Texas: laboratory of undemocratic ideas

Texas' new abortion law along with laws concerning public education and proposed legislation restricting voting access are part of a slew of measures that will greatly impact the lives of people of color. Civil rights advocates and some lawmakers say people of color are powering the population growth in the state and the measures enacted by Republican lawmakers will have dire consequences.

3 thoughts on “Texas: laboratory of undemocratic ideas

  1. It seems to me that this is overwrought, and in some respects, not accurate. Yes, Texas has (at this moment) severely restricted abortion, but in a state whose voters are distinctively conservative, such a restriction is not “undemocratic”. If anything, it’s “tyranny of the majority”, which is the best-known problem with democracy. Also, casting it as a racial issue seems a misdirection; in a state where whites are a minority, by default one would expect that a majority of abortions would be for non-whites. But it seems to me that the problem is severely income- or class-based, since if one has adequate money, it’s an inconvenience.

    The obsession with voting restrictions seems more complicated. Given that whites are a minority, it seems likely that a lot of non-whites support them in some way, or they wouldn’t have been passed. Once exception would be if a large chunk of the non-whites are non-citizens (who can’t vote) or recent citizens (who vote less frequently) — in that case, “democracy” becomes complicated, because the voters would differ significantly from the population. Perhaps gerrymandering is involved, but it’s hard to move the needle by more than about 5% from what I’ve seen. But again, a lot of these restrictions seem to burden people based more on their income than their ethnicity, and it wouldn’t be surprising if members of ethnic groups vote more based on their income/class than their ethnicity.

  2. I was thinking of this sort of issue in a larger context. I’ve been hearing complaints that Republicans are thwarting the public will in various ways. That’s probably true, but it’s also true that the liberal side has thwarted the public will in a lot of ways. The obvious case is all the anti-abortion laws that have been nixed by Roe v. Wade. As far as I can tell, they’re popular (on balance) in the states where they get passed; indeed they seem to be optimized to maximally pander to public opinion. Similarly, the governors and legislatures in many states are working to prevent local governments, public health boards, and even private parties from enforcing public-health measures against Covid. And it seems that they are politically astute enough to know whether this gains them votes or costs them votes.

    Worse, while lots of people (including ex-chiefs of police) have spoken against mass incarceration and/or the draconian laws that fuel it, all the references I’ve seen are that “tough on crime” is popular, even among blacks. The Rockefeller drug laws in New York, which have been labeled “draconian” since they were passed circa 1970, are said to have been supported strongly by black political leaders. (No so surprising, since their constituents were the primary victims of the heroin-fueled crime wave.) But I’ve not noticed that black politicians have, on the whole, been particularly soft on crime in any of its dimensions.

    Or to take a matter that is vital to individual rights, Loving v. Virginia was decided in 1967 but (I’ve read) it was only in the mid-90s that in either race a majority considered interracial marriage to be acceptable. So there, a liberal court (in the politics of the time) imposed on the population a law that they didn’t like for around 30 years.

  3. Individual rights, however, do not (and must not) depend on the opinion of the majority. Segregation probably had majority support through much of the south for at least a decade after the Supreme Court outlawed it (and might still in a few pockets). One of the main reasons for having an independent judiciary is to protect the rights of minorities.

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