Culture Wars Within the Heart of Texas

When I was growing up in probably the reddest of red states, Texas, it was as easy to spot someone from Austin as it was to spot an NRA member, whose concealed handguns forced one to rely on their conversation rather than whether they were packing or not.

Within one minute, it was apparent where the latter stood, courtesy of their hyper-aggressive views. Equally quick and equally aggressive was the unrequested political stances bellowed by Austin residents, whose home city was a leftist stronghold in a state of reliably rock-ribbed Republicans. A common example of such instant identification occurred when a student at the University of Texas, headquartered in Austin, bragged of how his city was a place where “liberalism is loud and proud” before telling me his name.

Hence, with only a meager middle, Texas has always contained within itself the starkest example of the blue state-red state political and culture wars that are usually expressed on state versus state basis.

A prime example of this internal culture and political war comes from a Republican governor, who wants to curtail the power of Austin in raising taxes and enforcing gender-friendly bathrooms. Governor Greg Abbott, concerned about the socialism carried out by Austin’s local government, said that “freedom…does not exist” in the capitol city.

In a special legislative session beginning July 8, Abbott wants new proposals to be passed by lawmakers designed to rescue the city from its socialist government. Among Abbott’s proposals are new restrictions on abortion, ending the right of transgendered individuals to use the bathroom of their choice, and curtailing the power of cities like Austin to boost taxes on private property. His liberal opponents are not pleased.

What have frequently drawn the most ire from Austin are cultural issues rather than economic ones. Already activated by a new law from state lawmakers forcing Austin to cease being a sanctuary city—in which local government officials across the country have refused to arrest and deport illegal immigrants—Austin is up in arms about the bathroom rights of transgendered individuals.

Austin mayor Steve Adler, a Democrat, may have inadvertently revealed the city’s overriding priority when he bragged of the welcoming atmosphere for illegal immigrants of a city whose “air is sweet with tacos.”

Whatever one’s stance in this ideological clash, it is apparent that neither side comes off particularly well. Abbott’s attempts to crack down on the allegedly socialist, freedom-destroying local government of Austin runs counter to the conservative maxim of letting local governments set their own rules rather than having them dictated by the much-larger state government. Meanwhile, Austin’s continued refusal to end its haven for illegal immigrants—the city is suing the state government over this—is a defiance of federal law.

In effect, the battle lines are drawn. Libertarians and conservatives must contend with a state government engaging in big government overreach. Liberals, exemplified by Austin’s local government, have been willing in the past and probable future to defy federal law in service to politically correct measures giving aid to illegal immigrants who may put Texans in danger.

Thus for those meager moderates, who are even rarer than Texas liberals, the choice is stark: big government assuming power over smaller government, or a smaller government refusing to obey the law.

Ron Capshaw is a Senior Contributor to The Liberty Conservative from Midlothian, Va. His work has appeared in National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the American Spectator.

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