Texas lawmakers plan to continue turning right
WALLER COUNTY, Texas – At a roadside bar on Farm Route 359, where Houston’s sprawl gives way to stables and hay rolls, Cindy Schmid and her friend Gail Mikeska get together every Thursday to eat , drink and talk about everything: family, country music, the right turn of Texas politics.
“We think very differently politically,” said Ms Mikeska, a conservative who owns more than one gun and is generally happy with the state’s trajectory.
“I am a Democrat,” said Ms Schmid, whose only weapon is an unusable Civil War antiquity. “I think Texas is losing its mind.”
In the space of a few months, the country’s second most populous state followed what was perhaps the most conservative legislative session in state history with a special session filled with even more prerogatives of the government. right flank, a pronounced political shift that caught even many conservative residents off guard. The Legislature is expected to call another special session on Monday to consider new laws on cultural issues, such as transgender athletes, and to redirect the state, presumably in favor of Republican members.
The new laws, which have been passed with surprising speed, restrict abortion, the right to vote and the teaching of race in schools. They are also expanding gun rights, funding a border wall with Mexico, and outlawing social media bans due to political views. The measures applauded conservatives, alarmed liberals and forced Texans to fight their state’s identity as the conservative spearhead in the nation’s most controversial social conflicts.
Add to that an increase in coronavirus cases and an ongoing standoff against the pandemic response between Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, and Democratic leaders in growing urban centers, and the mood among many Texans is become sullen. For the first time in more than a decade, a majority of residents told University of Texas pollsters last month that the state was headed in the wrong direction.
“Texans are watching their state government which is engrossed in these partisan debates on abortion and electoral reform, but they actually live in a state where schools cannot give clear safety advice on Covid,” he said. said Joe Straus, a Republican from San Antonio. who served as president of Texas House until 2019. “The problem is that the conservative faction has gone too far and is damaging our state’s reputation.”
None of this has slowed the momentum among the Tories, led by Mr Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who oversees the decidedly right-wing Texas Senate. Both remain more focused on appealing to their own primary voters than on the changing demographics of the state’s rapidly growing Democratic towns.
For a new special session of the House starting next week, the governor added legislation that would restrict the participation of trans athletes in school sports, a late addition to a session focused on redistribution.
The Republican-controlled legislature will redraw the borders for the first time since the Supreme Court gutted provisions in the 1965 Voting Rights Act that provided for federal oversight.
In the past, Texas had been found in violation of the law during the redistribution, and Democrats fear Republicans will take the opportunity to redraw districts in a way that lessens the influence of growing black and Hispanic populations. state, maintaining control of the Capitol during rural white lawmakers in an increasingly diverse state. The process could extend the Republican lockdown on the state for at least another decade, as statewide and presidential races in Texas have become more competitive.
“The Republican Party should be very, very optimistic about Cycle 22,” said Ray Sullivan, a Republican political consultant who has served in the administrations of two recent governors, George W. Bush and Rick Perry. “The much-vaunted blue wave of 2020 never happened, and PS, the Democrats don’t even have a candidate for governor.”
Although Conservatives have controlled policy making at the Texas Capitol since the early 2000s, Austin’s legislation this year was significantly more confrontational, targeting the Republican Party voter base, according to lawmakers and political consultants from left and right.
Many blamed it on the major ultraconservative challengers who clashed with Abbott. Some have complained that the tradition of courtesy and compromise on Capitol Hill has all but disappeared, leaving Austin – where Democratic and Republican lawmakers are still intertwined, with no dividing aisle – feeling no less partisan than Washington.
Mr. Patrick, who chairs the State Senate, has been shameless in his partisan management, changing the body’s rules for the 2021 session so that bills can be introduced with 18 senators voting for – the exact number of Republicans in the Senate – rather than 19, after a Republican loses his seat. The reason for the change, he said in a statement last year outlining his plan, was to be able to introduce a bill “without Democrats blocking it.” He adopted partisan lines.
Others on the right felt that the conservative package of laws was the expected result of a strong performance by Republicans in 2020, when Democrats spent a lot trying to take control of the House and failed to secure it. one seat.
The Republicans then toppled their fellow Democrats, whose dramatic flight to Washington to protest a new restrictive ballot bill did not prevent its passage.
Exactly 666 new laws came into effect on September 1, including a ban on abortions after heart activity was detected, or about six weeks after pregnancy began, a measure that ended nearly all abortions in the world. Texas and is the most restrictive in the country.
Matt Mackowiak, Conservative political consultant and chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, said the right turn had less to do with Mr. Abbott fearing a main challenge of “ankle biters, mouth respirators – people basically not serious not leading serious campaigns ”only with the governor’s own policy. “Greg Abbott is a conservative, period,” he said.
Understanding the Texas Abortion Law
“Democrats have no one to blame except themselves,” he added. “If they wanted to stop this program, they had to win a majority in the Texas house. They did not do it.
The experiment has left some Democrats demoralized, particularly in Waller County, a Republican-dominated rural area just outside of Houston that has previously tried to limit the vote of black residents.
“A lot of young people get discouraged, that you do all that hard work, and that’s what you get,” said Kendric Jones, 25, the only black member of the Waller County Commissioners Tribunal. “Politics is meant to be about compromise, and right now there is no compromise going on in the state of Texas.”
The town of Prairie View, which Mr Jones represents, has long been at the center of heated voting rights battles between students at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black college, and predominantly white county leaders . A main thoroughfare in the city is named after Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old African-American woman who was arrested in 2015 for failing to report a lane change and was arrested just outside campus, where she had to start a new job. She hanged herself in the county jail.
The arc of this story is not immediately evident under the school’s lush green oak trees, some of which date back to when a plantation house dominated the rural landscape.
But for Frank Jackson, 72, former mayor of Prairie View, state history was key to understanding what was happening in Austin this year. “You see the crest of a wave. But you have to see the water behind the wave, ”he said, adding that he was not surprised at the right turn. “You expect it. You are not surprised. You say, “OK, here we go again. “
Mr Jackson attended college when it was so poorly funded, he said, that students parked in fields of mud. One afternoon last week, he watched students rushing to class along wide, bucolic paths and saw each as a “target” of political movements, particularly a new law aimed at limiting the way in which race is discussed in schools.
“You have these people who are afraid that these people in Texas will regain their memories and really start to vote their conscience,” Mr. Jackson said.
Across the county, on Farm to Market Road 359, a handful of regulars talked about abortion policy during happy hour at the Thirsty Parrot, a cavernous bar that draws Harley-Davidson riders on the weekends. -end.
Tavern owner Susan Easter identified herself as anti-abortion and said she was not concerned about state policy. Yet, she said, her main problem was property taxes. “It’s an important thing for seniors,” said Ms. Easter, 66. “Not so much the abortion law.”
She agreed with Jason Powers, an oil industry worker who sat at the bar in a straw cowboy hat, that more needed to be done to prevent people from illegally crossing the Mexican border. But Mr Powers, 45, said he had reservations about the state’s new abortion law, which was challenged by the Justice Department. A hearing before a federal judge in Austin is scheduled for October 1.
“I’m a Tory, but the first heartbeat doesn’t suit me,” Mr Powers said, adding: “This is a great government stepping in again. It’s like you all need to. to slow down.