It can be easy for progressives in safe enclaves like New York and Washington D.C. to write off a place like Texas as a conservative wasteland not worthy of our attention. There are obviously a lot of problems with a view like that, not least of which is the sheer short-sightedness from an electoral perspective. Texas may not vote like California now, nor legislate like Washington, but give it a few years. It will.
Case in point: look at what the mayors in two of the state’s largest cities are doing to address domestic violence and sexual assault. First there’s Dallas where mayor Mike Rawlings will lead the city in an anti-domestic violence rally where he expects as may as 10,000 men to show up and pledge to change domestic violence culture.
In a press event announcing the rally, Rawlings was clear why it was so important that men show up and be counted in this fight. “Most of all, I want fathers to bring their sons,” Rawlings said. “We have an intergenerational teaching moment here because, undoubtedly, this is a learned behavior.” Rawlings said the whole campaign is a movement that will change the culture of domestic violence. “We’re making this a grass roots movement,” the mayor said. “And we’ll take it back to the community. In the past this has been viewed as a women’s issue, but it ain’t. It’s our problem.”
Meanwhile in Houston Mayor Annise Parker and the Houston Police Department recently announced details of a plan to eliminate a backlog of untested rape kits. Under the plan the untested kits will be sent to two outside labs for testing. It is anticipated the work will be completed in 12-14 months and cost the city $4.4 million, which will be covered with grant funding already awarded to HPD and dollars set aside for this purpose by City Council in the city’s current budget. “With this plan we will finally be able to say the backlog is gone. The problem was years in the making and we’ve been working to solve it since I became mayor. It has been a struggle to deal with during a period of extremely difficult economic times, but we remained determined. I am committed to it never happening again” Mayor Parker said.
HPD is recommending the contract be awarded to Bode Technology Group, Inc. and Sorenson Forensics, LLC. Both are recognized leaders in the field and both have worked on other large backlog projects in various places, including New York, Los Angeles and Los Angeles County. “This plan will eliminate the backlog of SAKs and other DNA cases entirely,” said Houston Forensic Science LGC Chair Scott Hochberg. “This will allow the existing crime lab to focus on current casework and give the LGC a clean start and the ability to focus on other issues as it works to establish an entirely independent city crime lab.”
Amazing. Two separate mayors in two separate cities moving forward to address significant issues that undermine the health and safety of women in Texas all while the legislature moves to close more clinics and further stigmatize the state’s poor.
But the thing is, this news isn’t really that amazing. Demographic breakdowns from the last election show that while the state is still red, it is leaning purple, and leaning hard. Cities like Dallas and Houston and San Antonio (not just reliably-liberal Austin) are witnessing a shift away from the hyper-religious conservatism that has defined state politics toward a more balanced liberalism that would make former governor Ann Richards proud.
It’s an important point that can’t be stressed enough. Liberals need Texas if we’re to maintain a forward-moving and looking political agenda and, we’re closing in on having it. That is of course so long as we don’t screw it up by falling into tired assumptions of the state’s politics that are designed more to serve a certain insecurity that plagues some on the left rather than push the movement ahead.
Photo from wintercool612 via flickr.