Take the esteemed governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, who is somehow seen as more moderate than Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick despite arguably favoring more destructive policies for Texas. After having a level of input in last year’s legislative session that was, in the parlance of Texas Monthly, “indistinguishable from that of…tables and chairs,” Abbott called a special session featuring a grab-bag of extreme, vindictive, petty and sometimes just plain dumb ideas. Patrick’s Senate passed them all expeditiously. House Speaker Joe Straus’s chamber, put simply, did not.
So Abbott warned he would be keeping two lists of Republican lawmakers—like Santa Claus. And those on the Naughty List could expect some type of gubernatorial retribution. After all this hemming and hawing, it appears the main result of these threats is Abbott endorsing primary challengers to two incumbent Republican legislators: Reps. Sarah Davis and Wayne Faircloth.
Davis should be a familiar name. She is my local legislator from Houston, and has been the subject of my ire in columns about Campus Carry and the Show Me Your Papers law, both of which she supports. But, keeping positively with her centrist constituents, Davis is pro-choice, anti-Bathroom Bill and the single most moderate Republican in the entire legislature. She also asked Abbott to add ethics reform to his drink-from-the-firehose special session. Abbott has a long and storied history of appointing donors— 29 percent of all appointees— to state offices; the idea tremendously miffed him. Faircloth’s great sin appears to be supporting Davis’s efforts.
In what would be Abbott’s basis for a dishonest attack, Davis also introduced a bill to reverse austere and draconian cuts to services for disabled children. The bill paid for the services from the Rainy Day Fund. But Rep. Matt Krause, a far-right member of the House Freedom Caucus, proposed an amendment to the bill that would have paid for some of the services with disaster relief funds. Davis firmly stood against the amendment, which was adopted anyway. (The bill later died.)
Enter Greg Abbott’s primary crusade. At a recent fundraiser for Davis’s primary opponent, Abbott repeatedly and viciously slandered that Davis wanted to divert money out of Hurricane Harvey relief funds. The grand irony, of course, is that the idea stemmed from Abbott’s new buddy-buddies, the Freedom Caucus, a group that would likely welcome Davis’s primary opponents to their ranks if elected. Abbott stated Davis supported the very thing she opposed and that his allies supported in the first place.
But again, the lying is not new. Our muted response to it, in this post-fact, post-reason dystopia in which we have now found ourselves on account of national politics, is.
The press writ large, nonpartisan institutions and business community have all failed to adequately sanction Abbott, just as they did and do with Trump. There is video that directly and completely contradicts Abbott’s statements regarding Davis and the Rainy Day Fund. He lied.
He lied. The only way to make it clear is to repeat it. The governor lied in order to attack a sitting legislator of his own party about a piece of her legislation.
Abbott is likely to face absolutely no consequence for lying and then doubling down, and then tripling down. We ought to all take a deep, sober look at what that means about our fellow Texans and the type of state in which we all live.
Horwitz is a second-year law student from Houston. He is a senior columnist.