Texas is suffering a 'culture of death': San Antonio Archbishop

The Guatemalan teenager gave the priest her name: Serenidad.

They met on Tuesday morning at a children’s hospital San Antonio, where the priest, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, had arrived to comfort one of the youngest survivors of the deadliest migrant-trafficking tragedy in modern American history.

“She smiled several times, a beautiful smile,” the archbishop recalled in an interview with The Texas Tribune. “I asked if she’d called her family, but her cellphone had been confiscated.”

The archbishop urged the girl, whom he estimated to be around 16, to contact her family once she was able. “And then I said: If you can contribute, it would be great if you can smile as much as you can, because then you can make everyone around you feel good. They will see that you are doing well.”

García-Siller said he heard the news around 7 p.m. Monday: Dozens of people had been found dead or near death inside a broiling tractor-trailer that had come to a stop near the intersection of Interstates 35 and 410 on the city’s Southwest Side. As of Friday, the toll is 53 dead, 11 injured. Four men have been detained and charged in the tragedy; two face charges that could carry the death penalty.

The archbishop said he visited survivors at four hospitals on Monday evening, including a Guatemalan woman he estimated to be around 19. (She nodded when he asked and reacted brightly when he mentioned some cities in Guatemala.)

“She could communicate only through her eyes and with her fingers, and she tried to speak but I couldn’t understand her,” he recalled.

He visited two more hospitals early Tuesday, including the one where he met Serenidad. And on Friday morning, he met with another survivor, a young man from Mexico. He noted that that he did not ask for the victims’ legal names, nor would he; undocumented migrants often use pseudonyms or false IDs.

“Most of the victims were unconscious and very seriously ill,” he said. “They were hooked up to all kinds of things. But I was able to be in each room and to be in their presence to pray and to honor them. And think of their families.”

Born in Mexico, García-Siller has led an archdiocese that covers nearly 28,000 square miles and includes an estimated 800,000 faithful; it began as a Spanish mission in 1713. In just over a month, the clergy and lay staff members of the archdiocese have grappled with two epic tragedies: the May 24 school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, which took the lives of 19 students and two teachers, and now the June 27 tragedy, which took the lives of 40 male and 13 female victims, including citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

“What I wish for people is to foster a culture of life because there are so many signs of a culture of death,” he told the Tribune. “What happened was an example of a culture of death. What happened in Uvalde, that’s a sign of a culture of death.”

The gunman in Uvalde was an 18-year-old local who had tortured animals and threatened women, according to the authorities.

“We can say the man was sick, he was in crisis, but we are responsible,” the archbishop said. “We are not sowing seeds of life, of respect of human persons, fostering encounters and relationships. The drug situation, the human trafficking — those are signs and expressions of a culture of death. How do we foster a culture of life? That is all of us. I feel responsible.”

On Thursday evening, San Fernando Cathedral — the oldest standing church building in Texas, founded in 1731 — held a memorial Mass and interfaith prayer vigil organized by the Archdiocese of San Antonio and the Interfaith San Antonio Alliance. Jews, Muslims, Protestants, Catholics and Sikhs attended the interfaith service. In his homily, delivered in English and Spanish, the archbishop spoke with compassion about those fleeing poverty and violence to come to the United States.

“You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt,” he read from the Book of Exodus. “If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely listen to their cry.”

He continued: “Not all sins have the same degree of intrinsic evil by which God is offended, nor are their consequences equally serious. The exploitation of the poor, and in particular of migrants — who flee dramatic situations in search of opportunities and hope — is particularly grave.”

In his homily, the archbishop condemned “traders of death who consider lives as merchandise and ultimately as collateral damage,” but also society at large.

“It is not permissible for anyone in our society to remain idle and look the other way in the face of the humanitarian crisis caused by unregulated migration,” he said. “We all have a role to play in solidarity with people fleeing in search of opportunities for development.”

While stopping well short of calling for open borders, the prelate stressed the need for international cooperation and regulation. At least 100 million people worldwide have been displaced from their homes, and as the planet warms, another 500 million people might join them over the next several decades.

“Immigration is a natural phenomenon that arises from the supply and demand for labor and security,” the archbishop said. “It is like a stream of water. If it is not given a channel, it finds it naturally, but not in the right way. Migration is a natural human right. Likewise, the receiving country has the right and the duty to regulate it.”

While the United States has not enacted comprehensive reform of its immigration system since 1986, presidents and governors have made the southwest border a political battlefield — and the Texas-Mexico border in particular has become increasingly militarized under Gov. Greg Abbott’s multibillion-dollar border security push, dubbed Operation Lone Star.

On the federal level, an emergency public health order known as Title 42, enacted early in the COVID-19 pandemic, allows immigration agents to quickly expel migrants without allowing them to request asylum, though the Biden administration has sought to have it lifted. On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court decreed that the administration can lift the Trump-era “remain in Mexico” policy that compels asylum-seekers to wait south of the border while their cases wind their way through immigration courts. That policy, too, remains in place as the case returns to a lower court.

At the cathedral, the archbishop asked the faithful to listen to the voices of migrants and to urge politicians to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

“Politics — rightly understood — is the opposite of ideological confrontation,” he said. “It is one of the highest forms of charity. It is a path that begins by loving our closest neighbor — in order to be able to love even those we do not know."

Senate votes 64-34 to advance John Cornyn's gun legislation 4 weeks after Uvalde massacre: report

Exactly four weeks after a teenage gunman armed with a semiautomatic rifle massacred 19 elementary schoolers and two teachers in Uvalde, the U.S. Senate voted 64-34 Tuesday night to advance a bipartisan compromise that, if enacted, would become the first major legislation on gun safety since 1994.

The legislation does not restrict any rights of existing gun owners — a non-starter for Senate Republicans. Instead, it would enhance background checks for gun purchasers younger than 21; make it easier to remove guns from people threatening to kill themselves or others, and people who have committed domestic violence; clarify who needs to register as a federal firearms dealer; and crack down on illegal gun trafficking, including so-called straw purchases, which occur when the actual buyer of a firearm uses another person to execute the paperwork to buy on their behalf.

The legislation also includes $11 billion for mental health services and $2 billion for community-based anti-violence programs. It also includes money to help young patients access mental health services via telemedicine, money for more school-based mental health centers, and support for suicide hotlines.

Republican John Cornyn, the senior senator from Texas, who was formally rebuked by the Republican Party of Texas on Saturday evening for taking part in bipartisan negotiations, said he felt confident that senators would see the deal as a reasonable compromise. If it holds up, that would itself be an extraordinary achievement after years in which mass shootings have devastated American communities, with numbing reality.

“This is an issue that divides much of the country, depending on where you live, and maybe divides people living in the same household. But I think we have found some areas where there’s space for compromise and we’ve also found that there are some red lines and no middle ground,” Cornyn said on the floor of the Senate. “We’ve talked, we’ve debated, we’ve disagreed and finally we’ve reached an agreement among the four of us but obviously this is not something that is going to become law or fail to become law because of a small group of senators. The truth is we had a larger group of 20 senators, 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, come together and sign on to an agreed set of principles, and I believe that as the senators see the text that supports those principles, they will see we’ve tried our best to be true to what those agreed principles should be.”

The release on Tuesday evening of the 80-page Bipartisan Safer Communities Act came after 20 senators — with the Democrats led by Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and the Republicans by Cornyn — worked to translate a broad framework agreement into specific language. The Senate voted 64-to-34, less than two hours after the final text was circulated, to put the legislation on a path to pass the Senate by the end of the week.

The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, quickly endorsed the text of the legislation, while the National Rifle Association immediately opposed it. While gun rights remain a powerful element of Republican politics, the N.R.A. itself has become a politically weaker force, partly because of financial and other scandals.

The Senate vote capped a momentous day as Texas grapples with the aftermath of the May 24 tragedy, the deadliest school shooting in its history. Earlier on Tuesday, a Texas Senate committee held a marathon hearing in which the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety squarely blamed the Uvalde schools police chief for what he called an inexcusable hour-plus delay in fatally confronting the gunman. Critics have asked whether some of the 19 students and 2 two teachers might have survived had the delay not occurred; one teacher died on the way to the hospital.

The Uvalde schools police chief, Pete Arredondo, was elected to the Uvalde City Council before the shooting, and had asked for a leave of absence from those duties. On Tuesday, the council denied that request. (The school police report to the school board, not the City Council.)

Also on Tuesday night, the mayor of Uvalde, Don McLaughlin, accused the Department of Public Safety of selectively leaking transcripts, video footage and other materials to the press to portray local authorities as inept.

“Someone has chosen to release bits and pieces of body cams, surveillance videos of their choosing,” the mayor said, “to create chaos in our community and keep the whole truth from coming out.”

Texas Republican Convention calls Biden win illegitimate and rebukes Cornyn over gun talks

HOUSTON — Meeting at their first in-person convention since 2018, Texas Republicans on Saturday acted on a raft of resolutions and proposed platform changes to move their party even further to the right. They approved measures declaring that President Joe Biden “was not legitimately elected” and rebuking Sen. John Cornyn for taking part in bipartisan gun talks. They also voted on a platform that declares homosexuality “an abnormal lifestyle choice” and calls for Texas schoolchildren “to learn about the humanity of the preborn child.”

The actions capped a convention that highlighted how adamantly opposed the party’s most active and vocal members are to compromising with Democrats or moderating on social positions, even as the state has grown more diverse and Republicans’ margins in statewide elections have shrunk slightly in recent years.

Votes on the platform were collected at the end of the party's three-day convention in which party activists moved to add multiple items to the official Texas GOP platform. As the convention closed, two separate sets of ballots — one allowing delegates to choose eight of 15 legislative priorities and another allowing delegates to vote on the 275 platform planks — were gathered. Those will now need to be tallied and certified in Austin, but it is rare for a plank to be rejected, according to party spokesperson James Wesolek.

The convention reinforced the extent to which former President Donald J. Trump’s unfounded claims of a stolen election continue to resound among the party faithful — even though his claims have repeatedly been debunked, including by many of his own former aides, and after a week of televised hearings about the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The denunciation of Cornyn represented a remarkable rebuke to a Republican who has served in the Senate since 2002. The hall at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston filled with boos on Friday as he tried to explain the legislation, which would allow juvenile records to be incorporated into background checks for gun buyers younger than 21 and encourage “red flag” laws that would make it easier to remove guns from potentially dangerous people, along with more funding for school safety and mental health.

Meanwhile, the party platform vote on Saturday by roughly 5,100 convention delegates would argue that those under 21 are “most likely to need to defend themselves” and may need to quickly buy guns “in emergencies such as riots.” It also would say that red flag laws violate the due process rights of people who haven’t been convicted of a crime.

About 9,600 delegates and alternates were eligible to attend; organizers said turnout was a bit more than half that.

The new platform would call for:

  • Requiring Texas students “to learn about the humanity of the preborn child,” including teaching that life begins at fertilization and requiring students to listen to live ultrasounds of gestating fetuses.
  • Amending the Texas Constitution to remove the Legislature’s power “to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime.”
  • Treating homosexuality as “an abnormal lifestyle choice,” language that was not included in the 2018 or 2020 party platforms.
  • Deeming gender identity disorder “a genuine and extremely rare mental health condition,” requiring official documents to adhere to “biological gender,” and allowing civil penalties and monetary compensation to “de-transitioners” who have received gender-affirming surgery, which the platform calls a form of medical malpractice.
  • Changing the U.S. Constitution to cement the number of Supreme Court justices at nine and repeal the 16th Amendment of 1913, which created the federal income tax.
  • Ensuring “freedom to travel” by opposing Biden’s Clean Energy Plan and “California-style, anti-driver policies,” including efforts to turn traffic lanes over for use by pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit.
  • Declaring “all businesses and jobs as essential and a fundamental right,” a response to COVID-19 mandates by Texas cities that required customers to wear masks and limited business hours.
  • Abolishing the Federal Reserve, the nation’s central bank, and guaranteeing the right to use alternatives to cash, including cryptocurrencies.

Not every far-right proposal was advanced. The party chair, Matt Rinaldi, ruled that a motion to defend the due process rights of those who rioted at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and to “reject the narrative” that the riot was an insurrection was out of order and could not be voted on.

Taken together, the new provisions would represent a shift even further rightward for the Republican Party of Texas, once known as the party of Presidents George Bush and his son George W. Bush. Land Commissioner George P. Bush, a grandson and nephew of the two presidents, was defeated handily in May in his runoff race against Attorney General Ken Paxton, an arch-conservative who sued to challenge the 2020 election outcome and convinced voters that he was the truer Trump loyalist.

Party platforms are mission statements rather than legal doctrines and, in Texas, they have long reflected the opinions of the most activist wings of the parties. Republican elected officials are not bound to adhere to the platform, and party activists at times have expressed frustration that some parts of their platform and legislative priorities have not become law, despite complete Republican control of the state Legislature.

But the platforms are broad indicators of the sentiments of the most active Republican voters — those who dominate party primaries. Republicans have controlled every statewide elected office in Texas since 1999 and both houses of the Legislature since 2003, so the wishes of the party’s populist, pro-Trump base inevitably affect actions taken in Austin.

“The platform is largely symbolic but important as a measure of ideological drift,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston. “Party platforms are often used as a cudgel in party primaries. A more muscular ideological platform eventually leads to a more conservative legislature as challengers knock off more moderate members.”

The convention was noteworthy for the relatively low profile of top officeholders. Gov. Greg Abbott, who is seeking a third term in the November election, only appeared at a reception on Thursday on the sidelines of the convention. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who effectively controls the state Senate, addressed the convention, but House Speaker Dade Phelan only spoke at a luncheon, not to the main body of delegates.

Tensions within the party at times got personal. Video posted online showed far-right activists physically accosting U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, calling the conservative Republican “eye-patch McCain” over his criticism of Russia. The group included self-identified Proud Boys and Alex Stein, a social media activist from North Texas. A Navy SEAL veteran, Crenshaw lost his right eye to a bomb in Afghanistan.

“A more aggressive party platform sends a clear message to politicians about where the base is going,” Rottinghaus said. “Donald Trump radicalized the party and accelerated the demands from the base. There simply aren’t limits now on what the base might ask for.”

Mark P. Jones, a political scientist at Rice University in Houston, said the 2022 platform indicated how emboldened hard-right party activists now feel — a far cry from 2020. Significant gains by Texas Democrats in state House elections in 2018 raised the prospect of the Republican Party losing its dominant status in Texas, making it moderate its platform in 2020 to focus on bread-and-butter issues. Texas Republicans did well in the 2020 elections — even though Biden won 46.5% of the Texas vote, the highest proportion for a Democrat since 1976 — and this year, culture-war issues were once again at front and center.

Jones said that Republican redistricting has made incumbents safer and less inclined to appeal to moderates. Moreover, inflation, the risk of a recession, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and growing acrimony over race, gender and sexuality make it seem increasingly likely that Democrats will lose the U.S. House in the November midterm elections.

“As a result, the 2022 GOP feels free to veer to the right to its heart’s content, confident that it won’t come back to haunt the party in November, except perhaps in a half dozen races,” Jones said. “And even the party’s pragmatic center right conservatives lack the ability to argue, as they did successfully in 2020, that an ultra conservative platform could cost the GOP its majority status in the Lone Star State. This year, even the absolute worst case scenario has the GOP winning statewide, increasing its number of U.S. House seats, boosting its Texas Senate majority by a seat, and maintaining the 83 seats it held in the 2021 Texas House.”

Before delegates voted on the platform, party activists delivered fiery speeches attacking Democrats.

“They want to destroy the racial progress we have made by saying that we are a racist nation,” said Robin Armstrong, a Black doctor in Texas City who treated COVID patients with unapproved drug therapies touted by Trump, including hydroxychloroquine. “The Democratic Party are now a party of chaos. They benefit from causing us to question the foundations that this country was built upon. The misery, the crime, the drug abuse, the high gas prices are all by design, so that the Democratic Party can permanently transform society. We Texans cannot and we will not allow this to happen.”

The Republican-dominated Legislature last year passed new voting restrictions that prompted Democratic lawmakers to flee to Washington to break quorum in an ultimately futile protest. However, Republican leaders said repeatedly on Saturday that it was the other side that was a threat to fair elections.

“The Democrats wants three things: Their goals are to steal elections, suppress Republican votes and federalize elections,” said Cindy Siegel, the chairperson of the Harris County GOP and a former mayor of Bellaire.

Immigration continued to be a major theme, with delegates lamenting Biden’s reversal of Trump-era border policies. U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington, of Lubbock, described an “unprecedented, unmitigated, self-inflicted disaster that is creating the worst humanitarian and national security threat to the American people in the history of our southern border,” adding, “this is an invasion, folks.”

“President Biden has ceded control of our borders to paramilitary, narco-terrorist cartels,” Arrington told delegates.

The mood of this convention was not hopeful. The themes ran dark, and activists spoke in apocalyptic, even cataclysmic, terms about the state of the country.

“Everything is topsy-turvy. What’s right is wrong and what’s wrong is right,” said state Sen. Donna Campbell, an emergency room doctor in New Braunfels, reflecting a state of uncertainty that is shared by Americans of many political backgrounds, even if they don’t agree on the causes. “Our country is on a trajectory to self-destruct, unless we change the direction.”

Campbell and other activists frequently spoke of their Christian faith.

“I believe that in the sovereignty of God, you and I were purposely born into this moment, into this confusing time that we face,“ Campbell said. “We’re meant to be alive, at this time, right now, and here in this state.”

Disclosure: Rice University and University of Houston have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.


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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/06/18/republican-party-texas-convention-cornyn/.

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Texas GOP lurches to the right at Houston convention: report

Meeting at their first in-person convention since 2018, Texas Republicans on Saturday acted on a raft of resolutions and proposed platform changes to move their party even further to the right. They approved measures declaring that President Joe Biden “was not legitimately elected” and rebuking Sen. John Cornyn for taking part in bipartisan gun talks. They also voted on a platform that declares homosexuality “an abnormal lifestyle choice” and calls for Texas schoolchildren “to learn about the humanity of the preborn child.”

The actions capped a convention that highlighted how adamantly opposed the party’s most active and vocal members are to compromising with Democrats or moderating on social positions, even as the state has grown more diverse and Republicans’ margins in statewide elections have shrunk slightly in recent years.

Votes on the platform were collected at the end of the party's three-day convention in which party activists moved to add multiple items to the official Texas GOP platform. As the convention closed, two separate sets of ballots — one allowing delegates to choose eight of 15 legislative priorities and another allowing delegates to vote on the 275 platform planks — were gathered. Those will now need to be tallied and certified in Austin, but it is rare for a plank to be rejected, according to party spokesperson James Wesolek.

The convention reinforced the extent to which former President Donald J. Trump’s unfounded claims of a stolen election continue to resound among the party faithful — even though his claims have repeatedly been debunked, including by many of his own former aides, and after a week of televised hearings about the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The denunciation of Cornyn represented a remarkable rebuke to a Republican who has served in the Senate since 2002. The hall at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston filled with boos on Friday as he tried to explain the legislation, which would allow juvenile records to be incorporated into background checks for gun buyers younger than 21 and encourage “red flag” laws that would make it easier to remove guns from potentially dangerous people, along with more funding for school safety and mental health.

Meanwhile, the party platform vote on Saturday by roughly 5,100 convention delegates would argue that those under 21 are “most likely to need to defend themselves” and may need to quickly buy guns “in emergencies such as riots.” It also would say that red flag laws violate the due process rights of people who haven’t been convicted of a crime.

About 9,600 delegates and alternates were eligible to attend; organizers said the turnout was healthy.

The new platform would call for:

  • Requiring Texas students “to learn about the humanity of the preborn child,” including teaching that life begins at fertilization and requiring students to listen to live ultrasounds of gestating fetuses.
  • Amending the Texas Constitution to remove the Legislature’s power “to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime.”
  • Treating homosexuality as “an abnormal lifestyle choice,” language that was not included in the 2018 or 2020 party platforms.
  • Deeming gender identity disorder “a genuine and extremely rare metal health condition,” requiring official documents to adhere to “biological gender,” and allowing civil penalties and monetary compensation to “de-transitioners” who have received gender-affirming surgery, which the platform calls a form of medical malpractice.
  • Changing the U.S. Constitution to cement the number of Supreme Court justices at nine and repeal the 16th Amendment of 1913, which created the federal income tax.
  • Ensuring “freedom to travel” by opposing Biden’s Clean Energy Plan and “California-style, anti-driver policies,” including efforts to turn traffic lanes over for use by pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit.
  • Declaring “all businesses and jobs as essential and a fundamental right,” a response to COVID-19 mandates by Texas cities that required customers to wear masks and limited business hours.
  • Abolishing the Federal Reserve, the nation’s central bank, and guaranteeing the right to use alternatives to cash, including cryptocurrencies.

Not every far-right proposal was advanced. The party chair, Matt Rinaldi, ruled that a motion to defend the due process rights of those who rioted at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and to “reject the narrative” that the riot was an insurrection was out of order and could not be voted on.

Taken together, the new provisions would represent a shift even further rightward for the Republican Party of Texas, once known as the party of Presidents George Bush and his son George W. Bush. Land Commissioner George P. Bush, a grandson and nephew of the two presidents, was defeated handily in May in his runoff race against Attorney General Ken Paxton, an arch-conservative who sued to challenge the 2020 election outcome and convinced voters that he was the truer Trump loyalist.

Party platforms are mission statements rather than legal doctrines and, in Texas, they have long reflected the opinions of the most activist wings of the parties. Republican elected officials are not bound to adhere to the platform, and party activists at times have expressed frustration that some parts of their platform and legislative priorities have not become law, despite complete Republican control of the state Legislature.

But the platforms are broad indicators of the sentiments of the most active Republican voters — those who dominate party primaries. Republicans have controlled every statewide elected office in Texas since 1999 and both houses of the Legislature since 2003, so the wishes of the party’s populist, pro-Trump base inevitably affect actions taken in Austin.

“The platform is largely symbolic but important as a measure of ideological drift,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston. “Party platforms are often used as a cudgel in party primaries. A more muscular ideological platform eventually leads to a more conservative legislature as challengers knock off more moderate members.”

The convention was noteworthy for the relatively low profile of top officeholders. Gov. Greg Abbott, who is seeking a third term in the November election, only appeared at a reception on Thursday on the sidelines of the convention. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who effectively controls the state Senate, addressed the convention, but House Speaker Dade Phelan only spoke at a luncheon, not to the main body of delegates.

Tensions within the party at times got personal. Video posted online showed far-right activists physically accosting U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, calling the conservative Republican “eye-patch McCain” over his criticism of Russia. The group included self-identified Proud Boys and Alex Stein, a social media activist from North Texas. A Navy SEAL veteran, Crenshaw lost his right eye to a bomb in Afghanistan.

“A more aggressive party platform sends a clear message to politicians about where the base is going,” Rottinghaus said. “Donald Trump radicalized the party and accelerated the demands from the base. There simply aren’t limits now on what the base might ask for.”

Mark P. Jones, a political scientist at Rice University in Houston, said the 2022 platform indicated how emboldened hard-right party activists now feel — a far cry from 2020. Significant gains by Texas Democrats in state House elections in 2018 raised the prospect of the Republican Party losing its dominant status in Texas, making it moderate its platform in 2020 to focus on bread-and-butter issues. Texas Republicans did well in the 2020 elections — even though Biden won 46.5% of the Texas vote, the highest proportion for a Democrat since 1976 — and this year, culture-war issues were once again at front and center.

Jones said that Republican redistricting has made incumbents safer and less inclined to appeal to moderates. Moreover, inflation, the risk of a recession, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and growing acrimony over race, gender and sexuality make it seem increasingly likely that Democrats will lose the U.S. House in the November midterm elections.

“As a result, the 2022 GOP feels free to veer to the right to its heart’s content, confident that it won’t come back to haunt the party in November, except perhaps in a half dozen races,” Jones said. “And even the party’s pragmatic center right conservatives lack the ability to argue, as they did successfully in 2020, that an ultra conservative platform could cost the GOP its majority status in the Lone Star State. This year, even the absolute worst case scenario has the GOP winning statewide, increasing its number of U.S. House seats, boosting its Texas Senate majority by a seat, and maintaining the 83 seats it held in the 2021 Texas House.”

Before delegates voted on the platform, party activists delivered fiery speeches attacking Democrats.

“They want to destroy the racial progress we have made by saying that we are a racist nation,” said Robin Armstrong, a Black doctor in Texas City who treated COVID patients with unapproved drug therapies touted by Trump, including hydroxychloroquine. “The Democratic Party are now a party of chaos. They benefit from causing us to question the foundations that this country was built upon. The misery, the crime, the drug abuse, the high gas prices are all by design, so that the Democratic Party can permanently transform society. We Texans cannot and we will not allow this to happen.”

The Republican-dominated Legislature last year passed new voting restrictions that prompted Democratic lawmakers to flee to Washington to break quorum in an ultimately futile protest. However, Republican leaders said repeatedly on Saturday that it was the other side that was a threat to fair elections.

“The Democrats wants three things: Their goals are to steal elections, suppress Republican votes and federalize elections,” said Cindy Siegel, the chairperson of the Harris County GOP and a former mayor of Bellaire.

Immigration continued to be a major theme, with delegates lamenting Biden’s reversal of Trump-era border policies. U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington, of Lubbock, described an “unprecedented, unmitigated, self-inflicted disaster that is creating the worst humanitarian and national security threat to the American people in the history of our southern border,” adding, “this is an invasion, folks.”

“President Biden has ceded control of our borders to paramilitary, narco-terrorist cartels,” Arrington told delegates.

The mood of this convention was not hopeful. The themes ran dark, and activists spoke in apocalyptic, even cataclysmic, terms about the state of the country.

“Everything is topsy-turvy. What’s right is wrong and what’s wrong is right,” said state Sen. Donna Campbell, an emergency room doctor in New Braunfels, reflecting a state of uncertainty that is shared by Americans of many political backgrounds, even if they don’t agree on the causes. “Our country is on a trajectory to self-destruct, unless we change the direction.”

Campbell and other activists frequently spoke of their Christian faith.

“I believe that in the sovereignty of God, you and I were purposely born into this moment, into this confusing time that we face,“ Campbell said. “We’re meant to be alive, at this time, right now, and here in this state.”

Disclosure: Rice University and University of Houston have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.