Dana Milbank is a regular opinion writer for The Washington Post. As a native Texan, who still has strong emotional ties to the state, I found his analysis to be deeply upsetting. Since the Supreme Court’s decision not to overturn the Texas abortion ban, I can no longer buy anything from Texas, including Tito’s, my favorite vodka. When the anti-vaxxers show up at school board meetings proclaiming “My body, my choice,” I wonder why they don’t feel the same about women’s reproductive rights.
Texas this week showed us what a post-democracy America would look like. Thanks to a series of actions by the Texas legislature and governor, we now see exactly what the Trumpified Republican Party wants: to take us to an America where women cannot get abortions, even in cases of rape and incest; an America where almost everybody can openly carry a gun in public, without license, without permit, without safety training and without fingerprinting; and an America where law-abiding Black and Latino citizens are disproportionately denied the right to vote. This is where Texas and other red states are going, or have already gone. It is where the rest of America will go, unless those targeted by these new laws — women, people of color and all small “d” democrats — rise up.
On Wednesday, a Texas law went into effect that bans abortions later than six weeks, after the Supreme Court let pass a request to block the statute. Because 85 to 90 percent of women get abortions after six weeks, it amounts to a near-total ban. Already on the books in Texas is a “trigger” law that automatically bans all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. At least 10 other states have done likewise.
Also Wednesday, a new law went into effect in Texas, over the objections of law enforcement, allowing all Texans otherwise allowed to own guns to carry them in public, without a license and without training. Now, 20 states have blessed such “permitless carry.”
And on Tuesday, the Texas legislature passed the final version of the Republican voting bill that bans drive-through and 24-hour voting, both used disproportionately by voters of color; imposes new limits on voting by mail, blocks election officials from distributing mail-ballot applications unless specifically requested; gives partisan poll watchers more leeway to influence vote counting; and places new rules and paperwork requirements that deter people from helping others to vote or to register. At least 17 states have adopted similar restrictions.
All three of these actions are deeply antidemocratic. Texans overwhelmingly object to permitless carry. Fully 57 percent of Texas voters oppose such a law and only 36 percent support it, according to a June poll by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune. The partnership’s April poll found that, by 46 percent to 20 percent, Texans want stricter gun laws — and support for tougher laws is 54 percent among women, 55 percent among Latinos and 65 percent among Black voters.
Texans also oppose banning all abortions if Roe is overturned, with 53 percent against a ban and 37 percent for one. Women oppose the ban, 58 percent to 33 percent. A narrow plurality (46 percent to 44 percent) oppose the six-week ban, too.
Furthermore, pluralities of Texans opposed the ban on drive-through voting and restrictions on early voting hours. The drive-through ban was particularly objectionable to Black voters (52 percent opposed to 30 percent in the April poll) and Latino voters (44 percent to 36 percent), as were the limits on early voting hours, opposed 52 percent to 28 percent among Black voters and 46 percent to 31 percent among Latino voters.
And that’s the whole point of such voter-suppression laws. Texas became a “majority minority” state more than 15 years ago — and the country as a whole will follow in about two decades. But White voters still dominate the electorate. Latinos are about 40 percent of the Texas population, but only 20 to 25 percent of the electorate. Texas legislators aren’t answering to the people but rather to the White, male voters that put the Republicans in power. The new voting law, by suppressing non-White votes, aims to keep White voters dominant. As demographics turn more and more against Republicans in Texas, their antidemocratic actions will only get worse.
Bad things happen when leaders don’t reflect the will of the people. This is happening already in Texas and some other red states. It will be happening more nationally if Republicans get their way.