For first-term State Rep. Jasmine Crockett, the legislative session in Texas was, to put it mildly, a “disappointment.” In an interview with Texas Signal, the Dallas-based civil rights attorney had a lot to say about the session, what comes next in the fight for voting rights, and what she’d like to tell West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
When Crockett came into office, she was an insurgent candidate who cultivated grassroots support in the wake of the George Floyd murder and Black Lives Matter protests around the country. She brought that same level of energy to the Texas Capitol, where she was often at odds with even some of her fellow Democratic legislators.
The Texas legislative session was capped off by a dramatic walkout from a majority of Democratic house members. Senate Bill 7 (along with other legislation) then died. Crockett had been pushing for something akin to the walkout. So when it happened, she felt Democrats were at least listening.
“By the time we got to the walkout, I finally perked up a little bit. Because I just felt like we weren’t fighting hard enough,” Crockett told us. She indicated that prior to the walkout, there were still some Democrats who were questioning the strategy. Some were worried it might prompt an even harsher backlash from Republicans.
Crockett thinks that that type of equivocating, is a folly. “When it comes to actual strategic minds, we do pretty well in that category. We may not have the numbers, but this game is bigger than that,” she says.
For Crockett, the entire legislative session was an onslaught, with Republicans taking every advantage of their slim majority to pass extreme laws like permitless carry, abortion bans, and a school censorship bill meant to stop critical race theory. “There were bad bills everywhere,” says Crockett. “It was literally sitting there like a lame duck and just being shot at.”
And while Democrats were successful at stopping a few pieces of awful legislation, like a ban on trans athletes in sports, those really didn’t feel like “wins” for Crockett. “Sadly enough, winning for us this session meant that we were blocking something bad.”
The Republican fervor for enacting such extreme legislation comes at a time when Texas is in the midst of a political transformation. Crockett noted that in 2012, President Obama lost to Mitt Romney by over fifteen points. In 2020, former President Trump won by a little less than six points. “You wouldn’t think we would go hard right when numbers continue to trend in a blue fashion,” says Crockett.
Crockett filed the most House bills of any first-term legislator. The freshman legislator had hoped to advance legislation about a host of criminal justice reforms, instead the House chamber was inundated with debates about Republican priorities.
She laments that these Republican priorities took precedence over addressing the winter storm that killed hundreds of Texans, or a global pandemic, or while incarcerated Texans who can’t afford bail continue to die in prison. Ultimately, Crockett does believe legislators who advanced extreme legislation at the expense of what Texans actually need, will face a reckoning. “I choose to believe that no matter what party you belong to, you probably believe we shouldn’t have spent too much time on the floor debating critical race theory.”
Though the legislative session is officially over, a special session looms. Redistricting will definitely be on the calendar, though Gov. Abbott has also hinted that Senate Bill 7 will return, along with other rightwing legislation.
After the Texas walkout, all eyes were on the Capitol where House Democrats were not. As Crockett sees it, that’s because Democrats took a bold initiative. She wants to see that same level of passion in the special session. “I hope that my fellow Democrats see that fighting is not only what the people of Texas want us to do, but what people around this country want us to do,” she says.
One person, though, appeared unmoved by the events that took place in Austin. In an op-ed in The Charleston Gazette-Mail, Joe Manchin officially announced he would not be voting for the For The People Act. He cited its lack of bipartisan support, and his unwillingness to break the Senate filibuster.
After our interview, Crockett offered a statement to the Texas Signal about Manchin’s decision. “It’s unfortunate that Senator Manchin doesn’t recognize that bipartisanship on common sense issues in our country fails to exist in the era of Trump. There is no reasonable explanation as to why Republicans would vote against investigating the insurrection, but they did. While I applaud the heart of his rationale; it’s naive, and frankly only aids the misdeeds of the Republicans around this country.”