Once upon a time, Texas progressives could cheerily compartmentalize their hostile political interactions.
Five hours of Uncle Bob at Thanksgiving? Just turn on the football and offer to help with the dishes. High school lab partner fixated on a certain city on the north coast of Africa that rhymes with Fugazi? Just scroll past quickly and continue hitting the like button for those throwback Thursday photos.
Not so much these days.
2016 will go down in history as the year we almost lost our squash yelling at people we agree with 80, 90, even 98% of the time because for the first time in a very long time, people on the left of the spectrum have found themselves smack dab in the middle of a presidential primary that just won’t quit.
I speak of the Hillary v. Bernie slugfest that Facebook has become. Twitter, too. And, frighteningly enough, even some actual events where people share physical space have become more charged than usual. Tempers are frayed, and some people are about to get kicked out of the sandbox.
I don’t know anyone who looks forward to taking part in those Bernie v. Hillary discussions, except one person, and I’ve called the police to do a welfare check on him.
(I kid, Steve. Though I’ve considered it. Love you!)
Burnt Orange Report loves you, too, dear reader, so we will not subject you to that particular game in these parts.
Instead, please enjoy this helpful guide to five things progressive Texans can talk about that aren’t Bernie v. Hillary. It isn’t always possible to be the change you want to see in the world, so you might as well settle for redirecting your erstwhile friends to safer conversational topics.
ONE – The Supreme Court
Of Texas, that is, a judicial body that currently has nine members, unlike the federal Supreme Court. Nine Republican members. Nine Republican members who just ruled against the 600 school districts that challenged the completely inequitable and ineffective way the state funds public schools by saying this:
Our Byzantine school funding ‘system’ is undeniably imperfect, with immense room for improvement. But it satisfies minimum constitutional requirements.
These judges do not serve for life. They serve only until a Democrat who can get 50% + 1 of the vote runs against them. Three are up for re-election this go-round, and a Democrat is challenging each one. Are they great options, or do we need to find better candidates for the next round? Discuss.
TWO – VOTER ID
On May 24th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will convene en banc in New Orleans to hear Veasy v. Abbott. The case asks the question of whether the very strict voter ID requirements in Texas have a discriminatory purpose, a burden that is now harder to prove thanks to an earlier case that invalidated a critical section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The U.S. Supreme Court has given the Fifth Circuit until July 20th to either issue an opinion on the merits (i.e. say whether the law stands or not), or vacate or modify the stay currently in place that has allowed the law to remain in effect. Since the Fifth Circuit is the most conservative, even reactionary appeals court, and since the U.S. Supreme Court would be unlikely to rule on something this important, or possibly unable to break a tie, if the 9th seat remains unfilled, it seems more likely than not that Texas will have a strict voter ID requirement in place for the presidential election in November.
That will mean (1) we need to turn out voters who already have ID in numbers as high as we can, and (2) we need to work now to help voters who lack ID either secure it or vote without it. The organizing needs to start now, not in October. Call your county party. If they’re not organizing voter turnout activities, find out who is, or contact the state party to find out how to organize it yourself. The Texas Democrats can also help people secure voter ID.
THREE – THE REAL THREAT TO CHILDREN IN TEXAS
Hint: it isn’t strange men dressed like Minnie Pearl lurking in the Target bathroom.
Texas Republicans have a majority in the legislature and have appointed heads of all state agencies since George W. Bush beat Ann Richards in 1994. Unimaginable torture and neglect of children who are in the foster care system has happened on their watch.
Any time Greg Abbott or Dan Patrick raises the transphobic myth that allowing transpeople to use bathrooms puts children at risk, progressive Texans need to ask, loudly and repeatedly, what the state is doing to protect children in foster care.
Comment on their Facebook pages. Call their offices (find the numbers here). Write letters to the editor. When someone says think of the children, say I am, the ones in the foster care system.
While Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick perpetuate lies about what goes on in bathrooms, hoping it might help them in their next campaigns, real child abuse is happening in foster homes and state-run facilities, and the government is asleep at the wheel. This is something you can very likely have a cogent discussion about with your Uncle Bob—wanting to protect children from abuse is not a partisan issue, so conservative Texans should be asking the same questions we are.
You can read about it in a post we had up two weeks ago—despite the herculean efforts of some exceptional professionals who work in the system, on the whole, it harms children, deeply and thoroughly, on a daily basis. Republicans are in charge. Demand answers and hold them accountable.
FOUR – TRUMP
Perhaps you are unable to resist the siren song of presidential politics a mere five months and change before election day. If talk about it you must, please talk about the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump.
You won’t convince strangers. Talk to people who know you and care about you. Frame your message carefully, consider your audience, and take a lesson from therapists. Use I statements to describe why a Trump presidency would scare or harm you. Surely your friends and family don’t want you to be harmed?
Here’s an example, using immigration and building a wall:
Trump is a bombastic idiot who has no clue that a wall is too expensive and no, he cannot force Mexico to pay for it.
I understand how frustrating it is for so many people that our immigration laws don’t seem to be working very well. I am afraid that a President Trump would be so focused on “build a wall, any wall” that our country won’t find a way to create fair laws and policies that protect families and provide a reasonable path to citizenship. And I’m worried that his lack of political experience and executive style will mean he has a hard time finding allies in Congress who can make anything happen.
Because at base, even someone who thinks a wall is a good idea probably believes in protecting families and fair laws, right? And even someone who wants a wall will understand that the president can’t build one by himself. Or herself.
The goal is not to turn a rabid Trump partisan into a Democrat. The goal is to further undermine the already shaky resolve of reasonable Republicans who are already feeling reluctant about voting for Trump. Whether they skip the whole election, or just skip the presidential section of the ballot, that’s a win.
FIVE – UBER & LYFT
Because if there’s one thing that unites all progressives, it’s Uber and Lyft.
Oh, wait …
If there’s any conversation that could top Bernie v. Hillary for simmering hostility and tedium, this would be it.
Instead of rehashing Austin’s Prop 1, Texas progressives ought to be talking more generally about what progressive business regulations should look like in the 21st century. They should protect consumers and protect workers without stifling innovation, sure, but what does that mean? Access to health benefits? Raising the minimum wage? Something else?
We also need to discuss when or whether a business entity or a technology can be inherently progressive.
Does Google banning advertisements for predatory payday loan companies by changing their Ad Words policy make it a progressive company?
Would people in Austin have voted differently if Uber and Lyft were socially-conscious b-corps that shared profits with drivers? Should Texas enact b-corp legislation so companies can select that as their legal status? Are b-corps inherently progressive? (B-corps are for-profit business entities that provide a social benefit; in some states, b-corp is a legal structure like an s-corp, in others, including Texas, it is just a certification.)
Talking about this could get you most of the way to November, and these are conversations that need to happen.
Pace yourselves. We’ve got 174 days to go, and as you can see, we have plenty to talk about in a cordial and constructive fashion that will advance progressive policies and politicians. So step away from the memes and remember: Texas progressives have more that unites us than divides us.