It’s Going Down invited me to come back to their podcast to discuss the GOP war on trans and LGBTQIA rights, based on my recent reporting for the Austin Chronicle:
Who could resist images of smiling children gathered under an ancient oak tree on the grounds of the Texas Capitol, transfixed by Democrat and Republican lawmakers doing a tag-team recitation of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax?
Apparently not the good folks of Texas.
A broad coalition of environmental activists employed just such a strategy during a special session of the Texas Legislature this summer as a way of stealing the spotlight and defeating a bill meant to strip municipalities of their power to protect historic trees.
With all the leftist bickering, in-fighting, both-siding, my anti-war prayers are bigger than yours bullshit, it seemed like a good time to highlight a leftist success story — particularly as it takes place in a bastion of right wingdom and frequent contributor and gonzo journalist Kit O’Connell was there to document it.
So yes — the Lone Star State is perhaps the last place where many of us would expect to see a broad coalition of left leaning groups successfully fight off the hateful Republican agenda. But that’s what just happened during a recent “special session” of the Texas legislature.
Special sessions are a loophole written into the Texas Constitution to allow the state government to conduct emergency business, but in this case the only emergency was that Gov. Greg Abbott had failed to oppress transgender people by passing a version of the so-called “bathroom bill” during the first part of the year. The Governor drew up a 20-point plan of hate for his month-long session, ranging from an attack on public workers’ unions, a pile of new restrictions on abortion, the bathroom bill, and even a bill that undermined the ability of cities to collect taxes to fund social services.
Then, to the surprise of even the people involved in the organizing to resist Abbott, activists working together across issues managed to fight off all but a handful of Abbott’s proposals, in an extraordinary display of the effectiveness of intersectional activism against seemingly insurmountable odds. At a time when some of our fundamental rights are under attack, the success of activists in one of the most politically conservative of states should give us all renewed faith in the power of movement building.
The halls of the Texas State Capitol are no strangers to protests, but for organizers witnessing a resurgence of grassroots advocacy and activism, it’s a heartening sign after a series of discouraging years.
Thousands joined the 2013 “people’s filibuster” against HB 2, the omnibus anti-choice bill that eventually made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but then momentum faltered with the defeat of Wendy Davis (and other Democratic candidates) in the 2014 election, followed by more setbacks in the intervening years of elections and Republican-led legislative sessions.
After the 2017 legislative session, Texas Republicans ensured that crucial funding bills remained unpassed, forcing lawmakers to return for a special session that costs taxpayers thousands of dollars per day. The Republicans hope to use this opportunity to build on new restrictions on abortion and a “Show Us Your Papers” anti-immigrants’ rights law, both subject to ongoing lawsuits, while forcing through unpopular and discriminatory legislation that failed to pass during the regular term.
On the first Wednesday of every month, I appear on Black Tower Radio to discuss my latest journalism.
Texas Republicans ensured that the legislature would close earlier this year with crucial business unfinished, forcing Gov. Greg Abbott to call for a special session that reopens the door to unpopular issues like new abortion restrictions, attacks on transgender rights, and even new laws restricting unions, Planned Parenthood, and the protection of historic trees.
Also, what respect do we owe politicians and government officials? What kinds of activism are appropriate when human lives and the planet are at stake?
I just made my second appearance on the Katie Speak Show, where I talked about activism at the Texas Legislature:
The show’s host, Katie Klabusich, and I discussed the special session of the Legislature, which began last week, and the strategies Governor Greg Abbott is using to try to force through a raft of unpopular, inhumane laws. On the agenda during the next month are abortion access, transgender rights, the ability of unions to collect dues, even cities’ ability to protect historic trees from development.
At the same time, about three dozen nonprofits and activist groups have combined to form the One Texas Resistance coalition, in an effort to pool their efforts at resistance together and highlight the intersectionality of their diverse issues, from climate change to the rights of Latinx Texans. Last week’s highly publicized quinceañera protest was organized by Jolt, a member of the coalition. These tactics, and their successes or failures, can likely serve as a model for the rest of the country which is also controlled by the power hungry and bigoted GOP.