By Bob Sanchez, JMI Policy DirectorPosted September 18, 2012Sometimes Texans must be kicking themselves right on their stylishly booted shins. For one brief moment in history, the Republic of Texas existed as an independent nation under the iconic Lone Star flag. So, as today’s Texans might ruefully imagine, had their ancestors not agreed to join up with the U.S.A., Texas might now be one of those oil-rich OPEC nations profiting from the world’s seemingly insatiable thirst for oil and gas.
Granted, having an independent Texas on our nation’s southern flank could have caused myriad problems for the United States. Take energy, for example: If oil had to be imported fromTexas, Americans might be paying more than $3.50 per gallon for gasoline. Unthinkable! Worse, federal immigration officials might be busy erecting a fence longer than the Great Wall of China along theLoneStarRepublic’s border with its neighbors --Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.
Then again, had Texas been left to fend for itself as an independent nation, it might well have been recaptured byMexico during the U.S. Civil War, when Washington was too busy to pay attention. If that had happened, the vast area that we now know as Texas might be Mexico’s northernmost province, a relatively wealthy area where most of the residents speak Spanish. Instead, it’s a relatively wealthy U.S. area where most of the residents speak a form of Spanglish.
True, our history would be different had Texas remained a foreign country. LBJ, creator of the blunder known as “the Great Society,” couldn’t have become America’s 36th President, and the Bush family’s political dynasty might have kept Connecticut as its home base.
However, because Texas is indeed a state – and an important one at that – here’s a pop quiz featuring a single question with lots of choices, to test your knowledge of the place:
Q: The seat of government for Texas is (a)Austin; (b)Beaumont; (c)Corpus Christi; (d)Dallas; (e)El Paso; (f)Fort Worth; (g) none of the above.
A: If you picked “none of the above,” congratulations! Sure, Austin is officially the state capital – the place where the officials elected by the state’s voters go to conduct the state’s business. Austin once even served as the seat of government as well as the capital.
In recent weeks, however, a new reality has become evident -- that Texas isn’t governed by its own elected officials; instead, it is ruled by unelected bureaucrats operating out of the U.S. Department of Justice, in cahoots with an obliging federal court based in Washington, D.C.
First that court – the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia–rejected the redistricting plan adopted by the Texas Legislature -- and it did so too late for the districts to be redrawn prior to the November election. The result: a costly mess. Then, at the end of August, a three-judge panel of the same court struck down the Texas law requiring voters to present a valid photo ID – an especially sensible requirement in a state with a porous southern border that has allowed easy entry for non-citizen immigrants who easily blend into the Tex-Mex culture.
The three judges in the voter ID case – two Maryland natives and an Indianan – may never have even set foot in Texas, but they have essentially vetoed the will of the state’s democratically elected officials. They based their ruling on the theory that the ID requirement unfairly impacts minorities.
Looking at the judges’ respective backgrounds, their ruling is no surprise. The voter ID ruling’s author, 70-year-old Judge David Tatel, was a civil rights lawyer and community activist in Chicago before President Bill Clinton appointed him to succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1994, when she was elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Another member of this judicial trifecta, Judge Robert L. Wilkins, is an African American lawyer who practiced in the Washington, D.C., area until President Barack Obama appointed him to the bench in 2010, upon the recommendation of the ultraliberal Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland. Twenty years ago, Wilkins was the named plaintiff in a landmark suit against law enforcement, claiming that he’d been pulled over for speeding in Maryland merely because he was a minority.
The third member of the triumvirate that unanimously ruled against Texas is Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, an attorney specializing in labor law. In 2002 she was appointed by President George W. Bush – ironically, a former Texas governor whose judicial appointees have repeatedly veered in unexpected directions.
Texas’s current Governor, Rick Perry, didn’t think much of the court’s voter ID ruling, telling the Associated Press to “chalk up another victory for fraud.” Ah, but as disheartening as these two rapid-fire defeats may be, Texans can take heart from their history – specifically, the storied Battle of the Alamo.
The Texans lost that battle, but they eventually won the war. In these two court cases, they lost two battles in the liberal-leaning D.C. Circuit, but the war is far from over. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says the state is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court already has upheld several other states’ voter ID laws and redistricting plans, so Texas’s chances may be good – unless, that is, another of President George W. Bush’s judicial appointees, the inscrutable Chief Justice John Roberts, veers off in an unexpected direction. Again.