Another mass shooting in Texas. Once more, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is, oh, so concerned and sad, as new laws go into effect weakening gun regulation. (“I am heartbroken by the crying of the people of the state of Texas. I am tired of the dying of the people of the state of Texas. Too many Texans are in mourning, too many Texans have lost their lives.”) Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) sent out the standard “thoughts and prayers” statement (“lifting up in prayer all the victims, their families, and the entire Midland-Odessa community”).
And apparently recognizing that contrary the GOP talking point that it is never the right time to have the gun debate, state representative Republican Matt Schaefer posted on Facebook the kind of statement that the vast majority of Americans would find infuriating: “As an elected official with a vote in Austin, let me tell you what I am NOT going to do. I am NOT going to use the evil acts of a handful of people to diminish the God-given rights of my fellow Texans. Period. None of these so-called gun-control solutions will work to stop a person with evil intent.” Overwhelmingly, percentages of Americans disagree and favor measures such as background checks, red-flag laws and assault weapons bans.
The Republican Party of Texas faces a challenge in 2020 that the gun debate only aggravates. An increase in Hispanic voters combined with population growth in major urban centers and suburbia, which now trends blue in Texas and across the United States, could well put Texas in play in the 2020 presidential race and in down-ballot races. Compelling Democratic presidential and Senate candidates certainly could compete with white, male gun-absolutist Republican incumbents, President Trump and Sen. John Cornyn (R).
The Texas blue-wave[ nightmare gained momentum with three Republican retirements in competitive congressional districts. Democrats now are looking for pickups in the Texas’s 22nd (Rep. Pete Olson is departing), 23rd (Rep. Will Hurd is leaving) and 24th (Kenny Marchant is retiring as well).
Republicans’ collapse in the Texas suburbs — which is a major factor in making the state competitive — will only accelerate with its defiant attitude on any gun-safety measure. (Of suburban voters in the recent Quinnipiac national poll, I recently noted, “Among those voters, 96 percent favor background checks, 62 percent favor an assault weapons ban, 82 percent favor red flag laws, and 85 percent support gun licensing.”) Republicans’ intransigence in the face of the state’s second mass shooting in less than a month will only make matters worse for a party struggling to avoid alienating a key component of winning Republican coalitions in the past.
It’s not just guns. Texas Republicans have and other serious problems, such as the party’s inhumane treatment of migrant children and families. In July 2018, a poll on family separation found, “Overall, 28 percent of Texas voters support the practice — 16 percent strongly so — while 57 percent oppose it — 44 percent strongly so.” Here the party’s problem with women voters is stark:
Overall, 64 percent of women voters oppose the separation practice, and 50 percent of the men agree with them. Among Democrats, there’s some accord, with 86 percent of women and 78 percent of men opposing family separations.
On the Republican side, however, the differences are stark — and help explain why so many Republican politicians have shifted their positions since the separations became widely known. While 56 percent of Republican men favor splitting parents and children at illegal entry points on the border and 30 percent oppose it, a plurality of Republican women are against the practice: 37 percent favor it and 42 percent oppose it.
If you wanted a way to put off female suburban voters, you couldn’t be more effective than to take an unyielding, indignant stance in opposition to gun safety and to embrace snatching children from their parents and keeping them in squalid conditions.
Don’t Texas Republicans talk to women? Perhaps not as much as they should. Consider the composition of the Republican Party in Texas — a male governor, lieutenant governor and state attorney general; two male U.S. senators and with the exception of a single member of the House (Kay Granger) all Republican representatives. Texas suburban women, already distressed by the party’s rigid gun and mean-spirited immigration policy, look around and see virtually no women in senior Republican ranks. They might just get the idea the GOP doesn’t represent them or their values.
As I’ve argued, Democrats would be smart to run a woman at the top of the ticket in 2020 with strong suburban appeal. Even in places such as Texas, a woman championing humane immigration policies and reasonable gun safety might be pushing on an empty door in the suburbs. Women are already fleeing the GOP — and the Republican Party’s reaction to gun safety is only going to increase the exodus.