The Republican Party of Texas was just one of the hosts of a “Free Texas” rally to protest mask mandates and the continuing partial lockdown issued by Governor Greg Abbott’s executive orders. The effort is just the latest flare up of turmoil within the Texas Republican Party that now includes an alleged bribery scandal involving already indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Saturday’s event which aimed to take on “King Abbott” was held the same day that President Trump was taken to Water Reed after complications from contracting COVID-19. Irony was lost on the crowd as the hashtag “#GOPSuperSpreaders” trended nationally on Twitter following numerous White House officials and GOP allies testing positive for the virus after attending an event without masks.
Among those listed as attendees of the rally were Texas GOP Chair Allen West, Republican Senator Bob Hall, Ag. Commissioner Sid Miller, State Rep. Steve Toth, conservative agitator Michael Quinn Sullivan and several former elected officials. Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard which helped to promote the event to its “grassroots” conservative audience.
The demonstrators were a hodgepodge of armed militiamen in full Call of Duty gear, anti-vaxxers, truthers and the opportunistic politicians that have invited both InfoWars and QAnon types into the fold of the Party. Under the new leadership of Chairman West Texas Republicans have adopted the slogan “we are the storm.” Their online store sells merch with the words blazoned across hats, t-shirts and polos. When the New York Times wrote a story about the Texas GOP’s use of the term connected to QAnonymous, the Party issued a statement saying it was “sloppy journalism” and that a “perusal of Chairman @AllenWest‘s social media would show the provenance of the quote.” If you take them up on perusing you’ll find Chairman West tweeted the quote on July 6th and the author is…”Anonymous.” *insert facepalm emoji*
Abhi Rahman, a spokesman for Texas Democratic Party, said the motto is evidence that “The Republican Party is being led by an internet cult that believes in dangerous, extreme far-right conspiracy theories.” That truth would be evident to anyone in earshot of the rally that was staged at the South Steps of the Capitol.
The fight to open the state without a mask mandate is a fight to recreate the same circumstances that led to the GOP super spreader event that tweeters dubbed the “Rose Garden Massacre”. Democrats and Trump’s CDC Director agree that the only way we’ll open the economy and return to any sense of normalcy is to wear masks, social distance and keep washing your hands. The Governor’s choice between QAnon conspiracies and CDC recommendations is a choice between Trumpism and what’s best for Texas. Fortunately, we also have a choice to vote for Democrats down the ballot on Nov. 3rd. It may be the closest thing we see to a vaccine in 2020.
Photo: Gary Miller/Getty Images
Joe Deshotel is originally from Beaumont, Texas, but a combination of live music, politics, and natural beauty brought him to Austin in 2010. He has over a decade of experience in public policy that covers federal, state, and local government and has worked on a number of successful election campaigns. He continues to consult on Democratic campaigns and serves as the Chair of Austin’s Community Development Commission which advocates for affordable housing and solutions for homelessness.