Though it plays on the Lone Star State’s rough-and-tumble mystique, the Texas Republican Party has a knack for producing some of the worst politicians. Few across the national political landscape have mastered talking out both sides of one’s mouth like they have.
Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, for example, has criticized Biden’s handling of the border crisis, but it was only a few months ago that he issued a full-throated call for amnesty in English and Spanish.
The state's former GOP Governor Rick Perry raged against renewable energy after blackouts swept through Texas during an extreme weather event, but he sang a different tune while in office.
"No state is more committed to developing renewable sources of energy," Perry said in August 2009. He announced that commitment one month before China unveiled plans for a $1.5 billion, 36,000-acre wind farm project in western Texas.
Now the current governor, Greg Abbott, appears to be leading an effort within the Texas GOP to knock down a few good apples from the party’s branches.
Gov. Abbott is worried about a primary challenge from Allen West, the chairman of the Republican Party of Texas—and he should be.
Abbot recently won the distinction of receiving zero percent of the vote in a presidential straw poll among 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference attendees. By contrast, West is extremely popular on Texas’s grassroots scene.
West’s popularity has also put him in the sights of Texas GOP vice chairwoman Cat Parks, who reportedly wants his seat at the table.
Together, the Abbott-Parks faction recently attempted to taint West with anti-Semitism through his association with Gab, which Abbot slandered as such in a bizarre video.
By painting Gab as anti-Semitic, Abbott and Parks effectively accused their own constituents on the platform of the same while tarnishing the reputation of an alternative social media network.
This camp is essentially the Texas GOP's Lincoln Project, and its new organ appears to be the Texas Republican Initiative.
Republicans for National Renewal, a policy organization that pits itself against the GOP establishment, has called attention to the activities of TRI. They note that with the help of Parks and former Texas secretary of state Carlos Cascos, TRI coordinated the attack Gab.
TRI’s president, Morgan Cisneros Graham, appears fixated on separating West from the Texas GOP and strengthening Abbot’s camp.
"The Texas Republican Initiative launched roughly 3 months ago and has been causing a lot of trouble internally," a Republican operative told me. "They were the ones who led the charge to get off Gab and they are trying to strengthen the establishment’s hand."
Cisneros and the TRI most recently tried to portray the "far left" and West as bedfellows for the opposition he led against Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 3659. The bills offered liability protections for health care providers, businesses, religious institutions, non-profits, and schools that follow federal COVID-19 guidelines—rosy language that belies their far-reaching implications.
In a statement, West and the Texas GOP announced it was "opposed to both SB 6 and HB 3659, because they fail to adequately fortify the rule of law," and that they would "allow executive and bureaucratic overreach to trample the rights of individuals, businesses and other community organizations."
Former Texas State Representative Matt Rinaldi highlighted what these bills would do in practice and the irony of their timing: just one month after Abbott lifted the Texas mask mandate and all business restrictions, the Texas Senate passes a bill that would require businesses to enforce mask mandates and social distancing to avoid legal liability.
"SB6 protects businesses from civil liability unless they fail to comply with 'knowingly failed to implement or comply with government-promulgated standards, guidance, or protocols,'" Rinaldi writes, noting the broadness of the language.
Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommend children over the age of 2 either wear a mask with two or more layers of fabric or double mask for indoors and outdoors.
Texans For Fiscal Responsibility, an educational non-profit, agreed with Rinaldi’s assessment in their statement:
"In effect, SB 6 codifies protections for only entities who followed in lockstep with the executive orders issued by Abbott and other officials, while stripping away existing protections for businesses who decided to manage themselves."
Around the time opinion polling began to sour on Abbott, he lifted COVID-19 restrictions in Texas.
"It is now time to open Texas 100 percent," Abbott said on March 2, adding that "people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate" any longer.
Most saw the move as an attempt to shore up support among Republican voters.
However, Abbott then sought to effectively reimpose some of those same restrictions through legislation that would convert guidelines into legal requirements. It’s likely the statewide mask mandate would make a return by SB 6’s mandate.
Here is the rub: Abbott and his camp support these bills, and West led a principled stand against them.
West’s opposition, and the attention it brought to the matter, humiliated Abbott.
Cisneros and TRI, in turn, responded by grasping at the headline of the Texas GOP’s statement: "Chairman West and the Texas GOP Oppose SB 6 and HB 3659."
"By stating that @AllenWest AND the @TexasGOP are opposed, it’s admission they aren’t one and the same," she tweeted. "Since the [State Republican Executive Committee], the people who actually are in contact with the people of their districts, didn’t decide to align with the far left and labor unions on this- who did?"
In other words, Cisneros bizarrely makes the libertarian case for allowing the federal government to impose COVID-19 guidelines on Texans, putting West on the side of the "far left and labor unions."
In the background of all this, the Democratic Party has introduced legislation to abolish the Electoral College and pack the Supreme Court. Abbott’s Republicans seem far more concerned with fighting over scraps, chairs, and offices.
The American writer Rosemary Kent once quipped that only "Texas could turn defeat into a legend—and a song, and a tourist attraction, and a major motion picture."
But the Alamo is something to take pride in, unlike the Texas Lincoln Project.
Pedro L. Gonzalez is a senior writer at American Greatness.
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