A Texan pleads with Texas: We can do better

I have always been a proud Texan. When I go abroad and people ask me what country I’m from, I say “Texas.” Sam Houston was the first President. I’m more likely to buy a product that advertises a connection to Texas. As a kid in the Texas school system, I remember saying the Texas state pledge loudly and with pride (This was before Texas changed its pledge out of spite). I am now, and always will be, a very proud Texan.

In the modern world, it is becoming tougher and tougher to explain how one can continue to be a proud Texan. From protecting police from having their behavior recorded to our astronomically high number of executions to an open hostility toward basic principles of democracy, it seems as though Texas can’t go one week without making unjustifiable moves at the expense of its citizens. In the eyes of the rest of the nation, we aren’t so special; we’re just the state that gives guns more rights than gays.

That Texas’s government is this divorced from rationality confuses me. That people who promote anti-scientific, discriminatory public policies continue to get elected confuses me. I look around at the people I am surrounded by in Texas and I do not see a lot of terrible people, nor do I see a lot of crazy people. I see a few far right folks, but they’re vastly outnumbered by disillusioned centrists. When it looked like Wendy Davis was picking up steam last year, I foolishly allowed myself to hope that maybe we would get a decent governor. After 13 years of Rick Perry and all of the terrible things he wrought for our state, I felt we deserved one.

I was a fool to believe this was a possibility. In spite of getting national media attention and raising 12 million dollars, Wendy Davis lost to Republican opponent Greg Abbott by over 20 percent. As if that weren’t enough, Abbott’s campaign was littered with sexism: From sexist attacks on her personal life to names like “abortion barbie,” it seemed as though Davis’ Republican opponents were determined to confirm every negative stereotype of our great state. All on their way to a victory, no less.

It’s only gotten worse. Since being elected governor, Abbott has been nothing short of awful. He has outlawed local laws against fracking. He has tried to dramatically cut (and render more regressive) the local property taxes that fund our schools, which are already some of the least-funded in the country. In fact, our schools are so underfunded that the state’s budget has been ruled unconstitutional, and the money that is allocated for them has been spent on demonstrably false textbooks that promote Reaganesque revisions of basic scientific and historical facts.

Rick Perry, via AddictingInfo

Reminder: 76% of Rick Perry supporters think the government is ready to invade Texas.

Perhaps most embarrassingly of all, when right wing conspiracy theorists assumed that a routine training exercise was actually the United States trying to take over Texas (which it already owns), Abbott asked the State Guard to monitor the exercise, pandering to the insane fringe of his party. In the words of former Representative Todd Smith:

I am horrified that I have to choose between the possibility that my Governor actually believes this stuff and the possibility that my Governor doesn’t have the backbone to stand up to those who do.

All of this mess forced the Pentagon, which already has offices in Texas, to respond , confirming that a routine military training session was not an attempt by the U.S. to take over land it already owns.

How did this happen? Where were all the reasonable centrists I am surrounded by in Texas?

I asked around, and it didn’t take long to realize that almost no one I know actually voted. Many of those reasonable centrists say that they never vote, followed by phrases like “My vote doesn’t matter” or “I live in Texas, we always go red no matter what I do.” A quick search on year-over-year voter turnout confirms: Texans don’t vote. And not just because the state is doing everything it can to make it harder to vote; many of them simply don’t care to.

Texas sports one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the nation on a regular basis. In 2012, we ranked 48th in voter turnout. We were 47th in 2008, and 49th in 2006. In 2014, the year Davis lost and Abbott became our governor, we were 43rd, with 28.3% turnout.

The problem is clear: Texans don’t believe their vote matters — a self fulfilling prophecy, in which the refusal of sane Texans to rise up allows the crazies to continue guiding the state and its policies.

So, my fellow Texans, brother to brother/sister, I beg of you: vote. We don’t have to be the state that gets laughed at for trying to make it illegal to take UN advice on city planning. We don’t have to be a state in which one has to pander to the worst fringes of the Tea Party in order to get elected. We are a great people and a great state. Our kids deserve a better education. We deserve better leaders.

If everyone voted, Texas would be a Democratic-leaning swing state. The reason your vote doesn’t make a difference is because you aren’t using it.


Max Mills is a 26 year old Texan with a degree in Computer Science. Although he writes about a variety of things, his main focuses are education and political accountability. You can follow him on Twitter at @MaxFMills

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  • UncleBucky

    Fine with me, but you’ll have to scream louder in your own balliewick to get “media attention”.

    Until we can get media attention focused on the anti-secession/patriotic Texans, rather than the secesssionist/treasonous Texans, your feelings will be moot, ya know? :)

  • HeatherENowak
  • Max Mills

    Statistically very few Texans want to secede, they are just the ones who get media attention.

    And for the record, I am also a proud American. Texas is part of America, and so there is no contradiction between the two. Saying a proud Texan is not a real American is like saying a proud apple is not a real fruit.

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  • dcinsider

    De nada!

  • My apologies. I forgot who was running against him. Shame on both parties for letting either of those douchebags get the nomination.

    I would like a line on every ballot for “none of the above”. If that line gets the most votes, then a new slate of candidates has to run. It would fix these “lesser of two evils” problems and force parties to get their shit together and nominate people voters want to vote against and not just voting against the person who is horrifyingly awful.

  • olandp

    We had a choice between a crook and an opportunist. I voted for the opportunist while holding my nose.

  • olandp

    I remember when my hatred for Texas began. My 7th grade American History teacher was from Texas which she told us over and over again. “Texas used to be its own country.” Big shit, guess it couldn’t make it on its own. I don’t care what Texas does, frack every corner, build explosive factories next to schools and hospitals, make your children stupider than their parents, just don’t drag the rest of us into your shit hole. George W. Bush and the dick Cheney did all they could to make America an annex of Texas. Now their shit for brains ex-governor wants to be the leader of the country from which he wanted to secede. No thank you.

    If I wanted to live in Texas, I would move to Texas.

  • FLL

    I suggested below that the continued influence of Southern Baptist religion might have something to do with the Tea Party’s continued strength in Texas, which I actually thought was a reasonable suggestion. After all, the U.S. Supreme Court had to strike down remaining sodomy laws only in 2003. What was that case called again? Oh, that’s right… Lawrence v. Texas. It was Texas that defended it sodomy law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court (and lost). I also noted below that Chicanos in Texas (and by extension, Mexicans in Mexico) might have a different perspective and track record, which could influence Texas politics in the future should their percentage of the electorate increase. Well, I guess Mexico’s Supreme Court also struck down all of Mexico’s sodomy laws… in 1871… a mere difference of 132 years. And yet when I suggested that there was a politically important religious difference between Texas and other U.S. regions—and between Anglo Texas and Chicano Texas—you would think some people thought I had suggested a theory involving space aliens. Why is that, I wonder? Can anyone tell me? Mr. Mills? Anyone at all?

  • Baal

    One of the problems about Texas (I’ve lived here twenty years) is people who are “proud of being Texan”. I have lived in quite a few places and have seen nothing even close to it anywhere else. While not necessarily a problem by itself, it magnifies enormously the batshit insanity here and it is hard to express how annoying this is to people who live here but who were not raised here and indoctrinated in schools — which in Houston, where I live, is probably a large majority.

    With that said, I appreciate your comments, the place is not as crazy as our politicians, but it is gerrymandered beyond belief. My own congressional district is shaped like a dead cat. I cannot see how it passes scrutiny. It has insured that the place is not really a democracy except at the most local level.

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  • GrantS

    28% voter turnout is shameful. It looks like the republicans have scared the crap out of anyone who might vote against them.

  • Max Mills

    So have you decided just to ignore the citations in the article proving that things would be different if everyone voted?

  • Amen! Testify brother Mills!

  • Sameboat1

    Well, Texas could always secede and call itself Conservastan. I’m sure they’d miss some of those federal perks though, like, I don’t know, military?

  • Indigo

    To be fair, Chicago’s worth being from.

  • UncleBucky

    Texas does not get to secede. It would be Civil War 2.0 if they seriously try it. Then the Nation goes into a trash bucket, as the Koch/Bircher/GOP/Thumper/Dominionist/Neo-Confederate/Libertarian party wants it to happen.

  • UncleBucky

    Bingo.

  • UncleBucky

    Heck, I say I’m from Chicago. Not from Illinois, not from “America” but from Chicago. However, that does not mean I don’t also represent and defend the US Constitution.

    But with Texass, it’s a different thing. And I don’t like it too much.

    I would rather that Wendy Davis would have been the Governor and Texas would leave the company of the nut-states. But I don’t think it will happen.

    UNLESS TEXAS DEMOCRATS, TEXAS INDEPENDENTS, and even a few TEXAS REPUBLICANS vote Democratically this time.

    Otherwise, the whole thing goes into the trash bucket.

  • UncleBucky

    VOTE. Do not sit this one out. Vote Democratically.

    The issue is simply a Jebya or worse setting the SCOTUS for 2 generations or more. √

  • mirth

    It seems you do not genuinely understand your state’s history. Voting or not, throughout its existence the majority of Texans have aligned with nutso/criminal behavior that is shameful to the entire country. Presently, there is NO reason to think non-voting Texans would vote any differently than those who choose to vote.

    “If the current Texas GOP was fully supported by the people of Texas they would not need to resort to voter suppression tactics.”
    Nah. The warped people Texans have voted into office, again and again and again, do the voter suppression thing for fun and so they can continue to be voted into office – aka Texas Bona Fides.

    Lastly, the idea that fence-sitting centrists will EVER accomplish ANY worthy change in fucked up Texas or any other place is absolutely zilch.

  • Indigo

    You bet. Indiana’s exactly like that, they’re afraid and they don’t even know what they’re afraid of. The anti-Moslem ranting we hear and the fear of Sharia are evidence of their ignorance. I can’t tell their description of Sharia from the Bible Belt repression I experience. It’s ignorance. I love cyberspace. Fortunately, as the old New Yorker cartoon of two dogs sitting at a computer put it over a decade ago, “On the internet, nobody can tell you’re a dog.”

  • FLL

    Exactly. Acceptance of Bible-Belt-style Christianity may be so pervasive in Texas that it actually becomes invisible to people who live there. You live it, you breathe it, you marry it, and it is, in effect, invisible to Texans—but, as you point out, easily visible to outsiders. I still believe that loyalty to Bible-Belt sexual taboos accounts for a large percentage of the current political problem in Texas that the author of the post is describing.

  • Indigo

    He might not realize how obvious the Bible Belt / Corruption connection is to outsiders.

  • Indigo

    You’re right, I can’t explain it. Somehow, somewhere in the wondrous good-old-boys system we know locally as the Citrus Club, a deal we don’t yet know about was worked out. It’s like 20th century Kremlin watching, we’ll get to the bottom of that particular swamp before the peninsula is under water. Maybe.

  • FLL

    I suggested in my original comment that a commitment to the Southern Baptist style of Bible-based Christianity was part of the problem, and if it weren’t for that, the Tea Party in Texas would have much less clout than it does. I suggested, reasonably I think, that fundamentalist Christianity, in its modern incarnation, is mostly centered around sexual repression, which creates all sorts of problems for state government in Texas. But the author of the post will not respond to my suggestion. The author of the post is having none of it. OK, that’s his right.

  • So I hear you saying that you’re not going to be able to explain to me how someone caught red-handed committing massive medicare fraud got elected governor and then re-elected? Even by Texas standards that’s messed up!

  • 2karmanot

    Thanks for the correction DC.

  • 2karmanot

    Damn right Becca!

  • Indigo

    This “I love my home state I love my country” meme is virtually an obsolete shibboleth. There’s libraries full of the history of all that from the colonial days, through the Revolution to the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution and right past the Civil War which was about lots more than freeing the slaves. It was about states’ rights and so too is this gerrymandering nonsense that has infected not just Texas but almost every state in the union. The Civil War is over, the states are united, not individual.

    The neo-Confederate Teapublicans have pulled one of the most successful scams in American history, they have somehow seized the emotional high ground where loyalty and devotion to your home state are the measure of how genuinely American you are. And you know what? That’s nonsense! It’s nothing more than the ceremonial bows so many seem obliged to take to the Bible Belt. Unbuckle that monstrosity at every level and put it away.

    Everybody’s from somewhere a,nd most people have nostalgic feelings for their home region. But leading by pledging allegiance to Hooterville doesn’t fly. Sorry if I stepped on toes but hey! they were out there waiting to be stepped on.

    [disclaimer: I’m a native-born, 6th generation Hooser, raised in rural Indiana. My ancestors attempted to be neutral in the American Civil War until Lincoln threatened to send Federal troops to occupy Indianapolis. Not much has changed in Indiana, I’m sorry to say, but it’s still my native home. But I feel no obligation to lead by pledging allegiance to all that.]

  • Indigo

    The easiest way to prove that government doesn’t work is to break it. And that’s what’s happening.

  • Indigo

    I think many of the states have similar concerns now. This is certainly true here in Florida where the neo-Confederate Teapublicans have somehow seized the reins. It’s astonishing because although it happened right in front of us, for the life of me, I can’t imagine how it happened. Fraud? Gerrymandering? Hanging chads? Corrupt Supreme Court Justices? I dunno.

  • We get the government we deserve. Just sayin’.

    You want to take the state back from the crazies? Yes, vote. Want to really take it back? Recognize that for Texas there will be no election more important than the one in 2020, when it’s time for redistricting.

    (And Texas Democrats: Want to win? Stop running mushy center-right corporatist Third Way Blue Dogs. Go populist and go progressive/liberal — and stop being ashamed of it.)

    Part of the problem in Texas — and indeed in many other states — isn’t just the lousy turnout rate. It’s that the GOPers get their base all riled up and they do show up and elect certifiable lunatics like Louie Gohmert and Greg Abbott. And then the radical rightists begin passing the laws to suppress voting — but only for those groups they believe won’t vote Republican.

    It’s happening all over the country, and far too many in the center and on the left simply will not acknowledge that the ultimate goal of the Republicans now — who DO recognize they will soon be a rather small plurality party — is to f*ck with the electoral system so they always win. Voter ID laws, talk about changing Electoral College elector allocation, making it harder to register voters, allowing elections to be bought, and now they’re going to challenge congressional apportionment (aka ‘one person, one vote’).

    This isn’t just about GOTV efforts for centrists and leftists. There needs to be some recognition that what the authoritarian right now wants is nothing less than the dismantling of what’s left of America’s democratic republic and to permanently rig its election system so they are forever unchallenged in power.

  • That is the danger. The few Democratic districts in the red states are so concentrated that it’s hard for Republicans to do anything there. But the other districts are often not such overwhelming majorities. If we could get some voter turnout, especially in college towns (students) or other areas with likely Democratic voters, we might be able to flip them. I think that’s why there’s such a focused effort on voter suppression in those places. The one against college students is particularly intense at the moment and not getting much press. It’s a short term winner but a long-range disaster for the GOP. These college kids are getting fucked over by the older (baby boomer generation). The state funding for colleges is almost non-existent (down from almost 80% state funded colleges in the 70s and earlier) and they’re being charged 6.8% interest on student loans for their outrage tuition and fees (double the prime rate). Baby boomers ought to be concerned that 20 years from now the generation they fucked over is going to pull the plug on them and I won’t blame them.

  • dcinsider

    Excellent point.

  • dcinsider

    I think you are part right. The demographics may require the legislature to “surrender” a few seats to the Democrats, in order to keep the “house of cards” in tact. That depends upon a lot of factors, but assuming that the non-white population continues to outpace the Caucasian population, and assuming the non-white population continues to vote in large numbers for Democrats, then the “best case” scenario for a Republican controlled legislature is the “surrender” of a few urban districts.

    Texas has 36 seats with a current split of 25/11 R/D. What is most likely to happen is they will draw the districts to reinforce the existing map wherever possible. And if they gain seats (TX is still growing), then that would make it easier to draw more favorable lines for the Republicans. Let’s say they gain 2 seats. What is likely to happen is that they “give” those seats to the Dems, and draw the urban districts larger, giving Dems some additional opportunities, but try to keep the rest the same.

    Whereas a Democratically controlled legislature will redraw the whole map. I doubt that the districts will be come more competitive without the Democrats getting control of at least one house of the legislature by 2020. The Dems might pick up a few seats after redistricting, but the current structure won’t change that much.

    That is the bigger problem Texas faces IMHO.

  • The state house and senate seats are just as bad, probably worse in terms of gerrymandering. Here’s the problem, the new census numbers after 2020 won’t help if the GOP is still in charge and still gerrymandering the districts. And even without that, we can’t get any traction at the statewide level. Of course it doesn’t help that there’s no one in line to run for such offices when they come open since you can hardly get elected dog-catcher here as a Democrat except for a few highly concentrated Democratic-majority districts. (For those who don’t understand how this is done. They create a 90% Democrat district and then surround that with 55-60% Republican districts. It’s very clever how they did it and because it was in response to a mandate from the courts to create a few minority-majority districts it’s been held up in the courts.

  • djny10003

    I’ve never been to Texas, and am bewildered by it.

    They keep making noise about seceding from the USA, and I wish they would. The author starts out by saying he considers himself a Texan first and an American second, as if that’s a good thing! We real Americans don’t need Texas dragging us down.

    Start building a fence at the Oklahoma border.

  • Max Mills

    If the current Texas GOP was fully supported by the people of Texas they would not need to resort to voter suppression tactics.

    Also, I proved that the current Texas GOP was not fully supported by the people of Texas with one of the citations in my article

  • Max Mills

    Do you genuinely not understand why I feel that an entire state might not be represented totally by a handful of politicians voted for by 17% of the population?

    (17% is about 60% of 28%, the percentage supporting Abbott * the percentage of Texans who voted in 2014)

  • FLL

    I have a theory about extreme forms of gerrymandering, and I think you are astute about these things. Gerrymandering is “sturdy” if the bizarrely illogical districts still have a comfortable Republican margin at election time. However, in order for the Texas Republicans to gerrymander Texas districts in 2020 (with 10 more years of demographic changes in place), their gerrymandering would have to become more extreme. By that, I mean that the lines of their electoral districts would have to be drawn so exquisitely that they could only leave themselves a very slim Republican advantage in all these districts. In that case, it would only take a slight shift toward the Democrats in any given election year (2020, 2022, etc.) for the whole house of cards to come crashing down. Do you think that is a possibility if you try to gerrymander with slimmer margins of victory in most districts?

  • dcinsider

    Texas will likely change to purple even without your centrist, vote-shy friends. Demographics demand it. However, if you have a prayer of seeing those demographics change for Congress, you damn well better get those lazy stupid clowns to vote before 2020, because if the Republicans are in control of the legislature, the damage will remain in place through 2030.

  • dcinsider

    Small correction my friend, but Vermont was not the first state to recognize same-sex marriage. Vermont’s SC ruled that the legislature needed to rewrite laws to allow equal status, and that was determined to be civil unions, which remained in place until 2009, six years after marriage equality was implemented in Massachusetts.

    Accordingly, Massachusetts was the first.

    However, the victory in Vermont was critical, and gave Mary Bonauto and the folks at GLAD the courage to pursue the marriage equality debate before the Mass SJC. So Vermont certainly played an important role.

  • 2karmanot

    I feel that about Vermont Max. Vermont was a democratic nation in its own right before joining the union. Vermont was the first state to recognize same sex marriage and universal health care for its citizens. Sorry Charlie….absolutely no excuse for the regressive sewer that is Texas.

  • FLL

    Predictions that changing demographics will turn the state people are not being reflected in election results.

    Gerrymandering has nasty results, not just in the U.S. House of Representatives, but also in Texas state government. You may just have to wait for the next census in 2020, as depressing as that sounds.

  • mirth

    I get that you don’t get (and maybe are unable to get) the absurdity of saying that Texas has given the reins to the far right yet it is still a great state.

    “…demanding total adherence to less centrist positions” – hyperbole much?

    There’s just nothing more one can add to such nonsense.

  • FLL

    I agree that if the vast majority of the Anglo population in Texas voted, the state government would probably be left-leaning Democratic and Wendy Davis would have won. The problem is that the Anglo majority in Texas doesn’t feel threatened enough by the far-right fundamentalist Christians to vote—that is, if they can pull off being sexually repressed enough to fly under the Bible-based Christian radar. Therefore, they don’t bother voting. I’m guessing that this describe most of your friends.

    The only answer in the short term, alas, is for Texans of Mexican descent (the vast majority of whom are mixed race) to become a bigger percentage of the electorate because Texas Chicanos do feel threatened by the far-right Tea Party types because of the simple fact that they are mostly mixed race rather than white. Of course, your mostly left-leaning Anglo friends could beat the Chicanos to the polls, but only if they suddenly realized (or honestly admitted to themselves) that there is almost no such thing as a perfect zero on the Kinsey scale of sexuality. But do you really think that sudden Zen moment of enlightenment is going to happen anytime soon? If it did, the Tea Party would be in trouble even without increased Chicano presence in the electorate. Your thoughts?

  • Max Mills

    I think that Texas is great, but that its politicians do not represent Texans or Texas as a whole because we have given the reigns to the far right. I think we should vote more so that our politicians do represent Texans/Texas. If we did, we would be center-left.

    I dont think thats bad, I dont see any particular reason to alienate moderates by demanding total adherence to less centrist positions – I think that that is what the Tea Party does, and I think that it is one of the reasons they will ultimately fail as a political movement, because of their rabid intolerance of anything resembling ideological impurity relative to their far right standard.

  • mirth

    Often I don’t agree with your opinions and I don’t remember ever up-voting one of your comments (although I always read them and think about what you have to say), but this one deserves it. It’s well thought out, I recognize the despondent emotion in how you present it and I sympathize with your circumstances, and, like most truth-telling, it’s very compelling. We may not be so far apart in our thinking afterall. Good luck on the job search.

  • mirth

    Let’s see if I get wut you are saying.

    You love Texas; you don’t love Texas; your historically fucked-up state will be much less detrimental to the welfare of the entire country if more mushy-middle sittin’-on-the-fence go-along-to-get-along centrists get to a voting booth.

    That about it?

  • Last year I was going to vote in the Republican Primary. In Texas we don’t register by party. You can go back and forth between parties from one primary to the next if you want so long as you only vote in one per election. No, I’m not a Republican and chances are I wouldn’t vote for any Republican in a general election, but as in many states voting in the majority party’s primary is my only chance of having any say in who becomes my governor, Congressman, Senators and on down to the local level. There was NOT ONE candidate on the GOP primary ballot that wasn’t a far right nutjob. There use to be some relatively sane Republicans here. Kay Bailey Hutchison was the senator here for years. Yes, she was conservative but she also co-sponsored and supported some good bills (like a federal law to help prosecute stalkers who were harassing people from across state lines). I would gladly have helped someone like that get the nomination. But no. It was one big clusterfuck of people trying to out Teaparty each other with crazy bullshit. And thanks to gerrymandering my very blue city has no chance of being represented by a Democrat. We are fucked here. And worse, even attempts by the GOP establishment are met with scorn. They aren’t right wing enough and they actually believe here that McCain and Romney lost because they weren’t conservative enough.

    There are a lot of smart people down here. But we are outnumbered. Predictions that changing demographics will turn the state people are not being reflected in election results. Wendy Davis who ran a strong, if flawed, campaign fared no better running for governor than past Democrats who barely bothered to campaign at all. I don’t see any change in the immediate future. As long as I am stuck here (looking for work in a reality-based community!) I will continue to vote but it really doesn’t seem worth the trouble when not a single person I voted for had any chance of being elected. In fact for most offices there wasn’t even a Democrat running so I either voted Green or Libertarian (most of the Ls here are conspiracy theory nuts so not so many of those) or just left that line blank.

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