WASHINGTON (AP) — Ten years ago, the Texas Republican Party used its platform to oppose teaching critical thinking in schools. In 2014, it declared homosexuality a chosen behavior contrary to God and approved “remedial therapy” to undo it. By 2020, the party was ready to remind the world that “Texas reserves the right to secede from the United States.”
But now the GOP platform in the nation’s largest red state — a long ideological wish list that even the most conservative Texans knew was largely filled with sky dreams that would never become policy — has broken new ground in its march to the far right. .
Endorsed by more than 5,000 party delegates last weekend in Houston at the party’s biennial convention, the new platform labels President Joe Biden an “acting” commander in chief who has never been “legitimately elected.”
It may not matter who the president is, as the platform takes the earlier language about secession much further — and urges the Republican-controlled legislature to bring the issue of leaving the United States to voters next year.
The platform also says homosexuality is “an abnormal lifestyle choice” and rejects the bipartisan legislation in Congress seeking to raise the minimum age for purchasing assault weapons from 18 to 21, saying Texans under 21 are “most likely to become victims of assault.” of violent crime and so most will probably have to defend themselves.”
While non-binding, the platform illustrates how far Texas Republicans have moved to the right in the past decade — from championing tea party ideals in 2012 to endorsing former President Donald Trump’s Continuing Lies About Nonexistent Widespread Fraud it cost him an election that he actually lost by over 7 million votes.
“The platform reflects the direction that party activists think the party should take,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist in the Texas capital Austin. He said that, rather than deciding elections or dictating legislative action, the platform is more relevant as a signal of “where primary voters are and what they care about”.
Mackowiak said things like considering succession are not taken seriously, but “Trump’s policy agenda is here to stay.” He said that while the former president continues to question the 2020 election results, he will continue to find a receptive audience in the Texas GOP.
“Do people really doubt whether Republicans are concerned about the way the election has gone?” asked Mackowiak.
Matt Rinaldi, a former state legislator who now chairs the Texas GOP, said state Republicans are “rightly not confident in the 2020 election results and we don’t care how many times the elites tell us we should.”
“We refuse to let Democrats manipulate the 2022 or 2024 elections,” Rinaldi said in a statement.
Democrats have not manipulated anything. An Associated Press r overview of every possible case of voter fraud fewer than 475 have been found in the six battlegrounds contested by Trump — a number that would have made no difference in the 2020 presidential election.
In the meantime, The 2020 Texas election was a wreck, even by the standards of the Republicans who have dominated the state for decades† The party’s candidates topped Democrats in key congressional and state house races as Trump easily won his electoral votes.
But that didn’t stop the former president from praising the party’s 2022 platform, posting Tuesday: “Look at the “Great State of Texas and their powerful Republican party platform on the 2020 presidential election fraud”.
“What courage,” he wrote, “but that’s why Texas is Texas.”
Trump applauded language, stating, “We reject the certified results of the 2020 presidential election and we believe that Acting President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was not legitimately elected.” That was a departure from as recently as 2014, when the Texas GOP platform questioned Barack Obama’s “commitment to citizens’ constitutional rights,” but at least recognized him as president.
This year’s platform also says that “Texas retains its right to secede from the United States, and the Texas legislature should be called upon to approve a referendum in accordance therewith.”
Ed Espinoza, executive director of the advocacy group Progress Texas, said some of the adherence to openly discriminatory language may have declined if not for Trump’s rise — who has shown “he could double the madness and still have no effect.” †
“Normally what happens when there’s craziness in a party is people try to soften it up,” said Espinoza, former Western States director of the Democratic National Committee. “In this case, they saw it worked for Trump, so they think it will work for them.”
Texas was an independent republic for nearly a decade until 1845. As the coronavirus pandemic raged, the 2020 Texas Republican Party convention was held virtually and degenerated into a leadership struggle. But it also featured platform language stating, “Texas reserves the right to secede from the United States as a future president and our Congress to change our political system from a constitutional republic to another system.”
That caveat about the government system was dropped in the 2022 edition, which calls for a referendum for voters “to determine whether” their state should “reaffirm its status as an independent nation.”
The Texas right-wing push was evident in ways beyond the party platform. Deputies chased Republican Senator John Cornyn — who has held his seat for 20 years and received more votes statewide than Trump — for working on bipartisan legislation that seeks to impose modest limits on guns. Those efforts began after the mass shooting last month in the Texas town of Uvalde, which killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers.
Yet such outbursts of state conventions are not new either. Republican government leader Rick Perry was booed in 2012 for praising fellow GOPer and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, who was then locked in a primary battle for an open Senate seat with Ted Cruz. Some delegates have also walked away from a speech by then Republican Texas House Speaker Joe Straus in the past.
“It shows how much QAnon may not be an outlier in the Republican Party,” Espinoza said. “Some people are very prone to conspiracy theories, and that seems to be a higher percentage the deeper you dive into the Republican Party of Texas.”