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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: greg abbott

How Republican Anti-Vax Madness Killed Off Their Party's Midterm Voters

The short version is, COVID is not going away. The long version is, it’s killing way more people in rural areas than in the cities. Those deaths may have had a deleterious effect on Republican turn-out in the midterms and may have even cost the Republican Party some seats in the House and Senate.

It's their own fault, of course. From DeSantis in Florida to Abbott in Texas, Republican governors were in a hurry to get their states out of lockdown but in no hurry at all to get people vaccinated. In fact, some red states passed laws making mandatory vaccination requirements imposed by county and city governments illegal, and in some Republican states, governors forced school boards to re-open their schools before administrators and local school boards thought it was safe.

Here is the way that’s paying off for them. According to figures published recently by the Pew Research Center, death rates in urban areas during 2020 and early 2021 were nine times higher than those in rural counties. In the waves of the disease that followed – the third wave, after the first vaccine roll-out; the fourth or Delta wave; and the fifth, or Omicron wave – the figures were reversed. Death rates in rural areas went up, while those in urban areas went down.

The pattern began to mimic the way people voted in America. In the early stages of COVID, counties that voted Democratic had much higher death rates than rural Republican counties. By the third wave of the disease in the fall of 2020, “Counties that voted for Donald Trump over Joe Biden were suffering substantially more deaths from the coronavirus pandemic than those that voted for Biden over Trump,” according to Pew. As the vaccine roll-out went on, the difference between red and blue counties became more pronounced, even as the total number of deaths in the country began to fall. As the fourth wave of the disease set in, “death rates in the most pro-Trump counties were about four times what they were in the most pro-Biden counties,” according to Pew.

The National Bureau of Economic Research in September published a study of excess death rates in two states, Ohio and Florida, comparing death rates in those states in 2017 before COVID with mortality data from 2018 to 2021, including the first two years of COVID. The study looked at how many more people died after the COVID pandemic hit than those who died in the “normal” year of 2017 before the disease took hold.

By linking death rates to voter registration data in both states, the study was able to determine where the excess death rate was higher on a county-by-county basis. The study found “substantially higher excess death rates for registered Republicans when compared to registered Democrats, with almost all of the difference concentrated in the period after vaccines were widely available.” The overall excess death rate for Republicans was 76 percent higher than the excess death rates for Democrats. But when the study concentrated on rates after vaccines became widely available, the excess death rate for Republicans in both states jumped to 153 percent higher than excess death rate for Democrats.

“The gap in excess death rates between Republicans and Democrats is concentrated in counties with low vaccination rates and only materializes after vaccines became widely available,” according to data from the study. The study’s authors are Jacob Wallace and Jason L. Schwartz, both from the Yale School of Public Health, and Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham of the Yale School of Management.

Pew Research figures echo the study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. “Overall, the COVID-19 death rate in all counties Trump won in 2020 is substantially higher than it is in counties Biden won (as of the end of February 2022, 326 per 100,000 in Trump counties and 258 per 100,000 in Biden counties).”

Jonathan V. Last in The Bulwark screwed the figures from both studies down to the results in the very tight Senate race in Nevada. Last looked up the COVID figures for Nevada and found that between January of 2021 and November of this year, 9,400 people died of COVID. “The data suggests that the majority of these people would have been Republican voters,” Last reported dryly. Adam Laxalt, hand-picked by Trump to run for the Senate in Nevada, lost his race by only 6,000 votes.

It's a fact that if you are vaccinated, you have a far lower risk of dying from COVID. It’s also a fact that rural counties with low vaccination rates had much larger rates of death than counties with high vaccination rates. According to Pew, during the Delta wave of the Pandemic, death rates in counties with vaccination rates lower than 40 percent were six times as high as death rates in counties where 70 percent or more were vaccinated. More recently, over the winter of 2021 and early 2022, when the 7-day average for deaths nationally was between 1,000 and 2,500, death rates in counties with low vaccination rates were twice those of counties where 80 percent or more were vaccinated.

These are grim figures, and they don’t bode well for red America going forward. Right now, today, more than 300 people are dying from COVID every day. According to the New York Times, about 27,000 people in this country are in the hospital with complications from COVID on any given day.

The politicization of COVID has cost an untold number of American lives. Don’t count on recent figures showing that far more Republicans are dying of the disease than Democrats to change anything. The leaders of the party that is suffering the most don’t care, so long as those Republicans still living vote for them.

Researching this story, I was reminded of a day way back in the spring of 2020, when some poor soul at the CDC was asked by a reporter how many people might die from COVID total. The CDC employee, who was in the leadership of the agency as I recall, answered 200,000. That person was sidelined by the Trump White House because at the time, Trump was telling the world COVID was just going to “go away.” The CDC employee was eventually fired. All interviews with CDC personnel from then on had to be approved by the White House.

This year alone, 220,000 American citizens have already died from COVID. The total number of deaths due to the disease in this country is over a million and climbing. It’s not even worth estimating how many fewer deaths there might have been if the Republican Party had not chosen to make shut-downs, masks, and vaccinations a political issue so they could get more votes.

Look where it got them. Trump lost in 2020, and Republicans just suffered the worst midterm results any party has had since the 1950’s. It has apparently been a difficult lesson to learn for Republicans that dead people don’t vote.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter

Texas Gov. Abbott Skipped Every Single Funeral For Uvalde Victims

The country continues to mourn the lives lost at the tragic school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, even as more information about the incident continues to surface online. Along with other recent mass shootings, Uvalde has sparked much-needed talk regarding gun control and gun legislation nationwide. But while many officials continue to reference the tragedy in efforts to create change, some seem to be attempting to forget it.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has come under fire for skipping the funerals of the two teachers and 19 children killed in the Robb Elementary School shooting. Scheduling records obtained by local media show that not only did he not attend the funerals, but never planned to do so.

The schedule, obtained by ABC News affiliate KXXV, confirms that not only did Abbott not attend any funerals but he last visited the town of Uvalde on June 5, nine days after the mass shooting, for a memorial event. The schedule details Abbott’s whereabouts between May 25 to June 14, and included only three visits to Uvalde since the tragic incident.

Not only did Abbott not attend any funerals, but several parents have said that the governor’s office did not reach out to them since the tragedy.

Angel Garza, father of 10-year-old victim Amerie Jo Garza, was one of them.

"We've had Sen. Gutierrez in our living room, willing to come and talk to us," Garza said during a press conference on July 13, according to KXXV. "We've had Beto O'Rourke coming to our private meeting to fight with us. He marched with us. That means something to us. The fact that you're reaching out just to see how we're doing means something to us."

Garza continued: "Everybody that's getting ready to vote, I want you guys to know that. These guys don't have compassion for us. They don't care. [Abbott] doesn't care that all these children were murdered and these teachers were murdered. Y'all need to realize that."


In response to this, Abbott's office told the Texas Chronicle that Abbott had visited "every family who requested a meeting.”

"Many families requested private funerals, and the Governor and First Lady instead sent flowers and condolences to let the loved ones know they remain in their prayers," the statement said.

But which families he visited, when, and where is unclear as per the released schedule. His schedule only shows several public vigils he attended, the last one being on June 5.

The families directly impacted by the tragedy aren’t the only ones criticizing Abbott’s lack of care, though.

In an interview Monday with MSNBC, state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, criticized Abbott for not returning to Texas town. According to Chron, he alleged that Abbott has not been back since May 29, despite June 5 being the last time the governor's schedule suggests he visited.

"I don't want this to sound like some political assault on him, but at the end of the day he hasn't been there since Day 5, when the president came... We had a failed response on giving resources to families," Gutierrez said. "He did not go to one single funeral—and quite honestly, many of the families didn't want him there."

In addition to Abbott, several Texas officials have come under fire for their failure to respond to the situation during and after. Recently released footage and a report found that while over 300 officers were at the scene, police badly mishandled their response, waiting for more than an hour before confronting the shooter. Officers also prevented parents from accessing the building to try and rescue children. A mother who was successful in rescuing her children backed this claim, saying that she was not only aggressively told to stop but has faced harassment since sharing her story, Daily Kos reported.

Family members and those impacted by the shooting are asking lawmakers to change laws when it comes to buying AR-style rifles for individuals age 18 to 21.

As a result, county commissioners passed a resolution calling for a special session to raise the age to buy AR-15s. Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin also said he was in favor of raising the age and requiring a class.

"This isn't some plot or anything, this is real life, this is hurting all of us," Angel Garza said.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Y'all Listen When I Tell You Why Greg Abbott Must Never Be President

In the 1990s, the sharp-witted Texan and renowned progressive writer Molly Ivins regaled (and appalled) readers with her reports on the tragicomic awfulness of George W. Bush's two terms as the Lone Star State's governor. His tenure was notable for his deep ignorance, frat-boy arrogance and flagrant servility to corporate interests. But those very qualities made America's moneyed powers decide that — Wow! — wouldn't he make a dandy president? Molly warned the general public about the folly of that choice, but in the 2000 race, W's patrons stuffed him with money, buffed him up with a glossy coat of PR Shinola, pulled off a flagrant post-election political heist in Florida ... and squeegeed him, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and that whole regime of horrors into office.

Many Americans soon began expressing astonishment at how shallow, imperious, and dangerous Bush & Co. were proving to be, leading Molly to say with a heavy sigh: "Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention."

Don't look now, but another Texas gubernatorial goober, named Greg Abbott, is coming at you, insisting that he should be your next president. Sadly, Molly is gone, but I knew her well enough that I think I can speak for her on this matter of national import: "Oh, hell no!"


Excuse the redundancy here, but right-wing extremism has become extremely extreme, and Abbott is vying to be the "extremiest" of all. A clue to his loopiness is his vituperative anti-abortion absolutism, forcing victims of rape to give birth to their rapists' spawn. Not a problem, proclaimed Abbott, for he's the Lone Star Wizard. He declared that he intends to go out and arrest all rapists — get this — before they rape anyone!

Abbott, a governor with no talent for governing, has run up a record noted for spectacular program failures, corporate bootlicking, widening inequality, corruption, political buffoonery... and so awful much more. If that's your idea of a president, there he is.

Perhaps you remember Sen. Barry Goldwater, the GOP's fringy, far-right-wing 1964 presidential nominee who famously said, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." Today, however, the core of the Republican Party has gone so far beyond the fringe that they would boo Goldwater's right-wingism as insufficiently rabid. Instead, their new rallying cry is: "Nuttiness in the defense of extremism is no vice."

The GOP as a whole has mutated from a conservative party with some extremist factions to effectively proclaiming itself the Party of Extremism. Its mainline officialdom (governors, congressional leaders, state reps, judges, party chairs, et al.) are no longer just winking at such antidemocratic, far-right groups as neo-Confederates, paranoid "replacement" theorists, secessionists and QAnon cultists — they are openly embracing the crazy.

Hoping to enlist the raw political fervor of dogmatic rightists, local, state and national Republican establishments are mainstreaming the extreme: Parroting many of those groups' wilder claims, adopting their code words and endorsing their adherents for elected and appointed offices. And, of course, all of this fanatical horsepower is quietly being hitched to the party's true purpose of entrenching the supremacy of corporate and moneyed elites.

Now, this extremism is about to erupt in the GOP's presidential primary, for a whole covey of these cooing right-wingers have fantasies of taking the groups' radical agenda to the White House. All of them are trying to out-extreme each other with raw meat bigotry and autocratic posturing, but two wannabes have emerged as both the most bullish and bullying: Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida.

For months, these big state governors have been locked in a far-right kook-off including outlawing free speech, banning books, viciously attacking immigrants, preempting local elections and governments and denying health care to poor people. Bear in mind that Abbott and DeSantis are not merely pontificating, posturing and promising what they might do in the White House; as governors they're actually practicing it right now!

I don't know if Abbott and DeSantis are the worst that the GOP will try to put in the Oval Office in 2024, but please pay attention now, for today's Republican elites intend to pull our democracy down into the plutocratic, autocratic and theocratic maelstrom they are creating.

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Greg Abbott's 'Open Borders' Lie Dishonors Migrant Deaths

After at least 50 migrants were found dead from heat exposure after they were left trapped in an abandoned truck in San Antonio, Texas, this week, some mainstream media outlets became vehicles for right-wing politicians to exploit the horrific event by printing their outlandish comments without sufficient pushback.

On Monday night, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted, “These deaths are on Biden. They are a result of his deadly open border policies. They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.”

It ought to be obvious that “open border policies” are not responsible for this horrifying tragedy; people would not resort to sneaking across the border, the victims of human smugglers, if the border were in fact “open” and easy to cross.

As University of Texas Rio Grande Valley political science professor Terence Garrett told PolitiFact while responding to Abbott’s previous lies about Biden’s immigration policies, “There's no such thing as an open border.” According to Garrett, current border security measures include nearly 20,000 Border Patrol agents, aerial surveillance systems, and hundreds of miles of fencing. “We don’t have an open border,” Garrett said. “That’s absurd.”

Though this week’s horror was perhaps the deadliest human smuggling event in modern American history, these types of tragedies are not a new phenomenon and neither is the predictable right-wing response. After the deaths of 10 migrants in Texas in July 2017 — when Donald Trump was president and Abbott was also the governor of Texas — right-wing media voices called for more border wall construction and the defunding of so-called “sanctuary cities.”

However, recent history shows that more fencing and Border Patrol resources do not actually deter migration. Instead, such policies simply divert migrants into more dangerous routes, while the core issues that lead them to flee their homelands remain unaddressed. In fact, the increasingly intense security along the southern border is in part responsible for greater suffering and death among migrants. Migrants have been killed or injured from falls when attempting to scale the barriers, while others are driven deeper into inhospitable desert regions as they search for accessible crossings.

Mainstream Media Privilege Abbott’s Lies

In a tweet, The New York Times simply publicized Abbott’s smear of Biden without adding any explanation. The linked article from the Times’ live page included Abbott’s full quote, without any direct pushback or inclusion of data about the Biden administration’s continued enforcement efforts or any clear demonstration that the Times realized Abbott’s claim was false.

Other news outlets carried the basic facts that the Biden administration is indeed fully enforcing border security. But they also created a false political balance by still repeating Abbott’s outrageous accusation and not specifically debunking his false claim. The Washington Post, for example, pointed out that Customs and Border Patrol had made 239,416 arrests in May, further commenting: “The agency is on pace to surpass the record 1.73 million border arrests tallied in 2021 — presenting an ongoing logistical and political challenge for the Biden administration.” Immediately following that sentence, the Post still ran Abbott’s baseless accusation that the deaths were purportedly the result of Biden’s “refusal to enforce the law.”

Similarly, The Associated Press quoted immigration advocate Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council, who pointed out, “With the border shut as tightly as it is today for migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, people have been pushed into more and more dangerous routes.”

But then the AP immediately quoted not only Abbott, but also former White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, a notorious white nationalist who sought to push asylum entries down to zero during the Trump administration.

The AP did not provide any of this context to readers, instead simply serving as a stenographer for an anti-immigrant zealot: “Stephen Miller, a chief architect of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, said, ‘Human smugglers and traffickers are wicked and evil’ and that the administration’s approach to border security rewards their actions.” (As documented above, tough border policies do “reward” human smugglers by fostering the economic and logistical incentives for them to prey on migrants — though Miller would insist upon even tougher crackdowns and more exclusionary policies.)

Following the article’s citation of Miller, the AP then quoted Abbott: “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican running for reelection, was blunt in a tweet about the Democratic president: ‘These deaths are on Biden. They are a result of his deadly open border policies.’”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Texas Republicans Go Full Christian Nationalist At Party Convention

"Texas Republican Convention calls Biden win illegitimate and rebukes Cornyn over gun talks" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

HOUSTON — Meeting at their first in-person convention since 2018, Texas Republicans on Saturday acted on a raft of resolutions and proposed platform changes to move their party even further to the right. They approved measures declaring that President Joe Biden “was not legitimately elected” and rebuking Sen. John Cornyn for taking part in bipartisan gun talks. They also voted on a platform that declares homosexuality “an abnormal lifestyle choice” and calls for Texas schoolchildren “to learn about the humanity of the preborn child.”

The actions capped a convention that highlighted how adamantly opposed the party’s most active and vocal members are to compromising with Democrats or moderating on social positions, even as the state has grown more diverse and Republicans’ margins in statewide elections have shrunk slightly in recent years.

Votes on the platform were collected at the end of the party's three-day convention in which party activists moved to add multiple items to the official Texas GOP platform. As the convention closed, two separate sets of ballots — one allowing delegates to choose eight of 15 legislative priorities and another allowing delegates to vote on the 275 platform planks — were gathered. Those will now need to be tallied and certified in Austin, but it is rare for a plank to be rejected, according to party spokesperson James Wesolek.

The convention reinforced the extent to which former President Donald J. Trump’s unfounded claims of a stolen election continue to resound among the party faithful — even though his claims have repeatedly been debunked, including by many of his own former aides, and after a week of televised hearings about the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The denunciation of Cornyn represented a remarkable rebuke to a Republican who has served in the Senate since 2002. The hall at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston filled with boos on Friday as he tried to explain the legislation, which would allow juvenile records to be incorporated into background checks for gun buyers younger than 21 and encourage “red flag” laws that would make it easier to remove guns from potentially dangerous people, along with more funding for school safety and mental health.

Meanwhile, the party platform vote on Saturday by roughly 5,100 convention delegates would argue that those under 21 are “most likely to need to defend themselves” and may need to quickly buy guns “in emergencies such as riots.” It also would say that red flag laws violate the due process rights of people who haven’t been convicted of a crime.

About 9,600 delegates and alternates were eligible to attend; organizers said turnout was a bit more than half that.

The new platform would call for:

  • Requiring Texas students “to learn about the humanity of the preborn child,” including teaching that life begins at fertilization and requiring students to listen to live ultrasounds of gestating fetuses.
  • Amending the Texas Constitution to remove the Legislature’s power “to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime.”
  • Treating homosexuality as “an abnormal lifestyle choice,” language that was not included in the 2018 or 2020 party platforms.
  • Deeming gender identity disorder “a genuine and extremely rare mental health condition,” requiring official documents to adhere to “biological gender,” and allowing civil penalties and monetary compensation to “de-transitioners” who have received gender-affirming surgery, which the platform calls a form of medical malpractice.
  • Changing the U.S. Constitution to cement the number of Supreme Court justices at nine and repeal the 16th Amendment of 1913, which created the federal income tax.
  • Ensuring “freedom to travel” by opposing Biden’s Clean Energy Plan and “California-style, anti-driver policies,” including efforts to turn traffic lanes over for use by pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit.
  • Declaring “all businesses and jobs as essential and a fundamental right,” a response to COVID-19 mandates by Texas cities that required customers to wear masks and limited business hours.
  • Abolishing the Federal Reserve, the nation’s central bank, and guaranteeing the right to use alternatives to cash, including cryptocurrencies.

Not every far-right proposal was advanced. The party chair, Matt Rinaldi, ruled that a motion to defend the due process rights of those who rioted at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and to “reject the narrative” that the riot was an insurrection was out of order and could not be voted on.

Taken together, the new provisions would represent a shift even further rightward for the Republican Party of Texas, once known as the party of Presidents George Bush and his son George W. Bush. Land Commissioner George P. Bush, a grandson and nephew of the two presidents, was defeated handily in May in his runoff race against Attorney General Ken Paxton, an arch-conservative who sued to challenge the 2020 election outcome and convinced voters that he was the truer Trump loyalist.

Party platforms are mission statements rather than legal doctrines and, in Texas, they have long reflected the opinions of the most activist wings of the parties. Republican elected officials are not bound to adhere to the platform, and party activists at times have expressed frustration that some parts of their platform and legislative priorities have not become law, despite complete Republican control of the state Legislature.

But the platforms are broad indicators of the sentiments of the most active Republican voters — those who dominate party primaries. Republicans have controlled every statewide elected office in Texas since 1999 and both houses of the Legislature since 2003, so the wishes of the party’s populist, pro-Trump base inevitably affect actions taken in Austin.

“The platform is largely symbolic but important as a measure of ideological drift,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston. “Party platforms are often used as a cudgel in party primaries. A more muscular ideological platform eventually leads to a more conservative legislature as challengers knock off more moderate members.”

The convention was noteworthy for the relatively low profile of top officeholders. Gov. Greg Abbott, who is seeking a third term in the November election, only appeared at a reception on Thursday on the sidelines of the convention. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who effectively controls the state Senate, addressed the convention, but House Speaker Dade Phelan only spoke at a luncheon, not to the main body of delegates.

Tensions within the party at times got personal. Video posted online showed far-right activists physically accosting U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, calling the conservative Republican “eye-patch McCain” over his criticism of Russia. The group included self-identified Proud Boys and Alex Stein, a social media activist from North Texas. A Navy SEAL veteran, Crenshaw lost his right eye to a bomb in Afghanistan.

“A more aggressive party platform sends a clear message to politicians about where the base is going,” Rottinghaus said. “Donald Trump radicalized the party and accelerated the demands from the base. There simply aren’t limits now on what the base might ask for.”

Mark P. Jones, a political scientist at Rice University in Houston, said the 2022 platform indicated how emboldened hard-right party activists now feel — a far cry from 2020. Significant gains by Texas Democrats in state House elections in 2018 raised the prospect of the Republican Party losing its dominant status in Texas, making it moderate its platform in 2020 to focus on bread-and-butter issues. Texas Republicans did well in the 2020 elections — even though Biden won 46.5% of the Texas vote, the highest proportion for a Democrat since 1976 — and this year, culture-war issues were once again at front and center.

Jones said that Republican redistricting has made incumbents safer and less inclined to appeal to moderates. Moreover, inflation, the risk of a recession, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and growing acrimony over race, gender and sexuality make it seem increasingly likely that Democrats will lose the U.S. House in the November midterm elections.

“As a result, the 2022 GOP feels free to veer to the right to its heart’s content, confident that it won’t come back to haunt the party in November, except perhaps in a half dozen races,” Jones said. “And even the party’s pragmatic center right conservatives lack the ability to argue, as they did successfully in 2020, that an ultra conservative platform could cost the GOP its majority status in the Lone Star State. This year, even the absolute worst case scenario has the GOP winning statewide, increasing its number of U.S. House seats, boosting its Texas Senate majority by a seat, and maintaining the 83 seats it held in the 2021 Texas House.”

Before delegates voted on the platform, party activists delivered fiery speeches attacking Democrats.

“They want to destroy the racial progress we have made by saying that we are a racist nation,” said Robin Armstrong, a Black doctor in Texas City who treated COVID patients with unapproved drug therapies touted by Trump, including hydroxychloroquine. “The Democratic Party are now a party of chaos. They benefit from causing us to question the foundations that this country was built upon. The misery, the crime, the drug abuse, the high gas prices are all by design, so that the Democratic Party can permanently transform society. We Texans cannot and we will not allow this to happen.”

The Republican-dominated Legislature last year passed new voting restrictions that prompted Democratic lawmakers to flee to Washington to break quorum in an ultimately futile protest. However, Republican leaders said repeatedly on Saturday that it was the other side that was a threat to fair elections.

“The Democrats wants three things: Their goals are to steal elections, suppress Republican votes and federalize elections,” said Cindy Siegel, the chairperson of the Harris County GOP and a former mayor of Bellaire.

Immigration continued to be a major theme, with delegates lamenting Biden’s reversal of Trump-era border policies. U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington, of Lubbock, described an “unprecedented, unmitigated, self-inflicted disaster that is creating the worst humanitarian and national security threat to the American people in the history of our southern border,” adding, “this is an invasion, folks.”

“President Biden has ceded control of our borders to paramilitary, narco-terrorist cartels,” Arrington told delegates.

The mood of this convention was not hopeful. The themes ran dark, and activists spoke in apocalyptic, even cataclysmic, terms about the state of the country.

“Everything is topsy-turvy. What’s right is wrong and what’s wrong is right,” said state Sen. Donna Campbell, an emergency room doctor in New Braunfels, reflecting a state of uncertainty that is shared by Americans of many political backgrounds, even if they don’t agree on the causes. “Our country is on a trajectory to self-destruct, unless we change the direction.”

Campbell and other activists frequently spoke of their Christian faith.

“I believe that in the sovereignty of God, you and I were purposely born into this moment, into this confusing time that we face,“ Campbell said. “We’re meant to be alive, at this time, right now, and here in this state.”

Disclosure: Rice University and University of Houston have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/06/18/republican-party-texas-convention-cornyn/.


Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Abbott Orders Weekly School Door Checks, Not Gun Safety Reforms

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday announced his proposals for preventing mass shootings in schools — none of which is related to firearms.

While polling shows voters are clamoring for such changes to gun laws as strengthening background checks, keeping guns out of the hands of people judged to be a danger to themselves or others, and limiting high-capacity ammunition magazines, Abbott instead ordered weekly door checks at schools across Texas.

In a letter to Mike Morath, the commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, Abbott laid out his ideas in the wake of the May 24 mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde in the southern part of the state, in which 19 fourth graders and two teachers were gunned down by an 18-year-old who was able to legally purchase two AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles in the week between his birthday and the day he brought one to the school.

A statement released by Abbott's office sets forth the governor's expectations:

Governor Abbott specifically requested TEA to:

  • instruct school districts to identify actions they can take prior to the start of the new school year that will make their campuses more secure
  • instruct all school districts to conduct weekly inspections of exterior doors to verify they are secure during school hours
  • develop strategies to encourage school districts to increase the presence of trained law enforcement officers and school marshals on campuses

In Texas and elsewhere, Republican lawmakers have focused on so-called "door control" in the wake of the Uvalde shooting, blaming the fact that the gunman was able to get into the school rather than the fact that he was able to legally purchase a weapon that can cause mass carnage in a matter of seconds.

Those same Republicans have eschewed any attempt to pass gun reform laws that would strengthen background checks, raise the minimum age for purchasing semi-automatic rifles, or temporarily prevent people who are deemed a danger to themselves or others from possessing firearms.

"The point of 'door control' is the same as 'arm teachers' or 'mental health' — they don't really believe these things will solve the problem, the point is to distract us," Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) tweeted. "It's Republican Politicianese for 'hey look over there!' Stay focused: the problem is the guns."

Polling shows that voters overwhelmingly support gun law reform.

A Pew Research survey from 2021 found more than half of American adults, or 53 percent, support stricter gun laws. Specific reforms garner even more support, with 87 percent supporting a law that would prevent people with mental illnesses from buying guns; 81 percent supporting closing gun background check loopholes; 64 percent supporting bans on high-capacity ammunition magazines; and 63 percent supporting a ban on assault-style weapons.

President Joe Biden called for gun safety measures in a speech Thursday night, which he prefaced by saying:

According to new data just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, guns are the number one killer of children in the United States of America. The number one killer. More than car accidents. More than cancer.

Over the last two decades, more school-aged children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active-duty military combined. Think about that: more kids than on-duty cops killed by guns, more kids than soldiers killed by guns.

For God's sake, how much more carnage are we willing to accept? How many more innocent American lives must be taken before we say "enough"? Enough.

Meanwhile, House Democrats plan to hold votes on gun reform legislation upon their return from recess next week.

The House Judiciary Committee advanced H.R. 7910, the Protecting Our Kids Act, out of committee Thursday night. The bill would raise the minimum age for purchasing semi-automatic guns from 18 to 21; require gun owners to safely store firearms in their homes; ban high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds; and address gun trafficking by requiring serial numbers on guns.

The legislation is supported by Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization launched by former Rep. Gabby Giffords.

"THIS is what action looks like," Giffords tweeted after the committee advanced the bill.

During a mark-up hearing on H.R. 7910, Republicans voiced their opposition.

Rep. Greg Steube of Florida, appearing via Zoom from his home, showed off the guns he owns and complained that banning high-capacity magazines would inconvenience him by forcing him to buy different ammunition. Gun experts said Steube could easily buy different ammunition that would fit his weapons.

Rep. Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado, said, "In rural Colorado, an AR-15 is a gun of choice for killing raccoons before they get to our chickens."

Responded California Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell: "Oh—Why didn't y'all just say so? We have to protect the chickens from the raccoons. Cool cool. So that's why our kids have to die in their classrooms. So we can protect the chickens. Makes total sense now."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Why Crowd Cheered Bidens And Jeered Abbott At Uvalde Massacre Memorial

On Sunday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott was greeted by jeers upon his arrival at a memorial site for the victims of the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas — the state that has seen the most mass shootings since 2012.

The escalating gun violence has sparked nationwide grief and a clamor for increased gun control in a country that has experienced at least 12 mass shootings since last Tuesday.

Abbott and his Republican colleagues have endured waves of criticism for their weakening of the state’s gun laws, as well as their unrelenting support for the easy acquisition of guns, even after numerous mass shootings.

In a recent report, the Texas Tribune stated that “in the last two legislative sessions, Texas legislators have loosened gun laws, most notably by passing permitless carry in 2021, less than two years after mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa took the lives of 30 people.”

Abbott had traveled to the town to meet with President Biden, who had also come to pay his respects and condole with the victims’ families.

As Abbott wheeled past the elementary school sign, the crowd — comprising Uvalde residents and visitors from out of town — booed the governor.

“We need change, governor!” shouted a man in the crowd. “Our children are under constant attack in this community. We need help,” the man continued, yelling at Abbott, who had delivered taped remarks at the National Rifle Association’s convention in the immediate aftermath of the school shooting.

“Shame on you, Abbott,” another voice rang out loud, according to Reuters, as Abbott’s security kept the crowd at bay.

Confidence in the governor took a hit last Friday when, in a press conference, Abbott announced that his earlier statements extolling the state’s law enforcement's speedy reaction had been wrong, but that was what he was told.

Abbott’s admission came after the state’s top safety official admitted that the police made the “wrong decision” by not storming the classroom where the shooter had killed the children and barricaded himself.

"If I thought it would help, I would apologize," said Steven McCraw, the director and colonel of the Texas Department of Public Safety, during a heated press conference.

Abbott tried to placate the public, saying, “Law enforcement is going to earn the trust of the public by making sure they thoroughly and exhaustively investigate exactly what happened.”

The same crowd greeted Biden and his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, with cheers as they laid flowers at the memorial. The first couple attended services at a Catholic church afterward, and when they were leaving, someone yelled “Do something!” The request caught the president’s attention, and he replied, “We will.”

Abbott has announced that new laws could be enacted because of the school shooting — laws that address mental health, not gun violence, per the Hill.

“You can expect robust discussion and my hope is laws passed that I will sign addressing health care in this state,” Abbott said. “There are an array of health issues that relate to those who commit gun crimes.”

“Anyone who suggests we should focus on background checks instead of mental health, I suggest to you it is mistaken,” he added.

A poll conducted by Morning Consult and Politico after the Uvalde incident found that an overwhelming majority of Americans — 88% of the respondents — support background checks on all guns.

However, Republicans appear hellbent on ignoring the outcry, as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke pointed out when he confronted Abbott at the governor's press conference last Wednesday.

Blood On Their Hands -- And NRA Money In Their Pockets

The gut-wrenching tragedy in Texas has turned into a thoroughly degraded political spectacle of corruption and cowardice. If anyone still wonders why America suffers from gun violence at a level unmatched by any other nation, the answer can be found on gaudy display in Houston. The Republican politicians who obediently kneel at the National Rifle Association's annual gathering there — as well as those too sniveling to show up right now in person but instead on video, like Gov. Greg Abbott — have blood on their hands and money in their pockets.

The crooked gang that has driven the NRA toward bankruptcy through the graft of millions in crony contracts and lavish "expenses" over their decades of self-dealing has greased its political allies, too. At last count the organization has doled out upwards of $100 million over the last few election cycles to its faithful servants, who echo its litany of bogus constitutionalism and absurd alibis against gun safety regulation.

That the NRA event will occur just across the Lone Star State from the bereaved town of Uvalde is more than a tragic coincidence. Under pressure of investigation from the attorney general of New York, where the NRA has been registered as a public charity for 150 years, the outfit's leaders may relocate to the more corruption-friendly Texas climate. The Republican leadership there is an utterly servile instrument of the gun lobby, insisting that they will tolerate no regulation of firearms whatsoever. If a disturbed teenager has the cash to buy two assault weapons that he will use to brutally murder small children, why should they stop him when the gun lobby says no?

Abbott, who held a happy hour fundraiser on the same day as the Uvalde slaughter, embodies the callous indifference to the murderous consequences and deceptions of the gun lobby. He is a quintessential "thoughts and prayers" and "pro-life" hypocrite, whose devout faith doesn't extend to protecting children after they are actually born. Abbott is the kind of deliberately "do-nothing" placeholder who leaves open the door to the massacre of children that makes people question democratic governance and fills them with despair.

While children are giving traumatic accounts of the slaying of their classmates and how they smeared themselves with their blood to pretend to be dead, Abbott is pretending that he will do something. Only the most naive will believe him, however, because we have seen this rodeo clown show before.

Four years ago in Texas, when a 17-year-old student shot dead eight students and two teachers, and grievously wounded 13 others at Santa Fe High School, Abbott promised he would offer new solutions. He called for "roundtable" discussions reflecting all points of view. He hinted at expanded background checks and ways to keep guns away from obviously dangerous individuals. "It's time in Texas that we take action to step up," he said, "and make sure this tragedy is never repeated ever again in the history of the state of Texas." Oh yeah.

But Greg Abbott did nothing — absolutely nothing — as bloody murders continued across his state— at the El Paso Walmart, in Midland-Odessa, and now Uvalde. In fact, he has continued to promote unfettered access of weapons of war to wanton killers. Now the Texas rodeo clown is telling the crowd he's concerned about "mental health," when the truth is that he has cut the state's mental health budget consistently.

To be sure, Americans need expanded access to mental health care, especially now in the aftermath of the pandemic, but that isn't the most effective way to address gun violence. We know that gun regulation works, because even the most violent cities that curb guns have fewer killings than those that do not. New York City has far fewer murders than Houston, where the monstrous NRA will celebrate as the innocents are buried. Today, the leading cause of death among children and teenagers in the United States is gun violence.

Don't mess with Texas? Sorry, but Texas is a bloody mess — and the enablers of its terrible distress begin but do not end with its governor.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.