Jason Stanford, 1/14/2015 [Archive]

Governor Forgets Texas Chose to Join the Union

By Jason Stanford

Anyone wondering what kind of leader Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wants to be just has to look his recent tweet:

"Sam Houston said: 'Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression.' As your next Governor I'll maintain that Texas spirit."

This does not bode well for those who were hoping for an end to his morally bankrupt tea party rhetoric. Abbott and Rick Perry, who used the same Houston quote in 2009, are like preening groundhogs. They see their shadows under the television lights and predict four more years of oppression from Washington. Instead of mainstream, bipartisan leadership, it looks like Texas is in for more saber rattling against the mirage of invading Federales.

It's as if they forgot Texas chose to join the Union, and that later Houston opposed secession. If I didn't know better, I'd think Abbott, like Perry before him, were referencing Houston's quote to exploit nativist instincts of local conservatives. After all, doesn't everyone remember how the story ended, how Houston stood with the Union against the Confederate traitors? United Houston stood, while divided Abbott and Perry grandstand.

But if shaking an indignant fist towards our nation's capital is an act, Abbott has completely committed to the role. He backed up his famous description of his role as attorney general— "I go into the office, I sue the federal government, and then I go home"—with 28 lawsuits against the federal government since Obama took office. He says he won 10 of them, but that includes some cases that he lost in court but were dismissed for unrelated reasons.

When it came out that those lawsuits cost Texas taxpayers $4 million, Abbott responded undaunted:

"If we lose our liberty to an overreaching federal government, we will lose absolutely everything, and that's why I will continue pushing back against Washington, D.C.," Abbott said.

One of those lawsuits dealt with federal regulations of red snapper, the fish not the restaurant chain, though I don't see how that makes it look any better.

The bulk of his lawsuits against the dadgum federal gummint involve things such as voting rights, redistricting, Obamacare, and family planning. If you're wondering which side General Abbott was fighting for in the war, just picture Martin Luther King Jr. on the other side, and you've got the picture. He spent a lot of political capital and taxpayer dimes to make sure fewer people got to vote or see a doctor. Also, the thing with the fish. Don't forget that.

That's probably how he'll spend his time as governor. There's other stuff—legal corruption, radical ideas about public schooling, and willingness to veto the DREAM Act—but he's spent his career playing politics with public office. Whether this stems from sincere convictions or opinion polls is immaterial. It's our money, and that's how he'll spend it.

The tragedy is that Abbott has enough talent and brains to take him far. He's smart enough to know his big win and campaign account means he doesn't have to play politics to serve the people. He could put partisanship aside and work on transportation, water, and other common causes. Plus, the marginal benefit of eradicating Democrats from Texas has got to be declining.

There are signs that Abbott might have hidden centrist motives. His top staff includes some serious, civic-minded people, and Abbott has talked about making education his top priority, which could be good or an utter disaster depending on your point of view.

It's hard to know how seriously to take this talk of putting politics aside to tend to the business of government. How much credibility should we assign his nod toward expanding Medicaid when he celebrated his role in the Supreme Court overturning that provision of the Affordable Care Act? Was it only a bad idea when it was political advantageous to be against it?

But let's assume he fought all those federal dragons because he sincerely hated dragons, not because he liked posing as the knight in shining armor. Texas' real problems are of her own making and have more to do with neglect than oppression. It would be nice if Abbott could prioritize real problems over mythical ones.

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©Copyright 2015 Jason Stanford, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Jason Stanford is a regular contributor to the Austin American-Statesman, a Democratic consultant and a Truman National Security Project partner. You can email him at stanford@oppresearch.com and follow him on Twitter @JasStanford.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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