Hello, I am a new member of The Seattle Times editorial board. I am also a recovering Texan.
To be clear, that state and its border region — where I was born and grew up — will always be a part of me and have my love, but the fact that everything is bigger in Texas can be a bit much. Nowhere is that more evident than in state politics.
Texas Republicans went all out this year, emboldened by Democrats’ weak showing at the polls and a boogeyman in the White House. GOP lawmakers made it harder to vote, undermined abortion rights, banned “critical race theory” in schools and allowed anyone who can carry a gun in public to do so.
Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott adopted Trumpian obstinance on COVID-19 prevention measures. Lining up to run for president, he seems like he’s in a race with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to see who can kill the most people in the name of “freedom.” At least DeSantis has some charisma.
All that was running through my head as I packed up my desk at the Houston Chronicle back in June. “Good riddance, y’all,” I thought. The feeling was mutual, at least to go by some hate mail. “Luis, you will not be missed when you leave Texas. Sadly, for you, you will not be noticed in Seattle, because you will be just as liberal as everyone else in that CRAZY town.”
Ha! Joke’s on you, Texas reader, turns out I’m nowhere near as liberal.
I’ve been in the city for a little more than a month and everyone I’ve met has been very welcoming. Moving more than 2,000 miles was not a decision I took lightly, but living in such a beautiful part of the country and being part of such an innovative newspaper was hard to resist.
In a career that’s taken me across the country, it’s also nice to live in a state whose legislature hasn’t been called the “meth lab of democracy” (Arizona), or whose senior senator hasn’t likened universal pre-K to policies in Soviet Russia (Tennessee).
Sure, Gov. Jay Inslee failed to make much of an impression when I saw him at the Democratic presidential debate at Texas Southern University (he was one of the white guys who wasn’t Beto O’Rourke, right?), but his focus on climate change was a breath of fresh air to someone from a place where methane is the official state emission.
I am happy to be in blue Washington. Although, the more I learn about the state of politics here, the more I worry. Maybe it’s the PTSD talking, but I sometimes find The Stranger as hard to stomach as Fox News, and what goes on in Olympia doesn’t look that far removed from what happens in Austin.
In both, you see one party so dominant over the other that legislators in power go through the motions of debate but in the end do whatever they want. One-party control tends to embolden ideologues, who thrive on divisiveness, and worsens political polarization.
Don’t get me wrong, the dominant strain in the Texas GOP right now is of the owning the libs death cult variety. Thankfully, there is no equivalent on the Democratic side in the Washington Legislature (yet). And even though I disagree with many of the far-left positions by some Seattle politicians, I’ll take socialist utopia over libertarian plutocracy any day of the week.
Still, on both sides there is a growing effort to eliminate dissenting opinions, of demonizing and steamrolling the opposition and ignoring anyone who thinks differently. We should be talking to each other. On many issues, it might not make sense to compromise, but we should at least be willing to do so.
Even if we believe we have the best solution for a problem, an unquestioned idea is weaker for it. Lord knows we need all the help we can get to meet the challenges we’re facing.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. And to that, I say: my email’s at the bottom, why don’t you say it to my face?
Sorry, that sounded a bit too Texas. Anyway, I look forward to our conversation.