Opinion | When will Texas say enough to Greg Abbott?

HOUSTON – A colleague of our law school governor once insisted to me that Greg Abbott was more dangerous than his predecessor Rick Perry because he was smart. I would say that the facts of the last few months give considerable support to the first part of the sentence.

Perhaps you have heard that Mr. Abbott tested positive for coronavirus? A day before the news, he appeared at a crowded campaign event, without masks, shaking hands and posing for photos. It was nice to let us know that he felt good after receiving the kind of attention that President Donald Trump received when he tested positive: those ingenious monoclonal antibodies and all. However, for years, Mr. Abbott has denied federal funding for a state expansion of Medicaid, which could help many Texans access health care (and, according to polls, has the support of a majority of residents).

Mr. Abbott’s announcement also came against a battle for mask mandates for school districts in several Texas cities: mine, Houston, among them, as well as Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. Governor and Attorney General Ken Paxton banned mask warrants, but local leaders challenged each other and Thursday night, the Texas State Supreme Court fell next to school districts trying to fight a rise in child-related cases.

Simultaneously, new census data shows how population changes over the past decade in Texas, like other Sun Belt states, will strengthen large cities and their suburbs.

This fascinating coincidence made me wonder how far we are from the open rebellion among many Texans. Mr Abbott is reportedly preparing the ground for a potential presidential candidacy in 2024, but first, next year, he must win the election for a third term.

In his statement on the ban on the mask mandate, he said the state should rely on “personal responsibility”. I agree with him. In recent weeks, the dangers for jeans, in the most acute way of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, have increased exponentially under his leadership. He has made it very clear, in his mishandling of recent calamities, that voters should exercise “personal responsibility” and find a better person to run their state.

I remember an old publication with magnetic letters outside the Austin restaurant and the local institution El Arroyo. A photo of the message turned around on Twitter in response to the outrage many citizens felt at the news of the governor’s illness. “Well, well, well,” it was said, “if they are not the consequences of my own actions.”

Mr. Abbott and his Republicans will not leave without a fight, or by tilting election laws in their favor as much as possible (Democrats and Republicans are evenly distributed in the state with the governor’s approval, but Democrats are they have become increasingly dissatisfied with the governor’s management of the pandemic, with more than 80 percent expressing disapproval, compared to 59 percent in April 2020). Republicans will also be able to hinder and likely future efforts to achieve a just fight, thus remaining in office unless a moderate Republican or any type of Democrat can achieve a miracle.

With the return of some Democratic state lawmakers from their quorum-denying self-exile, Republicans in the Texas House will surely pass a vote bill that would nullify the expansion of access to the polls during the pandemic last year in places like Houston, in addition to empowering supporters. survey observers.

Still, the refusal of members of the Democratic House to shoot and play dead was performative in the best sense. His protest made international news, which means some people here might also realize that Republicans are forced and determined to take away certain rights.

There is also a residual anger over the great freeze of February 2021, which is reminiscent of its monthly gas bill form. Recent Research – by The Texas Observer and The Texas Tribune – show how many energy companies benefited from rising gas prices while normal jeans trembled in their boots. Reports also raise the question of whether an increase in campaign contributions (so far Mr. Abbott’s campaign only received about $ 4.6 million) was a form of gratitude for what the governor and some lawmakers saw as favorable treatment.

And then, yes, there is the pandemic.

About 46 percent, Texas, the nation’s second-largest state, has a relatively low vaccination rate. Some hospital ICUs are overwhelmed with new Covid cases just as public schools open. Huzzahs to the elected offices of the most populous cities and counties in the state to fight the governor.

These fights reflect what has been going on since Mr. Abbott took office: the war between the Conservatives in the state house, with the support of rural voters and some wealthy Republican donors, and the more liberal leadership of the cities and metropolitan areas that reflects the will of much of its most diverse voters.

New census figures show that growth in Texas since 2010 is in cities: 87% of new residents have opted for life in our larger metropolitan areas, while rural communities remain stagnant, according to Steven Pedigo , director of the Urban Lab at the University of Texas at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs in Austin, in a CNN report. Our four largest cities now account for 68% of the state’s population, compared to 64% in 2010.

It is possible to expect, because it is always eternal, that what we are seeing is not just a series of isolated battles, but the beginning of a sustained backlash, at least among energetic Democrats, against Republican harassers. This includes, among others, Mr. Abbott, who seems to have focused on his own political fortunes while telling most jeans that they could only go to hang themselves.

Mimi Swartz (@mimiswartz) is executive editor of Texas Monthly.