I wrote a post last night about why I don’t like people conflating jerk extraordinaire Rick Perry with my entire state and LOTS of people contacted me with some variation of this message (pulled from a comment on that post):
Texas elected Rick Perry governor three times. Each time his margin of victory was more than 10% of the electorate. So why shouldn’t we blame Texas for Rick Perry?
So, here’s my answer (adapted from a comment I wrote on the aforementioned post):
The resulting 2001 legislative redistricting maps would cement the state’s shift from blue to red. […]
A new House map and an influx of campaign funds — some of which were eventually deemed illegal — led 88 Republicans to be elected to the House in 2002. Tom Craddick was elected the state’s first Republican speaker since Reconstruction. Craddick says the new majority carried responsibilities and freedoms many Republicans had never experienced, which led to a few problems during that 2003 session.
2) From same article:
Kronberg says the inexperience also showed in how quickly some bills were passed, sometimes with little understanding of what was in them. That includes passage of bills that gave new powers to Texas’ traditionally weak governor. “
The appointment process is more direct to boards and commissions,” Kronberg says. “The ability of the governor to reach into boards and commissions — where the true administration of government takes place — is more profound. Then there’s a whole series of mechanical things that were passed in a massive government-reorganization bill.
Texas’s 2003 redistricting was an extreme case of partisan gerrymandering. The state’s Congressional lines had already been redrawn once, after the 2000 census, producing additional Republican seats in a way that a federal court decided was fair. But when Republicans took control of the state government, they decided to do a highly unusual second redistricting. Democratic state legislators protested and fled the state to deny the Republicans a quorum. But Texas eventually adopted a plan that tilted the state’s delegation even further in the Republicans’ favor.”
On July 28, eleven Senate Democrats blocked a quorum by fleeing to Albuquerque, New Mexico moments before the House and Senate adjourned the first special session and just before Republican Gov. Rick Perry planned to call a second special session on redistricting. On August 26, the second special legislative session ended with the Democratic senators still in New Mexico and no redistricting bill passed by the Senate. On September 15, a third special session to address redistricting began with Democratic Sen. John Whitmire of Houston defecting from Albuquerque. As a result, the remaining Democratic senators who fled returned to Austin (the state capital). On October 12, 2003, the Texas House and Senate completed a compromise redistricting map and sent it to Perry’s office for his signature.
Oh, Rick Perry used multiple special sessions to do it? That sounds familiar. It’s almost like he exploits his power to call special sessions in order to force through legislation that he wants but that is otherwise terrible and he can’t get through during regular legislative sessions. Almost…
To fuel the record-setting spending of the most recent election campaign, candidates turned to a powerful minority comprised of 31,385 megadonors across the country. That wealthy stratum, including 2,700 Texans, funded nearly one-third of last year’s $6 billion election in spending.
Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, who led the nation in Super PAC spending last year, recorded donations of $25 million.”
But wait. What is a SUPER PAC?
Super PACs are a new kind of political action committee created in July 2010 following the outcome of a federal court case known as SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission.
Technically known as independent expenditure-only committees, Super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. Super PACs must, however, report their donors to the Federal Election Commission on a monthly or quarterly basis — the Super PAC’s choice — as a traditional PAC would. Unlike traditional PACs, Super PACs are prohibited from donating money directly to political candidates.
Stephen M. Hoersting, a lawyer for the winning side in the first case, said the ruling represented a logical and welcome extension of Citizens United.
OH! A result of Citizens United, a court case that was decided by Supreme Court justices put in place by US presidents elected by US citizens at large. Huh.
6) We also told REPEATEDLY in Texas that our votes don’t matter. Because of gerrymandering and that everything is SO Republican that even if we vote for something, it won’t affect anything. And so now 10 years after the all-important 2002/2003 election/legislative cycles, Texas has lowest voter turnout in nation.
Low levels of political and civic participation may stem from a variety of causes. Relatively noncompetitive elections; lack of information and education; inconvenience and disenfranchisement; and the challenge of incorporating a rapidly changing population all may be contributing to lackluster civic health in Texas. […]
At the same time, nearly one in five Texans live below the poverty line. Poverty is more prevalent among racial and ethnic minorities in Texas: 25.5% of Texas’s total population living in poverty self-identify as Hispanic and 23.6% as African American, while non-Hispanic Whites make up 8.7% of the total. According to the Pew Research Hispanic Center, the poverty rate among Texas Hispanics ages 17 and younger is 35%. Relatedly, one in five adult Texans lacks a high school diploma.
7) I’m sure you’ve heard that we had unconstitutional Voter ID and redistricting laws in Texas that were deemed unconstitutional by SCOTUS.
Now that key parts of the Voting Rights Act were deemed unconstitutional, LOOK WHAT’S BACK! Our previously unconstitutional Voter ID law.
8) I’m about 99.9% sure that this list isn’t even comprehensive.
In short: you can throw your pithy statement at me about voter turn out and who voted for Perry but if that pithy statement is void of the actual context of how campaigning, elections, voting, and government works in Texas, then keep it to yourself please.