Stinging from a remarkable rebuke from his own party, Governor Greg Abbott tried to save face by hanging out with former President Donald Trump at the southern border.
This past Sunday saw Abbott and Trump handing out meals to Texas State Guards and employees of the Texas Department of Public Safety at the border. Abbott once again blamed President Joe Biden for failing to handle the influx of immigrants and refugee seekers despite the fact that Biden has done far more than Abbott to control the border. The governor also took the opportunity to formally endorse Trump for re-election.
Hanging his political star on the border is an old trick for Abbott. After he started to slip in the polls following the massacre at Robb Elementary School and harsh criticism from challenger Beto O’Rourke, Abbott doubled down on his anti-immigrant initiatives for a solid rebound. The fact that his $4 billion+ Operation Lone Star has produced few results and actively violated federal treaties with Mexico does not seem to negatively impact Abbott’s standing with his conservative base.
He needs all the help he can get. The loss of the voucher fight was a stunning blow for Abbott, who has campaigned on the matter for a year and tried every trick in the book to get it passed. His plan would have allowed Texans to use taxpayer money for tuition to private schools. The vast majority of this money would flow to urban and suburban Christian schools judging by other states that have enacted similar programs.
The matter met stiff resistance in the Texas House from rural Republicans who feared that vouchers would drain public school funds from their communities. Abbott and allies tried threatening primary challenge threats, stipends for small school districts, enlisting the support of churches, and painting public school districts as “woke” indoctrination centers. In the end, none of it moved the bar in the House much. The latest voucher bill was quietly voted down with more than twenty Republicans joining Democrats.
Trump himself is also in need of a boost. His first testimony on the stand of a New York fraud case went disastrously. The former president tried repeatedly to introduce aspects of his business contracts that he claimed exonerated him of any wrongdoing, only to be shut down by the judge saying repeatedly that the evidence did not mean what Trump seemed to think it meant.
The civil trial in New York is only one of Trump’s myriad of legal woes. He has been indicted in Georgia for election tampering and fraud, and he carries indictments in three other criminal cases related to document theft and other crimes. Despite this, Trump has remained the clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president in 2024. Keen to rebuild support among his base, Trump has vowed to build “camps” to hold the various groups he considers enemies to America.
Like Abbott, appearing at the southern border to stir up anti-immigrant sentiment is likely to put a band-aid over recent public humiliations.