Governor Perry didn’t show up at last week’s “Secession or Sovereignty” rally at the state capitol—no elected officials appeared at all, in fact—though his recent widely noted reference to secession was in the air. All Texans have thought about leaving the union at some point in their lives, Daniel Miller told me a few days after the rally, even if they won’t admit it. Miller, who heads the Texas Nationalist Movement, was one of the rally’s keynote speakers. “Texans have a cultural history that screams independence,” he said. “Everybody in Texas—even if they were joking about it—has said at one point, ‘We could break off and be our own country again.’”
Miller, who is 36 years old and has male-pattern baldness and a neatly trimmed goatee, has been a secessionist for thirteen years. He is self-employed—he runs a popular Internet radio site with his wife—which leaves him plenty of time for politics. The Texas Nationalist Movement is more or less an offshoot of the old Republic of Texas movement, though Miller has taken pains to separate himself from the public perception of the ROT, which took a bad turn when Richard McLaren, a spokesman of sorts, wound up in prison after a hostage standoff in Fort Davis in the mid-1990s. Miller shuns violence. “We tell all our people that the only solution is a political one,” he said.
The Texas Nationalist Movement is avowedly non-partisan and Miller bristles at being labeled “right-wing.” His father was a union steelworker and lifelong Democrat; the hold music on Miller’s personal phone line is “The Revolution Starts Now,” by Steve Earle, a well-known leftist. Miller acknowledged that Perry’s comments—which came at a “tea party” event in Austin in April and which boosted the governor’s poll numbers considerably—had given his group a shot in the arm as well, though he personally is not a fan of the governor. Perry wouldn’t even have mentioned secession at all, Miller said, if he and a few dozen others hadn’t been in the tea party crowd chanting the word at the time. So the governor owes him one.