There are plenty of things that President Obama has had to worry about since being re-elected president in 2012 -- a continuing malaise about the economy, world crises that pop up with wack-a-mole frequency, and a lower house that makes even the minimal level of government functioning almost impossible. What he doesn't have to worry about, however, is whether or not the United States will split apart, because red-state bile notwithstanding, most folks would rather hold their nose through the second Obama administration than jump ship altogether. Unfortunately, British Prime Minister David Cameron isn't so lucky. He's facing a riled up Scottish population on Thursday that is itching for the opportunity to ditch the U.K. (and him) and go the independence route. Economically and culturally that'd be like the U.S. losing Texas. Which begs the question, what would Texas secession actually look like? How would Americans fare under losing Texas compared to the British losing the Scots? The idea of a Texas secession may seem less likely than the Scots leaving the U.K., but the vote might be a lot closer than anyone in the U.S. would like.
Central Government Control
The United Kingdom is comprised of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with about a million other territories and principalities still falling under U.K. control after a few hundred years of being the world's biggest empire. For the last 30 years various U.K. Prime Ministers (Tony Blair in particular) has been pushing for a "devolved government" meaning that Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have more and more independence from the central government in London. This is, of course, in stark contrast to the United States, whereby all accounts the federal government has expanded its power, control and influence over individual states with increasing taxes, federal subsidies and intervention. Apparently a taste of freedom just excited the Scots more and they began the legal process to have a referendum on leaving the U.K. that will happen on Thursday, September 18. In the United States, despite the historically inaccurate trolling of Rick Perry, Texas actually doesn't have the constitutional right to leave the United States, and given the loss of federal funds, support and military they probably wouldn't.
The Scottish independence movement has argued pretty consistently that an independence Scotland would fare better economically than the current member of the U.K. Why? Because relative to the size of Scotland, they actually send more money down to London in taxes to subsidize other parts of the country than they receive back. This is a bit a simplification however. For example, a low tax state like Texas is in many ways subsidized by high tax blue states like California and New York but that doesn't mean if the Longhorn state jumped from the union suddenly blue state America would have more change in their pockets. National economics is also about negotiations, exchanges and relationships. An independent Scotland would have to develop it's own independent trade offices all over the world, and would no longer be able to rely on the U.K. infrastructure, EU exemptions and clout in trade wars across the world. Imagine if Governor turned (president? King? Supreme Ruler?) Rick Perry had to negotiate everything from cattle sales to satellite rates for the Longhorn Network with individual states, cable operators and ESPN. We all know he'd have a little trouble keeping track of more than three trade partners.
Foreign policy is probably the biggest difference in Texas two-step away from America and the Scots leaving London in "Old Europe". The Scots don't have particularly large foreign threats to concern themselves with, and what few terror threats they may have can be handled relatively easily. Further, since Scottish ship-building for the United Kingdom is so important they could easily negotiate some sort of boats for protection deal with the now Scot free but Scot dependent United Kingdom. Travel back and forth between the nations could be complicated, but in the interest of both sides, an onerous passport system to drive from Glasgow to London would be unlikely. The same can't be said of an independent Texas and the United States. Texas has enough trouble protecting their borders from illegal immigrants and without federal funding for border patrols the United States would likely make border crossing between Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and other states extremely difficult. Not to mention what the contentious negotiations would be between the Republic of Texas and the United States as to whether over 30 U.S. military installations would stay in the state and at what cost.
President Obama is pretty unpopular in Texas, he's never earned more than 45 percent of the vote in either of his presidential elections and in some counties his job approval ratings are in the single digits. In fact, most of the secessionist cries from Texas (over 1,000,000 signatures actually) came after he was re-elected in 2012. However, Obama's got nothing on David Cameron in the unpopularity department. When he took office in 2010, David Cameron was the first British prime minister in 30 years to have to cobble together a coalition government because his Conservative Tory Party wasn't popular enough to secure an absolute majority. Teamed with the perpetual third wheel Liberal Democrat party Camerons' continued his downward slide, and it's taking a toll on the Scottish independence vote. "Better Together" the Scottish movement to stay in the U.K., has repeatedly, politely, asked that the Prime Minister stay out of Scotland during the independence referendum. Cameron's last minute desperate campaign trips to help the "No" vote are actually hurting the cause, say activists. He's so unpopular that polls show 54% of Scotts would rather be an independent nation than remain under Cameron's leadership if he's re-elected in 2015.
In the end, the result of the Scottish independence vote will have a lasting impact on British Politics, because whether the Scots stay or go, the vote itself is a shock to the U.K. economy that doesn't bode well for incumbents. Here on the other side of the Atlantic we shouldn't be too worried. Chances are pretty low that Texas could try to pull off the same stunt as the Scots, and even if they did failure is almost guaranteed. Now all those Longhorn fans can rest easy, and Obama can keep worrying about holding his fractured party together more than a fractured country.
Dr. Jason Johnson is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College and a frequent guest on Al Jazeera English, CNN and MSNBC. You can follow him on Twitter @DrJasonJohnson