I’ve been to Texas twice, both times on business. I thought San Antonio was a marvelously fascinating city, a blend of some of the best of two cultures. Discovering that the Alamo was in the middle of the city and not in the middle of a desert was a revelation to someone who grew up watching Davy Crockett. In contrast, a week in insanely hot Houston (which felt like a year in Purgatory) signaled to me that if this rapidly growing, concrete megalopolis fueled by fossils was the future, I much prefer the past.
In just a few short weeks, the Texas legislature, for decades a source of relatively harmless mirth chronicled brilliantly by the late, great socio-political commentator, Molly Ivins, went completely bonkers and enacted three new laws that will define it as a deadly, out-of-control coven of villains intent on bending the arc of history into the fetid swamp of neo-fascism. In breathtakingly short order, the Republican-dominated body--
- banned abortions upon detection of a fetal heartbeat (typically six weeks, before most women even know they are pregnant) with no exceptions for rape or incest, and deputized private citizens to serve as vigilantes/bounty hunters, allowing individuals to sue an abortion provider or anyone who may have helped someone get an abortion after the time limit and seek financial damages of at least $10,000 per defendant;
- authorized Texans to openly carry a gun without either a permit or training; and
- made it much more difficult for minority and low-income citizens to vote.
This is a trifecta that would warm the hearts of Donald Trump and Kevin McCarthy if they actually had hearts. It certainly appealed to the three Trump justices on the U.S. Supreme Court who joined with the Court’s two holdover “Doctors No”—Justices Thomas and Alito—to allow the Texas abortion ban to become law for the time being despite its language that flies in the constitutional face of the half-century old Roe v. Wade decision. As long as the Texas law remains on the books, it means that back-alley abortions awash in coat hangers will be the only option for the state’s indigent women. It also means that once reproductive health clinics close their doors, the other important services they provide—free mammograms, STD testing and treatment, pregnancy testing, etc.— will no longer be available from them.
The new gun law was vigorously opposed by every law enforcement organization in the state. Not only does it make it harder for police to do their jobs. It also puts their lives, and the lives of every state resident and visitor, in danger.
With respect to voting, the legislature’s Republican majorities, fearing that their days in power are numbered due to the demographic changes Texas is experiencing, decided to rig the system and put major obstacles in the way of traditionally Democratic constituencies seeking to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Despite the 2020 election being a model for how to conduct a free and fair vote, the legislature raised the false flag of “election integrity” in order to start the steal of the 2022 and 2024 elections.
It’s impossible to ignore what happens in Texas. It’s big and brash and mightily influential. After all, one-third of our presidents since 1964 hail from there. Worse, other deep red states look to Texas for their lead regarding what they can do to diminish their own citizens’A quality of life.
There is no easy counter to what Texas is doing. Congress and President Biden appear paralyzed in the face of the outrages wrought by the Texas legislature this summer. At this writing, the Justice Department is planning to file a lawsuit against the Texas abortion law. However, the eventual outcome is uncertain. Maybe the time has come to beg Mexico to take Texas back.
September 10, 2021