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We’re about to find out if the Texas GOP is merely Trumpist, or outright secessionist.
Allen West, who previously served as a (controversial) Tea Party congressman from Florida and then more recently chaired the Texas Republican Party, announced Sunday that he will run in the 2022 GOP primary against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. “I can no longer sit on the sidelines and see what has happened in these United States of America,” West said in his announcement video.
Whether West wants to remain a part of these United States of America is a question. Earlier this year, he supported a proposal for a non-binding referendum that would let Texas voters weigh in on whether the state should secede. And in December, after the Supreme Court turned away the state’s lawsuit challenging Joe Biden’s election, West suggested it was time for the Lone Star State to leave the union. “Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the Constitution,” he said.
Is Abbott vulnerable? One the one hand, he has just a 44 percent approval rating in a recent poll — then again, that makes him the most popular politician in the state. Abbott has made every effort to shore up his base: He recently led efforts to ban abortion in all but a few cases, withhold funding from cities that defund police, crack down on protesters, and tighten voting restrictions. It seems absurd to think he’s not conservative enough for his party. But some Republicans think he was too heavy handed in battling the pandemic — the governor reluctantly and briefly imposed mask mandates and business restrictions when COVID was raging — and West isn’t the only GOP challenger Abbott has attracted. (Don’t forget, too, that Matthew McConaughey might jump into the race.)
Because of its sheer size and large population, Texas often has outsized influence on what happens in the rest of the United States. The GOP nationally has taken a sharp anti-democratic turn during the Trump years, and Abbott has dutifully followed the trend. If that’s not enough for Texas Republicans — and if Allen West has any success in his campaign — American politics might become more fractious than they already are.