The Texas GOP seeks to become a full-blown authoritarian government.
The core of all authoritarianism messaging depends on there being an “other.” The other is a powerful cabal that’s secretly in charge and pulling the strings and needs to be rooted out. So authoritarianists whip up their followers to believe that the others are enemies who have infiltrated our communities.
Over the last several years, the “others” have been a lot of different groups—Muslims, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and most recently, Democrats.
As national Republicans talk about Civil War and Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, tweets about how the woke mind must be destroyed, Texas Republicans seek to erase the voices and equal representation of millions of Texas Democrats.
The ring leader of current efforts to drown out Democratic voices.
Bryan Slaton was the only House Representative last year session to push to ban Democratic committee chairs in the Texas House.
This has been a tradition in Texas for decades. Even when Democrats were in control, Republicans had chairs. The Texas House has long believed that appointing chairs to both sides of the aisle fosters compromise and prevents the gripping gridlock like what happens in Congress.
During the 87th Legislative session, Slaton spent most of his time obsessing over transgender children’s genitals. He tried to push bigoted bills and add inappropriate amendments whenever possible. On top of that, Slaton introduced a racist bill prohibiting Jim Crow-era statues from being moved off public property.
None of Slaton’s bills passed, his peers on both sides of the aisle mocked and criticized him, and the 87th session ended with Bryan Slaton being the most unpopular legislator among his peers.
Since then, Slaton has become a champion for extremists.
To the right, you can see Slaton posing with a member of This Is Texas Freedom Force (TITFF), a group labeled an extreme militia by the FBI and had members who attended the January 6th Insurrection.
Slaton has a close relationship with this extremist group and has been photographed with them multiple times. In 2020, TITFF committed a racial hate crime against the Black community in San Antonio. Then in 2021, they blew up the pictures of the incident, framed them, and presented them to Representative Slaton as a gift.
Bryan Slaton has based his entire identity on tribalism and the GOP’s imaginary culture war.
Unfortunately, Slaton’s idea of blocking Democratic chairs has picked up steam among the tea-party-affiliated Republicans.
In a recent interview, Slaton said he started this movement because all the Democrats called him racist. On Twitter, he blamed Democratic chairs for his anti LGBTQ and racist bills didn’t pass the last session.
The Republican Party of Texas Chairman, Matt Rinaldi, picked up the issue and began putting pressure on other Republicans in the House.
Among the various statements Rinaldi has put out about banning Democratic chairs included a retweeted statement by far-right-wing Harris County activist Rolando Garcia.
While Garcia tried to make one point, he inexplicitly made another. Republican voters don’t care who their representatives are or what they do. Republicans only voted for the Republicans because they had an (R) next to their name. He also added that Republican voters have a hard enough time keeping up with complicated national politics without worrying about state politics.
The uninformed Republican voter, someone that Democrats have joked about for years. Garcia intended to explain that Democrats should not have a voice in the House because Republicans have the majority, but inexplicitly explained that Republicans should accelerate their descent into fascism because Republican voters are too ignorant to know what they voted for.
Then the Republican Party of Texas Chairman retweeted Garcia’s statement with the caption, “This is spot on.”
The Republican’s proclivity to ban Democratic committee chairs is only one of many steps they have taken to ensure that millions of Texans don’t have fair representation.
The current districting maps were drawn with racist and disenfranchising intent and are still facing legal action.
SB 1, the racist Jim Crow voter oppression bill the Texas Legislature passed the last session, was drawn to edge Black and brown voters out of Texas’ political process.
None of these lawsuits have been settled yet.
How successful were the GOP’s last attempts to disenfranchise voters?
During the November election, 9 million registered voters didn’t or were unable to cast a ballot.
After stripping away voting rights for millions, the Texas GOP wants to block Democratic members from sitting in committee chair positions (even though that’s always the way it’s been done).
Republicans are also proposing to change the Texas Constitution, so the House can vote on legislation and continue committee business, even if they do not have a quorum.
Brazoria County Representative Cody Vasut introduced a resolution saying that House business can proceed, even when there isn’t a quorum. If this resolution passes, it goes to a referendum for a vote. It would be placed on the November 2023 ballot for the few people who care about voting in constitutional elections to vote during an off-year election. That is the few people who still could vote.
To sum it up, after voter suppression designed to reduce voter access took place and is still under litigation, Republicans want to remove Democrats’ ability to chair committees. Not only that. They also want to change the Constitution to allow them to pass bills whether or not they have a quorum.
It won’t matter if there are 64 Democrats in the Texas House like we have right now or 75 Democrats, which is only one seat away from the majority. Republicans are doing acrobats to ensure that nothing a Democratic voter wants will ever happen.
The definition of authoritarianism.
Authoritarianism is characterized by highly concentrated and centralized power maintained by political repression and the exclusion of potential challengers. It uses political parties and mass organizations to mobilize people around the regime’s goals.
Authoritarianism possesses four qualities:
- Limited political pluralism, realized with constraints on the legislature, political parties, and interest groups.
- Political legitimacy based upon appeals to emotion, and identification of the regime as a necessary evil to combat, like the GOP’s attacks on the LGBTQ community or CRT.
- Minimal political mobilization and suppression of anti-regime activities, like allowing bad bills to be passed even without a quorum.
- Formally ill-defined executive powers, often vague and shifting, which extends the power of the executive, like allowing Greg Abbott to launch a billion dollar taxpayer funded militarization of the border to appease to a racist base, and all without checks and balances.
What will the Republicans do without any Democrats in their way to stop them?
This week, a Federal Judge in Texas took the first steps to ban access to birth control.
Also, this week, news broke that Attorney General Ken Paxton attempted to procure a list of every transgender person in Texas from the DPS. For what? It isn’t known yet, but Paxton recently said he wanted to start jailing LGBTQ individuals if and when the Supreme Court overturned the prohibition on sodomy laws.
More than half of the Republicans in the State Legislature ran for the premise that they would ensure Black history is banned from being taught in schools.
It’s no secret that Republicans have been flirting with fascism these last few years. Suppose they successfully manage to remove every check and balance that is supposed to be in place. In that case, the Texas Republican Party will be a full-blown authoritarianist force seeking to hurt every non-cis, non-white, non-male, and non-wealthy person in the Lone Star State.
Nine million people stayed home because they couldn’t vote, didn’t know about it, or maybe didn’t care. If Republicans succeed, every one of them will regret missing the last election, and Texas will see a mass exodus of businesses and residents.
What can you do?
Get involved with a local political organization, whether your local Democratic party or a grassroots organization. The 88th legislature starts in January, and everyone will need to show up and have their voices heard. As bad as things seem, remember, it can always be worse.
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