HOUSTON — Gov. Rick Perry has touched off a political uproar by expressing sympathy for Texans who want to secede from the United States. His comments have made him a darling of conservative radio hosts, a butt of jokes on television talk shows and a target of criticism from state Democrats.
Perry did not actually endorse the idea of Texas' leaving the Union, but critics say his remarks, after an anti-tax protest Wednesday in Austin, came close. Seeking to quell the furor the next day, he told The Associated Press that "Texas is part of a great Union, and I see no reason for that to change."
Still, Democrats have pounced on the Republican governor, saying he is stirring up talk of states' rights and secession, notions that for many conjure the specters of the Civil War, slavery and racial segregation.
"Talk of secession is an attack on our country," said Rep. Jim Dunnam of Waco, the Democratic leader of the Texas House. "It's the ultimate anti-American statement."
It has long been part of Texas folk mythology that because the state was once an independent republic, it has the option of seceding.
But historians and law professors say there has been no serious argument since the Civil War on behalf of a legal basis for a state's secession.