Post Date: January 2021
After four years of most major Texas Republican elected officials kowtowing to Donald Trump out of a mixture of deference and fear, Texas Republicans now seek paths for moving forward in his turbulent wake. They are in a different position than their national counterparts vis-a-vis Trump’s exit and how the experience of his presidency is to be incorporated into both the party’s identity and Republican elected officials’ political strategies. Trump has left the national party bereft, having lost the White House and presided over the GOP relegation to minority status in both houses of Congress (albeit narrowly in the Senate). But Republicans still reign in Texas, and are in a better position to navigate post-Trump politics than their national counterparts.
The key to understanding Texas Republican political leaders advantage is the fact that many invoked the central elements of Trump’s appeal in their rhetoric and policies long before Trump was a presidential candidate. Texas Republican voters respond positively to these themes, and, based on what years of Texas public opinion data tell us about their attitudes, a good chunk of them can be expected to continue responding to them even if Trump is not the one doing the articulating.
The Second Reading Podcast: A Conversation with the Dallas Morning News' Lauren McGaughy About Vaccinating Texas Legislators and More
In this week's Second Reading Podcast, Jim Henson talks with investigative reporter Lauren McGaughy about her recent story for the Dallas Morning News unpacking Austin Public Health interim medical director Mark Escott's efforts to offer vaccinations to members of the Texas Legislature and both the origins and aftermath of Escott's efforts. The conversation also turned to Attorney General Ken Paxton's recent political fundraising, which McGaughy wrote about in the latest in a long string of investigative resporting on Paxton across his career, and to pandemic measures limiting press access to the 87th Texas Legisalture.
Even as unprecedented challenges to the Constiutional order unfold in national politics, the policial world in Texas was focused on the convening of the 87th Texas Legislature in Austin amidst a surging pandemic, a faltering economy, and shockwaves of Donald Trump's political imposion rippling through Republican Party politics at all levels. Here are five snapshots from the week the legislature came back to town.
After spending a dramatic interim mostly on the sidelines of the policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its ill effects on the economy and the lives of Texans, state legislators now have their chance to respond to the impact of the crises in Texas as the 87th Legislature convenes in Austin this week. While they are empowered to legislate, they do so in conditions not of their own choosing – and those conditions are at best difficult, at worst grim. Below we explore the most important factors forming the context of legislators' attempts to address the problems facing the state, from the big structural factors like the pandemic, the economy, and racism to more mundane political conditions like the images of the state's leadership among the public and the politics of federalism after the election.
Majority of Republicans in the Texas Congressional Delegation Voted to Question Electoral College Results After Pro-Trump Attack on U.S. Capitol
Among the Texas Congressional delegation, Ted Cruz had the expressed support of 11 of the 24 Republican members of the Texas delegation for his efforts to overturn the Electoral College results. In a likely portent of politics to come in Texas, support in the Texas delegation for Cruz's efforts was actually higher than expected when the time came to take votes – which, tellingly, came after pro-Trump rioters who shared those members skepticism about the 2020 election stormed the Captiol and disrupted Congress's role in the orderly transfer of power.
Different Texas actors in the latest phase of the presidential election have different and even multiple motivations. A look at some of the contextual data helps illuminate why so many Texas Republicans in Congress seem determined to place more stress on a Constitutional system they otherwise seem intent on defending as exceptional and under siege from others who don’t respect it enough.