On Feb. 13, 2021, the entire state of Texas came to a devastating halt after facing a blizzard, leaving residents without power in freezing weather conditions uncommon for Texans. The storm was so severe that six homeless Texans froze to death. Those fortunate enough to have homes were barred inside, facing rotating power outages that were intended to last 15-45 minutes, but ended up being hours-long.
The Texas winter storm was also surrounded by political controversy; Senator Ted Cruz was slammed for heading to Cancun to escape his “FREEZING” home, as it was dubbed by his wife. Criticism for Senator Cruz’s actions came from both sides of the aisle, resulting in his approval ratings dropping to a measly 43% among Texas voters. His actions garnered national attention as well, with Twitter users voicing their outrage with #FlyinTed, a reference to one of President Trump’s many nicknames for the senator.
Critics have also focused their attention on the Energy Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, the organization responsible for managing Texas’ complicated power grid. The state of Texas is able to produce and use all of their energy, thus they operate on their own independent grid. The system is also deregulated, meaning there is a competitive market of many different energy providers.
While this system has resulted in lower overall prices for Texans, it also leaves the state with a lack of energy redundancy or a backup grid that's connected to other states. In other words, Texas’ self-sufficient system may have been a little too self-sufficient for the severity of the storm they faced. Texas Governor Greg Abbott publicly called out ERCOT for their lack of preparedness, claiming that “ERCOT has not been transparent” with the people of Texas or with him. It should be noted that while Abbott was quick to criticize ERCOT, he did not hold responsible the Public Utility Commission, which he appointed to overlook ERCOT, as shown by this graphic from the Texas Tribune.
In reality, ERCOT, Abbott, Cruz, and other Texas leaders should share responsibility for the mismanagement of the snowstorm and outages. One party, however, is taking far too much heat online are every day: Texans.
Twitter users mocked them for their own failure to protect themselves from the crisis, with one asking if “Texas is all out of bootstraps?” Jokes like these place the blame on Texans for the actions of officials.
A similar pattern has appeared following Governor Abbott’s complete reversal of the mask mandate. Filmmaker Michael Moore mocked Texans with a Tweet that must be read in its entirety to fully grasp his utter apathy for the loss of American lives. It reads, “Texas - we hear you. You didn’t want to be part of our electrical grid. And now you’ve removed your mask mandate & are allowing large crowds to gather. We hear you! COVID is a hoax! So u don’t need our precious vaccine. We’ll send it to ppl who are saving lives by wearing masks.” His frustration with Texas’ Republican leadership is shared by others on Twitter, who questioned why the US would “waste” vaccines on those who don’t follow CDC guidelines and why blue states are responsible for bailing out red ones when they fail to properly respond to crises.
This kind of rhetoric has appeared across many social media platforms, again and again placing the blame upon Texans for electing Republican leadership. It is probably easiest to come to this conclusion and turn our backs on Texas. We could tell Texans, “Try again next election!” and leave them to fend for themselves.
I would argue, however, that this rhetoric is extremely harmful and displays a complete disregard for human lives. First and foremost, no one deserves to die because of their political affiliation. There is a difference between holding people accountable for supporting a failing politician and telling them they deserve to die because of it.
Texas residents are, of course, responsible for who they vote for and should not re-elect the leaders who are failing them. However, when Governor Abbott was re-elected in 2018, he won only 55.8% of the vote. In the 2020 Presidential Election, Biden won 46.5% of the vote. In a state that has been marked as “staunchly red,” many Texans clearly object to their Republican leadership.
I do believe that Texas politicians are responsible for protecting their constituents and should be held accountable when they do not. This does not equate to abandoning a state of almost 30 million people who deserve the attention of the federal government in a time of crisis. The proper response is to pour support into the state until they cannot deny the beneficial impact federal welfare can have.
Currently, coastal elites in the Democratic Party are sending the message that they do not care about the lives of Texans in their time of need. It is imperative that Texans understand that the left will be there for them when their Republican leadership will not step in. Otherwise, we are no better than Senator Cruz hopping on a plane to Cancun or Governor Abbott pointing fingers at private organizations.