Six reasons Texas pols are dangerous

From rewriting history textbooks, to denying minorities the right to vote, Texas politicians have become a menace

Published September 5, 2012 2:56PM (EDT)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet It looks like the influence of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the right-wing nutcase-creation machine might have tipped Texas Republicans over the edge and into dangerous territory. Their politicians are flying right off the rails. Is it time to think about setting up border checkpoints around Texas to protect ourselves? Even better, maybe we should just build a big fence around the state to keep their elected officials in.

Here are six reasons why we should think about building a big fence around Texas to keep the Lone Star state's wacky Republican politicians away from the rest of us.

1. Texas Republican Senate candidate Ted Cruz says George Soros is funding a United Nations environmental conspiracy (to eliminate golf?)

Fox news, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the far-right media machine have Texas Repubicans so completely whipped up into a John Birch-style, “black helicopter” conspiracy frenzy that some in the state appear to have become dangerously unhinged. Even their Republican candidate for Senate has caught the wave.

Texas Republican Senate candidate Ted Cruz posted an article on his Web site titled Stop Agenda 21: The Constitution should be our only “Agenda," in which he rants about “a dangerous United Nations plan that takes aim at the American economy – and American freedom – in the name of environmental reform.” He writes that our government is “handing over power over vast areas of the US economy to unelected UN bureaucrats.” And in a froth of paranoia, he adds, “The originator of this grand scheme is George Soros, who candidly supports socialism and believes that global development must progress through eliminating national sovereignty and private property.”

Cruz writes that the Soros/UN scheme will “abolish ‘unsustainable’ environments, including golf courses.” And paved roads. Never forget paved roads!

This is just a taste of the crazy -- you really have to go read the whole thing yourself. And this guy is the Republican candidate for the United States Senate, which means he is likely to get elected. Unless we build that fence in time! (Maybe his slogan could be “Absolute adventures into the crazy in defense of liberty is no vice!”)

Cruz also says if elected he will push to eliminate the IRS, and throw the entire tax code in the trash, preferring “the Fair Tax.” The Fair Tax is a sales tax scheme to dramatically reduce taxes on the wealthy, offsetting them with a 23% sales tax on things the rest of us must purchase. Cruz says, “You know, there are more words in the tax code than in the Bible.”

2. Texas Board of Education rewrites history in textbooks

In 2010, the Texas Board of Education ordered changes to history and economics textbooks, ruling that they must reflect a far-right interpretation of these topics. Saying they are only “adding balance,” the board ordered changes including:

  • Saying Senator Joe McCarthy was correct to charge that the U.S. government was infiltrated by communists.
  • Refusing to include Latino figures like Cesar Chavez as role models.
  • Saying Thomas Jefferson did not play a major role among the founding fathers, and removing him from a list of figures whose writings inspired late-18th-century and 19th-century revolutions elsewhere.
  • Requiring teaching that the country’s founding fathers were all Christians.
  • Questioning the separation of church and state and refusing an amendment declaring that, “the founding fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring the government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion above all others.”
  • Ordering that the word “capitalism” be replaced in all textbooks with the “free-enterprise system.”
  • Ordering the teaching of “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.”
  • Ordering that students should study “the unintended consequences” of the Great Society legislation, affirmative action and Title IX legislation.
  • The Board now requires textbooks to teach “the importance of personal responsibility for life choices” when discussing dating violence, sexuality, drug use, eating disorders and suicide. A board member said, “The topic of sociology tends to blame society for everything.”

Texas buys textbooks for 4.8 million students. This scale brings down the cost of these textbooks, so starting over to print different books for other states would make them cost more. Because of this, publishers and school districts in other states often decide to save money by just using textbooks that meet Texas’ standards.

3. Texas Republican Party calls for ban on teaching critical thinking

Not content with Texas’ revisions of history in its textbooks, the Texas Republican Party Platform has a plank rejecting the teaching of critical thinking and reasoning skills. Yes, you read that correctly. They say it undermines parental authority. What they really mean is that the ability to think and reason undermines authoritarian rule. This is the plank:

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

The party platform also opposes sex education, multicultural education and early childhood education, and supports “school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded.” It says, “We urge Congress to repeal government sponsored programs that deal with early childhood development.”

Go read the Texas Republican Party Platform, and decide for yourself if we ought to get to work building that fence right away.

4. Voting maps that deny the right to vote

Following the 2010 census, Texas Republicans drew up new voting district maps clearly designed to suppress minority voters from having an impact on elections. The maps divide “anglo” areas from areas that are predominantly Hispanic and African American. The census found that minorities account for almost 90% of Texas’ population growth in the last decade, and the state was given four additional congressional districts. But even though almost all of the growth is among the demographic likely to vote Democratic, the maps were drawn to ensure that these new districts are divided with two that are “safely” Republican and two that are “safely” Democratic.

Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a number of states – including Texas --and certain counties with a history of suppressing the voting rights of minorities have to be “precleared” before they can change rules that might affect the voting rights of citizens. Just this week a federal court decided that the new Texas maps cannot be used. According to the court, evidence of lawmakers’ intent included, “Stadiums and hospitals removed from the districts of black congressional members and country clubs newly drawn into those of white incumbents. A lawyer emailing 'No bueno' to a Republican staffer about plans that risked leaving a paper trail and jeopardizing the legality of a voting map.”

5. Texas judge says civil war if President Obama reelected

Tom Head, a Texas judge, fears there could be riots, or even a “civil war, maybe," in which people “take up arms and get rid of the guy” if President Obama is reelected. He wants a tax increase to help pay for measures to handle the unrest.

And, speaking of civil war…

6. Texas governor calls for state to secede from the US

Speaking of civil war, perhaps Texas will solve the border problem for us! It hasn’t been that long since Texas’ Governor Rick Perry was talking about Texas seceding from the Union.

This is inflammatory talk, even 150 years after the Civil War. The Civil War followed the secession of 11 Southern states that wanted to keep slavery (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee) to form the “business-friendly” Confederate States of America. (Low wages, no protection of working people right’s, etc.)

Politicians have played on Southern resentment of the North ever since, with Richard Nixon using a “Southern Strategy” of stoking racial tension in the South to “realign” “Solid South” Democrats who resented that Abraham Lincoln was the founder of the Republican Party. Ronald Reagan came out of the 1980 Republican convention to launch his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi – famous for the lynching of three civil rights workers during 1964’s Freedom Summer – proudly proclaiming, “I believe in states' rights.” “States rights” was the South’s justification for secession.

Unfortunately, if Texas Republicans do succeed in getting Texas to secede from the United States, they will take a lot of good, hard-working, honest non-wingnuts with them.

We’re all laughing, and it is hard not to, but maybe we should start taking this stuff seriously.

By Dave Johnson

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