Texans expect and enjoy larger-than-life, big-personality governors who tell it like it is.
Texas Democrats got a kick out of George W. Bush's confident strut and Rick Perry's over-the-top brags, even while furiously fighting them on policy. Old time Texas Republicans admit having enjoyed and admired Ann Richards' razor wit, while they disagreed with her on nearly everything of substance.
So it's disorienting for Texans that our current Republican Gov. Greg Abbott projects such a fearful, passive-aggressive profile. Abbott's recent Washington Examiner op-ed is the latest example of a nervous governor raising irrational fears and ringing false alarms to hide his own shortcomings.
Those of us in Texas working to rebuild Democratic political strength and bring balance and responsibility to our state's leadership find Abbott's panicky pander laughable. We know firsthand that nationally-based ideologically-left organizations pay little attention to Texas, invest even less financially, and have virtually no influence with Texas leaders. Abbott knows it too.
Why did Abbott raise irrational fears about out-of-state involvement in congressional redistricting?
During his time as Texas attorney general and 2.5 years as governor, Abbott has orchestrated a disastrous redistricting and voter ID strategy that has cost our state millions of dollars. Six times since just 2011, federal courts ruled that Texas Republicans engaged in intentional racial discrimination.
These rulings weren't handed down by out-of-state liberals. They came from respected federal judges – most of them appointed by Republican presidents. In fact, one of the rulings came from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considered the most conservative federal appeals court in the country.
And why is Abbott so touchy about the Texas economy and insecure about being compared to California?
Over more than two decades, the Texas economy grew and improved compared to other states. But now Abbott has our economy and job growth rolling backwards.
Governing Magazine dropped the Texas economy from third to 21st among all states. For the first time since they started ranking the best states for business, CNBC dropped Texas from the top two. And for months, California has added more and better jobs than Texas.
Finally, why is Abbott defensive about the "integrity of the vote"?
Under Abbott, Texans' voter privacy and security have been put at risk time and again. As attorney general, Abbott bungled a simple data transfer during litigation on voter ID and exposed more than 500,000 Texans' Social Security numbers and other personal information to potential identity theft. In late June, when President Trump's widely-maligned Advisory Commission on Election Integrity called on states to turn over statewide voter files and history, Abbott didn't wait even a day to consider the improper request before agreeing to surrender the Texas voter file.
No state's citizens have more pride, a stronger sense of identity, or more deeply imbedded confidence than Texans. We generally handle problems by meeting them head-on and honestly.
We're having to get used to a governor who doesn't seem to share the same optimism or confidence.
Matt Angle is founder and director of the Lone Star Project, a Texas Democratic research and communications organization. Previously he was executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and executive director of the House Democratic Caucus.
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