The GOP Monster Is Out of the Lab

Texas Republicans are split in their support for the speaker of the Texas house, Republican Joe Straus. (Photo: Getty Images)

The GOP Monster Is Out of the Lab

And it's rampaging through Texas.

Folks haven't been hipped to this yet, but the Texas Republican party is completely outside of its mind at the moment. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is refusing to let Sandra Bullock film her Wendy Davis biopic in the actual chamber where Davis held the floor for 13 hours in 2013 to delay passage of a draconian piece of anti-choice legislation. From The Austin American-Statesman:

"If I have anything to do with that, I'm not going to let them use the Senate chamber to shoot because they have already disgraced it once. I'm not going to let them do it again," Patrick, who leads the Senate, said in a speech to the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation think tank...After saying that he received a copy of the script but hasn't read it, Patrick said there was one line in it that irked him: Patrick, who said he is the "villain" of the movie, is portrayed using a curse word while criticizing Davis.

This is hilariously snowflake-y for a two-fisted conservative Christian warrior like Dan Patrick, who, after the massacre in Orlando's Pulse nightclub in 2016, tweeted, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Galatians 6:7." (He later claimed that the tweet was "pre-scheduled.") But it's a bit of benign lunacy compared to what's happening elsewhere with Texas Republicans.

Last year, the speaker of the Texas house, a Republican named Joe Straus, blocked a so-called "bathroom bill" that was the legislative love object of Patrick and the flying monkey escadrille among the extremist conservatives within the Texas GOP. These are the people who control the state party apparatus, and, at the end of last month, they voted to censure Straus. Again, from the A-S:

The vote was 44-19 to censure the speaker, who is not seeking re-election, surpassing the threshold requirement that two-thirds of the 64 SREC members -- two from each of the 31 Senate districts, plus the chair and vice chair -- approve the resolution for it to be enacted. State Party Chair James Dickey and Vice Chair Amy Clark cast the decisive votes. Without them, the 42 votes for censure would have fallen one vote shy. "This is a very unusual case ... and this could have consequences for the party," said Dickey, before making the dramatic announcement that he and Clark would vote for the censure, ensuring the Texas GOP's repudiation of one of its most powerful elected officials.

Yes, you read that correctly. Straus already has announced that he's through with this nonsense, and this committee censured him anyway. There is no issue so heavy that some wingnut cabal can't drive it completely off a cliff.

Straus spokesman Jason Embry said after the vote that, "Speaker Straus expected these antics from some people when he opposed their bathroom bill and helped prevent the harm it would have brought to our state." "He is proud to have represented the views of mainstream Texas Republicans, who have voiced overwhelming support for the speaker's principled leadership on many issues," Embry said. "Speaker Straus will continue working to support traditional Republican principles and re-elect Republicans who put their constituents first.

The fight over Straus, and the ensuing split, has affected Texas Republicans up and down various ballots, and this in a state where they enjoy a majority position in most institutions of government that is unprecedented in the modern history of the state. As Ross Ramsey points out in The Texas Tribune, this has prompted an equally unprecedented cannibal buffet:

At a time when Republicans hold all of the statewide offices in Texas, overwhelming majorities in the congressional delegation, the Legislature, and a slew of judgeships and local offices across the state, populist conservatives in the GOP are working hard to overthrow the party's moderates. It's a case of self-styled true believers vs. those they've labeled as apostates -- a political version of the purebloods and mudbloods in Harry Potter's world. That seemingly ancient idea of pulling everyone together into a "big tent" -- remember Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush? -- appears to be off to the recycling bin.

Paradoxically, the more Republican an area is, the more intense the intra-party brawling is. There are few redder areas in Texas than Tarrant County, as The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Here, candidates are questioning the conservative ideals of GOP incumbents ranging from state Rep. Charlie Geren to state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione. And some, such as U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, are asking whether their primary challengers are Republicans -- or closet Democrats. In addition to local challenges, the State Republican Executive Committee has censured retiring GOP House Speaker Joe Straus for blocking some priorities of party leadership. And Gov. Greg Abbott is endorsing and vocally supporting challengers to some House Republican incumbents. "We have a section of the party that wants to throw them in the trash, even if they voted with them 98 percent of the time," Tarrant County Republican Party Chair Tim O'Hare said. "You do one thing people disagree with and they say you're a RINO (Republican In Name Only)."

Geez Louise, mother, I wonder where they learned that? Maybe on their favorite television news network? Maybe on their radios, 12 hours a day? This has been another chapter in the new GOP classic, Governing: How Does It Work Anyway? The monster is out of the lab, folks, and it's having a helluva good time.

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