Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, April 13, 2021
Just over a year and a half until the Texas gubernatorial election and things are heating up in the Lone Star State. But as election talk simmers, enthusiasm for Gov. Greg Abbott remains lukewarm.
It’s common to hear from the Republican base, “I’ll vote Abbott if I have to.” This despite the non-stop interviews on Fox and alternative media networks where the governor has been criticizing Team Biden’s immigration policies that are directly impacting Texas.
Where has 2020’s political fervor gone?
Abbott’s cozy relationship with woke corporations is seen as a kind of Faustian bargain where the Texas identity is sold for the price of short-term economic gains.
“Let’s be clear, the current political state of corporations and their undue influence on society means Texas will no longer remain Texas,” said a Texas-based journalist who requested anonymity because his employer might not approve of his comment.
Abbott is not a national populist like Former President Donald J Trump. And Texas’ watered-down versions of Gov. Ron DeSanits’s policies make Abbott’s tough talk little more than political posturing.
Robert Montoya of Texas Scorecard points out that shortly after DeSantis signed the nation’s first executive order prohibiting vaccine passports, Abbott followed suit by banning state enforced COVID-19 vaccinations. Former State Rep. Matt Rinaldi criticized the Abbot EO tweeting, “Texas still allows businesses to require you to have a vaccine passport.” Rinaldi is right.
With the amount of control corporations exert on the private life, Governor Abbott’s policies often amount to nothing more than plausible deniability. Abbott takes credit for creating jobs while he washes his hands, under the guise of free market libertarianism, of the latest corporate conformities reshaping Texas.
According to the Texas Tribune, the Tech Transparency Project recently filed an open records request to obtain communications between Facebook employees and the Governor’s Office. Instead of complying, Facebook’s legal counsel Justin Hoover argued against public disclosure of “approximately 113 pages of documents” outlining confidential information including:
• The fact that Facebook is considering Texas as a site for its data center.
• The project codename for the data center.
• The name of the subsidiary that will purchase land for the data center.
• The names of Facebook employees working on the project.
• The nondisclosure agreement between Abbott’s office and Facebook.
This quiet arrangement likely explains Abbott’s false statement, “Anti-semitic platforms like Gab have no place in Texas, and certainly do not represent Texas values.”
Amusingly, Abbott’s bizarre accusation comes on the heels of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s earnest effort to change “Texas values.”
Last election cycle Zuckerberg donated more than $250 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL). The National Pulse reported, “According to the Amistad project of ‘the 17 cities and counties that have received the largest ‘grants’ from CTCL, totaling more than $51,000,000 combined, just under $300,000 was given’ to Republican-leaning counties.”
The grants usurped lawmakers by directly going to local authorities. Director of the Amistad Project Phill Kline commented, “It’s like having private interests stuffing money into the pockets of the umpire before he calls the first ball or strike. If Mr. Zuckerberg wants to help government, he should give the monies to state legislatures as lawmakers are charged by the United States Constitution, federal law, and state law with the management of elections and the allocation of resources.”
The largest grant recipient was Dallas, while Bexar, Cameron, and Hays counties also made the list. Of the Top 17, $20 million of the $52 million went to Texas municipalities. The Republican outlier of the top 17 recipients was Hays County Texas, home of Texas State University in San Marcos.
Hays County sits on the critical I-35 corridor linking Austin and San Antonio in one of the fastest growing regions of the country. Californians settling into central Texas pushed vulnerable counties in 2016, like Hays, solidly into the blue in 2020. Companies like Facebook, may share responsibility.
And, while Governor Abbott brags about the jobs creation, the Texas unemployment rate ranks 37th in the nation leaving some wondering, “How many of the jobs are going to Texans?” In December of 2020, the Justice Department filed suit against Facebook alleging the social media giant discriminated against U.S. citizens favoring H1-B and other temporary visa holders. Again, Facebook’s preferential treatment doesn’t exactly seem like a Texas first approach.
For his part, Abbott endorsed Texas Senate Bill 12, which would “prohibit social media companies — including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — from blocking, banning, demonetizing, or otherwise discriminating against a user based on their viewpoint or their location within Texas.” The Governor’s endorsement follows Attorney General Ken Paxton’s antitrust lawsuit against Facebook and a separate suit filed against Google alleging the search engine conspired with Facebook to manipulate online advertisement sales.
However, doubts have emerged about the sincerity of Texas’ pro-speech antitrust attacks on Facebook now that the behind-the-scenes courtship has been made public.
Meanwhile, millions of newbies are arriving to Texas with no apparent intention of becoming Texans.
Gov. Abbott may see job creation, home ownership, and relocation data as a political victory, but the energy that Trump brought to the GOP may go unrealized in Texas if a changing demographic, cultural decay, and the growing wealth gap remain unaddressed.