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No More Nostalgia. Rational Texas Republicans are Gone.

Election Commentary by Matt Angle, Lone Star Project Director

Don’t think that the skin-of-their-teeth survival of MAGA extremist targets Speaker Dade Phelan and Congressman Tony Gonzales signals any latent strength or resilience of establishment Republicans. It doesn’t. They are outliers whose narrow re-elections extend and amplify chaos among Texas Republicans rather than calm it. 

With Phelan, the title of “Speaker” at this point is at best honorary. The Republican Caucus in the State will be dominated by hyper-partisan extremist ideologues more loyal to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and criminal AG Ken Paxton than to Phelan or any House member. If Phelan retains the title, real control will be held by ideologues who are driven by right wing nationalist goals to privatize public education, censure books, outlaw not just abortion but birth control, and foment hyper-partisanship where limits on liberty and democracy are used to hold power. 

As for Congressman Tony Gonzales, he can’t breathe easy after his narrow primary run-off win. He sits in a competitive seat and faces a credible and impressive Democratic opponent in moderate businessman Santos Limon. If Gonzales is re-elected in the fall, Republicans may well be in the minority. Gonzales will be on the very fringe of that minority where anything but fealty to Donald Trump and destructive partisanship is worse than ignored, it is reviled. 

Over the last two decades, Texas Republicans steadily moved away from Texas-oriented small government and business-minded conservativism to embrace national hyper-partisan right wing ideology. Ted Cruz and Dan Patrick beat the same old-guard Republican, David Dewhurst, to claim their statewide offices and proudly fly nationalist autocrat banners. Governor Greg Abbott shed his moderate camouflage to spend his time and billions of Texan’s money trolling President Biden. Gross racial and partisan gerrymandering opened the door for right wing nationalists to dominate Republicans in the Texas State Senate, State House, and congressional delegation. 

So rather than confirm the survival of Texas-centric Republicans, the narrow wins by Phelan and Gonzales signal the last gasps of rational State government under Republican leadership. Texas Republican leaders aren’t driven by Texas attitudes or opinions. They are no longer conservatives. The very notion is nostalgia. It’s now about national ideology and devotion to the MAGA mindset. They promote the most overbearing and invasive actions of government on our personal lives. They advocate the most egregious violations of personal liberty. 

The challenge for Democrats, the media, and fair-minded Texas voters is to recognize and accept that Republicans aren’t equipped to govern responsibly and don’t really want to do so. Expecting responsible Republicans to emerge and take control is fantasy. They don’t exist. 

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