As the comment section constantly rushes to remind me, I am a liberal. According to most of those same commenters, this is a terrible thing for which I should burn in shame, but I think I’ll keep on trucking just the same. However, I will say that being a liberal in Texas, a state so red it should see a doctor about the swelling, comes with some rather annoying particulars. Things like…
5. No One Believes You Exist
The mail I get from this job is dominated by angry racists, bigots and misogynists, fans who take Doctor Who criticism way too personally, members of the Tin Foil Hat of the Month Club, and occasionally some light praise. That last subset is appreciated, believe me, but it comes with its own brand of downer because the most common compliment I get is “I can’t believe you’re from Texas.”
Believe it or not even the most solidly red of states are full of liberals. Harris County went blue for Barack Obama in the last election, and it’s well within living memory that the whole state went for Jimmy Carter. We have 11 Democrat representatives in Congress, just under a third of the total. Are we Republican majority? Sure, that’s beyond argument, but 41 percent of voters in Texas voted Democrat in 2012, 3.3 million people. That means more Texans voted for Obama than people voted period in 38 other states. If Texas liberal voters were a city, they’d be second only to New York and Los Angeles in size. My point is that no matter how red the state seems, and how much conservatives outnumber liberals, there are still a huge mess of liberals that the rest of the country seems to forget are here.
4. You’re Constantly Being Told to Leave
If I had a nickel for every time some commenter had told me to get out of Texas if I’m unhappy with some aspects, I might actually have enough money to move somewhere else. It’s the standard go-to response to any criticism regarding gun laws, illegal immigration or minimum-wage policy. If you don’t like it, leave for some other place, you commie pinko SJW librul!
And my answer is…no. You leave. Texas is my home. I identify as a Texan far more than I identify as pretty much anything else. I love Texas. It has a unique history and a diverse population and some of the best music and food in the world. It can, however, be better. Everything can always be better, and even though raising a daughter here seems like lunacy these days, I refuse to abandon my home to become an ass haberdashery. There are literally millions of Texas liberals working to unscrew some of the more backwards aspects of the Lone Star State. Their voices are just as valid and native as the conservative ones.
3. Red State Liberals Stay Home on Election Day
In 2014, Texas had a pretty high-profile governor's race between our current governor, Greg Abbott, and Wendy Davis, who had catapulted onto the national stage thanks to a filibuster in the state Legislature trying to protect access to abortion and family planning services for Texas women. It had all the makings of a game-changer, and I had several friends working on the Davis campaign who were convinced that a big flip was coming. It did not happen.
Texas sported one of the lowest (if not the lowest) voter turnouts last year, and it was most apparent among Democratic voters. Conservative voters raised Abbott to our highest office by more than 20 percentage points. The Texas Democratic Party laid blame partially on voter ID laws, which typically disenfranchise liberal voters more than conservative ones, but regardless of the reason, liberal voters failed to show up despite the emotional fight in the spotlight. Change is hard when folks won’t get the heck up and pull the lever, something I’m certain the opponents of HERO are counting on in this off year. Conservative fearmongering always seems to motivate voters more than civil rights progress, at least when there isn't a president on the ballot. Texas liberals are still seeking a figure who can invigorate the base to go to the polls, and Davis, with her ever-changing personal story, or Julian Castro leaving behind promising but ultimately unfinished work in the housing sector, leave liberals without a solid leader to unite them.
2. You End Up Arguing Reality as Politics
Stephen Colbert once said, in character, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” Nothing illustrates this joke/not-a-joke better than being a liberal in a red state. See, people tend to turn things that are not actually politics into a political debate. For instance, climate change is real, it is largely driven by human activity, according to nearly every climatologist, and it is without a doubt bringing about catastrophic problems here in Texas. But our leaders, like Senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, continue to pretend this is an intellectual argument between political schools of thought instead of something that might require The Avengers to avert. What to do about climate change and what would be most effective and have the least collateral damage is a political debate to be had, but instead we’re stuck trying to convince someone missing fingers that buzzsaws are not puppy dogs who want pet-pets.
Our GOP-led state says it desperately wants to reduce abortions, and then does the complete opposite of what has proven to work in places that have actually reduced abortion rates. Restricting access does not mean fewer abortions; it just means more dead women taking the DIY ethic in a horrifying direction. Instead of teaching kids exactly how sex works, we yell at them not to do it and end up with chlamydia outbreaks and a teen pregnancy rate 50 percent higher than the national average. Bring these things up and you’ll get a lecture on religion or personal responsibility or parental blame, but what you won’t ever get is pragmatic solutions to problems conservatives claim to care about yet never seem willing to address in a reality-based manner. To them it’s a political argument to be won, not someone’s dire, real-life circumstances.
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1. You Watch Poor People Throw Themselves on Their Swords for the Rich
Ask your average lower-class conservative about Obamacare and he will likely tell you how little it’s done for him. And you know something? They’re often right, but not the way they think they are.
Texas and other states such as Louisiana and Florida don’t actually have Obamacare. Not really. See, the Supreme Court said that states could opt out of the Medicaid expansion that was written into the law, and that expansion is actually a key component of the program as a whole. Texas opted out, which left a huge swath of Texans in no better position than they were before. They fell into the gap the Medicaid expansion was supposed to fill regarding who would be taken care of through state care and who would be eligible for federal subsidies through the insurance exchange. We have our governors (and our terrible Medicaid eligibility requirements) to thank for that. In the name of conservative lost causes, Texas continues to deny its residents insurance they could have, and gets away with it because lower-class conservative voters support that against their own best interest.
I had a conversation with a fellow Texan that has stuck with me for months. I forget what it was about, living wage, social safety net or something like that. What I remember is pointing out that no matter how you look at it, the very rich in this state were hoarding the vast majority of the wealth, and that ultimately it was killing us slowly. And he said, “I see your point that the rich keeping a disproportionate amount of the wealth produced is hurtful, but I don’t feel I have a right to change that.” That’s the saddest thing about being a red state liberal. You get to watch people embrace their own serfdom to private greed and call it freedom.