Are Texans Innately Conservative? Liberal? Or Libertarian?
There is going to be a big fight in Texas. The Battleground Texas group is trying to make inroads into the state, in hopes of turning Texas either purple or blue.
They think the best strategy is ‘get out the vote’ campaigns. Executive Director Jenn Brown told “The Dallas Morning News” she thought Texas is a “nonvoting state,” then claimed Texas wasn’t “innately conservative.” She attributes her belief to the low voter turnout in the 2012 election, and election results that show a mere 18-percent of the voting population voted for Governor Rick Perry in 2010. Her comments drew an unexpected response from Texas blogger/journalist Scott Braddock who said Texas was “innately libertarian.”
He was “dead serious“, and probably right.
Texas does have a very broad belief in freedom, and also in avoiding bureaucracy and a massive welfare state. It’s not just rhetoric by Perry or others in power across the state; Texans have enjoyed rebelling against the “establishment” and striking back at what they saw as government intrusion.
The obvious example is the 2012 U.S. Senate race. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst was seen as the odds-on favorite: he had the backing of the state party and pretty much everyone else in the Texas political machine. Ted Cruz had a small coalition of people who supported him. He was the upstart who talked up his libertarian leanings, speaking about actually obeying the U.S. Constitution, and seeking to keep the federal government out of Texans’ lives. One of the chief reasons why “The Dallas Morning News” and “Houston Chronicle” supported Dewhurst was his coalition building. While that is attractive in state politics, U.S. Senators are supposed to represent the interests of their states. Cruz understood this; Dewhurst didn’t. “The Dallas Morning News” even supported Democrat Paul Sadler over Cruz in the 2012 General Election because he’d bring money to Texas, while Cruz would only do so if it involved “roads, freeways and ports.” You know, Constitutional reasons.
Obviously Texans rejected both Dewhurst and Sadler by sending Cruz to DC, but it shows how the state wants the federal government to leave them alone. They’re not interested in having DC determine what Texans do. That’s rather libertarian.
But Texans’ desire to keep the government from taking over their lives isn’t just aimed at DC. They’ve also pushed back against attempts by the state government from doing it.
The best example may be the Trans-Texas Corridor. In short, Perry was hoping to create a “super-highway” which would span from the southern border all the way to the Red River. Perry praised it as something which would help shippers, reduce pollution, and fix roads. He promised the tolls would keep taxes from having to be raised and that it would “improve the interstate concept.”
Texans revolted. They spent hours upon hours pointing out the eminent domain issues, loss of tax revenue, how the proposal was too much like California’s Route 91, and just how poorly it was designed. The push-back was so fierce, not only did the Trans-Texas Corridor die; but Perry ended up signing stronger laws against eminent domain in 2011.
The same can be said about the current fight in the state Legislature over transportation funding. Perry, Dewhurst and other Republicans were hoping to get a constitutional amendment passed which would have diverted oil and gas production tax money (meant for the Rainy Day Fund) for transportation, instead. Some House and Senate members revolted against the plan over concerns as to whether there was a “floor” provision in the bill. That would have meant if the Rainy Day Fund reached some designated floor, 100% of oil and gas production tax money would start going into it again. Killing the bill was probably the right move because it’s a bad bill and, as with most taxes, the money runs out at some point.
There’s more to be said about Texas’ libertarian streak. “Texas Monthy’s” Erica Grieder even wrote a book pointing out how low taxes and low services helped Texas. In a column to “The Dallas Morning News” she wrote, “Texans don’t expect that much from the state,” and she’s absolutely right. Many people who grew up in Texas don’t expect that. The help ends up coming from either cities or the community in a crisis. There are parts of Texas which are struggling, like the Rio Grande Valley, but there are charities and non-profits trying to help where they can.
Battleground Texas wants to change that by getting more Democrats elected and changing how the state operates. They want Texas to be the next Colorado, which would be horrific.
The good news is, it’s a fight which opposition groups aren’t taking lying down. FreedomWorks plans on $8-million in spending to fight Battleground Texas, and state Attorney General Greg Abbott calls the group “far more dangerous” than North Korea. U.S. Senator John Cornyn’s campaign manager also said Battleground Texas is a “real threat in the years to come.”
Hopefully other freedom-loving groups, and the Texas Republican Party, will actually pay attention.