Texas Snow Storm: A Case for Reforming Democracy

Tying Democracy Reform to the Climate Crisis

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

This week, I am angry.

I am angry that my friends are storing snow in their bathtub so they have drinking water. Angry that my cousin was homeless because her hotel was without power for 3 days. Angry that friends canโ€™t even escape because they would not be able to get enough gas while driving out of Texas. And I am angry that 31 Texans and counting have died from the severe cold.

The snowstorms in Texas are a perfect case study for failed leadership, small government, restrictive voting, and climate denial.

This is not โ€œa once-in-a-century storm.โ€ This is the new normal and itโ€™s time our elected officials start acting like it.

A lack of empathy for their constituents, privatization, and fear of the federal government have led us to todayโ€™s epic energy failure. Texasโ€™ leaders are outright lying to avoid blame on fossil fuels and to sabotage renewable energy (which is more important than ever before). And Texans have little recourse to fight back because the state has the most restrictive voting in the country. But thereโ€™s a way to get to the representative government that Texans deserve and it starts with the For The People Act in Congress.

Now let me be clear, I may be a progressive, but I come from a conservative family. I love my conservative friends and family. I believe a healthy Republican party is essential to democracy. I may get in trouble with the left, but I respect Republicans who are generally looking to better people's lives even if I donโ€™t agree with their approach. Unfortunately, I donโ€™t see many elected officials wanting to improve lives, only lies, fear, and division.

Lying to Distract from Failed Leadership

You might wonder why Abbott can so confidently lie to Fox News viewers. The answer is distraction. There is no question that the Texas government, led by Governor Greg Abbott, has failed Texans because they have stopped listening to their constituents' needs and only bend to corporations and big oil lobbyists. They lie because they want Americans and Texans to look elsewhere to blame. So letโ€™s break down the real issues at play:

  • Deregulation: Texas is the only state with its own electric grid because conservatives wanted to avoid federal regulations for things like...I donโ€™t know...preparing for winter weather.
  • Over-reliance on fossil fuels: 88% of Texas energy is natural gas or coal. Natural gas plants did not even have the energy to extract more natural gas to increase energy output.
  • Privatizing public goods: The push to privatize the energy grid means fewer safety regulations, higher energy prices, and old equipment more likely to fail in a crisis.
  • Lack of government incentives: power plant operators are not financially incentivized by the government like most states to produce extra energy for situations exactly like this.
  • Lack of investment in renewable energy: Contrary to Abbottโ€™s lies on Fox News, the problem is not because AOC snuck into Texas and passed the Green New Deal. In fact, renewable energy was the only success story producing more energy in the early stages of the crisis. Plus, Wind Turbines can function in the Arctic Circle, so seems like a better solution than gas.

Preparing for the New Normal of the Climate Crisis

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of the climate crisis. These โ€œonce in a centuryโ€ storms will become a regular occurrence and there is no time to waste to avoid disaster.

twitter, texas, snow storm, climate change, climate crisis, global warming

When you go to the polls next time, think about your grandchildren and the next generations. What are we leaving behind for them?

I have already accepted that the next generation will live in a worse world than I was born into. I have accepted that I might have lasting lung damage because of the wildfires in California. But we still have the opportunity to improve their lives by investing in a better government that works for everyone and to combat the climate crisis.

Plus it will be cheaper if we do it now. It will cost more to clean up climate disasters than it will to invest in the infrastructure and technology needed to combat climate change. Hurricane Harvey alone caused $125 billion in damages. If the US invests now, we can be leaders in the green economy instead of costing the U.S. economy trillions of dollars.

I look at Texasโ€™ issues and see easy solutions to avoiding a disaster like this in the future.

  1. Invest in infrastructure: the US is wholly unprepared for the climate disaster that is only just beginning. A New Deal-style infrastructure program is extremely necessary to prepare. Plus it brings in new jobs (more than the fossil fuel industry).
  2. Accelerate Shift to Green Energy: The harm of lying about wind energy is that it actually could be what saves lives in the future. Winterized wind turbines can operate in freezing temperatures and can more efficiently produce and store energy.
  3. Regulations & Incentives: Contrary to โ€œsmall governmentโ€ opinions, government is important to serve vital functions for its citizens. Not freezing to death, accessible drinking water, and power are vital. No matter what Rick Perry says, I donโ€™t know a single Texan willing to sacrifice their lives for deregulation. At some point, we need to acknowledge that we need some form of โ€œbigโ€ government in our lives.

But the problem with these solutions is that Texans need leadership to accomplish this. Based on their reaction, the Texas GOP would rather blame others than address the problems. Therefore, the only solution is new leadership, which can only be accomplished through democracy reform.

Texans are held hostage by their elected officials. Texas is the most restrictive voting state in the country. We donโ€™t know the true makeup of Texas because Republicans have used their authority to restrict voting to stay in power. Here are only a few examples:

  • Gerrymandering: Gerrymandering is the practice of purposefully redrawing voting district boundaries to favor one party over the other. In 2018, Republicans received 53% of the votes and Democrats got 47%, but Republicans won 64% of the House seats.
  • Restrictive voting: Voter ID laws and lack of same-day voter registration to name two ways to restrict voting. While elected officials will tell you that these laws are for voter protection, there is no evidence these laws prevent voter fraud, but there is plenty of evidence they make it harder for people of color to vote.
  • Restrictive absentee/mail-in voting policy: Only 65+ and out-of-state Texans can apply and the application is archaic. Did you know you have to physically mail in your absentee voting application? Have they not heard of the internet?
  • Purging voter rolls: As a personal anecdote, I was purged from the voting rolls without knowing and was not able to vote in a midterm election years ago. I showed up at the polls and was turned away. I never told anyone because I was ashamed, but Iโ€™ve learned that's the point.

Letโ€™s Talk Solutions - Restoring Democracy

Climate is intrinsically tied to democracy reform. For America to take on the ever-growing challenges of our time, we need a government that represents its people and who are willing to do the hard work to improve lives.

Well, let me introduce you to the For the People Act.

The For the People Act was a U.S. bill introduced in the House of Representatives in 2019. Without Mitch McConnel blocking all bills from coming to the Senate floor, it has an opportunity to be introduced in the Senate this year and for Joe Biden to sign it into law before the 2022 midterms. Hereโ€™s what it will do:

  • Voting Rights: requires same-day voting registration, early voting accessibility, expand vote-by-mail, make Election Day a federal holiday, and offer online voter registration.
  • Election Security: includes a voter-verified paper ballot in elections to limit hacking and voter fraud.
  • Campaign Finance Reform: limits dark money in politics by requiring more transparency in donations.
  • Gerrymandering: require states to use independent commissions to draw congressional district lines. This is a good thing for red and blue states.
  • D.C Statehood: there are currently 700,000 Americans in Washington D.C. that currently have no representation in Congress. I donโ€™t know about you, but I think all Americans should be able to have a voice in our government, even those that live in its capital city. For those who say itโ€™s about a power grab, I say itโ€™s about the humanity of 700,000 people.

Democracy reform is not a red or blue issue. Itโ€™s an American issue. To me, these reforms are table stakes in a democracy. While there are so many issues affecting America right now, democracy reform is the #1 issue. Because fixing democracy reform will open up opportunities to better address the other crucial issues.

So how can Texans get to a government that truly represents its interest?

Start by sharing what you know about The For the People Act with your friends and family. Then vote.

It may be an uphill battle, but Texas has the opportunity to begin the work towards a government that cares about its constituents in 2022. Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton are all on the ballot in 2022.

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Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.


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