How GOP culture-war politics and ‘owning the libs’ didn’t save Texans from freezing without water or electricity

How GOP culture-war politics and ‘owning the libs’ didn’t save Texans from freezing without water or electricity
The Texas Tribune
Some of Texas’ most prominent Republican politicians are spreading misinformation about the election

Although Texas can be very Democratic in its large urban centers — from Houston to Dallas to El Paso to Austin — Republicans have maintained control of the state government. And many of them are the type of far-right Republicans who push Culture War themes and use dumb phrases like "owning the liberals." But San Antonio-based journalist Adam Serwer, in an article published by The Atlantic on February 22, argues that fighting the Culture War didn't prevent Texans from freezing in their homes without electricity, heat and running water during a recent cold snap.

Texas recently suffered snowy, icy winter weather and freezing temperatures that are more typical of Pittsburgh or Boston than Houston, Austin or San Antonio. Tragically, Texas' power grid couldn't handle the increased demand for electricity, and millions of Texans lost power and were unable to heat their homes during the frigid weather.

"Many Texans were without power, water, or both for days, left to choose between the risk of contracting COVID-19 at a shelter and the danger of freezing in their home," Serwer explains. "I consider us fortunate….. Our roof did not collapse. Our home did not catch fire and burn down, as nearby firefighters struggled with empty fire hydrants. We did not run out of food. We were lucky."

Serwer goes on to say that all the misery in Texas could have been avoided if Republicans in the state government had spent more time worrying about good governance and less time obsessing over the Culture War.

"The crisis in Texas was preceded by more than a decade of Republican control of state government, as politicians focused on Culture War grievances rather than the nuts and bolts of governance," Serwer argues. "After the near collapse of the power grid exposed its failures, the state's political leadership attempted to cover for those failures by doubling down on those same grievances."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Fox News' Tucker Carlson and others on the far right have been claiming that green energy is responsible for Texas' electricity woes, which is total nonsense. Carlson made the idiotic claim that in Texas, wind turbines were too delicate to handle severe cold. First, Texas is much more reliant on fossil fuels than wind turbines. Second, European countries like Denmark and Sweden — which are known for cold, snowy winters — do fine with green energy in January and February because their systems are adequately winterized. Texas Republicans failed to winterize, and its power grid suffered an across-the-board failure.

Serwer writes, "I doubt that 'We'd freeze to death to own the libs' is a popular sentiment in Texas, but drawing that impression is easy if you're outside the state, listening to its Republican officials. As the journalist Brian Kahn noted on Twitter, when California was struggling with much smaller blackouts in late 2020, ambitious Texas Republicans were sneering at the state on social media…. Texas politicians were so interested in California's struggles last year because California is an easy conservative shorthand for liberalism, and what ambitious Republicans have discerned from the success of Donald Trump is that the best way to attract conservative support is to show that they, too, enjoy it when liberals suffer."

But during the recent cold snap, Serwer adds, Texans have been the ones suffering.

"Texas has trended blue in recent years, but the Texas GOP remains ruthlessly competent at the work of winning elections even as it fails at governing," Serwer explains. "That absence of political competition breeds complacency….. In the contemporary Republican Party, governance has taken a back seat to waging the Culture War. Whether you are a competent public official who serves your constituents well matters less than your ability to illustrate your contempt for the rival party's constituency in word and deed."

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