COLUMN: Texas midterm results threaten democracy


Ronald W. Erdrich | AP

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott campaigns in Abilene, Texas, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022.

It takes a lot to make a cowboy cry, but the results of Texas’ midterm election might be enough to do it. Gov. Greg Abbott’s win against Democratic gubernatorial nominee Beto O’Rourke means Texas has been under a Republican governor for over 20 years, and shows no promising signs of change. 

The election loss of O’Rourke is no longer simply a liberal versus conservative problem. Instead, these issues pose a greater threat, with Texas exemplifying the failure of an ineffective democracy plaguing the nation.

During Abbott’s time in office, gunman Salvador Ramos killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Texas’ deadliest school shooting. Ramos legally purchased the AR rifle along with 375 rounds of ammunition days after his 18th birthday. While families mourned and communities lay divided, turning the issue of mass murder into a debate on the Second Amendment, Abbott went to a fundraising event for his campaign, raising roughly $50,000 in three hours. 

If we cannot depend on our local politicians during times of tragedy, we have nothing but empty promises and broken trust. There is even less excuse for Abbott’s actions on a local scale, meaning voters justifying these choices is worrying on a much deeper level than political ideology. If we refuse to hold elected officials accountable for the consequences of the laws they will or will not enact, what is the point of democracy?

Despite data trends showing a majority of Texans vote before election day, only 31% of voters followed through for this race, even with the competitive and controversial nature of Abbott versus O’Rourke. The disparity between registered voters and voter turnout is nothing new, but when candidates like O’Rourke face election losses because of their target demographics’ inability to actually go to the polls, there is no opportunity for growth. 

According to various studies by Tufts on voter turnout, for people ages 18 to 29 in the 2020 presidential election, Texas saw 41% compared to Illinois’ 46% rating. Neither are at satisfactory levels, but those with higher success rates like Illinois have a duty to encourage other states to match them, advocating for increased voter rates as a whole. Without citizens utilizing their full governmental power, there is no realistic way to have a ballot of leaders who accurately represent its people.

The red political blanket covering Texas is the same shade of blood as the innocent people who have died because of our officials’ inept policies. Allowing Abbott to win even after the various controversies during his terms, we open politics to inadequate governing by ignoring needless tragedy and low voter turnout. Instead of looking at Texas as another lost cause, a state doomed to the woes of conservative extremists, it should instead be viewed as a place for heightened encouragement and focused political attention.

Just because a state’s elections do not appear to impact you directly, distanced by miles or apathy, does not mean it does not hold power in the House of Representatives or the Senate. Laws affect much more than just the people within carefully drawn boundaries, and change begins when an individual uses their power alongside the support of a whole. Politics is not an us versus them issue, but rather a way to unite and uplift within the social contract we ourselves designed.