Portland City Council will vote this week on an emergency resolution to ban purchases of goods and services by the city of Texas until the state rolls back its draconian assault on abortion rights. Oregon city officials are hoping the boycott will spread. “We urge other leaders and elected bodies across the country to join us in condemning the actions of the State of Texas government,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said.
Without a doubt, Wheeler will have takers. But don’t imagine Republicans in Texas, or nationally, will abandon the course they’ve carved out. What is happening in Texas goes far beyond the fight for reproductive rights.
The state is implementing a model for the authoritarian future that Republicans are offering to all Americans. The recent adoption of a right-wing wishlist of extreme measures by the state legislature – denying a pregnant person the right to choose, limiting what is taught in schools about racism, allowing people to carry unlicensed firearms in public – is part of a strategy GOP’s ambitious ambition ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. The other element concerns the restrictions on voting rights which Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed on Tuesday.
Republicans marginalized the popular appeal of their party. Yet gerrymandering and voter suppression programs have kept the GOP competitive nationally and in most states. The party has become accustomed to pluralities rather than majorities. Republicans are happy with minority rule, as long as their minority is in power.
In Texas, where Democrats have been gaining ground in recent years, it’s now quite clear that Republican strategy is to make it harder for likely Democratic voters to vote while pushing forward a legislative agenda designed to encourage maximum turnout. as voters who constitute the socio-conservative base of their party.
Republican political agent Paul Weyrich over 40 years ago Recount a right-wing rally: “I don’t want everyone to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been since the beginning of our country, and they are not now. In fact, our influence over elections increases quite frankly as the number of voters decreases. “
Weyrich passed away in 2008, but his vision lives on. Indeed, he drives Republican strategy in Texas, where the party has won every statewide election since 1994.
In 2018, Democrat Beto O’Rourke won more than 48 percent votes in his challenge to Republican Senator Ted Cruz, and Democratic newcomer Justin Nelson has won over 47 percent in his candidacy for the critical post of Attorney General. Democrats made significant gains in state legislative races that year and won several seats in the United States House. In 2018, Texas monthly observed, “The [O’Rourke-Cruz] The contest ended in a close defeat that appeared to be a victory for the Democrats, and the poll results gave the party the opportunity to expand the electoral map and possibly even take control of the House from the state.
Texas Republicans have received the wake-up call. Their reaction was to go full Weyrich. Instead of trying to broaden their appeal, they decided to narrow it down with what The morning news from Dallas described as a plan to “steam the Democrats to pass their Conservative agenda.” Despite widespread protests and a high-profile decision to Democratic lawmakers leave the state in order to deny the legislature a quorum, the Republicans have now succeeded in making Texas what the New designates as “America’s most conservative one-party state.”
In a state that is rapidly becoming more diverse, more liberal on most issues, and much more democratic – in 2020 Joe Biden took home the award highest percentage of votes for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter, the Republicans’ strategy would seem misguided. And that would be the case if Abbott and his legislative allies intended to engage in a fair fight. But they don’t.
The set of voting rights restrictions the governor approved include a ban on drive-thru voting and 24-hour voting, which had been used to increase turnout (even during the coronavirus pandemic) in Harris County in Houston. It also extends voter identification requirements, limits early voting hours and imposes new restrictions on postal voting. State Representative John Bucy, an Austin Democrat, notes that the bill also outlines new avenues for criminalizing voters who make mistakes. “There are increased crimes and penalties throughout this bill simply for participating in the process,” said Bucy, “and there is no explanation as to why.”
Voting rights advocates fear the threat of lawsuits may be used to intimidate potential voters and undermine efforts to increase participation by communities of color, students and other groups who may be more likely to vote Democratic .
At the same time, the law empowers poll watchers to aggressively monitor and challenge voting procedures, effectively codifying the approach taken by Donald Trump and his allies during and after the 2020 presidential election.
Texas Republicans are not outliers; they are pioneers. Republicans in other states have embarked on voter suppression, as part of a national strategy ahead of the 2o22 midterm elections that could expand GOP control over state houses and restore control of the GOP on Congress. “While the laws that make voting more taxing are not new, the current onslaught of voting restrictions and changes in how elections will be administered is not something we have been faced with on this scale. “, Remarks a FiveThirtyEight May analysis. In addition, there are their purely partisan origins – nearly 90% of the electoral laws proposed or enacted in 2021 were sponsored primarily or entirely by Republican lawmakers – and the fact that these laws are likely to have a greater impact. on Black and brown voters, who are less likely to vote Republican.
The FiveThirtyEight The analysis suggests that making it more difficult to vote could have a backlash effect for Republicans, who, even in a small democracy, must get their voters to vote. But that’s where these new limits on abortion rights come in, the effort to spark a backlash against the teaching of the legacy of slavery and the expansion of gun rights. The new laws in Texas are “red meat” for the Republican base. GOP lawmakers create and respond to controversies with a view to increasing the turnout of their grassroots voters.
Republicans in other states are taking note. In addition to the pressure to restrict voting rights, they are stepping up fights over abortion, guns and critical race theory. The Associated Press reports that a “network of conservative groups with ties to major Republican donors and party-aligned think tanks quietly lends firepower to local activists engaged in cultural warfare fights in schools across the country.” Comparing the approach to that of the Tea Party in the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections, Conservative lawyer Dan Lennington openly admits, “These are ingredients to have an impact on future elections.”
Texas Republicans grab the headlines. But something much bigger is happening. Restricting the voting rights of those who could vote Democrats in 2022 while sparking outrage from Social Conservatives likely to vote Republicans is a cruel, albeit politically powerful, strategy. Paul Weyrich only imagined a scenario where Republicans could rule without broad support. Forty years later, the Lone Star Republicans introduced the model to make Weyrich’s screenplay a reality, a model that will not remain in Teaxs.