For months, far-right voices like Rush Limbaugh and Texas GOP head Allen West have floated secession as a potential means of escaping Democratic control in Washington. This week, that chatter transformed into something concrete—and nearly unprecedented.
In Austin, Republican Kyle Biedermann of the Texas House of Representatives, previously best known for dressing up as “gay Hitler,” became the first American legislator in nearly a century and only the second since the Civil War to file a formal bill calling for state-level secession from the United States.
Dubbed the “Texas Independence Referendum Act,” his bill would allow Texans to vote this November on a referendum “on the question of whether this state should leave the United States of America and establish an independent republic.” The bill, introduced just after the siege of the Capitol and the beginning of the Biden presidency, would also create a Texas Independence Committee comprised of the lieutenant governor, speaker of the state House and various state lawmakers and tasked with crafting a formal strategy for independence by 2026.
The bill itself remains unlikely to pass, not least because unilateral secession remains illegal in the United States. (As former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said, “If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede.”) And despite West pointing to the idea of secession recently, the bill has also generated pushback within the Texas GOP itself. As Texas GOP Rep. Jeff Leach tweeted at Biedermann earlier this month, Biedermann’s bill “seems like the most anti-American bill I’ve seen in my 4+ terms in the Texas House. It’s a disgrace to the Lone Star State. The very definition of seditious. A true embarrassment. And you should be ashamed of yourself for filing it.”
But Biedermann—who has claimed that he’s being “used by God” to push for Texas independence—hardly seems ashamed, declaring on his website that it “is now time that the People of Texas are allowed the right to decide their own future.” (When contacted, Biedermann told The Daily Beast to email him questions, to which he didn’t respond.)
“Nobody who has been following the rise of Texas separatism over the last decade—or rather the return, after a century and a half’s suspension—can be much surprised by Biedermann’s bill,” Richard Kreitner, author of a Break It Up, a history of American secession movements, told The Daily Beast. “The referendum idea will certainly go nowhere, at least in this legislative session, but the first serious presentation of a secession bill before a state legislature since the Civil War must be seen as another flashing warning of a new crisis of the Union.”
Nor has the likelihood of failure stopped Biedermann from working with a group that has received funding from foreign sources—including, in a throwback to the 2016 interference efforts, the Kremlin. Biedermann’s primary booster is the Texas Nationalist Movement (TNM), the most substantial pro-independence group in the state. The TNM gained national notoriety in 2016 when it was revealed that the group had made multiple trips to Moscow as part of the Kremlin’s interference efforts in the U.S. In Moscow, the TNM liaised with other Kremlin-backed secession movements, with one of the TNM’s leaders claiming to Russian media that all Texans currently in the U.S Army would back Texas independence. The group’s head Daniel Miller also revealed that the TNM received a “small grant” from the Kremlin, and received funding from the Kremlin-backed “Anti-Globalist Movement of Russia” to help fund the TNM’s travels to Russia.
It’s unclear how closely Biedermann and the TNM are working together, but Biedermann and Miller have made multiple joint appearances in recent weeks. For instance, the two spoke together earlier this month at a meeting with the New Braunfels Conservatives, in central Texas. While there, Biedermann revealed that Miller called him “three months ago, and said ‘Kyle, we need someone to file the [Texas secession] bill.’ And I said, ‘Daniel… I’m on it. I’m on it because I’ve got people like you behind me.” Biederman added that Miller is “amazing.” On Facebook, the TNM praised Biedermann’s bill filing as “a day that will go down in history.”
Biedermann’s bill joins a litany of pro-Trump voices increasingly agitating for secession in recent weeks. In addition to West and Limbaugh, the head of the Wyoming GOP recently revealed that his party was considering backing a secessionist push, and Randy Weber, a Texas GOP Congressman in Washington, recently posted pro-secession material on his Facebook. North Dakota Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer also said earlier this month that secession is “worth discussing.” As The Bulwark reported, the pro-Trump Claremont Institute even recently hosted a symposium on the potential of breaking up the U.S., with one contributor pointing positively to “threats of violence and civil war” as a cause for American secession.
The marriage of secession and violence appears to have increasing valence on the pro-Trump right. As an editorial from The Dallas Morning News this week put it, “Secession talk has always been irresponsible. Now it’s dangerous.” Biedermann, for instance, revealed that he participated in the pro-Trump march on the Capitol in Washington earlier this month, which ended in a deadly insurrection attempt. Biedermann claimed he did not participate in any violence, and has not been charged for any actions.
However, Biedermann was hardly the only Texas secessionist present. Larry Brock, one of the pro-Trump insurrectionists photographed with zip ties intended for legislators, recently posted online in favor of Texas secession. As Brock wrote before he participated in insurrection, “Our vote was stolen. Time to secede.”
“Precisely the kind of violence used at the Capitol on Jan. 6 has been used before to catch pro-Union Texans off the guard and push for separation before it could be stopped,” Kreitner added, pointing to the extra-legal violence that propelled Texas to join the Confederacy in 1861. “There are plenty of reasons to conclude it could not happen as easily now as it is then, but little reason to assume it could not happen at all.”