Greg Abbott Takes the Lead in the GOP’s Race to the Bottom
It’s the abortion bill, but also the voting law and gun law and the no-mask mandate and the 1836 Project and “patriotic education,” and on, and on, and on.
Now that Donald Trump has been banned from Twitter, reduced to crashing the occasional Mar-a-Lago wedding and delivering color commentary on stunt boxing matches along with the occasional Fox News hit, there are a host of thirsty governors and senators competing for attention—all of them happy to kill their constituents if that’s what it takes to be the new face of the zombie Republican party.
For a while, it looked like Florida’s Ron DeSantis, busy banning masking mandates and vaccine passports even as the Delta variant slams his state, was the future of cruel and crazy. Here was a governor willing to blow up the cruise ship industry his state counts on to appease his anti-vaxxer base and extract some liberal tears in the process. He’s been selling “Don’t Fauci my Florida” as the death count in the Sunshine state nears 350 people a day.
But it’s Texas’s Greg Abbott who’s pulled ahead of the likes of DeSantis and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem, who keeps cheering on mass spreader events in her state, in the race to the bottom.
Abbott took the lead on Sept. 1, just after he recovered from his own case of COVID, which he announced just after appearing maskless in a packed room full of supporters, when he signed into law a feast of legislative shit.
The main course was the so-called “heartbeat bill” banning abortion after six weeks and effectively overturning Roe v. Wade in Texas while converting citizens into anti-abortion bounty hunters competing to win $10,000 rewards. The Lone Star State’s homegrown Hunger Games, SB8, is plainly unconstitutional, but the Trumpy zealots who dominate the Supreme Court now let it happen because that’s what they were installed to do. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her blistering dissent, “The court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.” But it turns out that Amy Coney Barrett was only kidding when she talked at her confirmation hearing about “settled law.”
That’s what Abbott was counting on when he signed the bill, which has no exemption for victims of rape or incest. Asked about that, the governor replied that he intended to “eliminate all rapists.”
That’s madness, as is House Bill 1927, which also went into effect on Sept. 1 and reads as if it was written by Wayne LaPierre with a gold Montblanc pen he expensed to the NRA along with those suits and the private plane trips. The bill “allows Texans ages 21 and older to carry handguns without training or a license”—effectively replacing the state’s ridiculously permissive gun laws with flat-out permitless carry of open or concealed handguns. No training, no background checks, no nothing.
Then there’s Texas’ answer to the New York Times’ 1619 Project, the 1836 Project that aims to promote “patriotic education.” Basically, they’re whitewashing history, worried that some child might stumble on what actually happened in America’s past. “To keep Texas the best state in the United States of America,” Abbott said in a video to promote the law, “we must never forget why Texas became so exceptional in the first place.” Or learn too much about that, apparently.
There’s also a stupid law called “Star Spangled Banner Protection Act” that lets Texas pull funding from state-funded sports teams that don’t play the national anthem before games. That particular bill is there to help Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick troll Mark Cuban, who stopped playing the national anthem before Dallas Mavericks’ home games. Did I mention that these Texas Republicans are both petty and stupid?
Finally, there’s SB1, the voting law based on Trump’s “big lie” that seeks to keep Republicans and their ever shrinking white minority in power. According to the Texas Tribune, the bill splits the baby by “increasing early voting hours in smaller, mostly Republican counties” even as it otherwise “restricts how and when voters cast ballots, specifically targeting voting initiatives used by diverse, Democratic Harris County, the state’s most populous, by banning overnight early voting hours and drive-thru voting—both of which proved popular among voters of color last year.”
Abbott wants to ban Democrats along with rapists, as best he can. He wants to be first in line to sign as many of these mad laws as he can, whatever they end up meaning for Texans so long as they keep his face in the national news.
Every one of these laws is crafted to win over Fox News viewers, while “solving” problems that don’t exist while creating very new, very real “problems.” It’s enough to make his Trumpy counterparts jealous, and these new laws are all likely to get copied by other states controlled by Republicans.
Get ready for an autumn of crazy, because GOP governors are in a race to the bottom that just keeps accelerating.