Editorial: Texas GOP platform betrays historical Texan and Republican values

red, white and blue confetti falls on a crowd
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott greets supporters after speaking at the state Republican convention in San Antonio in 2018.
(Associated Press )

Texas is a fine state populated with many great people who do interesting and important things, most visibly in science, technology, energy and agriculture. Texans traditionally place a high value on individual autonomy and liberty.

The Republican Party gave us Abraham Lincoln, and he and the party saved the union from slavery and dissolution.

You might expect that together, Texas and the Republican Party would promote a society in which people live their own lives, make their own choices and mind their own business.


So how is it that the Texas Republican Party is working so hard to undermine those values?

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Texas Republicans met over the weekend and adopted a platform that would make Lincoln gasp and Sam Houston scream. It’s a backward-looking agenda of prim moralizing, anti-individualism and blindness to truth.

The platform calls for repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which scrapped literacy tests and poll taxes in order to finally grant the full right to vote to Black Americans.

It is obsessed with Texans’ sexual lives, practices and knowledge. It declares homosexuality “an abnormal lifestyle choice” and denies marriage to people if they are not of opposite sexes. It demands an end to teaching “sex education, sexual health, or sexual choice or identity in any public school in any grade whatsoever.” It seeks strict limits on sexual healthcare services, including “counseling, referrals, and distribution of condoms and contraception through public schools.”

It insists that Donald Trump was the real winner of the 2020 election.

It calls for a secession referendum for Texas voters in the 2023 general election.

Many observers who have followed Texas Republicans for years scoff at the national outrage that the platform has produced. They point out, correctly, that similar platforms have been presented in previous years with little notice because they have little effect. A platform is merely a list of statements and is not connected in any meaningful way to the state’s actual legislative and policy agenda.

But that reminder lends less and less comfort each year. Extreme or devious policies do make it into Texas law. Last year, for example, state lawmakers adopted a statute that incentivizes Texans to become money-grubbing busybodies by suing anyone who helps a pregnant woman obtain an abortion. That law may be a precursor to a Supreme Court reversal of the right to abortion and a person’s defense of their own body from government intrusion.


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And Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state officials to conduct child-abuse investigations of parents of transgender children receiving gender-affirming healthcare (that order has been suspended, for now, by a Texas court).

Such declarations that people shouldn’t be able to marry whomever they please, children shouldn’t learn about their minds and bodies, the nation’s key voting rights law (signed, please remember, by a president from Texas) should be dumped, the president shouldn’t be acknowledged as the nation’s legitimate leader, and breakup of the United States should be on next year’s ballot are, to put it mildly, of some concern.

Regarding the call for a secession vote, some commenters from the other 49 states have said “good riddance.” Let’s hope that’s just venting. Lincoln knew that it would be the end of the nation to let Texas and 10 other states dissolve the bonds of union more than 161 years ago, just as Houston knew rebellion would be bad for Texas and Lyndon Johnson knew that anti-Black voting restrictions had to end.

Today’s battle for Texas is being waged by Texans, but we all face the same battle in our own states: a battle that pits the nation’s founding principles of liberty and justice for all against a descent into ignorance and what Johnson famously called “a crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.”