By Wayne Dawkins
Special to the AFRO

Here is some chilling arithmetic: Three states control 28% of the U.S. population, 90.4 million of 331-plus million people, according to the latest U.S. Census count.

These numbers are a big deal because Republican governors from the two southern power states are committed to driving their people back into the Jim Crow era. 

Meanwhile, West Coast Republicans tried to pull off a coup in California, also known as a recall election. Gov. Gavin Newsom survived by an affirming 2-1 ratio voter turnout Tuesday in an overwhelmingly Democratic state.

But he had to sweat. Newsom raised $70 million to save his job, and he called in President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and others to defend his leadership. 

Four dozen candidates tried to topple Newsom because he directed a strict masking and vaccine policy. Because of those tough, inconvenient choices, the Golden Bear state is doing fine. 

Can’t say the same however for former Jim Crow states, including blockbusters Texas and
Florida, where there are scenes of capacity hospital beds, remorseful family members saying their dead loved ones should have been vaccinated, and yet other citizens stridently saying they won’t mask or vaccinate because their freedoms are being restricted.

Or is it that too many citizens from these interior states are holding the rest of us hostage, prolonging the spread of the evolving virus and slowing economic recovery and safe schooling?

In Florida, Gov. Mike DeSantis vowed to dock the pay of educators who enforced mask mandates for K-12 children. In response, a number of metropolitan-area school superintendents went on camera with cable news networks and said their choice was to mask the children. 

“Don’t Fauci my Florida,” said the governor, a dig at the ubiquitous infectious disease doctor. The soundbite might be fund-raising GOP candy, but is it helpful to the rising death and infection rates in the Sunshine State?

DeSantis also signed a restrictive voting law, a solution desperately searching for a problem, and DeSantis was just rebuffed in court for trying to impose a “rioting” ban. Florida has not had insurrections, like that Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol, so who are these phantom rioters that DeSantis wants to put in check? 

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott accused Biden of “authoritarianism” for imposing vaccine mandates on federal employees Sept. 9. Well, Abbott, like DeSantis signed a restrictive voting law so foul and ridiculous, the Democratic legislative minority walked out of the state house chamber, twice, to try to get Abbott and his supporters to reconsider. The law passed anyway.

And last Abbott and his GOP majority pushed through an anti-abortion that criminalizes the choice if women are six weeks pregnant. Most women are unable to know if they are pregnant after six weeks.

Furthermore, the new law encourages bounty hunting. The cynically written law instructs state officials not to enforce the abortion ban; that job is left to private citizens who are encouraged to turn in women suspected of seeking the procedure. The U.S. Justice Department is challenging the state law. The U.S. Supreme Court may weigh in soon.

Oh, and COVID-19  and Delta Variant cases are rumbling along through the heart of Texas like expanding herds of longhorn cattle.

Is what’s going on in Texas and Florida backwater behavior, a new kind of conservative/right culture war? Where Black and Brown metropolises square off against overwhelmingly White rural areas? 

More suburbs are integrated now, unlike the favored predominantly White middle- to working-class turf of the late 20th Century. So, it is a head scratcher as to why Abbott and DeSantis are bending over backward to turn off and turn out suburban women, many of whom are White and often moderate, independent voters. 

Furthermore, both governors are running counter to the latest Wall Street Journal front-page data that says women, White, Black, and Brown, are a growing majority in colleges and men, notably White, feel lost and stuck. Are these governors grabbing desperately for short-term gains, and bailing on the future?

We live in the 50 United States. Three big states should not be allowed to overwhelm or oppress the rest of us, especially the two with leaders who want to return to 1921. 

Reject that backward nation view.

The writer is a professor of professional practice at Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication. 

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