Tuesday, January 9, 2018

#TXLEGE: The Toxic Capitol Culture is not Limited to Sex

"For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there."
James 3:16

We attended this morning's Trib event about the culture of sexual abuse in the Texas Legislature.  The formal program had its ups and downs, but we had several highly productive conversations afterward.  One of those conversations got us thinking about our first session in 2013.

In our Empower Texans profile last May, we discussed being shocked by what we learned when we discovered the Capitol as it really exists.  While our earlier remarks concerned policy, there were also a couple encounters that revealed the dominant culture.  Let's (belatedly) discuss those.

In February 2013, we attended an early morning trib event with Joe Straus.  During the event, we asked Straus about a budget reform proposal under discussion that session.  Straus did what Straus does (though this was when he was polite about it), but it was what happened after the event that stood out.

Following the event, some guy we'd never met approached us and very aggressively asked us to clarify our support for the Texas Budget Compact.  We confirmed that we did and gave a standard explanation about government spending crowding out productive economic activity.  The guy flew into a rage and browbeat this author over our alleged stupidity for supporting a policy that, according to this gentleman, would mean no roads, schools, or water in a decade.  We haven't thought about this encounter in ages but, in hindsight, it was a deliberate act of gaslighting.

Approximately six months later, we attended an another event during the early stages of the Wallace Hall impeachment.  We made an offhand comment to a staffer for a (then) Republican house committee chair (who has subsequently left the legislature) about how we found the whole thing to be a fiasco with Jim Pitts playing the role of lead putz.  Once again, the guy flew into a rage and browbeat this author for our alleged mendacity in helping to "destroy the greatest university in the world."  Once again, we haven't thought about this encounter in ages but once again, in hindsight, it was a deliberate act of gaslighting.

Obviously, we're fine.  But it was scary in the moment.  And one of our conversations from this morning got us thinking about how that moment of fear might have played out if we weren't...well...male.

In an environment where it's a tactic of first resort to browbeat and gaslight male bloggers over policy...should we really be surprised when the same people browbeat and gaslight young women over sex?!?

In the Texas Legislature, the browbeating and the gaslighting are everywhere.  While the recent revelations related to sexual abuse are the most salacious (and dangerous), they didn't emerge in a vacuum.  When minor incident, after minor incident, after minor incident are tolerated, major incidents are the natural result.

Bottom Line:  No matter what the happens in response to recent revelations, until the Texas Legislature addresses its deeper culture of intimidation, the sexual stuff will eventually return.

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