The front page of Wednesday’s New York Times read like a blast from the past: “Emboldened Republicans at the Helm, Texas Steers Hard Right.” The online headline: “‘Contested, Heated Culture Wars’ Mark Ultraconservative Texas Session.” For good measure, the headline on the inside continuation of the story read, “With Emboldened G.O.P. At the Helm, Texas Turns Even Further to the Right.”
Get the message yet? If those hostile labels sounded vaguely familiar, it’s because in the paranoid land of Times reporters Texas has been hurtling to the right for over a decade. It’s surprising there’s anywhere left to go by now.
Edgar Sandoval, David Montgomery, and Manny Fernandez reported from Austin about recent Democratic shenanigans, trying to stop Republican vote-protection measures from passing the Texas Legislature:
It was a literal exit strategy: Texas Democrats staged a last-minute walkout on Sunday to kill an elections bill that would have restricted voting statewide. The quorum-breaking move -- a decades-old maneuver favored by Democratic lawmakers -- worked, in dramatic fashion.
But by Tuesday, the reality of their short-lived triumph had settled in. The bill was very much still alive, with the Republican governor vowing to call lawmakers back to Austin for a special session to revive and pass the measure. It was a top legislative priority for the Republican Party, and would have been the final achievement in the ultraconservative session that concluded on Monday.
On Tuesday, Democrats staggered out of the session that included passage of a number of other aggressive measures, including a near-ban on abortion and a bill allowing the carrying of handguns without permits….
Indeed, this was the session that pushed the state further right, at a time when it seemed least likely to do so -- as Texas becomes younger, less white and less Republican, and as it continues to reel from the twin crises of the coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of its power grid during a winter storm that killed more than 150 people statewide.
The reporters recited Republican successes from “one of the most conservative recent sessions in Texas,” including an abortion ban after six weeks of pregnancy.
Now let us praise the Bushes (after bashing them as dangerous for decades):
In past legislative sessions, Bush-style Republicans, including the former speaker of the House, Joe Straus of San Antonio, blocked many bills put forth by the far right, including killing a so-called bathroom bill in 2017 that would have restricted which bathroom transgender people can use in public buildings and schools.…
One can sense the reporters’ sympathies lie with “sharp” liberals instead:
It has been decades since Molly Ivins, a sharp-witted liberal writer known for mocking the political status quo, famously called the Legislature “the finest free entertainment in Texas.”
The state of Texas allegedly careening dangerously to the right is a familiar scare tactic at the Times, as these old stories show. A 2010 headline: “Taking Texas Primary Even Further to the Right.”
From a 2013 report: “The far-right agenda of grass-roots and Tea Party activists has come to dominate the Republican Party in Texas, turning moderate Republicans into an endangered species for the most part.”
2017 found the paper even more worried: “In a recent interview in his office on the second floor of the Capitol behind the empty House chamber, [“Joe Straus, speaker of the Texas House] sat on a sofa with a tall glass of ice water and calmly paused for several seconds when asked whether Texas had shifted further to the far right since 2009.”
If Texas had already shifted “further to the far right” four years ago and is still going, it must be a truly terrifying place by now.