Analysis: Gov. Greg Abbott's State of the State speech short on vaccine details, long on partisanship

click to enlarge Analysis: Gov. Greg Abbott's State of the State speech short on vaccine details, long on partisanship
Screen Capture / KXAN-TV
If you're like most Texans, you ate dinner instead of watching Gov. Greg Abbott's State of the State address. If you're worried that you missed important new details about the acceleration of vaccine rollouts, don't fret.

As expected, the Republican governor promised the inoculations would be more plentiful and that the state's economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis is well underway. 

"Our comeback is already materializing," Abbott said, delivering one the evening's many pandemic platitudes.

But details on how the state is substantially changing its efforts to get shots into arms were scant. Even as San Antonio officials announced earlier in the day that they'd pushed back a second set of COVID-19 shots for 5,000 people due to a delayed shipment from the state health department.

Abbott did spend plenty of time, though, addressing his priorities for the legislative session that opened January 12. Don't worry, he pledged, “hard-working Texans are at the forefront" of the Republican-dominated Legislature's agenda.

However, those toiling Texans didn't seem to figure in the five legislative priorities Abbott outlined in his speech. Those included doubling down on law and order, making it tougher for Texans to vote and limiting their ability to sue businesses whose actions expose workers or customers to COVID-19.

Oh, yeah, he also wants better broadband access for rural residents Maybe those are the hard-working folks he meant.

With the exception of the broadband thing, all of those issues are ripped straight from the increasingly right-leaning GOP's playbook. They're not measures that keep us safer as the pandemic drags on, nor do they play in favor of our pocketbooks.

Many in Abbott's party viewed law and order rhetoric as winner in the last election cycle, playing on fears of the "defund the police" slogan used by Black Lives Matter demonstrators. The governor's engaged in his own share of tough talk on the matter, repeatedly threatening to punish cities like Austin that shuffle funds from cops to social workers.

To keep deep-pocketed donors happy, Republicans in Congress also pushed to limit COVID-related liabilities for businesses. Ultimately, they failed to tack such provisions onto the latest pandemic bailout package, but it's clear Abbott is willing to carry water for those corporate interests at the state level.

As for voting, Abbott pledged to make "election integrity" a priority. That term, of course, is the Republican party's shiny new euphemism for their now-debunked and sullied claim of widespread "voter fraud." Plenty of observers have noted that the Texas GOP's interest in tightening voting rules is about cutting off access to voters likely to cast ballots for the other party. You know, the poor and people of color.

Other than those unfortunate enough to be saddled with dial-up Internet service, it's awful hard to figure out just who the "hard-working Texans" are that Abbott promised so vehemently to support.

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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