The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Texas drives our red-blue divide even wider

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick poses for photos with supporters during the first day of the Republican Party of Texas convention on June 15 in Houston. (Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle via AP)
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Enlightened South Carolinians (yes, there are a few of us) have been known to say, “Thank God for Mississippi,” meaning, At least, we’re not THAT bad.

We can now add Texas to the worse-than-us list, thanks to the state’s 2022 Republican platform, which isn’t only radical but fundamentally dishonest. South Carolina may rank near the bottom in K-12 education, but Texas Republicans are making this first-to-secede Confederate state seem like an oasis of intellectual rigor.

Among the platform’s guiding proclamations and assertions: President Biden is only an “acting” president because he didn’t really win; homosexuality is an “abnormal lifestyle choice”; Texas should hold a referendum on seceding from the union, an idea that even South Carolina has abandoned; the Voting Rights Act of 1965 should be repealed; and, a perennial favorite, the United States should leave the United Nations.

Although Texas Republicans have flirted with secession before, this year’s platform is next-level reprehensible because its justification is attached to the “big lie” that Donald Trump really won the 2020 presidential election. This is absurd, even if a significant percentage of the Trump base believes it. Several centuries ago, most people on the planet believed the Earth was flat. Facts eventually forced (most) flat-earthers to accept reality. Not so for Trump’s true believers, who only trust facts that affirm their beliefs. Such excessive credulity is otherwise known as superstition.

Perry Bacon Jr.: How the GOP is making national policy one state at a time

Fact: Trump and his allies filed more than 60 lawsuits challenging the election results. They got nowhere. Does this mean nothing? Ronald Reagan, Antonin Scalia — and Jesus Christ himself — could form a Trinity of Truth declaring that Biden was the duly elected president of the United States and still a significant percentage of the GOP base would dismiss them as fake prophets.

Sadly, for the republic, the Lone Star State isn’t alone in its overzealous aspirations.

As my Post colleague Perry Bacon Jr. pointed out in a deeply researched column Monday, a huge swath of middle America is turning bright red, state by state. This is thanks to strategic efforts by the Republican Party to fund and install Republican governors, attorneys general and legislators to take total control of state governments across the country.

The result is that Republicans dominate government in 25 states, including most of the South. This still leaves half the country purple or blue, of course — basically the West, New England, the Great Lakes states and Hawaii. We’re long accustomed to red and blue states, but graphics accompanying Bacon’s piece starkly illustrate that the country now contains a sort of philosophical nation-within-a-nation in “flyover country.”

Depending upon one’s perspective, either conservatives are surrounded by bleeding-heart liberals. Or liberals are in danger of being choked off from the nation’s food supply.

Dana Milbank: Texas Republicans want to secede? Good riddance.

In Red America, Republicans have created a conservative legal infrastructure across all branches of state government that insulates them from the (currently) Democratic federal government. A secessionist’s dream come true! In the past year, Republican-governed states have passed laws on such hot-button issues as guns, the teaching of race and identity, and school voucher programs. If Roe v. Wade is reversed this month, many are poised to ban or severely limit abortion access.

I’d note: Not everything Republicans propose is objectionable — vouchers tend to benefit disadvantaged children, for instance. And the advent of Trump and the ceaseless rightward direction of the GOP couldn’t have happened without Democrats’ help. Liberals simply have failed to understand that tens of millions of Americans aren’t interested in a woke reinvention of the country. They don’t think that abortion on demand is tolerable. They don’t want to see women’s sports tip inexorably toward athletes advantaged by having gone through male puberty.

What did they expect?

Now, alas, the country seems bound for a seismic split. As Bacon wrote, many of us now live in states that increasingly don’t align with our core convictions. Some won’t want to live in a state where a woman can choose to abort an unborn child; others are not going to tolerate a home state where gay people are considered to have chosen their “lifestyle.”

With this boundary-pushing platform, the Texas GOP appears intent on hammering a splitter into our red-blue divide. Unfounded “beliefs” that become law can become unpleasantly consequential, to say the least, and so the distance between us widens. More violence is almost a certainty in the absence of shared purpose.

I’d like to think that our divisions can be bridged through constructive debate and the electoral process, but I’m not optimistic. In light of recent attacks on pregnancy counseling centers and churches, combined with the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, my fear is that our country is girding for battle.

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