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Cristina Tzintzún Headshot

The Republican Strategy to Take Texas Backwards

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Last week was a political roller coaster for Texans. Major decisions were made impacting women, immigrants, people of color and low-income voters. The Supreme Court decisions on voting and affirmative action at the University of Texas, the Senate's vote on immigration and the People's filibuster that killed a bill set to all but outlaw abortion in Texas, are all part of a strategy to take Texas and the nation backwards and keep power in the hands of a few.

There is a serious attack on women, people of color, and immigrants underway in Texas. It's clear that conservatives in Texas are afraid of losing the tight grip they have held on the state over the last 20 years. With their political power, they have propelled Texas the highest uninsured rate (29 percent), one of the highest childhood poverty rates (27 percent) and the highest number of workplace fatalities (433 in 2011) -- grim stats that any party should be ashamed to have helped marshal in. Facing these numbers and growing evidence that their policies don't work for the people they are supposed to represent, the Texas Republican Party has continued full-steam ahead into an ever-growing gulf of inequality in the state.

This year, Governor Perry rejected $13 billion in federal Medicaid funding, playing political football with Texas' low-income families and keeping 1.5 million Texans uninsured. Last week when the governor called a special session that included a bill that would have reduced women's access to have a safe and legal abortion, from 42 facilities to just 5, Texans reacted and successfully helped filibuster the bill. Shortly thereafter, Perry called another special session, determined to try and push the bill through again.

Today the Grand Old Party faces growing opposition. National groups like Battle Ground Texas have set their eyes on taking the states' 38 electoral votes for the Democratic Party. On their side they have the rapidly changing demographics and a majority minority state, plus conservatives' own bumbles and blatant disregard for their needs helping build a broad progressive coalition of LGBT, Latino, low-income, and women voters.

Republicans are eager to put roadblocks in the way of potentially more progressive voters, trying to take us back to the good ol' days when only a few white men voted by rigging the rules in their favor and then pretending everyone could participate equally. Last month Senator Ted Cruz proposed an amendment on the immigration bill to permanently block a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, in opposition to the desires of nearly 70 percent of Texans that support a pathway. His proposal also had the dual purpose of ensuring those Latino and potentially more progressive voters would never be able to cast a ballot in Texas, where 1.5 million undocumented people live.

When the Supreme Court's ruling on the voting rights act was announced, it cleared the way for Attorney General Greg Abbott to implement the state's controversial voter ID law and redistricting maps that are opposed by a coalition of Civil Rights organizations for discriminating against Latino and African-American voters. Nearly 2 million Texans living more than 10 miles from an office where they can register for the identification necessary to vote and more than 800,000 without a vehicle. The greatest limitations are placed on Latinos and low-income residents in Texas: the 32 counties with the highest concentration of Latinos (and a poverty rate of 22 percent) have the lowest concentration of driver license centers, and those centers are more likely to be open only part-time.

It's clear conservatives are determined to keep Texas in a time warp, but they are going against the turning tide of a country that is standing up against discrimination of immigrants, the LGBT community and a growing number of Latinos and people of color who are beginning to wield their new-found political power. In Texas, the Republican strategy has been to exclude these voters and undermine their rights, but they are set to learn an important lesson: When you treat these communities' concerns as though they are of little consequence, it will likewise be of little consequence for them to vote you out of power.