A Proud Texas Democrat

I just want to work through some of the many thoughts that I can’t shake after watching the filibustering of SB5 in the Texas Legislature last night.

The whole nation (especially the liberals of the nation) tuned in last night to watch Texas Democrats fight for women’s rights. And because Twitter is where this conversation is happening, and Twitter is an excellent platform for jokes, often, especially during the hour while we waited to see if the Texas GOP was going to succeed at cheating the women of Texas, my feed turned into a lot of cheap shots at Texas. “Let them secede!”, “The only decent part of Texas is Austin!” - they were phrased as jokes, but these callous, hateful, essentializations were the punchline, the heart of the joke. And my liberal Texan heart broke, as it has so many times in the past.

Especially on this night, where the Democrats and women of Texas had come together for a rare victorious moment. How could the rest of the country see that and make the same tired jokes? Sure, the cheating old white men still hold a lot of the power in Texas, but there are thousands and thousands of people in Texas who don’t agree with them. And they are fighting and they are brave, and we should be standing WITH THEM, like the hashtag says.

It’s hard to be a liberal in Texas. It didn’t used to be quite so hard. We’ve lost a lot of our heroes in the past years. Ann Richards, Molly Ivins - Texas politics is a much harder beast to deal with without a wise, wry voice helping you along. Stupid, hurtful bills are passed every day, because conservative power is so vast that they don’t really need to debate something if it fits with their platform. It's why the Democrats are stuck filibustering - they will never win a vote. Not yet. Often, if a law is overly stupid or hurtful, it will later be overturned in the courts. Remember the time that Texas made illegal immigrants pay international tuition for college? Lasted about a year. A year in which many Texas college students couldn’t afford to attend school. These things do have a hurtful effect, but often they are stopped by more reasonable people. Checks and balances work on a state level, too.

My personal experience with politics in Texas is that of a young women growing up, trying to figure out what I wanted to stand for. The dominant wisdom in Texas leans HARD right. Often your choice when voting is between a Republican and a Libertarian. And so, as a high schooler, I tried on some very non-liberal views. I remember arguing once that the death penalty might not be so bad, because after all, wouldn’t it help the nation to deal with its overpopulation problems? (I shudder now to think of how inhumane this sentiment is, but I didn’t get much argument from people at my school - when you take the human element out, the economics of the death penalty can be strangely compelling.) I still have some residual trouble arguing with Libertarians.

I am the daughter of a working woman, a female engineer and manager. I was raised by liberals to be a liberal and a feminist. But at 18, I would never have dreamed of calling myself one. I had picked up that feminist was a bad word. Feminists were harsh, and hateful. I believed that women should be able to do anything, but that didn’t make me a FEMINIST. A pivotal moment in my political life was when I was talking to my Senior English teacher, a woman who I both loved and respected, and I casually said, “Oh, but I’m not a feminist.” She replied that she most definitely was a feminist, a “card-carrying feminist.” I was instantly ashamed. She had called me out on my pussyfooting. I obviously was a feminist - everything about my approach to the world was feminist, but why wasn’t I calling myself one? I wasn’t being brave. To be a feminist in Texas, to be a liberal in Texas, you first have to be brave.

I’ve spent the past ten years living outside of Texas, mostly in places that vote a lot more blue than the place that I’m from. (Though the place that I'm from gets bluer all the time, go Houston, go!) I’ve sorted out my own liberal agenda at this point, which mostly involves kindness, fairness, and clarity. I might still be a little soft on guns for a liberal. In that I like guns at all. I still like to shoot skeet sometimes, even though I am very, very bad at it. 

The only difference I’ve seen in politics in Democratic majority places is that the people whose views are unthinking, who act entitled and pass ridiculous laws - now they are more often the people that I supposedly agree with, where in Texas they were my opponents. Which is a nicer problem to have, I suppose. I spend less of my time deeply angry with people who I care about. But this is America. The power to change something, to do what is right, comes in the fight, in the debate. That is the world of the Texas Democrat, and today, at least, they are the heroes.