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‘Look What You Did to Us’: The Big Chill of Texas Politics

Within the midst of the still-unspooling disaster, it turned out that Lawyer Basic Ken Paxton, below felony indictment, had jetted off to Utah. A state senator had taken a personal jet to Florida. And, of course, Sen. Ted Cruz had been caught red-handed slinking off to Cancun together with his household.

The wags at El Arroyo, a legendary Tex-Mex dive in downtown Austin, up to date their every day road signal commentary: “If you happen to’re chilly, simply Cruz to Mexico.” But rage was constructing. Individuals had begun to die: of their houses, of their stranded autos, inside idling automobiles of their garages. Galveston ordered a meat refrigeration truck for the lifeless.

Abbott didn’t even trouble to name his big-city mayors.

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“I’ve not talked to the governor at any time throughout this disaster, however we’re pushing ahead.” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner instructed MSNBC on Friday, Feb. 19. “The White Home has reached out to me a number of instances, and we’ve had these communications.”

This won’t shock college students of Texas politics. In any case, years in the past, Abbott had declared a form of conflict on his cities. He didn’t like them regulating enterprise the place the state hadn’t.

At first, he battled them over environmental legal guidelines like banning plastic grocery luggage, which blew in all places within the Texas wind. He fought with them over pure fuel fracking inside metropolis limits, which tended to set off earthquakes. Then got here the pandemic. He refused to allow them to impose mask-wearing mandates, shut down native economies and even restrict restaurant providers, whether or not capability or hours. He excluded mayors from briefings on the pandemic. A self-described small authorities constitutionalist, he was actually a brand new breed: an enormous authorities Republican, claiming to defend restricted authorities whereas increasing state energy if it meant defending enterprise pursuits.

So, this time, the cities’ personal response was erratic. Dallas instructed downtown buildings to reduce on energy use. But in Houston and Austin hovering downtown skyscrapers had been lit up whilst individuals shivered at the hours of darkness elsewhere. Harris County Choose Lina Hidalgo, whose jurisdiction contains Houston, known as the sunshine present “maddening.”

Catching wind that utilities had been sending individuals $16,000 payments, an indignant Ron Nirenberg, the mayor of San Antonio vowed in his every day briefing: “There will likely be hell to pay.”

In his Feb. 13 letter to President Biden, it was what the governor didn’t ask for that caught out. He requested for no navy assist with logistics or assist distribution. He didn’t ask for catastrophe unemployment insurance coverage, cash for native governments, not even hazard mitigation for broken houses, not even meals or water. He requested for no navy help. Abbott requested just for direct monetary help for people and assist conserving emergency providers going until the storm handed.

In sharp distinction, Abbott requested for and bought large federal assist earlier than Hurricane Harvey even got here ashore in August 2017. At his request, FEMA pre-positioned individuals and provides, linking up with the Texas Emergency Administration Company, bringing in over 1 million meals, 3 million bottles of water, blankets and cots, offering medical providers to greater than 5,000 Texans. The federal authorities even introduced in 210,000 kilos of hay for livestock, in accordance to FEMA’s 2017 after-action report. The Air Pressure flew 30 missions, largely ferrying provides. Abbott activated all 30,000 members of the Texas Nationwide Guard. However none of that occurred this time.

Abbott was in a unique political state of affairs. On the one hand there was a Democratic president in workplace, not his previous ally Donald Trump. Then again, Abbott’s largest menace, as he prepares to run for re-election in 2022 and presumably the presidency in 2024, isn’t to his left however to his proper. Florida transplant Allen West chairs the Texas GOP and is even calling for secession.

“My sense is that Abbott is calibrating his relationship with a Democratic president,” stated James Henson, a political scientist on the College of Texas at Austin. Regardless of the human toll, Abbott, say, doesn’t need adverts in 2022 portraying him as hat-in-hand to Biden. “The Republicans simply need to do the naked important right here and so they don’t need to do an excessive amount of. Plus, Abbott doesn’t need this storm to be the main target of one other information cycle.”

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