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The politics of avoidance

Hi All,

The murderous gun attack on Robb Elementary School in Uvalde continued to be the overarching story in Texas politics this week, driven by fallout from (and reaction to) the release of an interim report by the House investigative committee assembled by Speaker of the House Dade Phelan at the behest of Gov. Greg Abbott. I posted a detailed parsing of that report on the Texas Politics Project website this week, which focused on two major evasions in the report that reflect the politics of the moment. The report is also the focus of this week's Second Reading podcast, with me and Josh Blank.

First, the report contains no detailed explanation of what the 91 Texas Department of Public Safety personnel that were on site were doing or not doing that day. Second, the report provides narrative and details that make it clear that the lethality of the  “AR-15 style” weapon (per the report) and the munitions contributed to the delay in mounting a decisive tactical response to the shooter. Yet the committee declines to connect the dots in any analysis of the implications of the Uvalde mass murderer’s choice.

These omissions and the elements that are given pride-of-place in the report’s narrative of the lead-up to the shooting and the chaotic law enforcement response reflect the fact that, for all the real service provided by the report in synthesizing information after the flood of contradictory reports and attempts at blame shifting, it nonetheless succumbs to some very familiar politics. The post contains extensive excerpts from the report as well as relevant public opinion polling data (of course). The report and the continuing political fallout of the shooting are also the focus of this week’s Second Reading podcast, in which Josh Blank and I talk about the report, including the announcement the day after the release of the report that DPS had launched an internal investigation of the agency's response.

While it’s not a Texas-centric story per se, the U.S. House passed a bill guaranteeing access to contraception yesterday, amidst signals being sent by some conservatives (starting with Clarence Thomas in his concurring opinion) that the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade might be the leading edge of efforts to roll back privacy rights established in Griswold v. Connecticut as well as in other areas, such as same-sex marriage. The Texas delegation voted along partisan lines: All 12 Democrats voter for the resolution, while 23 of the 24 GOP members voted against it, with one Republican, Michael McCaul, present but not voting. A general question in our June poll related to the subject suggests that Texas voters are much less divided in their support for access to birth control that are their members of Congress.

I also recently posted a compilation of some of our polling related to Texas attitudes about the reliability of the electric grid in Texas. I actually put that post together the week before last. But it hasn’t gotten any cooler in Texas, and the extended forecasts I’ve seen don't suggest the heat is going to break enough to keep the grid too far from folks’ minds any time soon. It might be worth a bookmark if you’re working on anything to do with the public opinion context of the reliability of the electric grid.

On that happy note: do your best to stay cool and hydrated.  Take care and keep in touch.



Jim Henson
Executive Director, The Texas Politics Project
College of Liberal Arts / Department of Government
The University of Texas at Austin
The Texas Politics Project
Copyright © 2022 The Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin, All rights reserved.

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