Texas GOP convention demonstrates far-right views shaping the party

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Thousands of Republican activists gathered in Houston this weekend for the state’s party convention accepted a resolution that rejects the result of the 2020 presidential election and calls Joe Biden an illegitimate president.

Delegates also called for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was passed to end discrimination against black Americans at the polls.

Separately, a party platform presented to convention delegates called homosexuality an “abnormal lifestyle choice”. According to the Texas Tribune, the platform is also advocating for children to learn “the humanity of the unborn” in school, promoting new messaging after the state moved to dramatically restrict abortion.

And less than a month after 19 children and two teachers were gunned down at a Texas elementary school, convention delegates passed a formal ‘reprimand’ from Sen. John Cornyn (R) for engaging in talks bipartisanship on gun control. The participants also loudly booed him when he gave a speech to Congress on Friday when he tried to explain potential legislation.

Congress resolutions and the platform do not have the force of law but are intended to serve as a mission statement for GOP activities in the state for the next two years. It also offers a window into how the Republican base has shifted further to the right and how rejecting Biden’s 2020 election victory has become a key tenet for the party.

The rhetoric on gay rights in particular represents a reversal after years of growing comfort within the Republican Party with equal rights for gay Americans and polls showing that large majorities of voters now support same-sex marriage while s opposing discrimination.

It comes amid an upsurge in hate speech and violence against LGBTQ people and a new push among dedicated conservative circles to attack even the mere mention of sexuality as a “preparer” for children.

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The Texas Tribune reported that party delegates rejected an effort to soften language on homosexuality from one delegate who said it would not help the party.

“We are the Republican Party of Texas, not the Westboro Baptist Church,” the Tribune reported, referring to the extremist church whose members travel the country to hold anti-gay rallies at public events. The Tribune said other delegates to the convention, which lasted from Thursday to Saturday, laughed and booed at the comment.

Votes from the more than 5,000 delegates present on formally accepting the language into the platform have yet to be counted, but party chairman James Wesolek said the boards presented to delegates are generally accepted .

The party also blocked the Log Cabin Republicans, a longtime group representing gay Republicans, from having a booth at the convention, a move that drew a rebuke from Donald Trump Jr., who said in a statement to Breitbart that it amounted to “cancelling a group of gay conservatives who stand in the breach with us.

Intra-party divisions were also exposed in a video released by right-wing personality Alex Stein showing Stein and his supporters accosting Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) in a hotel hallway, calling him a traitor and a “McCain eye patch” — a made-up slur by Fox News personality Tucker Carlson. For months Crenshaw, who wears an eye patch due to an injury sustained while serving as a Navy SEAL in Afghanistan, has been heckled as a Republican in name only, or RINO, like deceased former Senator John McCain.

In response, Crenshaw tweeted, “This is what happens when angry little boys like @alexstein99 don’t grow up and can’t have girlfriends.”

Although many Republican personalities came forward this weekend to denounce the treatment reserved for the elected official and veteran, the confrontation was a reminder of the internal divisions within the Republican Party and how activists now reject even previously popular and loyal figures.

Meanwhile, the party passed a resolution declaring that the 2020 election violated the US Constitution and that “substantial voter fraud in key metropolitan areas materially affected the results.”

“We reject the certified results of the 2020 presidential election, and we believe that Interim President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was not legitimately elected by the people of the United States,” the resolution continues.

The move came days after the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol presented evidence showing Donald Trump’s top campaign aides and others in his inner circle repeated to several times to the former president that the allegations of fraud were false. But the Texas resolution shows how Trump’s obsession with elections has become a core belief for his party.

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“It’s like these people live in some kind of parallel universe filled with hate and conspiracy and have a twisted view of our democracy and our Constitution,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party. “It’s almost like these people are on a drug-induced psychotic trip.”

Texas faces a key gubernatorial election in November that will pit incumbent Governor Greg Abbott against Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. As the convention opened Thursday, party chairman Matt Rinaldi predicted the GOP would make gains in the fall.

“A red wave is going to sweep across Texas and this nation and start a new era,” he said, calling on the party “to take the fight straight to the left and go on the attack.”

“That means using our state majority to define the debate. It means influencing public opinion instead of following the polls,” he said.

The rebuke of Cornyn — a popular figure among Texas Republicans who won the 2020 re-election nomination with 76% of the vote — shows the reluctance of party loyalists to offer concessions on gun rights, even though polls show that large majorities of Americans support congressional action.

Cornyn is part of a bipartisan group of senators that includes 10 Republicans who have advanced a framework for new gun provisions, including closing the so-called boyfriend loophole, federal grants to urge states pass red flag laws that allow authorities to keep firearms from people deemed to pose a threat to themselves or others and expanded background checks for gun buyers under 21. Senators have yet to translate the general agreement into legislative language.

Aides involved in the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity to candidly describe their status said the talks continued productively over the weekend and there were no signs that the backlash from the Texas had changed their trajectory. Senate leaders hope to hold votes on the deal later this week.

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The state’s GOP resolution gives an idea of ​​the pressure Cornyn has been under from the right as he tries to navigate the negotiations. He rejects red flag laws, waiting periods and restrictions on young gun buyers, saying that “those under 21 are most likely to be victims of violent crime and therefore most likely to need to defend themselves”.

After being booed on Friday, Cornyn retweeted journalist Scott Braddock, who reported that Cornyn told his supporters, “I never gave in to crowds and I’m not starting today.”

Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.

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