Messing with Texas
Richard Parker, writing in Politico Magazine, offers his analysis of the situation in Texas:
When Gov. Greg Abbott won election in 2014, he said of his agenda: “We will celebrate the frontier spirit of rugged individualism.” Since then, he and the legislature have sought to limit government power — except their own. They have enabled individuals to more freely carry guns and knives and diverted taxpayer money from public to private schools. Most recently, Abbott led the failed effort to nullify local tree ordinances — regulations limiting tree removal — because these posed, Abbott argued, a threat to individual freedom.
But Harvey has changed all that.
“A Texas-sized storm requires a Texas-sized response, and that is exactly what the state will provide,” Abbott said Monday in Corpus Christi. “While we have suffered a great deal, the resiliency and bravery of Texans’ spirits is something that can never be broken. As communities are coming together in the aftermath of this storm, I will do everything in my power to make sure they have what they need to rebuild.”
This is a man whose signature boast was that he got up every day, went to work and sued the federal government, who has called for a constitutional convention to strip power from Washington and yet, on Monday, said, “To see the swift response from the federal government is pretty much unparalleled.”
Parker’s tone deafness — in an article positing that Harvey’s legacy might signal the end of “the Lone Star State’s rugged individualism” — is hard to fathom. While state, local (and federal) officials seem to have reacted competently under the circumstances, the true story of the last week has been private citizens spontaneously rising to the occasion to help their families, friends, and communities in need. The “Cajun Navy” of flat-bottom boats, canoes, and bass boats is the product of the local citizenry — not the federal behemoth in Washington or even the state government in Austin.
To Parker, “self-reliance” must mean something like “dying in a flood before letting the government help” — most Texans, however, believe it means taking the initiative to help your neighbors, your community, and even strangers in an emergency. also ignores the fact that Texans — and most Americans — don’t hate the federal government, they just don’t trust it, especially when it comes to disaster relief. Governor Abbot’s award of an “A+” to FEMA isn’t some sacrifice of rugged conservative values, it’s an acknowledgement of a government that’s functioning properly.
Then, Politico published a cartoon (in a now deleted tweet) accusing Texans of hypocrisy for accepting federal aid while the state harbors a secession movement:
The irony is that despite a popular association of Texans with secession, California currently has the nation’s largest secession movement, at least according to available polling. In August 2016, a Public Policy Polling study found that 59 percent of Texans oppose secession and 26 percent support it. Even if Hillary Clinton had defeated Donald Trump and won the 2016 election, only 40 percent of Texans would support secession, with 48 percent opposing.
In a March University of California–Berkeley study, however, 68 percent of Californians opposed secession but 32 percent support it. And while the last serious Texan push to secede was after the 2012 election, significant numbers of Californians have supported their movement three times since then.