Don’t Buy Greg Abbott’s Self-serving Roundtables & Empty Rhetoric on White Supremacy

Abbott’s political career is defined by hostility to minority Texans.
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Abbott’s political career is defined by hostility to minority Texans

Major news publications in Texas are prominently covering Governor Greg Abbott’s dog-and-pony show roundtable, along with his comments condemning white supremacy and formation of a task force on domestic terrorism.  Don’t buy any of it at face value, because so far most of it has failed to include any mention of Abbott’s long and consistent record of overt hostility to minority Texans.

During his time as Attorney General (2003 – 2014) and as Governor (2015 – present), Greg Abbott has been the point in the spear for Texas Republican racial discrimination and voter suppression efforts.  Sympathetic rhetoric and forming a “task force” have been used by Abbott before to give himself short-term cover while he takes official actions harmful to minority Texans or condones other Republicans who directly attack and denigrate minority citizens. 

Highlights of Greg Abbott’s career-long hostility to Latino, African-American and other minority Texans.

Phony Voter Fraud Task Force

One of Greg Abbott’s first actions as Texas AG was to divert federal funds intended to fight online child sex predators and other cyber crimes to pay for a phony voter fraud task force.

Abbott used the task force as an excuse to travel around the state dishonestly claiming rampant voter fraud and demonstrating how to harass and suppress minority voters.  For example, Abbott’s training materials warned and advised election officials to question the authenticity of 

 a ballot with a sickle cell awareness stamp or some other designation a person might logically associate with a person of color. 

Of course, Abbott’s real intentions were never to actually find and stop voter fraud. They were to harass and intimidate minority voters.

Abbott took particular aim at minority senior citizens, naming many in complaints.  He even sent state agents to harass and spy upon an elderly woman in Fort Worth who had done nothing wrong and was never charged with any offense.  Nearly all of accusations made by Abbott were dismissed without any voter fraud established.

Broken Border Pledge

One of the most explicit promises Greg Abbott made to Texans has been broken over, and over, and over again.  In an interview with highly respected Texas journalist Carlos Sanchez, Abbott was asked about the anti-Latino rhetoric and disparaging comments made by his fellow Republicans.  In response, Abbott said, “If there is somebody who makes a comment that is anti-Hispanic, that is a comment that is directed at me and my family… I will ensure from the top of the ticket to the bottom of the ticket in our party that we are reaching [out] to send a positive message.”

Abbott could not have lied more blatantly. In the time since his pledge, Republican elected officials – from Donald Trump to Dan Patrick to dozens of other Texas officeholders and party activists – have spewed anti-Latino rhetoric.  Rather than call them out, Abbott either emphasizes his support or hides behind silence and refusals to comment. 

Intentionally Discriminatory Redistricting Maps and Voting Laws

Arguably, the most damage done by Abbott has been his ruthless efforts to undermine the voting strength of minority Texans through discriminatory redistricting plans and voting laws.  As Attorney General, Greg Abbott helped configure and then advised Republicans in the Legislature to adopt racially gerrymandered redistricting plans.  Federal courts have ruled that all three of the redistricting plans adopted by the Legislature in 2011 – Congressional, State Senate, and State House – were drawn with both discriminatory intent and violated the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.  Moreover, Abbott pushed the Legislature adopt the most restrictive Voter ID law in the nation.  Texas’ voter ID law was so onerous that, when striking it down as intentionally discriminatory, the federal judge described it as a modern day poll tax.

During the period Greg Abbott has served as Texas AG and Governor, redistricting and voting laws he supported and spent millions of tax dollars defending in court have been ruled intentionally discriminatory not less than six times – more than all other states in the nation combined.

"The parties have provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space, or need, to address here."

– Three-Judge Federal District Court condemning Texas 2011 redistricting maps

Discriminatory Voter Purge

We don’t have to look back ten years, or five years, or even one year to find Greg Abbott using his position to undermine and attack minority Texans.  Just six months ago, Abbott’s hand-picked Secretary of State worked the Abbott cohort and current AG Ken Paxton to try to purge nearly 98,000 Latino citizens from the Texas voter rolls.  Using an inaccurate, unfair and overtly discriminatory process,  Abbott and his minions were forced to back down after a federal judge blocked the illegal purge stating the effort would “strike fear and anxiety” and would “intimidate the least powerful among us.”

“DPS emails show Texas governor pressed for voter purge that used flawed data”

Abbott’s flat demeanor and rank hypocrisy too often shield him from the criticism he deserves

Greg Abbott shrewdly uses a flat demeanor and dull-edged speaking style to mask partisan, ideologically extreme and racially divisive actions.  And, far too often, the media covers his statements in the moment failing to mention his past racially divisive actions. 

In the immediate aftermath of the El Paso shooting, Abbott sat stone silent during the early reports that the killer was a white supremacist motivated by Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric. Abbott provided silent moral support when Trump went to El Paso and delivered narcissism and snide remarks instead of comfort and leadership. 

Only when the coast was clear and Trump was out of town did Abbott find the voice to mention white supremacy or domestic terrorism

Abbott has mastered a form-over-substance, passive aggressive approach that allows him to stay tight with the extreme and divisive elements now driving the Republican Party while coming across to the media as even-tempered and reasonable. He shouldn’t get away with it.

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