The Lone Star Failed State

Photo by Pete Alexopoulos on Unsplash

I’m not going to necessarily regurgitate the events of this unusual cold spell that’s besieged Texas with some of the worst temperatures in decades. I’m not going to go on a rant about ERCOT.

I’m going to discuss governing and culture.

Basic governing and the reality that culture sometimes ignores.

I love Texas. Texas is a major part of who I am as a man. I was born here, I live here, and for the most part, I make a pretty decent living here. For all the faults that this state does have politically, socially, and culturally, Texas is a beautiful state.

However, as someone that loves Texas, I want Texas to be the best that it can be. Yet, for Texas to really reach its real potential, it has to address two things:

For one, Texas needs leaders who actually care about governing. Believe it or not and I apologize for feeling this way, governing is not about ensuring a business friendly climate, winning worthless cultural wars, trying to figure out who can out conservative who, or fulfilling bullshit small government fantasies. Governing is about people; responding to the needs of the constituents of the state, and offer meaningful solutions that actually resolve or mitigate pressing issues and concerns rather than make good on bullshit ideological orthodoxy.

The Texas-brand of conservatism has forever been toxic; exacerbated by the ever increasing divide between Texas’ prosperous urban and suburban areas and the rural areas that are being increasingly left behind both economically and culturally. Encouraging selfishness as independence and self-reliance and treating selflessness as if it is a Red Scare threat, Texas conservatism thrives on too much of a “don’t fix something that isn’t obviously broken” mentality until something not only breaks, but people are imperiled or die because of the catastrophic nature of its rupture.

You may think that this is quite an overreaction to Texas’ electric grid failing, but it isn’t. Governor Greg Abbott, ever the right-wing opportunist, took the time to get on Fox News and try to blame federal legislation that isn’t even in place while at the same time, try to paint a non-profit corporation that has no power to authorize funding for Texas’ ancient electric grid as a convenient villain. Former Governor and former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, a living and breathing Aggie joke, claimed in an interview that Texans are willing to sacrifice life and limb so as long as (conservatives) in the state can enjoy their anti-government fetish. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who talks endless shit about so-called liberal policy failures while turning a blind eye to the colossal policy and infrastructure fuck ups caused by members of his conservative tribe, tried to skip off to a impromptu escape in Cancun — then lied about it. These are just a few examples of Texas conservatives proving time and time again they are not serious about the work of governing.

Texas is a growing state — by 2025, well over 30 million people will call Texas home. It’s no longer that Western-style, open frontier pastoral fantasy: it’s a heavily populated state with four of the 15 largest cities in the United States; a state that will soon be the first sub-national jurisdiction with four separate cities with more than 1 million residents each in the Western Hemisphere; a state that is vastly more urban and suburban in character; and most importantly, a state that is going to need much more responsive leadership. Leadership that cares more about work than power.

Which leads me to the second thing that Texas must address: it’s anti-government culture.

Probably no state romanticizes its perceived independence from the federal government than Texas; for example, a long-held myth is that Texas is the only state that is permitted to have its state flag fly at the same height as the United States (not true). It seems harmless on the surface, but the reality is that it gives continued credence to a toxic brand of anti-government, anti-governing conservatism that forms the bedrock of Republican thought in a one-party state.

That anti-government romanticism is becoming more negatively consequential as time goes on: Abbott, as governor, has weaker powers than his gubernatorial contemporaries; Dan Patrick, the scumbag lieutenant governor, is effectively the state’s most powerful politician; the state legislature only meets every other year; the lack of a state income tax leads to significant punitive burdens, such as the state having some of the highest property taxes in the nation; Texas’ refusal to expand Medicaid — even via a bullshit block grant scheme — is a significant reason why Texas has one of the lowest percentages of residents that have health insurance.

Texas’ small-government ethos is devoid of reason. As a liberal, I don’t focus on government size for that it is subjective; what I focus on is “good” government; that is can a government be functional enough to effectively, constructively, and responsibly respond to the general welfare of its population. It’s one thing to hold a belief that government should be restrained from an ever-expansive safety net (a fucked up belief, mind you); it’s another thing to believe that the only purpose that governing party believes its has is to maintain power to keep the other party out of power for no other reason than to enforce an imagined hierarchy and win a cultural war of their own creation. That’s where the Republican Party finds itself currently and, to be blunt, it is really fucking people over.

In essence, the Republican Party… this, Texas brand of conservatism, is uninterested in actually doing the work of governing in adherence to its brand. This past week, where frigid temperatures swept the state and reportedly killed 30 and counting, the lack of interest in taking a meaningful, good faith approach to governing has proved to have real, and unfortunately fatal, consequences.

For all the shit that Texas leadership is deservedly getting; for all of the humor that residents in other states have got from Texans posting TikTok videos, Facebook and Instagram stories, and comical tweets; I still love this fucking state. But Texas, we have to do better. We can do better.

And the first thing we’re going to have to do is fix our state’s leadership.