Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to date with the most essential news from Texas.
HOUSTON — The Texas Republican Party has controlled every lever of state government since 2003 and won major victories last year on voting, redistricting, abortion, school programs and other longstanding priorities. date. Delegates to the party’s convention this week expressed confidence that their party would at least retake the U.S. House in November and said the end of abortion in Texas was all but set.
But the atmosphere was not festive. The Texas Tribune spoke with more than 25 attendees who described feeling beleaguered by an increasingly anti-family and anti-Christian culture.
Above all, participants said they were fed up. Tired of elections that they believe are full of fraud. Fed up with their own politicians – including US Senator John Cornyn, whom they chastised for participating in bipartisan talks on gun legislation – for being open to compromise with Democrats. Tired of the persecution of Christians with traditional values. Sick of the gullible mainstream media spouting liberal talking points and dismissing anyone who disagrees as racists or fanatics. Tired of undocumented immigrants, even those fleeing war and poverty, to take advantage of public benefits. Fed up with the education of their children, especially on matters of history and race. Fed up with experts, starting with Dr. Alfred Kinsey, who they claim are “sexualizing” students before they hit puberty.
“The enemy is coming in and trying to change our society, change the very fabric of what made America great and they’re doing it by going after children,” said Conny Moore, a pharmacist and pastor at 75 year retirement.
Among elected officials speaking at the convention, US Senator Ted Cruz stole the show, receiving standing ovations on Friday as he thundered against “radical leftists” leading a cultural assault.
“They want to demolish the church,” he said. “They want to demolish our schools. They want to tear down our families. They want to destroy our faith. They want to tear down our values.
Sid Miller, the state agriculture commissioner, said the fight for America wasn’t even partisan anymore.
“The battleground was between the Republicans and the Democrats,” he told the convention on Saturday. “Then it was between conservatives and liberals. Now the battlefield has changed once again. We must improvise, adapt and overcome to overcome our enemy. This new battlefield, this new battlefield is between patriots and traitors.
It was a crowd familiar with The Great Replacement, the theory that immigrants are used to replace native-born white Americans, and The Great Reset, supposedly a plan by global capitalists meeting in Davos, Switzerland, to impose their environmental and social objectives. on the global economy and restrict what people can eat and possess. Fox News didn’t say much; One America Network and NewsMax seemed much more influential.
Conspiracy theories abounded. Anne Meng, a middle-aged nurse practitioner at The Woodlands, said she believed the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde was “a government ploy” and that “the cops were given the order to withdraw”. (Police’s delay in confronting the shooter, who killed 21 people, has been widely criticised.)
Tammy Lake, 52, who lives in another Houston suburb of Magnolia and is a senior sales engineer for a software company, said she believes Donald Trump will be rightfully restored to the presidency “by the end of the year”. She did not specify how.
The resolution declaring that Biden “was not legitimately elected” following “substantial voter fraud in key metropolitan areas” in five states – presumably Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — passed without real debate, a sign of how the mighty Trump’s baseless claim of a stolen election continues to resonate with party loyalists.
Chris Corbett, 66, a member of the party’s legislative priorities committee, was attending his sixth party convention. He said the state party once revolved around limited government and free markets, but has become more culture-focused, he said, as voters become aware of the threats that affect their values.
“We see a lot more cultural conservatism happening, it’s a little more populist,” said Corbett, who lives in Flower Mound and is a writer and researcher for public policy and nonprofit groups.
Much of the cultural issues that attendees and speakers railed against concerned the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender people.
Governor Greg Abbott, who is seeking re-election in November, has called on child welfare investigators to investigate families who allowed their children to seek gender-affirming care, including the use of blockers of puberty, against the consensus of major medical associations. .
But it was not a convention enthused by established knowledge. The crowd cheered Robin Armstrong, a Texas City doctor who gave patients unapproved COVID-19 treatments, including hydroxychloroquine. His platform describes homosexuality as an “abnormal lifestyle choice”, a view that has faded in much of America. The platform described gender dysphoria as a rare mental illness, a position not supported by mainstream psychiatrists or pediatricians.
Vincent Gallo, 60, a small construction company owner in Denton, said Democrats and some Republicans are engaged in a “redefinition of reality” by accepting transgender people and calling on others to do the same.
“That gets passed on to other people under the guise of diversity and inclusion,” Gallo said.
Teaching critical race theory, an academic approach to the study of racial inequality, was also a major concern among participants.
“The whole premise of what you’re teaching is a plot to play our people off against each other and to emphasize the wrong things,” said Moore, the Borger retiree.
Throughout the week, participants came together in sessions focused on these cultural issues. One was titled “Threats to Families – Institutional Policies Negatively Impacting Children and Families – What’s Next”. Another was titled “Overcoming Critical Theory, Marxism and the Sexualization of Our Children”.
Participants also agreed in their views on the integrity of elections. Several said that in-person, watermarked, hand-counted and sequentially numbered ballots were the only reliable way to conduct an election (even though the delegates themselves used Scantron ballots to vote on the print boards). platform, and the results will not be known for days until the ballots are counted in Austin).
The convention included three screenings of “2000 Mules,” a film that relies on discredited evidence to claim there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Several attendees launched conspiracies about the harvesting of ballots voting, election machines and postal ballots. On Friday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said his priority when the legislature returns next year is to “restore illegal voting from a Class A misdemeanor to a felony.”
Attorney General Ken Paxton also defended his lawsuit challenging election results in four states that voted for Biden. The United States Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit for lack of standing.
“We didn’t win,” Paxton admitted on Friday. “To this day, people hate us for what we did. But I can tell you what. If I had to do it again, I would do it like we did. »
Paxton’s comments drew cheers from the crowd – a reflection of the value party loyalists place on their leaders fighting for them, even if the results don’t go their way.
“Candidates, you must complete your job and your commitment is to serve the people, not your own agenda,” said Gary Hulsey, 68, an engineer from Haslet.
Not everyone supported the extreme partisanship displayed.
“Trying to find bipartisan commonality within the party is his right,” Patricia Almond, 57, a Porter retiree, said of Cornyn. “As Republican voters, we also have freedom of speech, but that does nothing to bring the party together.”
One delegate, David Gebhart, urged against a board calling homosexuality a deviant lifestyle choice. “We are the Republican Party of Texas, not the Westboro Baptist Church,” he said. His motion was denied.
Another delegate, Robert Bartlemay, balked at the resolution declaring Biden’s victory illegitimate, saying the GOP should look forward and focus on electing a Republican president in 2024. People around him have booed and hissed.
There have been swirls of dissent over the decision to once again exclude the Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBT political organization, from the showroom, a move that Donald Trump Jr. has criticized online. (Log Cabin Republicans hosted a three-hour reception Friday on the sidelines of the convention.)
Perhaps the prediction that united delegates the most was that November’s midterm elections would be a bloodbath for Democrats.
“It won’t just be a red wave, it will be a tsunami,” Cruz said.
Sewell Chan contributed reporting.
Join us September 22-24 in person in downtown Austin for the Texas Tribune Festival and experience over 100 conversational events featuring big names you know and some you should know around the worlds. from politics, public policy, media and technology – all hosted by The Texas Tribune’s award-winning journalists. To buy tickets.