This grift is happening in all Republican states, but especially Texas, where we just watched fascism ascend in the 87th Texas Legislature.
I believe the 87th Texas Legislature featured the ascendance of a brand American fascism that had heretofore been constrained by business and libertarian factions in the Texas GOP.
The law enables him to essentially operate as a dictator, and Greg Abbott is beginning to do just that.
Two of the main targets of this ascending fascism are public education and blue cities.
The GOP base in Texas includes totalitarian, racist elements which lately have been swirling in a near-policy-free furor of anger and resentment. By engaging with libertarian factions and more compassionate elements in the religious wing of the party, I’ve argued in innumerable trainings and funder conversations, the criminal-justice reform movement in Texas was attempting to “blunt the spear tip of American fascism.”
In 2021, the spear tip was unsheathed and thrust deep into the body politic: A combination of the pandemic, President Trump’s defeat, and the January 6th insurrection seem to have finally awakened the beast. This was the year the far-right wing of the party finally got its wish list they’d been denied in the 20 years since Republicans took power in Texas: The entire legislative session was about abortion, guns, jingoism, and “backing the blue.” Compassionate conservatism and non-gun-themed libertarianism were more or less banned from the building, or at least the eastern wing.
The Texas House, with a larger, more ideologically diverse membership, retains a broader array of Republicans that still includes some “small government” and/or “compassionate” types. They managed to pass several significant criminal justice reform bills, but virtually nothing of consequence made it through the senate. Reforms with overwhelmingly positive, bipartisan polling numbers like reducing marijuana penalties and ending arrest/jail for Class C non-jailable traffic offenses could never even get committee hearings on the eastern side of the building. Instead Sen. Joan Huffman wasted weeks on a failed effort to gerrymander appellate courts to rescind recent Democratic gains.
Some of this lurch toward totalitarianism was overt and ham-handed, perhaps most notably legislation to require sports teams to play the Star Spangled Banner. More insidious were attempts to control historical narratives about race and slavery in Texas schools and museums. These efforts were as shameful as they were transparently authoritarian. We’re just a step or two away from parading historians through the streets in dunce caps.
Perhaps the most subtly fascist influence radiating out of this session was HB 1900, ostensibly punishing cities that “defund police.” Large cities and counties henceforth must prioritize spending on law enforcement, leaving roads, parks, social services, or any other traditional municipal functions to wither in a time of massive urban growth.
Grits believes the purpose here is both political and dystopian: Texas’ large cities are now almost all (but Fort Worth) run by Democrats. So the Governor and his allies aim to make cities un-manageable, then blame Democrats for mismanaging them.
The grift is effective. We’re trying a nearby private school for one of our kids this year. This school has mask and vaxx policies aligned with pluralism and public health instead of Christian alt facts and sadopopulism. It isn’t as beholden to the laws forcing Texas public schools into a showdown with the state.
All means all.
Texas Republicans are using a pandemic to accelerate the trashing of public education and the breaking of those promises. I’m heartbroken and pissed.