Texas stayed red in 2020. It didn’t lose any Republican Congress members, in spite of a huge and costly push by Democrats. And, in a critical year, Republicans held on to a majority in their state legislature, ensuring control over redistricting in 2021.
So what the heck has gotten into the Texas GOP? In the span of one week, the attorney general filed a seditious lawsuit with the Supreme Court and state GOP leaders are announcing they think it’s time Texas secedes from the nation.
Power — trying desperately to attain it, or to hold on to it — often motivates morally and politically bizarre behavior.
Power — trying desperately to attain it or to hold on to it — often motivates morally and politically bizarre behavior. So does the fear of potentially going to jail. It seems even partisan PR stunts are bigger in the Lone Star State.
Last month, reports indicated that the FBI is investigating allegations that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton broke the law by using his office to serve the interests of a political donor. This would be a federal crime — a crime that President Donald Trump could pre-emptively pardon Paxton for, even though the attorney general hasn’t officially been charged with anything.
Against the backdrop of these problems, Paxton filed a lawsuit last week asking the Supreme Court to overturn the election results in the four key battleground states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. If these results were to be reversed, it would also reverse President-elect Joe Biden's clear presidential win.
If Paxton was hoping such a move would earn him the attention and adoration of the chief executive, he was right. Trump was delighted and asked to join the lawsuit, which was rejected by the Supreme Court just a few days later, on Friday evening. It should be noted that legal experts from all over the country said from the beginning that this case would go nowhere, was frivolous and was nothing more than a legal stunt.
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Trump has not addressed the whispers about a potential pardon for Paxton. But either way, the Texas official still has to deal with a 2015 indictment regarding securities fraud charges.
And Paxton isn’t the only Texan willing to sink to new political lows. Recently, Republican state Rep. Kyle Biedermann announced that he will introduce legislation to allow Texas to secede from the nation. His reason? “The federal government is out of control and does not represent the values of Texans.”
There is no chance that Texas will secede from the United States. Just as with Paxton’s Supreme Court ploy, the law is not on Texas’ side. Secession is simply not legal, and Biedermann should know that.
But also like Paxton, Biedermann’s real goal may be more personal. Perhaps he is looking to raise his profile with a new speaker of the GOP-controlled Texas House of Representatives. Moreover, earlier this year he resigned from the Texas Freedom Caucus, citing backroom deals and a lack of transparency surrounding who would become the next speaker of the Texas House. By introducing legislation with such fanfare, he further shores up his conservative credentials, which could help him secure more influence in the state Capitol. Then again, he may just be trying to bury all of the Google search results of him dressed as “gay Hitler.”
Apparently wanting to hop on the secession bandwagon is Texas GOP Chairman Allen West, who suggested that "law-abiding states" should "form a Union" after the Supreme Court rejected the Texas election lawsuit.
Even as the Texas GOP attempts to pledge its undying loyalty to Trump, the reality is that Texas will eventually go blue. While 2020 polls showed a tight race, it was always highly unlikely that Biden would win Texas. However, he was able to close the gap to just 6 points, an improvement on Hillary Clinton’s 9-point gap in 2016. Yes, 6 points is a solid victory, but Trump won the same 52 percent in 2020 as he did in 2016, showing no growth for the Republican on the ballot.
One thing Texas does not have a problem with is growth. From 2010 to 2019, Texas grew 15 percent, adding approximately 3.9 million people. That’s the biggest jump in the country. The Hispanic population represents more than half of that growth, or about 2 million people.
Changing demographics and voter participation with Latinos will continue to strengthen the Democrats' efforts in Texas, just as it did in Georgia. Change is coming.
But when this change does come to Texas, will Republicans work to recognize the diversity in their state — or will they become even more outspoken as they become outnumbered? In a state where elected officials are already willing to incite sedition or propose sedition, the future looks bleak. Politicians of all stripes eventually lose their power, unless they learn that governing is about respecting the needs of the constituents — all of them.