4/06/2015

Texas Explained # 5 : More Politics

No one person can really explain Texas politics, and I don't claim to any superiority here in the ability to understand this mess. (At the bottom of this post I have included some sources for further reading.) I'm just a long time native striving to make sense of my home state. So many of my friends who live elsewhere have asked me, "What the hell's going on down there?" and, "Tell Ted Cruz to go back to Canada, where he came from," that I thought I'd make a vague attempt to point out some basics:

1) Texas voting districts are gerry-mandered. (Many other states are, too, but that doesn't mean it's right.) That means they are laid out all wonky, (for example, not by county, or not laid out in a reasonable grid, by geography or other impartial formation). These voting districts were set up years ago so that the powers that be could keep winning control of their districts, in spite of the fact that Texas is (according to the 2010 census) : 38% Hispanic (and growing), 12% African-American, and 75% urban (inside the mega triangle formed by Dallas-Ft Worth, Houston, and San Antonio-Austin. These factors alone would seem to suggest that Texas should trend Democratic. Yet it does not.

2) As many studies have demonstrated, a huge swath of the voting population just simply doesn't vote. Millenials and Gen Z - ers have abysmally low voting rates. Minorities have low voting rates, too, and have increasingly been impeded from voting by recent Republican "Voter I.D." laws. If we want to change things in this state, we need to focus on getting out the vote among the younger generation and various groups that traditionally swing Democrat. We need to stop letting folk get distracted by uber "patriotic" internet memes, and focus on real issues of the day, addressing them in a variety of media sources.

3)An educated electorate produces a thoughtful voter. That's a scary thing to political groups who want to control voters by narrowing their media options and ability to see through these manipulations. (See Hitler, Adolf : use of television, use of rallies, state control of media, etc.) The recent war on education (begun in the Bush years) is often couched in terms of catchy sounding  "improvement" acronyms that in actuality represent backroom deals (contracts for testing materials) between the testing agency (State Board of Education) and the few mega-corporation testing companies out there. I wonder, are these corporations owned or operated by Republican campaign supporters?*,This situation, combined with the classic Republican maneuver of de-funding educational programs (i.e. schools) while simultaneously raising standards, has created a crisis in our schools. This one-two punch engineers seemingly educational /school /teacher / curriculum "failures" all of which bolster their argument for school voucher programs- you know, so they can send their own kids to private schools and get the government to pay for it (sure as shooting, if voucher programs ever come to pass, there will be an ability test that goes along with qualification for access), all the while creating sub-standard education in the public domain for all the poor kids left behind. This is all in direct contrast to our nationwide idea from the 19th and early 20th centuries that an educated population led to better citizens. Well informed citizens required a basic literacy to read newspapers, background knowledge to discuss politics, and theoretically, voted thoughtfully. Initiatives created in the 1960's such as desegregation and the G.I. college bill actually expanded educational opportunities to many. You know, back when Americans were at the apex of our cultural, democratic, technological, and economic powers. After we had just won WWII for everyone else in the world. When we had just sent a man to the moon.

*TAAS=Teach Americans to Accept Stupidity
*TAKS=Testing Arbitrarily Kills (meaningful) Standards
*STAAR = Supporting Testing Associates And Republicans
*NCLB = No Classroom Left (with a) Book
Race to the Top = Race to the Total (elimination of anyone left wanting to become a teacher)
Want more thorough content on the state of education in America? There is a facebook page that aggregates news on this topic: Rice Alumni Educators

"I must say as to what I have seen of Texas, it is the garden spot of the world. The best land & best prospects for health I ever saw is here, and I do believe it is a fortune to any man to come here. There is a world of country to settle. Davy Crockett, Letter to his children (9 January 1836)

4)Ripe pickins' : Ted Cruz isn't the first politician to look around for a place he can perch, roost and take control. Much as the mockingbird lays its egg in the nest of another species and then lets that other bird family to deal with the problems caused by its offspring, politicians have long eyed Texas as a "Garden of Eden", a vast unshaped land, just ripe for the taking. The Bushes came from Connecticut. Cruz comes from Canada. It only happens because we the voters let it happen (see # 1, 2 and 3).

5)Women. The thing I can't figure out is why the over 50% of females out there, old and young, have tolerated the war on women's bodies that's been going on in recent years, vis a vis laws that would eliminate an individual's choice concerning medical control over the most private aspects of her health. Republicans claim they want less governemtn, so why are they bringing government regulation into the doctor's office? I just don't get it why sisters are putting up with it. It's like Margaret Attwood's The Handmaid's Tale. But that's a topic for another posting. If all the moms in this country united against open carry gun laws, for universal access to birth control, for workplace laws that were family-friendly, just think, we could be like Sweden.

Why should you care about any of this? As goes Texas, so goes the nation.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/texas-school-districts-sue-state-over-funding/2011/10/11/gIQAtex3eL_blog.html

http://www.nationalpartnership.org/issues/work-family/family-friendly-america/family-friendly-america-map.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/11/20/the-democratic-partys-number-one-problem-visualized/

 http://www.texasmonthly.com/

 https://www.texastribune.org/2015/04/05/inside-texas-politics-religious-freedom-laws/

 http://www.texasinsider.org/



Wouldn't it be cool if these were our voting districts? If I were going to divide the state, this is how I would do it. Each of the regions marked above truly corresponds to one of the unique cultural, environmental and socio-economic regions of Texas. BTW, this is a map of produce/crop planting regions within the state, provided by Texas A&M . http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/publications/veg_variety/

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