Reyna: The sad state of Texas (politics)

Christian Reyna, Staff Writer

Texas born and raised, I had an interesting early life in the Lone Star State before moving to the Buckeye State. Reciting the Texas Pledge of Allegiance every morning in school, being taught Texas history as a requirement in middle school and seeing the constant waving of Texas flags everywhere I went forged my pride for my home state from a young age. However, just because I am proud to be a Texan doesn’t mean that I can’t criticize the state for its questionable decisions.

As some of us already know, Texas politics are a huge headache and make national headlines for better or worse. The following are a few of many that have caught my attention in recent weeks.

Let’s start with a topic that will certainly have a huge impact on Texas politics: the redrawing of district lines. The state is run by the Republican Party and has 38 electoral votes, making it a GOP stronghold nationally. As a result, the ruling party will do whatever it takes to maintain that control for as long as possible. On Oct. 25, Gov. Greg Abbott approved new political maps for Texas’ congressional, legislative and State Board of Education districts. This may seem like a harmless decision, but it certainly has vast implications for the next decade. According to recent census data, Texans of color were the main force (95%) behind the state’s population growth since 2010. Still, the new districts lessen the power of these voters, ensuring the continued reign of the Texas GOP and giving Republicans a better chance in areas where they usually don’t perform well. 

An example of this is the Rio Grande Valley, a Democratic stronghold and where I am originally from. The new map reconfigured a congressional district in my area to boost Republican performance, even though we don’t usually prefer GOP candidates. Furthermore, the number of congressional districts where Hispanics made up the majority of voters dropped from eight to seven, and the number of congressional districts with mostly Black voters dropped from one to zero. There will now be 23 congressional districts with a white majority among voters—an increase from the original 22. 

Despite Texans of color increasing in population and more becoming eligible voters, their voices are squashed so that the GOP can stay in power. The GOP knows that Texas has a significant number of electoral votes, and losing them to the Democratic Party would be costly for them. This blatant prioritization of party interests over racial equity and electoral justice is infuriating. These lines should not be drawn to benefit one party and suppress minority voters, but rather to represent Texas citizens and provide an accurate representation of votes. 

Moving on to another matter, let’s discuss COVID-19. In mid October, bills intended to block COVID-19 vaccine mandates in any Texas entity—even hospitals and private businesses—failed to pass Texas’ legislature. Business groups spoke out against these proposals, and although Gov. Abbott made it a priority, there wasn’t enough support for the House’s bill to be even voted out of committee. The Senate’s proposal was pushed out of committee, but it did not have enough votes for approval. Although these bills did not pass, Gov. Abbott did take executive action, banning private companies from requiring COVID-19 vaccines from both employees and customers. 

For a Party that usually respects businesses, this took me by surprise. Why interfere with the matters of private businesses and even hospitals? The governor is overextending his reach in the matter. I believe private companies should have the right to either require or not require the vaccine. Telling a business that they cannot legally require a vaccine that would ensure employee and customer safety presents major health concerns and may give rise to voter distrust.

Lastly, I want to talk about Texas’ strict abortion restrictions. This subject has made national headlines and has been covered in our paper already this semester. To quickly summarize, the recently enacted Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) outlaws abortions as soon as an embryo exhibits audible cardiac actvity, forcing pregnant individuals to wait out their pregnancy or to leave Texas to have an abortion. This means that abortions are barred after only six weeks into a pregnancy. Although medical and legal experts called the use of the term “heartbeat” to describe cardiac activity misleading, since embryos don’t possess a heart at that stage, the bill still passed. 

Pregnant Texans facing tough or unusual pregnancies are rightfully worried. The fetus can develop chromosomal conditions, malformed vital organs and other abnormalities that may affect its life or endanger the life of the pregnant Texan. Furthermore, genetic disorders may occur, but genetic screening usually takes place at the end of the first trimester—well after that six-week detection of cardiac activity. Before SB 8, families could decide whether or not to have an abortion if genetic screening revealed the fetus to have certain conditions.

It angers me that the legislature passed SB 8. We cannot force someone to continue their pregnancy if their life or their baby’s life is in danger. They should have the right to choose to have an abortion. The government should not be controlling the bodies of pregnant individuals. This bill is a stain on Texas and an embarrassment to those who call it home.

The Lone Star State is not perfect by any means, but it does have issues that can be fixed. Please keep in mind that just because the Texas government passes these ridiculous laws, not all Texans support them. There are Texans like myself who are fighting for better representation and a fairer state for all. Even if you aren’t from Texas, you can still have an impact. Encourage your representatives to challenge these laws and put them in the spotlight. Donate and vote for candidates that can create change for the better. Be vocal about your concerns, and support those who are affected. Together, we can change the course of a state.