The Texas GOP Just Went Full Fascist
At its recent convention in Houston, the first in-person of its kind since 2018, the delegates of the Texas Republican Party voted to approve a party platform that can only be described as neo-fascist. This was not just a warning shot across the bow of our democracy, it is a five-alarm fire now actively burning and threatening to spread.
Rejection of Joe Biden’s Legitimate Election
At the heart of the platform lives the Big Lie. The Texas GOP included in its language an express rejection of the results of the 2020 presidential election, stating that President Joe Biden “was not legitimately elected.” This stunning pronouncement comes even after three days of hearings by the January 6 Committee in which Trump aides repeatedly and consistently stated that there was no evidence of widespread fraud and that former President Trump’s statements to that effect were false.
Voices of reason are being drowned out. One delegate who spoke out against the inclusion of the statement argued that the state party should be forward-looking and focus on electing a Republican to the White House in 2024, but he was greeted by “a wave of hissing and booing,” according to the Texas Tribune.
It is one thing for members of a party to privately harbor doubts, however unfounded, about the fairness and legitimacy of a national election. It is another thing entirely for the party itself to adopt the falsehood as gospel. Political observers will be watching closely as other state GOP delegates meet, looking to see whether the Big Lie metastasizes officially within those states. They know that a major party that cannot accept the results of a free and fair election is a fundamental threat to our system, which is predicated upon the basic notion that government operates with the consent of the governed. A party that seeks to seize control by suppressing and even rejecting the votes of the opposing side, as the former president sought to do on January 6, 2021, is the very antithesis of democracy. It is fascist in its aims and methods.
Dehumanization of LGBTQ+ Persons
Another hallmark of fascist organizations is their practice of identifying vulnerable minorities and launching a campaign of hate and oppression against them. Core to that strategy is a process of dehumanization so that future actions and measures taken against them are given greater license and acceptance by the populace.
That is why the new language adopted officially by the Texas GOP is so chilling. Section 143 of the state GOP platform now states at its outset, “Homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice.” This is a new addition since the platforms of 2018 and 2020. Section 144 further seeks to erase trans identity entirely by declaring, “We oppose all efforts to validate transgender identity” while calling for a ban on all gender-affirming procedures by medical practitioners.
During debate on Section 143, one delegate sought to soften the language, saying it “does no benefit to the party” and arguing, “We are the Republican Party of Texas, not the Westboro Baptist Church”—a statement met with a mix of laughter and boos. But another rose to state that weakening the language would be caving to political correctness. “People appreciate calling a spade a spade,” he said, while another began discussing various alleged gay sexual practices before she was cut off. The motion to amend and tone down the language failed.
Anti-Democratic and Secessionist Aims
The Texas GOP is now explicit in its rejection of both national democratic values and even the union that binds the state to the nation. Section 244 of the platform now openly calls for a repeal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and any use of race or origin to create voting districts. Texas has long been under scrutiny by the Justice Department for gerrymandering that maintains white rule in the state and white over-representation in its Congressional delegation.
Section 33 of the platform claims that the federal government has “impaired our right of self-government” and that under Amendment X of the Constitution, any federal legislation that infringes upon the right of the state should be “ignored, opposed, refused, and nullified.” To this end, “Texas retains the right to secede from the United States” and the party calls upon the legislature to pass a referendum on the question of Texas’s continued membership in the United States.
No Room for Debate
The effect of the inflammatory and extreme language on policy and politics cannot be overstated. Those who seek in any way to compromise with the Democrats or to reject the lies of the former president are roundly condemned and silenced. This even included Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the top Republican negotiator on the gun violence prevention legislation now before the Senate, who was booed as he tried to describe what was on the table even as he promised no new restrictions on any “law-abiding gun owners.” Such pressure from the extreme right-wing base makes it harder for any Republican to be seen as working cooperatively on any measure with the Democrats and feeds into a culture of obstruction and non-cooperation.
The canceling also included Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), who once was considered a rising star within the Republican Party. Many fellow conservatives had come to his defense with righteous fury after Pete Davidson of Saturday Night Live made light of Crenshaw’s eyepatch in 2018, which he wears due to a war injury. Now, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, who feigned indignation and outrage in 2018 at the slight, referred to Crenshaw as “eyepatch McCain.” His crime? He stated the fact that sending help to Ukraine following Russia’s invasion wasn’t a factor in the U.S. baby formula shortage. This past week in Houston, Crenshaw was attacked by far-right activists, who reiterated Carlson’s eyepatch jab and called him a “traitor” who should be “hung for treason.”
That Crenshaw, Cornyn and other conservatives stalwarts, not the least of which include Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) of the January 6 Committee, should now find themselves the targets of the far-right’s ire and derision indicates the deep sickness corroding the GOP from within. The party remains mired in the past and tethered to a former president whom nearly 60 percent of the country now believes should face criminal charges. The MAGA base is strung out on conspiracies, grievance, and rage against a false but allegedly menacing shadow of liberalism and pluralism. It is precisely upon such toxic soil that fascism takes its strongest roots, however, and there is no indication that the party can dig out the creeping weeds on its own before they choke off all other life in its political garden.