Sherry Sylvester

9th Street And Congress

Senate Bill 17 and the Campus Thought Police

Testifying in support of Senate Bill 17, University of Texas at Austin professor Daniel Bonevac told members of the Texas House Higher Ed Committee that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs function as “campus thought police…indoctrinating students and training activists.”

Dr. Bonevac is in a position to know. He’s a tenured professor who has been teaching at UT for more than 40 years. He has seen what DEI has wrought—up close.

He reports that dissent from the DEI orthodoxy is not tolerated on campus and by dissent he means “laughing at the wrong joke, liking the wrong social media post, asking the wrong question in class” — all of which can lead to serious, career-ending consequences.

We have seen these dramas play out across the country. But throughout the debate on Senate Bill 17, the anti-DEI bill by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe and Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin, Texas colleges and universities continued to insist, despite piles of evidence to the contrary, that it wasn’t happening at their institutions.

Texas academic leaders routinely testified that DEI was nothing other than a support program for minority students, veterans and students who are the first in the families to go to college. They ignored video evidence of statements like that of former UT Dean of DEI, Skyller Walkes, screaming at a group of students that “an educator in a system of oppression is either a revolutionary or an oppressor. Which one will you identify as?”

Walkes left UT to an even higher ranking job at Columbia. After this report came out, her name was removed from UT’s website.

Texas Tech University officials were incredulous when confronted with evidence showing that a biology professor was disqualified from a job there for stating that he treats all his students equally. The head of DEI at Texas Tech announced last week that she is leaving Texas to take a similar job at the Northern Illinois University.

Last month University of Texas Psychology Professor Kirsten Bradbury asked the following question on a test:

Which sociodemographic group is most likely to repeatedly violate the rights of others, in a pattern of behavior that includes violence, deceit, irresponsibility and lack of remorse?

The correct test answer was “wealthy white men.”

Bradbury issued a non-apology. There’s no indication she has suffered any repercussions from the university.

Christopher Rufo found curriculum materials at University of Texas’ College of Communication promoting the idea that “objectivity,” “individualism,” and “worship of the written word” were all “characteristics of white supremacy culture.”

Rufo also found that a professor of educational psychology and African Diaspora Studies teaches that “white supremacy is so pernicious . . . it is responsible for virtually every ill that we see within our communities.”

These and a host of other egregious examples of DEI in action on Texas campuses were all treated by academic leaders as one-offs perpetrated by some rogue professor or administrator. Once evidence to the contrary surfaced, it was usually quickly removed from university websites.

When the Vice President for Diversity and Community and Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin testified on the bill to end DEI in Texas, she was not asked about the DEI doctrine of white supremacy and gender theory. She said DEI programs at UT were focused “on the success of students.” When legislators questioned her about anti-discrimination programs, she didn’t let them know that civil rights, Title VI and Title IX compliance are separate programs and not part of most DEI offices.

When Gov. Greg Abbott demanded that universities stop using diversity statements which require adherence to DEI principles when hiring faculty, Texas A&M quickly renamed their faculty hiring guidelines from Strategies and Tactics to Improve Diversity and Excellence (STRIDE) to simply the Faculty Hiring Handbook. However, the so-called “Berkeley Rubric” from the University of California, which require candidates to be scored based on their diversity statement, was not removed. This means candidates would still be downgraded for using words like merit, color-blind or best-qualified.

At the House Higher Education hearing on DEI, Texas A&M’s Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs acknowledged that DEI had been “discovered in some pockets of the university,” but he insisted that the administration was unaware of it.

But A&M’s State of Diversity Report released in 2020 details a vast network of DEI programs throughout the A&M system.

The A&M report parrots the credo of DEI, insisting that, “…racism, hate speech, safety, and belonging issues are evidence of systemic, cultural problems and are enduring trends at Texas A&M.” The report concludes that “dismantle[ing] systemic racism” is essential to advancing Texas A&M’s land-grant mission.

It is unlikely that most Texas academic leaders are committed to the basic premise of DEI—that all American institutions (including all colleges and universities) are predominantly racist, whether consciously or not. Instead, it appears that many college administrators have been captured by DEI hucksters and are in too deep to back out now.

To see how these hucksters work, take a look at the website for the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Ed (NADOHE). Their mission has nothing to do with student success. Instead, their goal is to create more jobs for diversity officers to do. They see racism everywhere, whether there’s any evidence or not.

Some believe that NADOHE actually foments unrest on campuses so academic administrators will reach out to them for help. You can see how that could happen. As the National Association of Scholars’ John Sailer has documented, the explosion of DEI programs at the University of Texas began after students protested and made demands.

Ironically, NADOHE’s website makes it clear that DEI is little more than a full-employment act for bureaucrats that creates division and resentment on campus and does nothing to help minority students succeed. It is not just the red states that have figured out the truth about DEI. Last month a debate was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) entitled “Should DEI Be Abolished?” Even the side arguing in support of DEI agreed that it has “gone off the track.”

Texas’ passage of Senate Bill 17, the strongest anti-DEI bill in the nation, does not mean that Texans don’t believe racism and sexism still exist and must be challenged. But it does mean an end to the massive and complex network of DEI programs built on the premise that white supremacy and racism are the primary driving force of our academic institutions and American life.

The goal of SB 17 is to end the powerful incentives and career-threatening penalties that are mandated by DEI, and to return Texas campuses to places where free speech, academic freedom and intellectual inquiry are the values that drive the institution.

When Gov. Abbott signs SB 17 into law, we can hope it is the end of the campus thought police.

Sherry Sylvester is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and the former Senior Advisor to Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.

9th Street And Congress

What is DEI, really?

The Texas Senate just passed Senate Bill 17, which will require Texas colleges and universities to close their offices dedicated to “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” (DEI).

Senate Bill 17 will also prohibit universities from requiring applicants for teaching and administrative jobs to provide a so-called “diversity statement” that is free of any offensive words like, “merit” and “color-blind.” It also prohibits mandatory DEI training.

Senator Brandon Creighton’s, R-Conroe, leadership on this legislation – a priority for Lt. Governor Dan Patrick – was remarkable in many ways, not the least of which is that DEI offices at Texas colleges and universities, like DEI offices nationally, rarely provide any information on what they actually do.

The truth is buried deep in the website of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. They describe their mission as “engaging in ongoing ways to incorporate alternative narratives in the curriculum and provide robust learning opportunities on the history of racism, colonization, and conquest on how higher education and other sectors of society have been complicit in maintaining systems of privilege.”

DEI officers are working to ensure that every administrator, every faculty member and every student believes these “alternative narratives” which include the notion that America was really founded in 1619 when the first African Americans arrived in Virginia, and that the American Revolution and the Texas Revolution were fought to maintain slavery. The Pilgrims didn’t colonize America for religious liberty, they came here to conquer the native tribes, just like Columbus did two hundred years before. There’s no end to these “alternative narratives,” some of which are linked to a part of our history and some of which are pure fabrications.

Underlying these “alternative narratives” is the bedrock belief of DEI that racism is not an individual act of evil, it is a structural system, geared toward preserving white supremacy.

Higher education is part of this systemic racism, according to DEI’s assessment. So is free-market capitalism, America’s legal system rooted in English common law, medicine, virtually everything American, including our values of achievement, hard-work, equality and independence.

According to DEI, the system is rigged and DEI officers say to “mitigate racism,” they must dismantle all those systems and overthrow those values.

That’s why an applicant for a biology professor job at Texas Tech was disqualified when he said he treated all his students equally. Equality is not a DEI value. Equality under the law, the principle that undergirds all our civil rights legislation, has been replaced in DEI by equity, which is about redistributing resources. That’s why many conservatives draw a direct line from DEI to Marxism.

The bottom line is that DEI advocates believe all white Americans are racist, whether they know it or not. Many non-white Americans can be unconsciously racist too, if they buy into “white values” like hard work, self-reliance and even being on time. Following a schedule, according to DEI advocates, is a white thing.

Viewing the world through that DEI prism creates a new standard of inequality. Students are either privileged perpetrators of white supremacy or victims of it. That’s what DEI teaches.

Texas has a dark history of racism – slavery, brutal reconstruction, the violence of the Jim Crow era and segregation. Every Texas public school student is taught that history so that we will never forget those awful times.

But Texas also has a history of breaking down barriers, especially when it comes to our public schools and universities. The Texas Public Policy Foundation conducted focus groups across the state last year and we found that African Americans and Hispanics do not think of themselves as victims; they think of themselves as Texans. They identify with Texas values of independence and freedom. Those who arrive at Texas universities are proud Texans – perhaps until they are hit with DEI ideology everywhere they turn, insisting that somehow the system is rigged and there’s no way they can win.

That’s why few were surprised by the Texas A&M survey that showed that in 2015, 82% of African Americans felt they belonged at the university. By 2019, after four years of DEI programs, only 55% felt they belonged.

A Baylor University study conducted in 2018 found that having a DEI program at a university had no impact on increasing minority faculty hiring. There’s no evidence that DEI helps increase successful college outcomes for minority and women students, either. And we have almost daily examples of how DEI stifles free speech, with a Stanford Law School dean’s shouting down of a federal judge being the most recent example.

Texas is not the only place where DEI is being scrutinized, and not just by conservatives. Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at Cambridge held a debate entitled “Should DEI be Abolished?” Even those who were defending DEI said it had “gone off the rails.”

Texas college and university budgets and websites reveal that hundreds of DEI officers are employed at Texas institutions of higher learning and Texas taxpayers are spending millions to keep those offices open. The Texas Senate was absolutely right to vote to shut them down. The Texas House and other states should follow their lead.

Sherry Sylvester is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and the former Senior Advisor to Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.

9th Street And Congress

Drag Shows ARE Blackface

When Walter Wendler, president of West Texas A&M University, blocked a drag show performance on his campus, likening it to blackface,  he was excoriated by the organized LBGTQ+ community, which launched a petition calling it a “gross and abhorrent comparison of two completely different topics. It claimed Wendler was using an “incorrect definition of drag as a culture and form of performance art.”

But Wendler is right. Drag shows are essentially the same as blackface. It’s not even a close call. Here’s how the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture describes blackface:

“Minstrelsy, comedic performances of “blackness” by whites in exaggerated costumes and make-up, cannot be separated fully from the racial derision and stereotyping at its core. By distorting the features and culture of African Americans—including their looks, language, dance, deportment, and character—white Americans were able to codify whiteness across class and geopolitical lines as its antithesis.”

Change blackness to womanhood and you have a precise definition of drag—”comedic performances of women by men in exaggerated costumes and make-up…” The only difference is that most thinking people have long recognized that blackface is the essence of racism and hate. As the Smithsonian notes, it “cannot be separated from racial derision and stereotyping at its core.” Similarly, drag shows are all about misogyny and utter contempt for women.

It is inexplicable that there is so little outrage about the obvious and vicious sexism that emanates from drag queens and drag performances, but as the Dallas Morning News reports, drag shows have become part of the mainstream, popular culture.

Ignoring the hateful and belittling stereotypes of women presented by drag queens—catty, bitchy, dumb and obsessed with sex—Nancy Pelosi, the first woman ever to serve as Speaker of the U.S. House, appeared as a guest on “RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars” where she praised the men for the “joy and beauty you bring into the world.”

Both blackface and drag trace their roots to Shakespeare. Women were forbidden to act in Elizabethan times, but many believe Shakespeare’s hand-written stage directions, “DRAG,” indicated “dressed as a girl.” But nothing in Shakespeare’s works indicates a disdain for women. Juliet, Lady Macbeth, Beatrice, Viola and Cordelia weren’t stereotypes, even though they were played by men. And Shakespeare’s masterful Othello, played by white actors in blackface until modern times, reveals that he understood the evil and pain of racism.

Even using the standards of “presentism” that is so popular among the left, it is hard to see how Shakespeare’s endorsement would count much for blackface or drag. He lived in a time when slavery was not particularly controversial, and witches were still being burned.

Blackface migrated to America and took hold in the 1830s.  Jim Crow was a blackface character. According to the Smithsonian, minstrel shows including troupes of white actors performing as black people became popular after the Civil War and continued until relatively recently. They note that “The Black​ and White Minstrel Show” was a popular British television show until the late 1970s. It ended after the Civil Rights movement in the United States heightened awareness about racism.

If, as the students at WTAMU insist, banning drag shows is an offense to gay and lesbian people, perhaps there is a parallel in the fact that the so-called “King of Blackface,” Al Jolson, was lauded for his musical talent throughout his career. Knowing the racism and damage that was done, it is unimaginable today, but some African Americans believed Jolson brought black music to the theatre at a time when blacks were not allowed to appear on stage.

One of the ugliest things about blackface is that it perpetuated the most violent racism in America by pushing racial stereotypes that black men were stupid with enormous sexual appetites. Alleging rape was one of the most common motivations for lynching, and blackface played a huge role in pushing that myth.

Drag pushes similar sexual stereotypes about women including overdone facial makeup—massive brows, lips and lashes, exaggerated breasts and wildly gyrating sexual movements that suggest voracious sexual appetites.

That’s one reason Dr. Wendler is right when he says there’s no such thing as a harmless drag show and why Texas State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Tyler, should be lauded for Senate Bill 12 and Senate Bill 1608, which restrict drag shows to adult audiences and keep them out of public libraries.

Hopefully the “RuPaul Drag Race All Stars” will go the way of the “Black and White Minstrel Show” as the public finally realizes drag shows have nothing to do with gay rights. They are all about hate—and a particularly vicious kind of sexism.

9th Street And Congress

A Good Time to ‘Pause’ DEI at UT

The University of Texas Board of Regents just made a very good decision to “pause any new DEI policies on our campuses.” Texas Tech, the University of Houston and Texas A&M also say they are working to end DEI on their campuses.  In making the announcement, University of Texas Board of Regents Chairman Kevin Eltife also said he has asked for a report on current DEI policies across all campuses.

DEI, the acronym for the so-called diversity, equity and inclusion policies, has become a driving force on many Texas campuses, including UT, through a vast administrative network that controls hiring and promotions. It also employs aggressive strategies that infuse DEI into curriculum.

DEI’s advocates relentlessly insist that their goal is minority recruitment or fair treatment, but that is just the cover story. As the National Association Scholars noted in a report on UT earlier this year, “a large bureaucracy devoted to advancing the vague goals of DEI” is evident throughout the university.

Eltife clearly states the difference, noting that UT welcomes “welcomes, celebrates and strives for diversity on our campuses in our student and faculty population…”

But he notes DEI has become something else:

“I also think it’s fair to say that in recent times, certain DEI efforts have strayed from the original intent to now imposing requirements and actions that, rightfully so, has raised the concerns of our policymakers about those efforts on campuses across our entire state.”

To understand the difference between ensuring that Texas college campuses are comprised of students and staff that reflect the broad diversity of our state and the pernicious goals DEI, it is important to examine exactly what the DEI ideology is and how it operates in the academic space.

DEI is rooted in critical race theory (CRT) and the new gender ideologies. Over the last couple decades, DEI has morphed both theories beyond being just left-wing ideas into structured operating systems.

The template for the fall schedule at UT’s McCombs School of Business demonstrates the result. It includes a content warning section that some of the business courses may be offensive or result in curriculum induced trauma. It is not clear exactly what kind of “trauma” could result from Econ 101, but thanks to DEI, UT is standing by and prepared.

The McCombs Business School template also includes a ridiculous “land acknowledgement” to be read before every class and event. It goes like this:

“We acknowledge that we are meeting on the Idigenous [sic] lands of Turtle Island, the ancestral name for what is now North America.” They must also affirm: “I would like to acknowledge that Alabama-Coushatta, Caddo, Carrizo/Comecrudo, Coahuiltecan, Comanche, Kickapoo, Lipan Apache, Tonkawa, Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo and all the American and Indigenous Peoples who have been or have become a part of these lands and territories of Texas.”

Besides being a guilt inducing virtue signal, suggesting that we are somehow on stolen land, this statement is, like the 1619 Project, simply bad history. .Among other things, this fails to note the fact that the Spanish were actually in Texas before several of these tribes so perhaps Carlos III de Bourbon, His Most Catholic Majesty should also be on this list.

Most professors don’t complain about these things because they are required to provide a “diversity statement” before they can even be considered for a job at UT. The statement must include proof of adherence to the ideology of DEI. Candidates are excluded if they use words like merit, color-blind or even equality.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott pointed out recently that this is against the law. His office reminded universities and state agencies that hiring cannot be based on factors other than merit. Civil rights laws protect everyone from being discriminated against because of their race, ethnicity or, in the case of DEI, because of what they believe.

Eltife and the Board of Regents should carefully read the DEI reports he gets back from faculty and staff at UT. They must separate genuine efforts to increase minority recruitment from the ideological agenda of maintaining the DEI infrastructure in campus climate and curriculum. They should also ask other groups to send them reports—traditional faculty and students who want an atmosphere of open inquiry and learning who are often shut out by UT’s DEI regime.

The regents also need to hear what they have to say.

9th Street And Congress

Looking Behind the Screaming Headlines

The Texas Tribune began its coverage of the 88th Session this year with a news report screaming that “LGBTQ Texans Ready for Legislative Session as GOP lawmakers target them in dozens of bills.”

The Tribune warns that many LGBTQ people say they are leaving Texas because of the GOP “assault” on their rights.

If LGBTQ people are leaving Texas, they are the only ones. Every data source from the Census Bureau to U-Haul repeatedly shows that Texas is the state most people around the country are moving to, not from.

Newsweek reports that Texas has the second highest LGBTQ population in America, although other sources have radically different numbers. But no source shows an exodus of gay people from the state.

There’s also not much evidence of LGBTQ targeting in bills filed so far in the legislature session—at least no L, G and B. Several legislators have written bills that would prohibit the parents of children suffering from gender dysphoria from allowing their children to have irreversible surgeries including castrations and mastectomies or giving them puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones. Those children might grow up to be “T” people, although the data indicates the most of them won’t.

The division between the LG&B and the so-called “trans” agenda (T) has long been debated in the gay rights movement—and is starting to gain traction. Many believe that the two groups have conflicting missions. Gay people want to be accepted for the men and women that they are. Trans advocates don’t believe that sex is binary and are demanding acknowledgement for being someone other than who they are.

This poses a huge problem for a group like Equality Texas, the source of the alarm in the Texas Tribune’s “LGBTQ attack” story. Equality Texas says it is the largest advocacy group for LGBTQ in Texas and it must rally its troops, but if you look at its bill tracker, their agenda is all about the “T.”

Looking at the bills they are fighting, here’s what we must assume that they support:

  • No restrictions on sex change surgery for children, which they call “lifesaving” and a “best [medical] practice.” No restrictions on cross-sex hormones and puberty blocking drugs.
  • All health care providers should be forced to provide sex change surgery to children whether they believe in them or not.
  • Insurance companies should be required to pay for sex change operations for children.
  • There should be no restrictions on classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • There should be no restrictions on classroom instruction using nudity and descriptions of sex.
  • Men should be allowed to play in women’s sports in Texas colleges and universities.

Equality Texas describes commonsense policies on these issues as a “threat” to the LGBTQ community.

The use of the term “lifesaving” to describe sex change operations and puberty blockers is deceptive. Researchers have known for some time that gender dysphoria does not put teens at greater risk of suicide than teens suffering from many other mental health risk factors including depression and anorexia. We also know that cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers don’t save lives but actually adversely affects mental health, which can increase suicide risk. So does sex change therapy, which has been repeatedly shown to not be as effective as psychotherapy in treating gender dysphoria in children and adolescents.

The bottom line is that the Equality Texas’ bill tracker makes it clear that it opposes all efforts to affirm the right of parents to raise their children. Several Texas legislators have put forward a constitutional amendment to “enshrine the right to direct the upbringing of their child, including the right to direct the care, custody, control, education, moral and religious training and the medical care of the child.”

Equality Texas opposes the constitutional amendment proposal as another “threat” to the LGBTQ community. Their bill tracker also shows their opposition to legislation that:

  • Allows doctors to refuse to do sex change surgeries.
  • Requires parents to be informed about all activities and materials used in their child’s classroom.
  • Requires teachers to notify parents of changes in a student’s physical, mental or emotional health.
  • Requires book publishers that provide books to schools to label them with a content rating, like movies do.
  • Requires parents to provide consent for all non-textbook instruction involving violence, nudity, profanity, illegal substance use or sexual content.
  • Requires “drag shows,” where men dress up like women and dance provocatively, to be defined as “sexually oriented” businesses.

Their opposition to school materials and library books is telling. Anyone who doubts whether parents should be monitoring them more closely in our public schools should take a look at the bestselling “Gender Queer,” which has been found in dozens of Texas school libraries. It’s clearly inappropriate for kids.

As for men playing women’s sports, broad majorities of Texans and Americans continue to oppose it. Women sports advocates won that battle in Texas in the last legislative session for high schools and legislation to protect women’s sports in colleges and universities has been proposed this session.

Finally, defining “drag shows” as “sexually oriented” businesses would hopefully make it clear that they do not belong in public schools or public libraries, regardless of what a couple of City Council members in Dallas think.

Large majorities of Americans believe that parents should be able to direct their children’s lives—particularly when it comes to sensitive topics like sexuality—without being overridden by public schools. Equality Texas disagrees and it is trying to convince Texans that to think otherwise is somehow a “threat” to the LGBTQ community.

Some Texans have religious convictions regarding gay people, which was reflected in the recent Republican State Convention platform plank, but in this heavily libertarian state most Texans are “live and let live.” The majority support gay marriage. But no thinking Texan supports allowing a child to determine whether they get a sex change operation or take puberty blockers, whether pornography and drag shows should be allowed in public schools and whether men and boys should be allowed to play in women and girls sports.

To overcome that broad consensus of common sense, Equality Texas and other LGBTQ advocates must convince the LG&B community that they are under attack even though they are not. That’s why we can expect more screaming headlines this session.

9th Street And Congress

O’Rourke’s Anti-Texas Debate

It makes absolutely no sense for the media to be in charge of political debates in Texas or anywhere else. They don’t even pretend to be neutral players anymore. They are on the liberal Democrat side. 

Which makes it all the more telling, now that the only Texas gubernatorial debate is over, that almost none of the media’s post-debate analysts named Beto O’Rourke the winner. What is amusing is that media analysts can’t seem to understand how, after literally years of biased and dishonest coverage of Texas conservative leadership in general and Gov. Greg Abbott in particular, O’Rourke managed to lose a debate against a man they demonize and misrepresent every day. 

With the media in charge, the debate questions on Friday night all leaned in O’Rourke’s favor. There were no questions about the Texas energy policy and how O’Rourke’s support for the Green New Deal would cost millions of jobs and devastate the Texas oil and gas industry. 

There were also no questions about parental rights and school choice which Abbott and a majority of Texans support and O’Rourke opposes. Instead, the media’s education questions were focused on the issues teachers’ unions care about—more money for schools and more pay for teachers and retirees. Student outcomes took a back seat to whether the New York City mayor had actually contacted Abbott’s office about busing migrants there.   

And, of course, they didn’t ask O’Rourke to define what a woman is or if he thinks boys should be allowed to play girl’s sports.

Still, O’Rourke’s prospects seemed good going into the debate.  Polls show 54% of Texans think the state is going in the wrong direction. Texas has had a very difficult couple years, which include the pandemic, a horrifying mass shooting followed by an inexplicable failure to respond by law enforcement, a deadly freeze that paralyzed us and a Supreme Court decision on abortion that has divided Texans.  

O’Rourke clearly went into the debate thinking he would blame Greg Abbott for all that. Using his entitled, rich kid persona, he ignored the rules and launched flailing attacks that repeatedly fell flat. The old suggestions by a previously star-struck media that O’Rourke is, somehow, the reincarnation of Bobby Kennedy are laughable after his debate performance.

O’Rourke attacks repeatedly noted that Abbott has been in charge for the last eight years—he clearly thought it was a killer punch.  

But he doesn’t understand Texans. The Texas Public Policy Foundation conducted focus groups last year asking Texans across the state what they believe about the Lone Star State. We learned that Texans, regardless of race or ethnicity and even most Democrats, are proud of being Texans because, they said, Texas is a state that does things right. 

They listed things like the state’s low cost of living, no income tax, available jobs and reasonable regulations—all results of conservative pro-Texas policies moved forward by Abbott.

No recent pollster has asked Texans if they believe the last eight years would have been better if Democrats were in charge, but if they did, I am confident the answer would be a resounding no. Right next to the right track/wrong track number on most polling results is the disapproval rating for Democrat President Joe Biden, which stands at close to 60% in Texas. Only 37% of Texans approve of his performance and even members of his own party don’t want him to run again. At the same time, a majority of Texans approve of Abbott.  

O’Rourke missed the fact that while Texans believe the state is going in the wrong direction, they don’t blame Abbott. Instead, polls have shown again and again, that Texans’ most urgent concern is the crisis at the border and the 2.1 million people who have crossed illegally since President Biden has been in office. Texans support Abbott’s border policies.

A basic rule of politics is to never believe your own press, but O’Rourke doesn’t seem to realize that virtually all the Texas mainstream media is his press. That’s probably why he misjudged his rude and condescending attacks on the governor and crossed the line of good Texas manners. He thought he could badmouth Abbott because he thinks Texans believe the daily mainstream media headlines screaming that Texas is a backward state whose conservative policies have left it in shambles. But most Texans don’t buy that. It doesn’t ring true with the reality of their lives.   

Republicans finally took control of all three branches of Texas government in 2003, and now, after a generation of reversing the liberal policies of high taxes, intrusive regulation and trial-lawyer packed courts, conservative principles are part of the Texas DNA, right next to liberty and freedom.

If someone is going to overthrow the state’s top conservative leader, he or she will need to be a genuine Texan who understands that the Lone Star State became the country’s top job creator and the top destination for Americans moving from other states because of conservative policies that have rebuilt our state after almost 100 years of Democrat rule. 

O’Rourke showed he doesn’t understand that hard-working Texans know how the economy works because they can see the difference in Texas and blue states around the country. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be putting a higher statewide minimum wage at the top of his platform. Texas voters would never support a plan that would kill both jobs and businesses.    

The media is saying that Abbott stacked the deck by only agreeing to one debate, but Texans saw all they needed to see on Friday night. O’Rourke demonstrated he’s not in tune with the priorities Texans care about. Hopefully, we are seeing his last run for public office.

9th Street And Congress

The Big Lie in Houston – and the Big Truth

What an ugly irony that the Houston Chronicle—which may be the most out-of-touch and Texas-hating newspaper of the metropolitan big five—has just won a Pulitzer Prize for a series they called “The Big Lie.” 

Predictably, the left-wing Pulitzer crowd is lauding a series written by four editorial writers that they say “reveals voter suppression tactics…” in the Texas election reforms that were adopted in the 2021 legislative session. Like the New York Times’ repeatedly debunked 1619 Project, the Chronicle’s “Big Lie” insists that election politics in Texas has been rooted in racism since reconstruction. It demonizes Republicans and insists efforts to increase transparency and public trust in elections is all a ruse. The editorials claim:

 “[Election] Integrity is no more the goal for them than it was for the white primary associations of the 1900s. Only today’s voter fraud warriors have laser pointers.” 

The series mostly forgets that it was Democrats who established those “white primary associations” at the turn of the century, while the Republican Party was the party of reform, primarily comprised of African-American Texans. 

The Houston Chronicle editorial writers rail against requiring a photo ID in order to vote, a Texas law that passed in 2011, as well as what they describe as the refusal of the state lawmakers to allow voting “innovations” like 24-hour and drive-in voting. 

The Pulitzer committee apparently didn’t bother to fact check the series, or they would have learned that it wasn’t just Republicans who support requiring a photo voter ID in order to vote—nearly 85% of all Texans support it, including Democrats. 

As for the charge of “voter suppression,” a Texas Association of Business poll (TAB) conducted in 2021 during the election reform debate found that fully 95% of Texans surveyed—again, that is people from both parties—say it is “easy” to vote in Texas elections.   

And there’s no voter suppression. Since photo voter ID has passed in Texas, there have been record breaking voter turnouts in both presidential and gubernatorial year elections. 

Voter turnout in Texas increased 40% in the 2020 presidential election and 76% in the 2018 gubernatorial election. In 2012, 58% of registered Texans voted and in 2020, almost 67% voted. 

The news hook for the “Big Lie” editorial series were blaring headlines in Texas and nationwide that 12% of Texas mail-in ballots had been rejected in the March primary election. Always looking for ways to demonize Texas, almost none of the news stories on mail-in ballots in the primary reported that those ballots, which required verified identification of either a driver’s license or a social security number, included only about 1% of the total ballots cast in the election. Since it’s not clear how many of those voters went on to vote in-person anyway, like Willie Nelson, the percentage could be even smaller.

But actual numbers didn’t distract the Houston Chronicle’s writers from pushing their ugly theory that racism motivated Texas Republican leaders, who they charge with manipulating Republican voters into believing that protections against voter fraud were needed. It apparently didn’t matter to them that it isn’t just Republicans who want election security—Democrats support it too. The TAB poll also found 85% of Texans in both political parties believe mail-in ballots should require the same identification as in-person voting. Voter fraud in mail-in balloting has never been a secret in Texas, even among Democrats.   
In 2007, when photo voter ID was first being debated, Texas State Rep. Rafael Anchia, a leading Democrat leader from Dallas, spoke against expanding photo voter ID, by using the argument that where real reform was needed was in ballot by mail: He said: “…vote by mail that we know is the greatest source of voter fraud in this state…” requires no identification. 

Still, the story of the 12% mail-in ballot rejection moved forward in both the state and national press unchallenged by any reporter. However, a new poll from RMG Research suggests that even people outside Texas didn’t really buy it. In early May, when asked about the 12% of mail-in ballots that were rejected in Texas, RMG found, predictably, that a third believed what they’d heard in the media, but a larger number—almost 40 percent—believed the rejected ballots indicated that there had been more voter fraud in the past and the new rules were finally able to catch it. 

A Pulitzer fact check would have revealed another “big lie” in the Houston Chronicle’s “Big Lie.” Before election reforms were passed in 2021 the Chronicle wrote that the “state stands to lose more than $31 billion in economic activity and 223,000 jobs by 2025…” because of backlash over the legislation. In fact, Texas, which was among the first states to recover from the pandemic, lost no money and zero jobs because of the election reforms. 

This piece is riddled with many snide little lies, too, and ignores how Texans feel about the Texas House Democrats who shut down the Texas House and flew to Washington, D.C. to protest the election reforms bill. A Texas Public Policy Foundation poll showed that Texans opposed the walkout by a 2-to-1 margin.

Far from being an award-winner, the Houston Chronicle’s “Big Lie” series is just one more in what has become a staple of the Texas press. Texans are portrayed as gullible rubes at best—if not evil, calculating racists. The media doesn’t seem able to accept that conservatives don’t win elections in Texas because of rigged election rules; over the past two decades, conservatives have won with whatever rules were on the books. 

Texans elect conservatives because they share their principles and they like their ideas. They also win because Texas liberals haven’t had a good idea in at least two decades. That’s the Big Truth! 

Sherry Sylvester, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, is a political communications and public policy expert who has directed multi-million dollar statewide campaigns in New York, New Jersey and Texas. Campaigns and Elections Magazine has called her a “respected veteran” of hard-fought elections and in 2005, her alma mater, the Graduate School of Political Management, now at George Washington University in Washington D.C., named her “alumni of the year,” for her accomplishments in the field of professional politics. Early in her career Sherry worked as the Communications Director for U.S. Senate candidate Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman ever nominated for Vice President on a major party ticket. She also worked for David Dinkins, the first African-American to be elected Mayor of New York City. In Texas, she served for over a decade as the spokesperson and a strategic advisor to Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the most successful tort reform organization in the nation. She was a member of the original campaign and transition teams of Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and she managed his 2018 re-election campaign. She served for seven years as Senior Advisor to the Lt. Governor.
9th Street And Congress

Most Texans Support Election Law

Shortly after public poll results were released last week that a majority of Texans support Senate Bill 1, the fair election legislation, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit in a federal court challenging the law. Apparently, DOJ believes their mission is to protect Texans from legislation that most of them say they want.

Not that poll results showing broad support for SB 1 wasn’t big news. This headline screamed across my hometown paper in San Antonio last week and also showed up in Houston.

The implications were immediate:

If a poll conducted by the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston and the Barbara Jordan – Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University showed that most Texans support the Senate Bill 1 — the Election Reform Legislation that passed in the second special session this year, that means the Democrats who walked off the Texas House floor in June and shut down the Texas legislature were not speaking for the majority of Texans, as they insisted. They weren’t even speaking for a good chunk of the people who elected them. Instead, they were speaking for a minority of the minority.

The “Most Texans Support Election Reform” headline was like headlines we have become accustomed to seeing the day after November elections when Texans have been told for months that the conservatives who are governing the state are so unpopular that they will be voted out of office — the House will flip — the Congressional delegation will be replaced.

It never happens. Apparently, those who actually believe it will happen have a huge misunderstanding of who the people of Texas are.

Going beyond specific issues like support for the Election Reform Bill or the long-standing track record of Texans electing conservatives to run the state, there’s much more to know about the 29 million Texans whose families have either been here for hundreds of years as well as those who just unpacked their U-Haul from California last week.

One thing we know from focus groups and other available data is that Texans – regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, or political ideology – are proud of being Texan. Most say that the thing they are proud of is that our state is a place that does things right – the cost of living is low, jobs are plentiful, families flourish here. Texans are proud of our state’s reputation for independence – as well as the deep roots of our diverse population. We value both freedom and faith and, for the most part, we like each other.

Which is why the polling results were not surprising – or they shouldn’t have been. Despite the lawsuits and media outrage when it became law, 85% of Texans believe it is perfectly appropriate to be asked to show a photo ID before you cast a ballot. Three-fourths of Anglos, 64% of Latinos, and 63% of African Americans also believe that public high school and middle school students should only compete in sports associated with their biological sex. And when it comes to elections, majorities support most every provision included in the elections reforms legislation – 82% agreed that ballot harvesting, which has a long, ugly history in Texas, should be made a felony and 74% support providing your driver’s license number on your mail-in ballot. Even the most controversial provision on the reforms – prohibiting drive-through voting – is supported by 59% of Texans who understand that voting requires the privacy of a voting booth. It can’t be done in a car full of people.

Headlines like “Most Texans Support Election Law” demonstrate a big gap between who Texans are and who the left and the media think they are. The conservative majority values life and liberty, they embrace opportunity and diversity – in short, they want to Keep Texas Texan. No one should be surprised that people with those values would want to ensure that every election is fair and honest to keep the state on the right track. The headline and polling results tell us something else the people of Texas value – common sense.