In recent years, the traditionally Republican state of Texas, has witnessed a disturbing trend, revealing cracks within the party’s foundation.
Recent events, particularly the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton, shine a spotlight on the corrosive impact of corruption within the GOP, with other figures like Bryan Slaton adding to the party’s woes.
Despite being impeached by the Republican-controlled Texas House, Paxton emerged unscathed in the Senate trial, underscoring the party’s reluctance to cast off its tarnished members. Paxton’s acquittal on every count did not sit well with House Republicans, who began questioning the integrity of the entire process.
After Patrick excoriated the House for impeaching Paxton, House Speaker Dade Phelan called out Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for attacking “the House for standing up against corruption,” and said the Senate trial was biased and that Paxton’s acquittal was orchestrated from the start.
“His tirade disrespects the Constitutional impeachment process afforded to us by the founders of this great state,” Phelan said. “The inescapable conclusion is that today’s outcome appears to have been orchestrated from the start, cheating the people of Texas of justice.”
During a fundraiser this week, Phelan did not hesitate to label Paxton a “criminal” who belongs in jail, and emphasized that Texas is not Washington: “This isn’t D.C., we cannot let criminals and crazy people run our state.”
Paxton’s acts of corruption are not isolated incidents. The recent resignation of Rep. Bryan Slaton, under the cloud of an investigation substantiating claims of inappropriate sexual conduct with a 19-year-old intern, further underscores the gravity of the situation.
The investigation outlined Slaton’s troubling behavior, involving the provision of alcohol to young staffers, engaging in sexual activity with an intoxicated intern, and attempting to hush up the incident through intimidation.
Slaton’s actions contribute to a narrative of moral decay within the party, according to Phelan who called Slaton a “child molestor” and said he believes these corrupt people will “take down the Republican party.”
The ominous prospect that a few bad apples within the Republican Party could bring down the entire tree looms large. Rep. Chip Roy, a prominent Texas Republican and member of the Freedom Caucus, has amplified these concerns by delivering a blistering critique on the U.S. House floor.
“For the life of me, I do not understand how you can go to the trouble of campaigning, raising money, going to events, talking to people, coming to this town as a member of a party who allegedly stands for something… and then do nothing about it,” Roy said.
“One thing: I want my Republican colleagues to give me one thing—one—that I can go campaign on and say we did. One!” He then asked Republicans to come down to the floor and “explain to me one material, meaningful, significant thing the Republican majority has done besides, well, ‘I guess it’s not as bad as the Democrats.’”
Despite Texas starting the year with a historic $32.7 billion surplus and receiving an additional windfall of $6.4 billion in October, the state’s legislators have faced criticism for not adequately allocating these substantial funds, particularly in addressing pressing issues, like property tax cuts.
Texas lawmakers have also failed to pass a comprehensive education bill. The impasse can be attributed primarily to the Governor’s unwavering insistence that public education funding and the concept of “school choice” must be inherently intertwined.
In addition, lawmakers missed crucial opportunities to enhance grid resilience. The focus on incentivizing new natural gas plants overlooked weatherization and demand reduction measures that could have helped during Texas’ deadly winter storm Uri.
As the Texas Observer pointed out, Republicans focused only on controversial social policies that would garner support from their far-right supporters, leaving significant matters like the grid, gun control and school funding unattended.