Editor’s Note: As you read this account of what’s happening in Texas, feel free to substitute Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in the narrative. Pruitt’s Obama-hating, states rights’ lovin’, theocratic agenda mirrors Abbott’s lunacy in so many ways – including the squandering of taxpayer dollars on frivolous anti-federal lawsuits. Like Abbott, who rose from attorney general to governor, Pruitt lusts for higher office – either the governorship in 2018 or for U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s seat when he retires. Pruitt is backed by many of the same deep-pocketed wingnuts and stink tanks that helped engineer Abbott’s rise to power in Texas.
BY VERN TURNER
There is a recurring noise coming from the Texas government that keeps drowning out reason, integrity, respect for the Constitution and pluralism in discourses of governing and how to go about it. The current governor of Texas, Greg Abbott is abdicating definitions of conservatism to front a radical, seditious agenda that sends us back to the 19th Century idea of law, the courts and states rights. He uses the canard about “the rule of law.” He wants the law to reflect his idea of it, not those quaint gentlemen who wrote the Constitution.
Sedition, it must be noted, is defined as any action, speech or writing that creates discontent or rebellion against a government. When governor Abbott was Rick Perry’s attorney general, he sued the federal government of the United States for everything and anything that he and his boss didn’t like. The federal government took no action against these suits and they dissolved into the meaningless hot air that spawned them.
Now, Ken Paxton, Abbott’s AG, is doing the same thing, suing the federal government for overreach by the executive. Why would they do that when the previous president issued one-third more executive orders than the current president? The answer is more than mere politics. They began this irrational attack on our national government the moment Barack Obama’s hand came off the Bible in 2009.
Moreover, the Texas executive branch refused $700 million of free money from the federal government to expand Medicaid for treating poor people. They also refused a similar amount of free money from the federal government for public education enhancements saying that Texas wasn’t going to have federal government mandates placed on our English language classes. The result has been no change or a decline in reading and writing test scores compared to the national average. These are but two of their most visible affronts to largesse coming from Washington, DC designed to actually help people lead better lives.
Now comes the latest in Abbott’s lust for power. He wants to convene a Constitutional convention to give states the power over the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Congress. He proposed, in a speech to the extremist, rightwing, Koch-sponsored “think” tank, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, nine Constitutional amendments that make states supreme over the national government.
In three of those proposals, the words “administrative branch” are used. This means the executive branch. Another proposal requires the Congress to balance the budget. In case Mr. Abbott hasn’t noticed, government isn’t a business and a balanced budget is a formula for disaster when unexpected events occur. Think of post-Katrina with no money available for recovery.
He wants state law to supersede “administrative agencies” directives. This, coupled with another amendment preventing Congress from regulating anything that occurs within a state, means the governor of those states becomes supreme, especially when other proposed amendments say that a two-thirds majority of states can override the Supreme Court and any other federal law or regulation.
If this isn’t a seditious grab for power, the dictionaries need to be re-written.
It is clear that Greg Abbott is very much opposed to the presidency of Barack Obama, because he sues everything and anything that administration has tried regarding Texas. He has accused the president of overstepping his authority via executive orders, specifically those he doesn’t like or are counter to his political agenda.
The thing is, Obama’s predecessors have all produced more executive orders over the last 130 years. I looked it up.
I also looked up the laws and Supreme Court decisions that give power to the federal government over that of the states. The original case, Marbury v. Madison in 1803, gave the Supreme Court the final say on state laws. Of course, the 14th Amendment after the Civil War obliterated the 10th Amendment with the slavery issue.
Mr. Abbott, it seems, wants to return to those good old days when states could decide about having slaves. What else would he have in mind? No controls on air, water and soil pollution? Texas already is the most polluted state in the country.
The overview of recent Texas governmental history and the lurch to the extreme right after George W. Bush left Texas to become president shows how far backward Texas politics intends to go. Antebellum gun laws, terrible social services for the “takers,” draconian anti-immigration efforts using the National Guard to do nothing but intimidate, defunding of public schools, promoting private school vouchers to milk taxpayers of yet more money that could be used for teaching poor children, and the continued absurdities of the high-stakes testing regimes that cost Texas taxpayers another $100 million per year all say backwardness, selfishness, greed and a lust for power.
Despots crave power. Despots almost always abuse power. Despots almost always lose power in violent insurrections. Yet, those of weak character and corrupt heart keep striving for more power and control of money, people and weapons. When will we ever learn to resist despots-in-waiting?
Greg Abbott was elected by about 17% of the eligible electorate. The overall percentage of eligible voters who actually voted was about 32% in Texas and only 36% nationally. This kind of non-participation in democracy is what yields despots and those who lust for power.
Texans like to pride themselves in their rugged individualism, but by not doing their civic duty they allow creatures of the night to take the reins of power and turn good things and good people into mere tools of their desires.
One of my favorite comics, the late George Carlin, once did a bit about voting and voters. He said he didn’t vote because he didn’t want to be lumped into the group that put these bad people in office. He blamed the voters for the election of those who do more harm than good. He was right.
Why? Because not enough of the good people in our state of Texas or our country choose to inform themselves and vote intelligently in their best interests, or the best interests of their fellow citizen. How could any rational person, for example vote for someone who denied children money for a world-class education, or money for helping poor people get healthy and earn a living?
Well, they did that by not voting, by staying home on Election Day.
Everybody in this country has the right to vote or not. By not voting, the consequences can be catastrophic.
Imagine Greg Abbott as your king, with all the power to decide what school your children go to, if any, or what kind of pollution of your drinking water you’re allowed to accept.
Greg Abbott’s lust for power must not be enabled with a second term. Remember, there’s a reason that the governor’s election in Texas and many other “red” states is on an “off year” to the presidential years.
Why? Because fewer informed voters vote in those years. It’s part of the strategy for despots to come to power.
By not voting, a person plays right into the hands of those lusting for power. Read some history about that social dynamic.
– Vern Turner lives in Marble Falls, TX and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism, is available through Amazon.com.