Texas Republicans Turn Farther Right Despite State Shifting Demographics | Texas
From restricting voter access and politicizing the US-Mexico border to targeting transgender student athletes and reducing abortion rights, Texas’ current legislative agenda established by its governor, Greg Abbott, almost reads like a conservative bingo card.
But in the shadow of next year’s Republican primary, Abbott already faces hostile challengers in his own party who are ideologically even more extreme and push the radical governor even further to the right as he seeks re-election. .
So it may not be a coincidence that during recent legislative overtime in Texas he racked up enough red meat to try and outsmart his rivals, who claim he is only a Republican in name – au great shock to many civil society activists in the state.
“We are truly seeing a race of those who can throw Texans under the bus in the quickest and most cruel way just to score political points and stay in power,” said Juan Benitez, Workers’ communications director. Defense Action Fund.
For years, Democrats have slowly reduced Republicans’ rock-solid hold on Texas, believing the state could eventually turn blue. But the conservative state leadership within the Republican Party is now doubling down on right-wing talking points ahead of 2022, relying on searing emotional issues to piss off supporters.
“What they are doing is working harder and harder, in my opinion, to stimulate a shrinking base, and go so far to the right that they no longer represent the consensus view of the Texans,” said Mike Collier, a Democrat who plans to run for lieutenant governor of Texas next year.
Despite the rapidly changing demographics of Texas, so far it has remained decidedly red in terms of a winner.
That, in turn, makes state primaries the real contest in most races, said Juan Carlos Huerta, professor of political science at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi.
“I think there is a bit of a mismatch between the general sense of what Texans want and what our elected officials are doing,” Huerta said. “They take care of those who vote for them. “
Texas Republican primary voters are often right-wing Donald Trump loyalists, and incumbents across the state who want another term have no choice but to woo those votes. If they are successful, they are more than likely to win in the general election, no matter how radical their platform.
Thus, the Texas government is dominated by Republicans who have been handpicked by their most extreme voters and then approved by a larger electorate guided by party identification. Often this means that the beliefs of a minority – and not the general will of the people – are reflected in state policy.
“We are veering further and further to the right, without really looking closely at the fact that democracy is slowly and slowly eroding,” Benitez said.
The impact of this disconnection is clear in state policy.
A majority of Texans agree with the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade, recognizing the constitutional right to choose an abortion. Yet earlier this year, lawmakers passed a tough new “heartbeat” bill, which restricts access to abortion about six weeks after a pregnancy begins, and to which more than Texas voters oppose that they do not support it.
Carrying without a license will also become the law of the land in September, even though 57% of Texans are against gun owners being able to carry handguns without a license or training.
And, while most voters want background checks for gun purchases, the state legislature has failed to act.
“Elections have consequences, okay? And the fact that Republicans win – conservative Republicans win in Texas – yes, that’s what they’re going to advocate: conservative policies, ”Huerta said.
During a pandemic that has killed more than 51,000 Texans so far, members of the far-right Republican Party have berated Abbott for instituting a statewide mask mandate and others precautions against their will.
After critics were so angered that they gathered to protest outside the governor’s mansion, the state’s ultra-conservative politicians clearly smelled blood. Some, including former Texas GOP President Allen West and single-term State Senator Don Huffines, have already announced they will attempt to topple Abbott next year.
“Why isn’t he here?” Huffines requested an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas earlier this month. “He’s not here because he doesn’t want to confront you.
But in reality, Abbott has a $ 55 million re-election war chest and a higher Texas approval rating than Senator Ted Cruz, Senator John Cornyn, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and many other politicians from across the country. foreground, according to the Texas Tribune.
In case that wasn’t enough, he started waving his conservative credentials ahead of the election. Some believe he is posing as the flagship of the new GOP, not only to win in 2022, but also for a possible presidential candidacy.
“I don’t think of him in terms of moderate or conservative. I see him just as someone who you can expect to embrace, you know, the consensus worldview, or the predominant – the dominant – worldview of the Republican Party at some point, ”said Jason Lee, strategist for Texas Right to Vote.
In March, before the Covid-19 vaccine was widely available, Abbott opened Texas 100% and abandoned its mask tenure – a move Joe Biden called “Neanderthal thinking.” Abbott also banned government-mandated vaccine passports to avoid “stepping on the personal freedoms of Texans.”
He recently turned migrants and asylum seekers into political punch bags, announcing his intention to build a wall separating Texas from Mexico. And after Trump’s approval, he echoed the former president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric when they met for a photoshoot last month, according to the Dallas Morning News.
“It’s time to make sure that this border is sealed and closed,” Abbott said. “The people crossing the border are cartels, gangs, smugglers and human traffickers. “
After Democrats walked out of the state prosecution to block a restrictive voting bill in the May regular legislative session, Abbott vetoed funding for the legislature and called a special session to force them to respond to their priorities. When lawmakers thwarted him again on their way to Washington DC on Monday, he vowed to stop them.
“This special session for me is all about filling out the bingo card, fixing all the burning issues that they’ve identified, and basically taking out all the arguments from his conservative challengers that he hasn’t, you know, fulfilled his conservative mission, ”Lee said.
The session amounts to “a political theater to be built until 2022”, said Benitez, and heads of state take the opportunity to “see who can run further to the right”. Items on the agenda do not include fixing Texas’ failing power grid that left hundreds of people dead in a devastating winter storm last February.
Instead, Abbott called on the legislature to pass bills that would tackle abortion drugs, create more barriers for people trying to get out of jail, and make it harder for Texans to vote.
“It’s a two-step process,” Collier said. “First, scare the base with nonsense. Second, come up with so-called solutions and then try to win your primary. And what they don’t do is tackle the real issues.