure out how to pigeonhole it.
"(Other groups) deal with specific issues. But we also have some other groups people might classify as 'left-wing' groups, like anti-war groups, that are sympathetic to our cause. Here's the thing, they are there to expose a problem, we are promoting a solution to that problem. For us, Texas independence is the solution to all the problems these groups are raising awareness about."
About the author: Dave Mundy is an award-winning veteran Texas journalist and author. He now runs his own political blog/commentary site at http://www.davemundy.com and is also the editor and publisher of Bayou Vixen Onlien Magazine at http://www.bayouvixen.com. You can contact him via email at email@example.com
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