By Nancy Ford
Even though the meterological climate in Texas is beginning to cool off to a tolerable low 80-degrees level, the political climate has never been hotter.
Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle coupled with several jaw-dropping occurences here in the Lone Star State, the whole wide world has gotten a big, messy, eyeful of the goings-on coming out of Austin under the tragic leadership of Governor Greg Abbott.
I call him Governor Hey Abbott because, I promise you, ol’ Greg has no idea who’s on first.
Back in May, Hey Abbott and the Texas GOP passed the what they’re melodramatically calling the Heartbeat Bill. Essentially, the bill permits a woman to have a safe, medically supervised procedure to terminate a pregnancy, but only within the first six weeks of said pregnancy. Even in cases of rape and incest. Even though scientists are split on whether a heartbeat can actually be detected that early. Even though many women don’t even know they’re pregnant until their third month. Even though the majority of Texans oppose this Handmaid’s Tale-like obliteration of their rights.
Then, who didn’t recoil at the September coverage of the border patrol cowboys on horseback down in Del Rio going old school by whipping would-be migrants — that includes women and children — with their reigns as they attempted to wade across the river? Couple this with the nauseating 2019 image of Galveston mounted police officers arresting a black man, then leading him to jail by tying a rope around his neck and parading him through The Strand. It’s like we’re living in a bad John Wayne movie.
And then there’s Texas’ failing power grid problem. But how are Hey Abbott and his minions supposed to address an issue of such profound enormity while there are transgender atheletes who might want to compete against members of their own gender? After all, there are only 24 hours in a day, or however many hours your local anti-mask, anti-vax, anti-science local school board tells you are in a day.
And now former president Donald Trump has put the squeeze on Hey Abbott to conduct a vote audit in four Texas counties (including our own Harris County) because — well, because, why the hell not? Just because the Arizona audit resulted in an even more decisive win for Joe Biden, the GOP isn’t going to let a little thing like logic interfere with their unending kissing of Trump’s tochus.
There’s a post that’s been popping up on my Facebook feed lately that strikes a chord with most of my friends and anyone else who has observed with horror all these Lone Star shenanigans. The ubiquitous sentiment simply reads: “I miss Ann Richards.”
Richards, who most rational, thinking people consider to have been Texas’ greatest governor, left us 15 years and a month ago. Whoosh.
“You’ve got to fix the environment… you’ve got to work for minorities, you’ve got to make women keep the right to choose, you’ve got to work for sex education and fight AIDS,” Richards presciently said, back in those heady, innocent days of her tenure as governor.
Whatever Ann Richards said, you best believe you could take to the bank. Literally.
Before she became governor, Richards was our state treasurer for eight years, during which time she generated more than $1.7 billion in non-tax revenue for Texas. That figure represents more bucks than all our previous treasurers’ efforts combined, by the way.
And if you’ve ever won anything in the Texas State Lottery, thank Ann. Our state’s coffers are $33 billion+ fuller because of her vision to introduce it back in 1992.
In her four too-brief years as governor, she made no apologies for her inclusive treatment of gay men, lesbians, women and other minorities. Of her nearly 3,000 appointments, some 46 percent were female, 15 percent were black, 20 percent were Hispanic and two percent were Asian American.
Twenty years later, compare those diversity stats to Hey Abbott’s: nearly half of his appointees are (surprise!) white, Christian males, and many, many of them are donors to his campaigns.
Some say Richards’ “pandering to the gays” coupled with her self-admitted alcoholism (though she had been sober since 1980) were just enough fodder to help a then-relatively unknown GOP operative named Karl Rove shove George W. Bush into Texas’ head office in 1995, and then into the Oval one in 2000.
And the rest, as they say, is history. C’mon, Texas. We can do better. We must do better. Ann is watching.