As goes Texas, so goes the nation, so they say.
People who know me well know I choose my words carefully. I’m not prone to hyperbole. So it pains me to say that, right now, I firmly believe Texas is headed down a dark, authoritarian path, where Texas Republicans have tacitly authorized bounties on women, a gun culture void of training and prone to intimidation, a faulty electric grid powered by political donations, and a voter suppression scheme that will make it even harder to hold elected officials like Governor Greg Abbott accountable.
These new laws — 666 of them, ironically enough — aren’t just going to make people’s lives materially worse on the individual level, they’re going to make it harder to attract talent, business, and investment into a state that’s seen record growth over the last few years.
Texas truly does have a lot going for it. For folks fleeing over-regulated and over-taxed states like California and New York, even if cities like Austin need to build a heck of a lot more housing to help keep cost of living under control, Texas is a place to try new things and take a dollar further. It’s a massive state with a huge market, tons of talent and tons of purchasing power. Texans are hard workers and truly kind people. I would know, I’ve spent my life criss-crossing the state.
I was born north of Houston in Conroe, Texas. My dad was a pastor up the road, just a bit further north, in Cut and Shoot. I like to say “Cut and Shoot” sounds like the name of a town that South Park would make up to make fun of Texas, but it is very real.
Texas is full of towns with funny names—Bug Tussle, Jot ’Em Down, Noodle—and I’m from one of them.
Dad was born in Estancia, New Mexico, grew up in Whitney, Texas; mom was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, grew up in Mission, Texas. They met at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas. When I was three, we moved to California in 1990 where my dad became pastor at a struggling church north of Los Angeles, but we spent most summers road-tripping around Texas to visit family and friends in Brownwood, Houston, San Antonio, Whitney, Dallas, Denison, Midland, Odessa.
Dad would use these trips to write sermon outlines for the year, usually preaching at different churches across the state when we came through. I started playing drums when I was about ten years old, so in my teenage years, they’d sometimes ask me to sit in with the church band since I was “brother Jimmy’s son.”
My wife, Amanda, and I moved to Austin in 2015, and it’s become home.
I’m comfortable in Texas churches, in small town barbecue joints, in fancy Austin bars, at church, at a club or at a rodeo.
I know this state well, and I love this state a lot. But my heart breaks for Texas and for Texans right now.
Since March of 2020, Texas has tragically lost more than 57,000 people to the Coronavirus pandemic. When the state experienced a historic freeze in February that knocked our electric grid offline, it was reported that around 700 Texans died—since then, electricity turns off and on across the state on a whim.
With those two issues alone, the 87th Texas state legislature could have filled its 2021 agenda. Instead, they spent their time in regular session and in two special sessions attacking trans children and their families, making it easier to get a gun, harder for women to obtain pregnancy-related medical care, harder to get out of jail if you’re poor, and even more inconvenient to vote.
Too many Texas advocates and lawyers and activists to name deserve credit for trying to stem the tide—they deserve credit for rolling back some of the worst provisions of some of these bills. Texas House Democrats did their best given the politics of this state, denying quorum and delaying a vote on these things until the 11th hour but, ultimately, pretty much all of it passed.
If we’re going to change the country, we’ve got to change Texas. I’m not much of a fan of the two-party system all on its own, but I am a proud Texas Democrat and, right now, Texas Democrats are going to have to dig in, dig deep, and prove that we love this state by doubling-down going into the 2022 election.
Texas Democrats need to get a leader into this fight to run for governor and we need to make it clear that our agenda is one that shows we’ve listened to Texans, know what their needs are, and are willing to be a partner with them to build solutions.
Texas Democrats need to pick their battles, and run on things that we know appeal statewide. We need to let local candidates focus on local issues and statewide candidates focus on statewide issues. What’s important and popular in East Texas may not be what’s important and popular in Central, South, North, or West Texas. We’ve got to give our candidates breathing room to run their race in a way that’s going to be effective because I truly believe that Texas Democrats need to win.
We need to break this thirty year cycle of one-party rule.
I think Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton love politics. I think their actions and their agenda this session have shown that they love power. Texas Democrats love Texas and Texans. There’s a huge difference, but we’ve got to prove it in 2022.