Texas lawmakers have carried the long history of the state of conservatism that dragged their breasts in recent months.
Republicans, who have full control of the state government in Texas, have pushed for some of the country’s most extreme far-right measures. They enacted the most restrictive abortion law in the United States, essentially outlawing the practice after six weeks and encouraging private citizens to sue anyone who helps another person get one. They passed a measure that allowed anyone to carry a gun without permission or training. They severely restricted the way teachers can talk about systemic racism in their classrooms, passing a law that says teachers cannot be required to debate current events and cannot give “deference to any perspective” if they do. And they passed radical new electoral restrictions, banning voting practices, including 24-hour voting and highways, that the state’s largest, most democratic-leaning county used in 2020.
It’s a very straightforward turn driven by the need to appeal to the central part of the Republican base, observers say, especially at a time when there are clear signs of a reduction in the Republican electorate in Texas and the political competence of the state. Almost all of the state’s population growth over the past decade comes from people of color, according to the latest census. Democratic-oriented cities and their suburbs are growing rapidly, while Republican-oriented rural areas are not.
“They do it because their base, primary Republican voters, is shrinking,” said Robert Stein, a professor at Rice University in Houston. “You don’t have to have a PhD to find out.”
The laws will have a significant impact on the lives of jeans. About 85% of all abortions performed previously in the state are now illegal, providers say, forcing women to travel out of state to get one. People who work long hours and cannot spend free time will face obstacles to voting with the 24-hour voting prohibited. And people with disabilities may have more difficulty voting because of the new restrictions on people attending them.
Extremism in Texas is led by Greg Abbott, the state’s Republican governor, who faces a right-wing Republican challenge in his primary election next year. While Abbott, considered a potential presidential candidate in 2024, is still favored in the race, observers say he has used the legislative session to burn his conservative good faith. Abbott has reconvened lawmakers in Austin for special legislative sessions this year to address red meat issues for the Republican base, including voting and critical race theory, an academic discipline that examines the ways in which it operates racism in the laws and society of the United States.
“He sees an opening. I think he thinks he is competing for the far right of his party. Not just here in Texas, but nationally. And I think unfortunately that has really been the engine, ”said John Bucy, a representative of the Democratic state of Austin.
Focusing on restricting abortion and voting while expanding access to guns is not new to Texas lawmakers. But the gravity and extremism of the laws passed this year is, according to Joshua Blank, the research director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. Just a few years ago, he noted, Republican leaders rejected a proposal to allow unarmed transportation of pistols like the one he sailed during the 2021 legislature.
“When you have a Conservative party at the helm, an extremely conservative primary electorate that chooses the majority of elected officials, you will end up with more extreme legislation because some of the low fruits have already been addressed,” he said.
“It’s not enough for a Republican member of the state legislature to go back to their Republican electorate and just say,‘ I went to the Republican legislature for 140 days and we didn’t make abortion easier in Texas. We did not pass laws restricting your right to bear arms. That’s not good enough in Texas, “he added.
While Republicans push for extreme bills in the legislature, they are also bolstered by an extremely powerful political advantage. A decade ago, Republicans had complete control over the process of drawing the boundaries of legislative districts and the state congress. It allowed them to distort lines to help Republicans win elections and secure their election to the state legislature for the past ten years. This year the lines will be redrawn and Republicans will once again have full control of the process. It’s a power that allows Republicans to make laws without having to worry about alienating Democratic voters, Blank said.
“There is probably more confidence in their party that they can serve the Republican primary electorate without necessarily creating problems for them in the general election, because they will fix it with redistricting,” he said.
Texas activists like Amatullah Contractor are accustomed to the conservative politics of the state. But in recent months we have heard that “we are heading for the end of the final trial or we are living in a dystopian reality,” said Contractor, the deputy director of Emgage of Texas, a civic engagement organization for American Muslim communities.
The solution, he said, is for the U.S. Congress to step in and pass laws to end voting and other measures being taken in Texas. Although Democrats control both houses of Congress, they have been unable to pass such legislation because of the filibuster, a Senate rule that requires 60 votes to advance legislation.
“We are shouting into the void because who is paying attention and where is the federal government’s action? They are the ones holding power,” said Contractor, who joined a 27-mile march for voting rights in early “We can organize here, but we don’t have electoral majorities. They do and they don’t use it.”