In a recent column for the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin suggests that Texas Republicans may be doing something Democrats have been unable to do: they may be turning the Lone Star State blue.
Rubin says the GOP has alienated so many voters outside its hardcore base, it has put the state in play in 2022, when the state will elect a governor in addition to the usual congressional and local contests.
A new Quinnipiac poll suggests Republicans’ radicalism has put them at odds with a majority of Texas voters. In the wake of the Texas law offering bounties to “turn in” those seeking an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest, the poll reports that 77 percent of state residents say abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest, including 66 percent of Republicans. Some 72 percent of Texans do not want the law enforced, and 60 percent want to keep Roe v. Wade in place.
Even on a quintessentially Texan issue such as guns, voters are not in sync with MAGA politicians. The pollsters found: “Roughly two-thirds (67 percent) of voters, including 58 percent of gun owners, say allowing anyone 21 years of age or older to carry handguns without a license or training makes Texas less safe, while 26 percent say it makes Texas safer. Half of voters (50 percent) say it’s too easy to carry a handgun in Texas, while 44 percent say it’s about right, and 4 percent say it’s too difficult.”
When it comes to the GOP’s incomprehensible posturing on the pandemic, the results are equally negative for Abbott and his hard-core supporters in the state legislature: polling shows that Texas voters are much closer to the positions taken by President Biden than to Abbott. Texans opine 47 – 38 percent that Abbott is hurting rather than helping efforts to slow the spread of COVID–and majorities support vaccine mandates.
Those numbers evidently persuaded Matthew Dowd, who was a former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, to run for lieutenant governor–as a Democrat.
Dowd is betting that Texans want something other than pandering to the MAGA base. “The Texas Republican politicians are completely out of step with Texas values like integrity and community and no longer govern with common sense, common decency or for the common good,” he told me on Saturday. “They put their ‘me’ over our ‘we.’ ”
If Rubin is right–if Democrats can win Texas despite the frantic gerrymandering and the various efforts to make it harder for urban and suburban voters to cast a ballot, we may finally be seeing the results of a political strategy that has always seemed short-sighted to me: relying almost entirely on turning out the GOP base.
In order to “motivate” that increasingly rabid base, the GOP has increased its appeals to racism, conspiracy theories and general fear-mongering. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who claim the Republican label continues to shrink. Earlier this year, Gallup reported that–even when they included independents who “lean toward the GOP,” they could come up with only 40%, compared with 49% of Democrats and independents leaning Democratic.
It’s worth noting, too, that not all of those Republicans and Republican “leaners” are part of the base. I personally know a number of people who still claim the label, but report being repelled by the current iteration of a party that is anything but the adult, conservative political party they originally joined.
The problem with relying on a shrinking base is similar to the problem faced by drug addicts: you need bigger “hits” to produce the same high. But the crazier and meaner the party gets, the greater the number of voters it turns off.
I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but there does seem to be evidence that we’ve rounded a corner–that the GOP’s manifest preference for acting out over governing has finally gone too far for the majority of citizens who will find their way to the polls in upcoming elections.
Whatever their policy differences, Democrats, Independents and the few remaining sane Republicans can all come together under that well-worn slogan: It’s time for a change.