Let me begin by wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and an expensive Black Friday. And don’t forget Giving Tuesday. Seriously, don’t forget it.
Today, I answer questions posed by my intelligent and discerning readers. If you would like DeeceX to answer a question, please ask it in the comments below or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. No Question Too Big, No Answer Too Small!
1. This question comes from smart, kind and comely Reader Tish Hinojosa Elliott:
DeeceX: Why did Stacey Abrams keep losing?
I don’t have any specialized knowledge of Georgia history or politics, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express (TM) last night, so I will take a stab at your question. Consider the following logical formula:
Georgia : Texas :: Stacey : Beto
The key to understanding Stacey Abrams’s political trajectory is to think of her like our fellow Texan, Beto O’Rourke, and to think of Georgia like Texas. Both Georgia and Texas are reliably red states whose GOP base has become MAGA-fied within the last decade. Both states are in a battle between blue urban/suburban[i] cores and red rural expanses. Georgia is further down the blue path – hence, Biden’s narrow 2020 victory over Trump and the surprising election of two Democratic senators – but statewide elected officials and the General Assembly are all meaningfully red.
In 2018, when America collectively recoiled in horror at Donald Trump and his excesses, both candidates ran brilliant grassroots campaigns, catching lightning in a bottle and losing only by the barest of margins – Abrams by 1.6% and Beto by 2.6%. But neither of them permanently transformed their state’s politics, as their 2022 campaigns showed. Both have promised to be long-term agents of change, and have the discipline, charisma and fundraising prowess to make a difference in the medium term.
Georgia has become a battleground state. How long until Texas is also one? This is the perfect lead-in to the next question.
2. This question is from an anonymous, but also smart, kind and comely, Reader:
DeeceX: What in the hell is wrong with Texas? Is it a simple post-election mortem or more complex? I’m so bugged/tired of this state.
In the words of the 42nd President of these here United States, I feel your pain. The easy, double-digit margins by which such perennial class clowns as Greg Abbott,
Darth Vader Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton and Sid Miller won re-election ought to compel every right-thinking man or woman to question the collective sanity of the Texas electorate.
Consider the evidence: only four years ago, Texas Democrats could take hope in the midterm election results. Although Abbott won handily against the (let’s stipulate) unknown, uncharismatic and underfunded Lupe Valdez, neither Patrick, Paxton nor Miller beat their Democratic opponents by more than five percentage points.
This cycle, all Four Horses’ Asses of the Apocalypse won by comfortable margins ranging from 9.9 to 12.8 percent. And arguably against better candidates running better campaigns.
There are numerous possible explanations for the Democrats’ less-than-sparkling results this year, many of which will be obvious to Astute Readers:
· Voter suppression laws, which have been a GOP shibboleth for a generation now, reaching a new low in the 2021 legislative sessions and causing at least some depression of voting;
· GOP-engineered gerrymandering which led to congressional and legislative victories, which will further suppress future voting;
· Lower voter turnout this cycle, particularly in the state’s big urban centers;
· Persistent failure to vote among constituencies thought to represent a new Democratic coalition – young people, women, and minorities.
And so on. Smarter people that I will devote the months ahead to a data-based analysis of the elections which will unearth more insight. But I want to suggest a broader, more overarching explanation.
For most of Texas’s history, the Social Contract was intended to benefit white men and the industries they built at the expense of, among others, Indigenous Peoples, slaves, minorities (especially Mexicans and Mexican Americans), and women. (My colleague Jim Moore has written powerfully about how that system worked in its 1970s heyday.)
Texas was proud to be a low-tax, low-services state. But that philosophy failed to meet the demands of modern times. Beginning in the 1960s, new groups of Texans insisted on being part of the state’s governing coalition. That energy reached its high point in 1990 with the election of Ann Richards as Governor. It has declined since then or, maybe better, diversified, as Texas’s population has grown. This is not the Texas of the “good ol’ boys,” but it’s not the Texas of the future either.
Texas wins national praise for its “business-friendly” climate. CNBC ranks Texas as the fifth-best state for business this year (down one from 2021). Texas might have done better, but it got an F in the Life, Health & Inclusion category. It’s worth looking at the metrics for that category:
[N]ow more than ever, companies are demanding that states offer a welcoming and inclusive environment for employees. We rate the states on livability factors like per capita crime rates and environmental quality. We look at inclusiveness in state laws, including protections against discrimination of all kinds, as well as voting rights. While the pandemic may be past the crisis stage, health care quality, outcomes, preparedness and public health spending remain in the spotlight.
In other words, Texas is a great state for business, but not so much if you happen to live here. In the words of that great Texas social philosopher Rick Perry, “Oops.”
This, to me, is the heart of our collective darkness. We celebrate the many things we do well while insisting the benefits thereof not be widely shared with our fellow citizens. We refuse to adequately fund public education at the state level, leading to huge local variations in resources allocated to schoolkids. We refuse to expand Medicaid, leaving about $10 billion/year on the proverbial table. We celebrate our freedoms, but re-elect officials who want to take them away from LGBTQ+ people or trans children.
And – not to put too fine a point on it – we frustrate access to the levers of self-determination for the less powerful, keeping them that way.
For the first time this summer, I heard the sad refrain of my fellow Texans of a more progressive stripe saying something like, “It’s time to get on out of here.” They’d mention New Mexico, or North Carolina, or Colorado, or even Old Mexico. But I encourage them, as I encourage you, to hang in there, to keep fighting the good fight, to keep banging the pots and pans together in the spirit and words of the great Molly Ivins. Our day will come soon enough.
3. This question comes from an anonymous, first-time Reader:
DeeceX: Are all your readers some combination of smart, kind and comely?
Yes. What are you waiting for? Subscribe now!
[i] E.g., in addition to the five most urbanized counties, Biden won Fort Bend, Williamson and Hays counties in 2020.