Editor’s note: The following is an exclusive excerpt from New York Times bestselling author Stephen Coonts’s controversial new thriller, Liberty’s Last Stand, out June 13.
When Jack Hays got home from the state capitol, a Texas flag was stirring on the flagpole in the yard. It was always there, but tonight he paused to look at it. Inside, Nadine was watching television. He flopped on the couch and watched a little in silence. The “ghetto rats,” as he called them when reporters weren’t around, were burning and looting in Houston, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.
Screaming about the right-wing white conspiracy.
“How do they know it’s whites?” he asked Nadine.
“All right-wingers are white Republicans. Ninety-eight percent of blacks are Soetoro Democrats. You know it, I know it, everybody knows it. Soetoro lit the fuse and it’s burning.”
When the television people began a commercial, Nadine killed the savage beast. In the silence that followed, he told her about more of the federal government’s demands. And about his talk with Ben Steiner.
Nadine listened in silence and sipped Chardonnay. When he ran out of words, he went to the bar and poured himself a drink, vodka over ice. God knows, he needed it. What a hell of a day!
Seated again near Nadine, he sipped the liquor. “I feel like I’m chained to a railroad track with locomotives coming fast from both directions. Soetoro is ripping up the American Constitution and there are a large number of people in Texas who would rather fight than submit. Lincoln must have had similar feelings when he watched the Southern states pass secession resolutions. We’re headed for a smash and I haven’t a clue what to do about it.”
“Maybe Ben Steiner is right. Texas should become its own country.”
Jack Hays snorted. “Texas will become a nation over Barry Soetoro’s dead body. If he lets Texas go, a lot of other states will follow. Why should people who work for a living pay taxes to provide welfare to all those rats in the center cities? Explain that one to me.”
“Pay or we’ll burn it down and live in the ashes. The only people who worry about that kind of logic are politicians.”
“Texas could make it as an independent nation,” Nadine said, eyeing her husband.
“Horses***. American dollars are our currency—”
“Issue your own currency, backed by the state’s full faith and credit. That’s easy enough.”
“Hundreds of thousands of people rely on Social Security and federal and military retirement. We can’t abandon them. Without those pensions—”
“Texas can assume those obligations.” He stared at her.
Nadine took another sip of Chardonnay, then said, “If people paid income and Social Security taxes to Texas instead of the federal government, and if Texas didn’t have the federal debt to service, I suspect that the finances would be pretty close to a wash. Dollar for dollar, in and out. Texas could guarantee U.S. government bonds held by Texas banks and pension funds. If you made welfare recipients who are able-bodied work for their check or forfeit it, that would help a bundle. And make welfare recipients take a drug test. You know, straight out of Charlie Swim’s platform. No more money for single women to have kids.”
She leaned forward, pleading her case. “Texas has energy to sell to the world, a great banking system, world-class hospitals, automobile factories, cutting-edge high-tech industries, a solid agricultural base, and we’re on the Gulf Coast so we can import and export. Texas has an annual GDP of 1.6 trillion dollars. That is a larger economy than the state of New York, just a little less than California. Texas generates roughly ten percent of the economic activity in the United States. Our Texas economy is a third larger than Mexico’s, just ten percent behind the United Kingdom’s. If Texas were an independent nation, ours would be the twelfth-largest economy on earth, a smidgen less than Canada, but more than Australia, Spain, or Switzerland. And you think Texas couldn’t go it alone?”
Jack Hays eyed his wife coldly. “I didn’t know you were an independence crackpot.”
“I’m not. But the people of Texas will not live in a dictatorship. Will not.”
“The United States won’t let us go without a fight.”
“We’re heading for a fight regardless,” Nadine said flatly. “Even if independence isn’t your end game, it might give you leverage to demand a return to constitutional government on the federal level. Texas has a hell of a lot better hand than you think.”
Jack Hays took a swig from his drink and sat staring at his wife. “We could seal the border,” he suggested. “Demand the Mexican government stop allowing drug smugglers and illegals to cross. We could seal the border so tight a bat couldn’t get across.”
Nadine put her hand on his arm. “Sure you could, but you’d need to make it clear that no one is against immigration per se, from Mexico or anywhere else. The problem is illegal immigrants; they’re swarming in faster than we can absorb them in the schools or in the labor force or with social services. When illegal, unskilled laborers flood the market, it’s our own low-skilled citizens—black, white, brown—who pay the price. People understand that, and they understand that it’s high time someone stood up for them. So sure, seal the border, cut off all trade to Mexico if necessary, and force Mexico to patrol its own borders and crush the drug trade that does even more harm to Mexico than it does to us. Make Mexico an offer it can’t refuse. Not a single dollar, truck, railroad car, or immigrant, legal or illegal, crosses the border until Mexico cleans up its own house.”
“That might precipitate a revolution in Mexico,” Jack Hays said. “Or Mexico might declare war on us.”
“Another Mexican revolution or another Mexican-Texas war, let it come,” Nadine shot back. She had steel in her.
Jack Hays wasn’t sure he bought all that. And yet, “We’ve been Mexico’s safety valve for a long, long time,” he admitted.
“Think about it,” Nadine said, and finished her wine. “I’m sorry about your uncle. His was a needless, useless death. And as long as we leave that border open to drug gangs and criminals, we’ll have more needless, useless deaths. I’m going to bed. I’ve had all I can take today.”
Jack Hays was tired too, but he sat in the silent house thinking. About his uncle. About the possibilities of a free Texas, out from under the yoke of Barry Soetoro, Washington bureaucrats, and a feckless Congress stymied by cries of racism. Was freedom worth all the blood it would take to reap the benefits? No one but God knew how much blood freedom would cost.
His thoughts drifted back to the American Revolution. The revolutionaries then knew the British would fight. Great Britain had the finest navy in the world and a solid, although small, professional army. All the colonists had were farmers and a dream.
And yet, who today would argue that the lives of American patriots killed during the revolution had been squandered? Or the lives of the Texans who fought at the Alamo and at San Jacinto? Sometimes those half-seen, fog-shrouded dreams of national destiny and the unpredictable future must be anointed with blood to make them reality. Not someone else’s blood, but yours. Or your son’s or daughter’s. Your blood is your gift to future generations.
He was thinking of the Texans at the Alamo who knew they were doomed but fought to the last man. Then the telephone rang. He looked at the number before he answered it. A 301 area code. The Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. There was no one in Washington he wanted to talk to at that hour of the night. After ten rings the phone fell silent.
Perhaps he should think of independence as a maneuver, not an end in itself. The name of the game is bettering the lot of your constituents. Nadine was right: in politics there is always an end game. You say you want A, the opposition offers E or F, and all of you settle for C. Or B or D. Something in the middle. The real problem, as Jack Hays saw it from Austin, was that Barry Soetoro refused to settle for anything less than the whole enchilada, everything he wanted, which in a democratic republic is simply impossible. He was the prophet, the messiah, and he was driving a stake through the heart of the Great Republic.
Jack Hays was a good working politician. All he wanted was to move the needle in his direction. He well knew that every political question is not black or white, but some shade of gray. He still believed that most Americans were well-meaning people, not ideological crazies, and that compromise was possible.
The telephone rang again. He looked at the number and saw that it was the state director of the Department of Public Safety, Colonel Frank Tenney. The man wanted to talk about the riot in Houston. Hays listened carefully, grunted twice, said yes three times, then hung up.
After he finished his drink, he turned off the lights in the living room and stretched out on the couch.
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