Commentary: How young voters can bring truth back to politics

The way we pass laws in this state is failing young Texans.

Elected officials use lies to pass bad laws. Turning lies into laws hurts our state and risks alienating a rising generation of Texans when we should be doing everything possible to encourage their participation in the political process.

That politicians ignore or distort facts for the sake of their agenda is nothing new — in Texas or across the country. But it’s something that seemed to go into overdrive this year — with devastating effects. Here are a few examples:

This year, Texas lawmakers passed a law allowing child-welfare providers that contract with the state to discriminate against LGBT families in foster care and adoption placements. The law’s supporters argued that the legislation would protect “religious freedom.” The reality is protections for that freedom already existed, carefully balancing the convictions of religiously affiliated child welfare service providers with the needs and beliefs of children they serve. But the truth didn’t matter, and the governor signed the bill into law anyway.

COMMENTARY: How UT got students hooked on voting.

The issue of abortion should be guided by established science, but instead we again saw how politics and misinformation dominate. This year, lawmakers passed another unnecessary law that bans a safe, medically proven method of abortion. They also enacted a new requirement on fetal remains. Medical experts and others pointed to the deeply flawed arguments behind these measures, but legislators passed them anyway. The truth was legislative leaders were simply looking for excuses to put more obstacles in the way of women seeking safe, legal abortion care.

The Legislature also passed a “show your papers”-style law that targets immigrants and people of color. Law enforcement officials decried the law as making their communities less safe – the opposite of what its supporters assured us was needed to protect public safety.

And let’s not forget about a bill that didn’t become law but triggered a debate dominated by fake facts. The so-called “bathroom bill” targeted transgender Texans for discrimination and was based on numerous lies; the most pernicious of them was the outrageous suggestion that transgender people are an inherent danger to women and children. The bill’s supporters can’t cite incidents in which a transgender person entered a public restroom to harm someone else. The bill was defeated, but there’s a real possibility it – and the lies – will return next legislative session.

POLITICS: Will screenplay remake how we remember Wendy Davis?

It’s time to end this shameless tactic at the Texas Capitol. That’s why our organizations, Texas Rising and Deeds Not Words, are visiting the state’s universities this month for a series of campus forums. Our message is simple: No more lies into laws. We’re taking this message to our universities as the country nears a major milestone. It is estimated that in 2018, people ages 18-34 will surpass baby boomers to become the country’s largest voting-eligible generation.

This generation of Texans has already been directly affected by another bad law based on misinformation: a voter ID measure from 2011 that bars them from using student identification to vote. Experts pointed out that the kind of voter fraud targeted by this law is virtually nonexistent. But lawmakers passed it anyway because its real purpose was to suppress voting among targeted populations, including young people.

The future of this state is increasingly in this generation’s hands, and some of these Texans will one day represent us at the Capitol. So, it is vital to create an environment that encourages as many members of this diverse group to get involved in the political process — on everything from voting to running for office.

Our fear, however, is that too many members of this generation will see what happened at the Legislature and choose to take a pass. And who can blame them when they see politicians who can’t deal in basic facts?

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: Viewpoints delivers the latest perspectives on current events.

We hope our forums on college campuses will start a conversation about how this rising generation can lead and return our politics to a place where reality rules the day.

Untruths will only continue to produce bad policy. Our state can’t continue to run on lies.

Davis, a former state senator and gubernatorial candidate, is founder of Deeds Not Words. Ayala, a student at the University of Texas-San Antonio, is a member of Texas Rising.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion

TWO VIEWS: Democracy? Bag it, say the Republicans
TWO VIEWS: Democracy? Bag it, say the Republicans

The urgent love Texas Republicans feel for plastic bags is a mystery. Let’s look, though. Maybe there’s a clue in the trail left by former Texas congressman Tom Loeffler all the way back in the 1980s. The game is afoot — literally. As a candidate for governor back in 1986, Loeffler confessed that he had worn plastic shower caps on...
Letters to the editor: Jan. 22, 2018

Re: Jan. 18 article, “Expo Center trimmed from PSV’s list of Austin MLS stadium sites.” The possibility of Butler Shores being decimated for a soccer stadium worries me. I am absolutely against such a move. These negotiations appear to be similar to the bullying of Austin that Uber and Lyft attempted. Butler Shores, at the confluence...
TWO VIEWS: Why Supreme Court should rule against bag ban
TWO VIEWS: Why Supreme Court should rule against bag ban

Shoppers might soon discover that the grocery store is less expensive and more convenient. Two weeks ago, the Texas Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case questioning the legitimacy of municipal bans on plastic bags. If justices reaffirm an appellate court ruling, consumers will be unburdened from this clear example of government overreach. At...
Opinion: What is the real message of #MeToo?

The feminist website Babe published an account of a date gone bad. The pushback has been swift and sharp. I share some of the concerns of the critics, but I also think young women are sending a message that is being missed. The account by the anonymous “Grace” about a bad date with comedian Aziz Ansari was, if not “3,000 words of...
Lacking minorities, state boards are ill-prepared to serve all Texans
Lacking minorities, state boards are ill-prepared to serve all Texans

Gov. Greg Abbott should look at fairness, justice and best practices — along with qualifications — in making appointments to state boards and commissions. Given his record, that clearly is not happening. If those measures were used, Abbott’s appointments would better reflect the ethnic, racial and gender diversity of Texas. They don&rsquo...
More Stories