If Texas Republicans were a restaurant, I’d complain to the manager. If I were a teacher grading their work, they’d get an F. In other words, Texas Republicans don’t deserve even a lone star rating at this point.
The GOP’s false statements, unethical behavior, and support of unjust laws and policies continue to jeopardize the health and safety of Texans—and everyone else, too—in multiple ways. This article takes an in-depth look at three particularly egregious examples and the irreparable harm they’ve caused:
From their false statements after the massacre in Uvalde to the party’s continued support of the “Big Lie” that widespread voter fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election is the reason President Biden won, Republicans have made dishonesty their official policy. Efforts to have parents of transgender kids investigated for abuse are similarly built on lies and fearmongering about young LGBTQ+ people and the physician-approved medical care they may receive.
Before taking a detailed look at those three examples, it is important to note that they are a small part of a much larger pattern. Texas Republicans have expressed support for numerous other proposals that would endanger the health and safety of residents.
- Repeal all federal and local minimum wage and mandatory sick leave laws
- Repeal hate crime laws
- Repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”)
- Abolish many federal entities, including the EPA, TSA, FDA, CDC, and OSHA
- Prohibit all gender-affirming medical care for transgender kids under 21
Those ideas are alarming but have not been implemented yet, although we’re already beginning to see proposed legislation based on them. The three examples of false claims with dangerous consequences described below have already occurred, with devastating results. These lies continue to be repeated by Texas Republicans and cause additional harm.
Their cowardly response to the school shooting in Uvalde
The 18-year-old school shooter in Uvalde killed 19 kids and 2 teachers using assault rifles and ammunition he purchased legally.
Despite that fact, Texas’ Republican leaders claimed that stricter gun laws wouldn’t help. They also insisted that providing more armed guards (or arming teachers) would. There is ample evidence from research studies, prior school shootings, and states and countries with stricter gun laws that both of those claims are false.
For instance, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a comprehensive study of mass shootings in U.S. schools from 1980 to 2019. The study looked at the correlation between the presence of armed school officials during the shootings and the number of deaths and injuries. The researchers found that an armed officer present during school shootings not only failed to deter shooters but was also a key factor associated with more casualties:
“The data suggest no association between having an armed officer and deterrence of violence in these cases. An armed officer on the scene was the number one factor associated with increased casualties after the perpetrators’ use of assault rifles or submachine guns.”
NPR cited another comprehensive analysis of more than 30 years of data on U.S shootings which showed that stricter gun laws do work. Daniel Webster, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, said that analysis led him and his colleagues to “find two policies that had significant protective effects in lowering rates of fatal mass shootings.” One was a requirement that gun purchasers get a license. The other was state bans on the purchase of large-capacity magazines. Texas has neither.
Republican officials also added to the Uvalde community’s pain by making statements like, “It could have been worse.” That was Governor Abbott’s response the day after the shooting. He went on to say that the reason it wasn’t worse was the “amazing courage” of law enforcement officials. We now know just how outrageous and false that claim was, after watching multiple armed officers wait in the hallway while the gunman kept firing and the children he shot bled to death.
Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and U.S. Senator John Cornyn at least had the decency to cancel their scheduled appearances at the NRA Convention held in Houston a few days after the Uvalde shooting.
Senator Ted Cruz did not, and his remarks ironically included this question: “So, why is it that so many politicians advocate policies that they know won’t work, that won’t stop these horrific crimes?”
In his case, the answer to that question is clear. As Open Secrets reported, between 1989 and 2022 Cruz received $442,443 from the NRA and other gun rights groups, more than any other member of Congress.
Although Abbott did not attend the NRA Convention, he did send a video message. Both Abbott and Patrick have been endorsed for re-election by the NRA’s Political Victory Fund. The fund’s website includes a statement from its chairman that “Texas has become a model for other states to follow.”
Texas Republicans also passed a resolution at their 2022 Convention expressing their opposition to the bipartisan gun safety law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden on June 25, 2022. That resolution claims people under 21 are most likely to need to defend themselves, red flag laws violate due process, and waiting periods to buy guns harm people who need them for “self-defense in emergencies such as riots.” It also asserts that “all gun control is a violation of the 2nd Amendment and our God-given rights.”
I certainly hope other states don’t look to Texas as a model!
Supporting the Big Lie even after Bill Barr’s testimony
On June 18, 2022, delegates at the Republican Party of Texas Convention passed a resolution insisting that voter fraud in five states helped elect President Joe Biden.
The resolution reads, “We reject the certified results of the 2020 Presidential election, and we hold that acting President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was not legitimately elected by the people of the United States.”
On the party website, Chairman Matt Rinaldi declared that they’re “raising record funds” for “election integrity,” the Republican euphemism for laws that make it more difficult for people in Democratic districts to vote and/or enable Republican state legislatures to reject election results they don’t like. He wrote, “We’ve made election integrity a top priority to ensure Texas never goes the way of Pennsylvania, Georgia, or Arizona. We refuse to let Democrats rig the elections in 2022 or 2024.”
At the January 6th Committee hearing which aired on June 13, 2022, Trump’s former Attorney General William Barr called claims of widespread fraud “bullshit” and “crazy.” He said he repeatedly told Trump there was no evidence to support those claims, but Trump showed no interest “in what the actual facts were.”
Many others, like the Associated Press, have also conducted detailed investigations into the election fraud claims and declared them false. Republicans in Texas (and elsewhere) seem to share Trump’s disdain for the facts, though. Perhaps that is because they need the Big Lie to justify the “election integrity” laws they have enacted.
The Texas law (Senate Bill 1) includes multiple provisions that make it more difficult for eligible citizens to vote. Some of those restrictions are no longer in effect because a federal judge issued a ruling in June 2022 that struck them down. State officials chose not to appeal it. The U.S. Department of Justice is also challenging some of the law’s provisions.
As a Texas voter, what I find most alarming about Senate Bill 1 is that it allows partisan poll watchers to have “free movement” at polling places (with the sole exception of watching a voter cast a ballot). Poll watchers are also permitted to monitor poll closing activities and follow the transfer of election materials to a regional center.
That is cause for concern because harassment and intimidation have already caused some election officials in Texas to resign and others to fear for their safety. In the county of Gillespie, Texas, all three members of the election department staff have resigned.
In her resignation letter, Elections Administrator Anissa Herrera wrote, “The threats against election officials and my election staff, dangerous misinformation … and absurd legislation have completely changed the job I initially accepted. … In light of these changes and for my health and well-being, I am resigning.”
An elections administrator in another Texas county was repeatedly threatened on social media, according to a report by the Committee on Oversight and Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives. He called law enforcement after his home address was leaked. One of the threats suggested his children would also be killed. It said, “I think we should end your bloodline.”
Yet our state’s Republican leaders still promote the Big Lie and refuse to condemn the threats made by their followers who believe it.
Investigating parents of transgender children for child abuse
The attempt to demonize parents of transgender kids began in February when Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding legal opinion redefining physician-approved, gender-affirming medical care as child abuse. That ridiculous and obviously false claim incorrectly described those medical treatments as a form of sterilization. Governor Abbott then used Paxton’s opinion to justify a cruel directive to the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services which forced the agency to investigate parents who allowed their transgender kids to receive appropriate medical care.
“After assessing the Attorney General’s and Governor’s actions, Texas Children’s Hospital paused hormone-related prescription therapies for gender-affirming services. This step was taken to safeguard our healthcare professionals and impacted families from potential criminal legal ramifications.”
Abbott’s directive also severely traumatized families who have been investigated because of it or knew they could be.
Most were too afraid to publicly share their stories. One exception was the Briggle family, whose public statement included this plea:
“We need you to not normalize this state terrorism through your silence. Don’t just wring your hands. We need you to draw a line right here. It is not acceptable that some Americans have to flee their homes to secure their civil rights. Stop telling us to move. Help us.”
Other families are planning to leave Texas or send their transgender children to live with relatives in safer states. “What choice do we have?” asked the mom of a 15-year-old transgender daughter. “I’d rather lose our home and our state than lose my child.”
As MSN reported, the Dallas Morning News obtained DFPS agency emails written in the two weeks immediately after Abbott’s directive. Those emails document attempts to keep that new policy secret and concerns raised by employees told to implement it.
Randa Mulanax was one agency supervisor who resigned because of the policy. She said employees who normally were allowed to decide whether individual cases merited being investigated were told they must open investigations if the alleged abuse involved a minor receiving gender-affirming medical care.
Various lawsuits challenging this policy have been filed. A previous article reported the state’s use of a widely discredited story published in the New York Times Magazine as evidence of “enormous controversy and disagreement among experts” about gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth. As Kit O’Connell pointed out, that is yet another false claim:
Some of the child abuse investigations have been put on hold, at least temporarily, because of the lawsuits. However, the fight is far from over. As this website that offers support to transgender youth in Texas notes,
“These court cases could continue for months or even years to come, and we know that extreme conservatives are still fixated on attacking transgender youth this next legislative session.”
We must hold the Texas GOP and our Republican elected officials accountable for the false claims they keep repeating to justify indefensible laws and policies. We cannot ignore the harmful, sometimes deadly, consequences of their words and actions.
If you are an eligible Texas voter, you can vote against Abbott, Patrick, Paxton, and other Republican leaders up for re-election in November.
Here are some other steps anyone can take:
It is vitally important to stand up for your neighbors and other Texans currently endangered by the false claims of our state’s Republicans, especially the elected officials who wield their power as a weapon to attack vulnerable residents. Every Texan should be appalled by the GOP’s lies and how those false claims are used to justify voter suppression, enable school shooters to legally purchase assault rifles and large-capacity magazines, and have loving parents who seek appropriate medical care for their children investigated for child abuse.
Don’t let fear or despair keep you from taking the actions necessary to make Texas a safer place to live. We must act now to protect the rights of all eligible voters to cast their ballots and election workers to do their jobs without being harassed or threatened. We must elect candidates who understand how dangerous it is to allow 18-year-olds to legally purchase weapons and ammunition designed to rapidly kill as many people as possible, and how important red flag laws are. We must stop the discrimination against and persecution of Texans who identify as LGBTQ+, especially transgender kids and their families.
There are many other reasons it is more critical now than ever before to end the GOP’s control of our state government. If you read all 49 pages of their 2022 platform, you will understand the full extent of the damage continued Republican leadership would cause. All of us would be negatively affected, not just the most vulnerable Texans highlighted in this article. We must do everything legally possible to keep that from happening.