Texas independent, until it's cold
Last updated 2/20/2021 at 3:18pm
Once upon a time — just a few weeks ago — Republicans in Texas were talking about seceding from the union. If memory serves, their state attorney general concocted a crackpot lawsuit that sought to overturn the free and fair presidential election, arguing that Joe Biden’s win was illegitimate.
Yep, it looked like Texas wanted to be its own red independent country, practicing its freedom far from the clutches of the socialist White House.
But suddenly, a few days ago, Texas’ Republican leaders did a 180-degree turn. They fell on their knees to President Biden, begging and pleading for his help. Suddenly, Biden was legit!
What happened? Reality.
MAGA propaganda about a “stolen election,” and all the attendant rhetoric about “secession,” is grist for weak minds most of the time. But when real life intrudes in the cruelest of ways — for instance, when mother nature dumps a killer winter storm on a state that can’t handle it and puts people’s lives in peril — all that idiot talk blows away in the wind.
On Feb. 13, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott essentially said: “Please help us, President Biden.” Within hours, Biden answered the call. And last Sunday, oozing gratitude, Abbott shared the good news at home: “I thank President Biden for quickly issuing a Federal Emergency Declaration … This disaster declaration provides Texas with additional resources and assistance that help our communities respond to this winter weather.”
Isn’t that special. Also, Ted Cruz pleaded for federal help. This is the same Ted Cruz who opposed federal help for blue northeastern states hammered by Hurricane Sandy. Perhaps Biden should’ve promised federal storm aid on the condition that Cruz be shipped to NASA in Houston and strapped onto the next rocket launch.
One of the reasons Texas urgently needs federal help is because its main power grid couldn’t handle last week’s storm. The reason its main power grid couldn’t handle the storm is because it’s not linked to the rest of the nation. It’s not linked to the rest of the nation because it was set up to avoid federal regulation. I kid you not.
And by the way, raging against Washington — then pleading for help — is a longstanding Texas two-step.
Back when the governor was Rick Perry (remember him?), he nurtured his presidential ambitions by fuming that the “oppressive” federal government was always “interfering with the affairs of our state.” Which was amusing, because he always pursued federal bucks — for farmer “drought assistance,” for local law enforcement, for disaster cleanups, for whatever federal money his $30,000 a month Washington lobbyists could scavenge.
But this was my favorite Texas two-step: On April 9, 2009, Perry put out a statement boasting about “Texas sovereignty” and state’s rights. On April 10, he put out another statement: “Gov. Perry Calls on FEMA to Assist the State in Fighting Wildfires.”
Anyway, one facet of the latest episode is particularly noteworthy. President Biden approved the plea for federal relief with all deliberate speed — without telling the state to buzz off because it hadn’t voted for him, without ranting the red governor runs things horribly, without fuming that the state’s election lawsuit didn’t treat him nice, without offering to throw paper towels, without telling Texans who don’t like him to just rake the snow.
Instead, Biden just did his job. This is what it’s like to have a president who believes he’s responsible for helping red and blue states alike — without favor, without partisan tantrums.
And his quick action should blunt the windbag Texas talk about secession and Washington oppression. Until next time.
Dick Polman is a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia. Contact him: