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A Brief Primer On Texas’ F*CKED Up Politics & Why It Matters To You

Posted in Act Out!, Austin, Creative Commons, Journalism, and Video

A script for Eleanor Goldfield of Act Out!

A conservative radio host that once claimed migrants bring leprosy and polio to our country and that God is speaking through “Duck Dynasty” now holds the most powerful office in Texas. And he wants to use that power to make the lives of struggling people like students, the transgendered, and undocumented immigrants even more miserable. He is Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and he’s this week’s Low Life Scum.

The lone star on the inner ceiling of the dome of the Texas State Capitol. March 11, 2011. (Flickr / John Koetsler, CC NC ND)

Whenever you talk about terrible things happening in Texas, people start to tune out. You’re thinking, of course it’s fucking awful, it’s Texas. Why don’t we let them secede already?

It’s true, Texas politics seem like what happens when you apply dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” as an instruction manual BUT everything that happens there is a test balloon. The University of Texas at Austin motto is “what starts here changes the world.” And with most states and the U.S. Congress united behind that shit stain Trump, you can bet we’ll all be eating the same shit-filled Texas chili soon enough.

A flooded Texas road. Texas infrastructure was rated
A flooded Texas road. Texas infrastructure was rated “D” for roads and flood protection in 2012. (Flickr / Steve Rainwater, CC SA)

The Texas government is full of low-life scum, but due to the peculiar whims of Texas politics, the Lt. Governor is a scumbag who stands above all the rest. The Lt. Governor is not just president of the state senate, but also sets the agenda for the entire legislative session.

The senators and reps have a lot of politics to get through in a short amount of time, because the Texas State legislature only meets for 140 days every other year. Lemme say that again but slower: A hundred and 40 days EVERY OTHER year. The rest of the time, that massive building is just a big pink tourist trap.

Now, before we get into what issues Patrick thinks are more important than all the rest, let me share a few fucked facts. Texas has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country, one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy, and is a leader in HIV diagnoses.

In 2012, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave both Texas’ roads and flood control a D on their infrastructure report card. But don’t worry, it’s not like Texas roads ever flood. And as for education, Texas’ placed 43rd out of 50 states and D.C. in a poll published in January by Education Week.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks to supporters of Ted Cruz in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Flickr / Gage Skidmore, CC SA)

Now, Dan Patrick may look like a sitcom grandpa, but he’s more likely to take your rights away than to tuck you in with a cup of cocoa and a bedtime story. This is a guy who believes there’s no such thing as separation between church and state and in 2004 issued an online warning against the evils of MTV — if only he had meant the evil of turning a once beloved music channel into a quagmire of vapid “reality” shows signaling the surge in anti-intellectualism and the death of good music, I’d be totally on board with that. But that’s not what he meant.

In 2013, Texas Monthly said Patrick, still a state senator, was one of the worst politicians in office. The magazine wrote, “There are few types of lawmakers less helpful to the legislative process than bullies and ideologues. Unfortunately, Dan Patrick too often seemed to be both …”

Now that unhelpful bully ideologue is steering the ship. Where, you ask? Well, lemme share with you a few of Patrick’s top 10 priorities for the opening session in January. Ignoring that Patrick thinks reforming lawsuits over hailstorm damage is more important than health care or infrastructure, over half these items are designed to hurt the poor and make minorities suffer.

First, the legislature will slash property taxes in order to further starve public schools, Then Patrick wants to force students into charter schools, even though charters frequently perform worse and hurt minority students most.

Next, Patrick wants to end “sanctuary cities,” a term the GOP made up to refer to any city offering protection to undocumented immigrants. Keep in mind, locking up immigrants is big business for Texas, which maintains multiple for-profit immigrant prisons with notoriously cruel conditions.

North Carolina “Potty Patrol” patch. North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom bill” also attacked workers’ rights. (Flickr / Mike Licht)

Next up, over the summer, a court struck down the state’s unconstitutional voter ID law. Not one to take civil rights lying down, Patrick’s decided to waste taxpayer money bringing it back from the dead to shamble through the already rotting corpse of our democracy, making minorities and the elderly even less likely to vote.

Next up: the “Women’s Privacy Act.” Much like the “Right to Work” bills, this one seeks to step on the throats of we the people in such a way that will have us focused on the shiny boots rather than the heinous act itself. The Women’s Privacy Act is simply a misnomered hate bill, it’s the anti-LGBTQ “bathroom bill” disguised as a bill to protect us poor helpless women from — from other women, apparently.

Assaulting or invading the privacy of anyone in a bathroom, regardless of gender, is already against the law. The real purpose of these bills is to further exclude transgender, nonbinary and genderqueer people, who already face high levels of violence and mental illness, from public life. And keep in mind, along with whatever other riders they sneak on — North Carolina’s version also blocked minimum wage increases and the right to sue for discrimination. But in Texas, if you oppose the bill, you’re framed as anti-women.

Which is really fucking ironic because Patrick wants to further weaken abortion rights in hopes of overturning “Roe V. Wade.” As a wedge, he uses the bogeyman of late-term abortions, which are actually extremely rare, medically-necessary surgeries. He also invokes unscientific myths about fetal tissue sales, based on those debunked videos about Planned Parenthood.

Activists fill the Texas State Capitol to protest dangerous new restrictions on abortion access, June 25, 2013. (Flickr / Do512 CC NC ND)

Now if this all sounds like a excerpt from Donald Trump’s most hateful wet dream, that’s because it is. Texas is the 2nd largest state — both by area and by population — and what happens there never stays there. So you can definitely expect to see some version of all these shitty laws in Congress someday soon because the better they do in Texas, the stronger they’ll come out swinging at our rights in the rest of the country.

So instead of brushing off mention of the Lone Star state, instead of simply relegating it to the “fuck it” category, look for a way to build solidarity with Texas activists. These issues are already or soon will be your issues. So, build together — brainstorm — and build a resistance to this bigotry, racism, sexism and hate. Build a resistance to low life scum.


A Brief Primer On Texas’ F*CKED Up Politics & Why It Matters To You by Kit O’Connell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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