President Donald Trump and his many enablers in elected office have taken the next big step after months of peddling fabricated and discredited claims of election fraud. A new phase of the great delusion unfolded Wednesday on the Texas-Mexico border, where Trump was welcomed by the Texas leadership as if he were still president.
There was the former president, fresh from Mar-a-Lago, landing in his Trump-branded jet to much fanfare at a Rio Grande Valley airport, with Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on hand to welcome and salute Trump as if he were still commander-in-chief. Neither state official made time for Vice President Kamala Harris when she visited the border at El Paso last week.
Abbott, of course, recently exercised his own presidential-like authority and declared his intention to finish Trump’s border wall with unspecified state funds. In May he declared a state of emergency in 34 border counties affected by the cyclical surges in immigration, an order that enables him to shift funds to his sudden urge to build a border wall. One-third of the counties, including those in the Rio Grande Valley, were removed from the emergency order after local officials rejected Abbott’s scare-mongering.
Still, the show must go on, and Wednesday it did. Of course, no such state of emergency was declared by Abbott when Trump was in the White House and tens of thousands of Central Americans surged to the border. Now that Democrat Joe Biden is president, such a declaration plays well to the Republican base. That said, the meager $495,000 in private donations that have trickled in for Abbott’s wall suggests he will be hard-pressed to finance his grandiose vision, with wall construction costing anywhere from $26 million to $46 million a mile.
A couple of miles at that rate and Abbott will have exceeded the $94.6 million in federal stimulus funds he just allocated to higher ed in Texas. No matter. An unbuilt wall can later be blamed on Democrats and locals. The emergency declaration makes for great political theater. To emphasize how dire things are, Abbott and Patrick dressed up like game wardens for their press conference alongside Trump. One almost expected them to leap from Border Patrol SUVs to apprehend a few scattered women and children.
The highlights of Wednesday’s events: A Trump-Abbott-Patrick photo op at the unfinished border wall, a security briefing with local and state authorities, and later in the day a planned appearance by Trump and Abbott on “The Sean Hannity Show” on Fox News.
This Trump-Abbott-Patrick carnival was political propaganda masquerading as government in 21st-century Texas, a significant escalation of the Republican Party’s autocratic chokehold on the state’s agenda. The singular goal now is to play to the party’s base. Governing for the good of all citizens is an unapologetically abandoned value.
Scaleworks founder and Partner Lew Moorman, the longtime former president of Rackspace and a founding board member of the Rivard Report, writes a thoughtful, always provocative blog titled Movements Start Small. You can sign up for his newsletter here. Meanwhile, please read his latest offering, headlined The Persistence of Partisan Extremism.
Any pretense that the Republican state elected leaders represent 29 million Texans was further erased after Abbott signed into law various measures opposed by the majority of Texans yet favored by Republican primary voters. Read Ross Ramsey’s analysis in the Texas Tribune.
As state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer tweeted Wednesday, the border show unfolded even as Texas once again turned its back on billions of dollars in federal Medicaid funding to remain the state with the most uninsured residents in the country. As the season’s first heat wave tested the reliability of the state’s energy grid, local and utility officials are left to wrestle with the reality that Texas is no better prepared for the next weather emergency than it was for the one in February.
The partisan bias that has now openly replaced traditional governance in Texas extends even to a lack of recognition of the legitimacy of Biden’s presidency and perpetuation of the big lie that Trump was somehow cheated out of a second term when, in fact, voters decided otherwise.
Texans who want to move past the Trump election lies and his supporting mob’s storming of the U.S. Capitol, and who find themselves increasingly out of step with Abbott and Patrick, should gird themselves for the July 8 special legislative session when lawmakers will renew their efforts to pass a voter suppression law. For those readers who have challenged that wording and say the intent is a voter integrity bill, I’ll address your challenge Sunday.