At their convention, Texas Republicans compared immigrants to terrorists, claimed therapy can cure homosexuality, and insisted that the only thing a rape survivor has the right to choose is to stay home and raise her child. A zombie hunting for brains would have starved in Fort Worth, but the dumbest thing to come out of their convention wasn’t in the program, but from the mouth of the state’s next Agriculture Commissioner, Sid Miller.
Miller arrived at the convention having already become a national joke for sponsoring the sonogram bill that Doonesbury lampooned as “10-inch shaming wands.” For the unfamiliar, the law requires doctors to perform a transvaginal ultrasound to give a woman seeking an abortion the shocking news of her pregnancy. Miller’s role in passing this useless bit of state-sanctioned harassment is probably why Republican primary voters chose him to regulate our agriculture industry.
Farmers are suffering from a long drought in Texas, but Miller told delegates in Fort Worth that their biggest threat was the Obama administration. Besides, he had a plan to end the drought.
“God will bless us with rain someday,” said Miller.
Rev. Pat Robertson embarrassed himself when he blamed the earthquake in Haiti on Napoleon making a pact with the devil and ascribed the 2012 tornadoes in the Midwest on a dearth of prayer. He became such a joke that we all believed the urban legend that Robertson blamed Hurricane Katrina on lesbians. But what was once fodder for late-night comedians is now good politics in Texas, if not state policy.
Miller’s contention that God controls the weather is aberrant but hardly an aberration. According to the Texas Republican platform, climate change isn’t a documented scientific phenomenon but a “political agenda that attempts to control every aspect of our lives.” And Miller’s hardly the only one.
“I’ll leave it in the hands of God. He’s handled our climate pretty well for a long time,” said Lt. Gov. nominee Dan Patrick during his primary.
If you believe in miracles-the religious ones, not the Miracle on Ice or on 34th Street-then believing that God can make it rain does not sound crazy. But that is a far cry from assuming that every drop of rain is planned by a deity and not what happens when warm, moist air cools and creates condensation. You know, science.
Texas, which has an Office of State Climatologist, should be run by grownups comfortable with modern notions like meteorology. Much of our economy, from oil and gas to farming and ranching to clean energy and hi-tech, relies on a shared assumption that science is not witchcraft.
Instead, we have Miller, Patrick, and Rick Perry, who in 2011 issued an official state proclamation that Texans should pray for rain. The nitpicky among us might cite our Governor for getting his religious chocolate in our state peanut butter, but the real danger in making it state policy to pray for rain is that it makes people wonder whether the C’s he got at Texas A&M for animal husbandry and PE were the result of grade inflation.
This argument should have been settled when Thales of Miletus became the Father of Science by rejecting mythological explanations for the physical world. In his day-half a millennium before Jesus was born-people thought capricious gods caused earthquakes, which is sadly not too far afield from believing that God conferred favor on his people by making it rain.
What’s next? Thunder means God is angry we’re not limiting increases in state spending to population growth plus inflation? When a hurricane makes landfall in Texas, are we to blame Houston for passing equal rights for gays?
These Republicans are making us look stupid, but we have bigger problems. The drought has already nearly tripled inflation at the grocery and is endangering the hydraulic fracking boom that is pouring tax money into state coffers. We can’t make it rain, but we can address climate change. In fact, Texas could profit from it if we had leaders who could admit that it was real. But that would require us to start acting smarter than we are, and that means electing leaders who could pass a 6th grade science test.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant who writes columns for the Austin American-Statesman and The Quorum Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JasStanford.