“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to the problem. Government is the problem.” — Ronald Reagan
No single quote encapsulates the last forty years of American politics than the one from Ronald Reagan above. As much as some would like to deny it, the last forty years have been dominated by Reagan and conservatism. Sure, we had eight years of Clinton, but Clinton wasn’t much more than a liberal Republican or conservative Democrat in terms of regulation.
For all of the histrionics over Barack Obama, he didn’t really govern as a liberal outside of the Affordable Care Act. Even when you consider that act, it didn’t come with a public option. It was simply further regulation of the private insurance industry. Believe me, they didn’t come away that unhappy in the bargain.
State politics have been dominated by the Republican party and the conservative movement. When you step away you might see some additional individual liberties as it pertains to marijuana use and LGTBQ rights, but those are consistent with classical conservatism. The last forty years has been the age of conservatism. It’s high time we take stock in how things are going.
Political scientists call it partisan realignments. One happened in 1932 when FDR and the Democrats not only took over the White House and Congress, but the nature of the Democratic party changed forever. We have seen the same happen since 1980. The Republicans have sometimes controlled Congress beginning in 1994, but the nature of the Republican party has definitely changed since Reagan took the White House.
Obviously, Texas has now dealt with two major crises in the past year. Colorado City mayor Tim Boyd left a huge Facebook post that served his holy Waterloo moment. It should be read in its entirety, but the nuts and bolts of it are included below for your enjoyment.
“No one owes you [or] your family anything; nor is it the local government’s responsibility to support you during trying times like this!” he said. “Sink or swim it’s your choice! The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout.”
Greg Abbott is certainly not this craven. He has a little more polish than that, but his reaction to this crisis and the pandemic is proof that the results are really not all that different. In one of the episodes of the Simpson’s, Ned Flanders is given a glimpse of his past. We see his mother utter the now famous line, :”We’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas.” That line might as well be the mantra for the Texas Republican party.
The governor attempted to gaslight the nation by saying that the current power crisis was the fault of failed wind energy and proof that the Green New Deal would be a disaster. It was a failure of epic proportions. A state that has been utterly dominated by Republicans since the 1980s was somehow taken over by AOC and a brand of liberals in the energy sector. It would be a real knee-slapper if so many people weren’t in their homes shivering and waiting for water.
The lie was overwhelming on two levels. The first level was the common sense level. More than half of the state was without power at one point or another. This somehow was the fault of wind power. Wind and solar power accounts for about ten percent of the state’s energy even according to the governor. So, even if every bit of that energy failed (which it did not) then we would have seen a ten percent dip in energy. How does that effect over half of the state?
The truth is that wind energy hasn’t really had a dip as it has outproduced projections in the past year. Yet, conservatives have seized on this moment to pull one over on their supporters. Windmills. That’s what’s to blame. It wasn’t the fact that we are one of the few states to deregulate from the national grid. That couldn’t be it.
The second layer of this situation is the further proof that modern conservatism is incapable of managing a crisis. Abbot has had two cracks at this as governor. He’s failed miserably in both shots. He didn’t fail as spectacularly as that small town mayor. He at least says the right things about being concerned, but what exactly has he done? He has told ErDot to fix everything, but he has actually done nothing and he’s all out of ideas.
His response to the pandemic was eerily similar. He wanted to leave everything up to the local authorities but then criticized them whenever they were active in combatting the virus. Get in front or get out of the way. Meanwhile, since the early days of the virus, Texas has been at the forefront of positivity and death rates. Yay for us.
Boil it all down to one word and you can boil it down to deregulation. Let the free market determine all. The free market left us untethered to the federal energy grid. The free market dictated that the new energy grid not weatherize its infrastructure. The free market dictated that those savings went to stockholders and company profits. That’s the way the private sector works. Regulation is the concept that the private sector must do certain things and that especially true when the general public relies on those services. Regulation seems unsavory until you are on the business end of rolling blackouts.
Sadly, the worst problem is that people will forget these moments the next time Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick are on the ballot. They will forget about the lack of leadership and the sacrificing of grandma to the economic gods. They will forget about the gaslighting and finger pointing when the time calls for leadership. They will forget that four decades of deregulation have brought us to this moment. They will forget that a party has disdained government involvement to the point where those in government don’t know what the hell they are doing. Don’t forget this. Keep this memory locked away. We elect leaders to be there for us when crisis hits. We don’t want them pointing fingers at imaginary windmills. We want governors and lieutenant governors and not Don Quixote.