In the aftermath of a devastating storm that has left millions without power and heat (and resulted in the deaths of at least 17 people in Texas), many people across the country are, understandably, blaming the state's Republican leadership for failing to prepare and protect vulnerable communities. And then there are those people who are blaming Texans themselves — for living in a red state.
Like clockwork, whenever there’s a tragedy or egregious failure in a state like Texas, Florida, or Georgia, a number of smug liberals come forward to argue that residents are just dealing with the consequences of their own votes. “Hey, Texas!” author Stephen King tweeted on Tuesday. “Keep voting for officials who don’t believe in climate change and supported privatization of the power grid! Maybe in 4 years you can vote for Trump again. He believes in the latter but not the former. Perfect.”
And King wasn’t the only one. Another user wrote, “Raise your hand if you’re in a Blue State, it’s real cold, and your lights and heat are still on.” The quip received thousands of likes and retweets.
When it comes to presidential elections, Texas has voted for Republicans since 1980; last year, Donald Trump earned 52.1% of its vote. Two of the state’s most prominent lawmakers are Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, and time and time again, Texas has made headlines after Republicans have attempted to raze abortion access and lift gun restrictions. Make no mistake: Governor Greg Abbott in particular shoulders a lot of responsibility for this week’s tragedy. But his constituents don’t.
Aside from the very basic fact that no one deserves to live without heat and power in single-degree temperature, people criticizing or mocking Texans are ignoring the state's rampant voter suppression problem. According to a recent study from Northern Illinois University, it’s harder to vote in Texas than any other state, due to several factors including restrictive pre-registration laws and reduced polling sites.
The dichotomy between red states and blue states is also an oversimplification. New York is known as a staunch blue state, but outside of metropolises like New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse, and Rochester, many counties voted for Trump. And even though Biden lost Texas, over 5 million people voted for him in the state, meaning there are still more Democrats in Texas than many other “blue” states.
Let's also not forge that, like Texas, Georgia has been considered a Republican stronghold for years. (Texas, actually, is the only state with more restrictive voting laws than Georgia, according to the NIU study.) That all changed with the 2020 election, with Georgia turning blue for Biden as well as being responsible for Democrats having won the Senate, something that happened precisely because Democratic organizers didn't write off Georgia as being a "red state" and instead fought hard to combat voter suppression and turn it blue.
Stacey Abrams, a former gubernatorial candidate and leader against voter suppression, had two messages for Democrats at the start of the presidential election cycle. “One, voter suppression is real and we have to have a plan to fight back,” she said. “Two, Georgia is real. You’ve got to have a plan to fight here.” Not only did Biden ultimately win the state, but Georgia sent two Democrats to the Senate for the first time in decades.
Writing off states as “red” or “blue” disregards the thousands (sometimes, millions) of citizens who oppose their state’s leadership, and does a disservice to voters everywhere — especially in a place like Texas, where many of those citizens were unable to vote in the first place. Despite a historic number of votes in 2020 and strides to bring neglected populations to the polls, Texas still had one of the country’s lowest turnout rates, according to the United States Election Project. Only 60.4% of the population voted at all, indicating that voter suppression is still very much a problem. And it always will be, as long as the state is ignored or discounted, and voters are condescended to by smug liberals who really don't have all that much to be smug about.