“After initially preventing local governments from penalizing citizens for not wearing masks, Abbott gives his blessing to Bexar County’s loophole.”
That sentence, written by Texas Scorecard’s Brandon Waltens, is an effective summary of Abbott’s actions in which he sided with Democrat policymakers and busybody local officials who want to regulate the lives of everyday Texans. It’s also part and parcel of his second term as governor—a period increasingly defined by babble, bluster, and betrayal.
Abbott, who once billed himself as a champion of everyday Texans and pledged to defend their ability to live their lives, has transformed himself into the kind of feckless tyrant he once fought against.
Shortly before his gubernatorial inauguration, Abbott gave a speech at the Texas Public Policy Foundation in which he decried the creep of regulations at the local level as the “California-zation of Texas” and argued they were “eroding the Texas model.”
“Texas is being California-ized, and you may not even be noticing it,” he said. “This is being done at the city level with bag bans, fracking bans, tree-cutting bans. We’re forming a patchwork quilt of bans and rules and regulations that is eroding the Texas model.”
In his remarks, the governor said efforts must be made to “rein in a regulatory environment that is beginning to expand its tentacles far and wide.” He also said the current backlog in oilfield permitting was pushing some producers to look elsewhere, namely across the Sabine River in Louisiana, where reforms passed by their state government have reduced red tape and wait times.
Those ordinances, Abbott said, represented local government overreach that infringed on the property rights of Texans. In calling for reform, Abbott said, “Individual liberties are not bound by city limit signs.”
And at first, he acted like he meant it.
In much of his first term, Abbott led the way on reining in the power of local governments—taking away their power to regulate matters like fracking and leading the fight to reduce their ability to tax without voter approval. It’s why so many conservatives supported him, why we endorsed him, and why Texans voted to re-elect him.
“We’re proud to endorse Gov. Greg Abbott for re-election. He has pushed reforms that protect property rights, to defang bureaucracies, and to restrict government’s reach into the decisions of small businesses,” said TFR President Michael Quinn Sullivan two and a half years ago. “Governor Abbott has promoted transparency for government employees and politicians, while protecting the First Amendment rights of all Texans.”
But throughout his second term in office, especially during the Chinese coronavirus “crisis,” Abbott hasn’t been fighting for the same things he was in 2015.
Abbott’s not decrying the “California-zation of Texas” by local governments. He’s applauding them, celebrating them, and enabling them.
Abbott’s not “pushing reforms that protect property rights,” he’s encouraging local governments to diminish them.
Abbott’s not trying to “defang bureaucracies,” he just unilaterally created a new one at the cost of $300 million in taxpayer dollars and Texans’ constitutional rights.
Abbott’s not “restricting government’s reach into the decisions of small businesses,” he issued an order that allowed a woman to be jailed for the crime of trying to feed her family and enabling her employees to do the same.
For those looking to defend the governor, he’s not exactly making it easy. Sure, Abbott might be a useful foil to Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer or New York’s Andrew Cuomo if you’re a Fox News producer, and one of Abbott’s myriad social media managers might put out a funny meme or video now and then, but he’s not delivering on the issues he promised he’d deliver on.
Instead of working to solve the problems facing the state, most would have to concede Abbott is creating more problems with each passing day. That’s not to say Abbott doesn’t have a loyal cadre of supporters—fawning access-seekers who applaud his every move—but few everyday Texans are willing to maintain the façade he’s anything close to the leader our state needs right now.
Texans are crying out for leaders to stand up and fight for them; come election time, they’ll look for opportunities to throw out the batch we have. In the meantime, Gov. Greg Abbott should be ashamed of himself for what he has become. Millions of Texans already are.