Column: Sure, people are moving to Texas. But not for the reasons Gov. Greg Abbott claims

A man in a cowboy hat walks past a mural of Texas icons
Texas is changing. When will its politics catch up?
(LM Otero / Associated Press)
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Four of the nation’s 10 largest cities are in Texas: Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Austin. Gov. Greg Abbott would like you to think that’s because of the economic policies of the Lone Star State.

“There’s a reason people want to live in Texas,” he tweeted. “Our low taxes and business-friendly environment give businesses, workers, and families the opportunity to thrive.”

Opinion Columnist

LZ Granderson

LZ Granderson writes about culture, politics, sports and navigating life in America.

The effect Abbott’s policies have had on his state’s population growth is debatable. Texas grew 20.68% from 2010 to 2023 — a surge that began before he took office. As far as giving “families the opportunity to thrive” … well, his administration’s harsh positions on immigration, reproductive health, LGBTQ+ issues and guns call into question his definition of “thriving.”


Actually, they answer the question. Abbott’s ideal Texas household is white, Anglo, cisgender and straight. The three-term governor has made that clear through the policies he pursues.

Which is why we should all be disturbed that 30 million people live under his leadership.

The new political map intentionally diminishes the sway of Latino and Black voters by attaching their communities to heavily white districts.

Dec. 8, 2021

Texas governors have no term limits. Both chambers of the state legislature are Republican, and conservatives have held that trifecta since 2003. The Supreme Court, where Abbott once served, is all Republican. If a vacancy arises, he appoints. Abbott was the longest-serving attorney general in the state, and the current one is a loyal Republican. And despite all of that tailwind, the governor has yet to win a county where any of those four biggest cities are located. His braggy tweet is akin to getting an “I love L.A.” tattoo while living in Huntington Beach.

But this isn’t just about egg on a politician’s face. The Republican govenor-Democratic mayor power struggle has been a thing in this country since long before Abbott took office. What’s concerning is his approach to that battle and the scope of his impact. Days before he bragged about the size of those four diverse, progressive cities, he signed a law specifically targeting their city councils, limiting their power.

He has championed guns and gutted mental health care. How can he still claim that access to such care is the key to preventing mass shootings?

May 7, 2023

It’s a tug of war that resulted in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Austin losing the ability to do things like mandate water breaks for construction workers — a 10-minute break once every four hours in a state that just had its second-hottest year on record. A state that was already leading the country in heat-related work deaths before the legislation was introduced in February. What was that line the governor used about allowing workers to thrive?

Roughly 60% of Texas construction workers are Latino, many undocumented. Blocking protections for these vulnerable people is just cruel. But then again, so is using desperate migrants for political stunts or dismissing victims of mass shootings because of their immigration status.

I’m not saying it’s all about race. I’m just saying the last state to free the enslaved is currently home to the largest Black population in the country, and the congressional map the governor signed in 2021 did not include even one predominantly Black district.


Here’s an idea for lawmakers who fear critical race theory and don’t want to be plagued with white guilt: Teach about heroic white abolitionists as well as white enslavers.

July 7, 2022

Latinos now outnumber non-Hispanic white residents, and yet dominate only seven of the 38 congressional districts. The population increase to which Abbott alludes also included international migration from China and India, and those immigrants too are building communities in counties that lean blue. These are the counties under Republican attack.

Texas gained two seats in the U.S. House because of population growth, 95% of which is attributable to people of color. Republicans used that growth to increase the number of districts with white majorities, while intentionally diminishing the power of people of color. The Department of Justice sued, of course, stating that the Republican “congressional redistricting plan has the discriminatory result of leading to an inequality in the opportunities for minority voters to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.”

Young Texans starting their careers have been moving West for 15 years.

Oct. 17, 2022

Without the threat of term limits and bolstered by immense consolidated power, Abbott has now outlawed critical race theory in universities, stopped mandated water breaks for construction workers and banned public drag shows. He also signed a congressional map that curtails voting power for people of color, the very people who boosted the population of the four cities he likes to brag about.

Abbott has spent most of his life in office serving Texas. I do believe he is proud of his state’s growth. But his policies suggest a man who tossed out the memo that read “y’all means all.” He’s one reason people who live outside of Texas generally don’t know just how beautiful and diverse much of the state is. Instead of using his office to celebrate diversity, he’s legislating to minimize it. And here I thought everything was bigger in Texas.