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06.22.10

Crazy Texas Republicans

Joe Barton and the state GOP’s anti-gay platform are just the tip of the iceberg in the Lone Star State. John Avlon on how Texas Republicans risk becoming a national embarrassment.

What’s the matter with Texas?

Congressman Joe Barton’s bizarre apology to BP last week is only the beginning. Ditto the newly released Republican Texas State Party Platform ably solidifying its worst stereotypes—calling for the re-criminalization of sodomy and making gay marriage a felony. Since the election of President Obama, the GOP’s Lone Star State delegation has developed a singular record of wingnuttery.

“Stepping off into secession,” said one statewide candidate, “may in fact be a bloody war.”

It’s almost like the conservative contingent from the great state of Texas is trying to embarrass their fellow citizens while providing Democrats with a one-stop-shop oppo file, in terms of nationalizing the campaign. In the last year alone, we’ve seen six members of the Texas Republican delegation—John Carter, John Culberson, Louis Gohmert, Kenny Marchant, Randy Neugebauer and Ted Poe—decide to sign-on as co-sponsors of the ‘Birther Bill’ snaking its way through the Congressional fringe, making them half of the bill’s total support.

We’ve heard Rep. Randy Neugebauer scream “baby killer” at Congressman Bart Stupak after he voted for health-care reform.

Samuel P. Jacobs: The Coming Black GOP Wave? We’ve seen Rep. Louis Gohmert take to the House floor to denounce hate crimes legislation by bringing bestiality and necrophilia into the debate: “If you’re oriented toward animals, bestiality, then that’s not something that could be held against you ... which means that you’d have to strike any laws against bestiality. If you’re oriented toward corpses, toward children. You know, there are all kinds of perversions, what most of us would call perversions, some would say it sounds like fun, but most of us would say were perversions and there have been laws against them and this bill says that whatever you're oriented toward sexually that cannot be a source of bias against someone.”

And Texas Rep. Lamar Smith told a group of college students that “the greatest threat to America is not necessarily a recession or even another terrorist attack…The greatest threat to America is a liberal media bias.” That quote will sound great if we’re attacked again.

Texas Governor Rick Perry rode to victory over the Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson despite—or because—he invoked specter of secession at Tea Party rally, saying: “There’s a lot of different scenarios,” he said. “We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that? Texas is a very unique place… When we came to the Union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.” His Tea Party backed challenger Debra Medina went even further, making nullification a core campaign plank (“stepping off into secession may in fact be a bloody war") before imploding over 9/11 conspiracy theories.

Even the Texas Board of Education has been getting into the fun—last month they voted to reconfigure the state social studies curriculum with a conservative ideological agenda, complete with favorable mentions of Joe McCarthy and Phyllis Schlafly. Board member Cynthia Dunbar got the meeting off on the right foot by offering a pre-vote prayer for “a Christian land governed by Christian principles.” Not coincidentally, Creationism has also been making a comeback.

To be fair, it’s not just the Republicans who are getting a bit loopy from the Texas summer heat. The Democrats have a full-fledged Lyndon LaRouche-ite named Kesha Rogers nominated for Congress in Tom DeLay’s old district, running on a platform summed up by the sign she holds up at a busy inter-section: “Save NASA. Impeach Obama.”

America needs Texas sane, or at least not completely deranged. It’s is the second largest state in the nation, a place of beauty, pride and barbeque, the home of icons of independence like Sam Houston, Lyle Lovett and Molly Ivins. It was Ivins who described Texas politics as “the finest form of free entertainment ever invented” and “better than the circus,” but this year the fun under that particular big top is looking more and more like a freakshow, and the clowns are starting to scare the kids.

John Avlon's new book Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America is available now by Beast Books both on the Web and in paperback. He is also the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics. Previously, he served as chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.