In 1964, journalist Willie Morris quoted a member of the Texas House as saying the state Capitol “was built for giants and inhabited by pygmies.” In the intervening years, the faces have changed, but not much else.
The one-party Democratic Texas has been replaced effectively by one-party Republican Texas. Restroom segregation, tight-fisted state spending, mandates on cities, and a select committee to study how to pay for public schools—we’ve been there before. No matter how many oil wells we drill or shiny glass skyscrapers we build, some things remain consistent.
There was, however, a remarkable difference this year—a disdain for the community leaders of Texas. On a host of issues, Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s Republican Senate offered a deaf ear to the state’s business leaders, police chiefs, and locally elected public officials.
The 2017 legislative sessions will be remembered for divisive fundamentalism, a miserly disinterest in investing in the state’s future, and, more than anything, an arrogance that the 181 lawmakers elected to the pink granite building in Austin are somehow smarter than the other 19,198 city, county, and school elected officials in Texas.
Without the federal government of President Obama as a foil, the state’s leadership suddenly turned on us—or perhaps itself. As Morris wrote five decades ago, “One‐party complacency, and an uncommon tendency to attack Washington for all ills, have engendered a lingering suspicion of government of any kind.”