Gov. Greg Abbott’s silence on the siege of the U.S. Capitol is shameful and weak. Sen. Ted Cruz, Congressman Louie Gohmert, indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton and state Party Chair Allen West all played prominent roles in pushing unsubstantiated claims of election fraud that intentionally riled up President Trump’s truest believers to a deadly pitch. Abbott should call out those who are complicit, and try to deescalate tensions because as the Texas legislature begins session this week there are valid concerns about the safety of staff, members and guests at the state Capitol in Austin. The initial plots in Washington were planned out in the open and the same is happening for future events to disrupt the inauguration and statehouses. These are the moments when real leadership shows itself and right now Abbott’s is hiding amongst the noise.
Since Jan 5th Abbott has tweeted about the Georgia runoffs and Twitter censoring conservatives but not a character about the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol or the officer who lost his life in the line of duty there. It appears he deleted a retweet about “LAW & ORDER” after the Texas Signal called him out for his deafening silence after the violent attack against Capitol law enforcement. It was only a couple of months ago that he organized a press conference to sign an oversized printout of his “Back the Blue” pledge. Saturday was National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, a fact not missed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick but seems to have alluded Gov. Abbott.
Multiple hashtags have trended on Twitter calling for Ted Cruz to resign after he led an attempt to overturn the election results. The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express News editorial boards have also called for his resignation and removal. The Chronicle wrote that Cruz deserved “special condemnation” because he “should damn well know better.” The Express News wrote that Cruz, “must be expelled from the Senate” and “held accountable for his efforts to undermine the presidential election.” And yet Abbott has remained AWOL from the conversation to either defend or condemn Cruz’s role in the lead up.
The governor has been mum on Attorney General Ken Paxton’s role in propping up Trump and Cruz’s entire scheme with baseless legal arguments. After the attack Paxton immediately but falsely claimed the rioters were not Trump supporters. This was promptly debunked by the FBI who also happen to be investigating Paxton on unrelated accusations of abuse of office, which in turn are unrelated to his current indictment on federal securities fraud. There have been widespread and bipartisan calls for Paxton to resign over his previous legal challenges and more after his latest antics but not Gov Abbott.
Gov. Abbott is also yet to call out Louie Gohmert for his role in the U.S. House spreading disinformation and false hope and suing the vice president in an attempt to overturn the election results. Abbott has been speechless on state GOP Chair Allen West who gave the party it’s new QAnon inspired motto “We are the Storm.” Many of the people who filmed themselves were recorded saying they were, “storming the Capitol” and on the same day of the siege the Texas GOP fired its Sergeant at Arms for, “fomenting insurrection at U.S. Capitol.” In a recent address West wrote, “Americans will be watching on January 6th — this Wednesday — for those who will stand in opposition and say to the deviants who seek to undermine our national election: “Come and Take It!” He ended with, “Hold Texas, Hold the Nation . . . Victory or Death!” Still, Abbott refuses to expend political capital to confront the dangerous voices in his party. He knows he has encouraged the “Don’t Tread on Me” confederate fantasists that are proud to let you know that the 2nd Amendment is about protecting one’s self from the government and not hunting or home security. Abbott can’t escape his guilt in fueling conspiracies like Jade Helm that pit self-described patriots against the U.S. military.
Abbott and the GOP’s consistent flirting with secessionist-type rhetoric has encouraged the type of actions and sense of entitlement to commit acts of sedition without consequence. How else do you explain people “storming the Capitol” building unmasked and bragging about it on social media? Like Former Midland mayoral candidate Jenny Cudd who said,
“All we need is one public hanging, and then people will start acting right — kind of like it would be useful if we still had the firing squad for the death penalty…We shall see if there will be a public hanging in our future because it is still considered a valid form of death for treason.”
Or the Dallas area radio host who posted a picture next to a broken window with the caption, “Window at the capital. And if the news doesn’t stop lying about us we’re going to come after their studios next.” Or the Texas-based man who broke into the Senate Chamber in full tactical gear in one of the most iconic pictures of the entire fiasco.
Since the Election College certification there have been right wing threats at state capitols all over the country. In Georgia, the Secretary of State had to be removed for his safety and in Utah the Capitol had to be evacuated. In Arkansas they showed up with automatic weapons and riot gear, and all across the nation security in the seats of state government have been on high alert or whisked into action.
“We are seeing … chatter from these white supremacists, from these far-right extremists — they feel emboldened in this moment,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks and counters hate. “We fully expect that this violence could actually get worse before it gets better.”
It has been reported that President Trump will visit Texas this week to discuss the border wall and visit the city of Alamo. Gov. Abbott must show leadership and not just seek another photo op on the tarmac. He needs to make it clear that he understands the gravity of the moment and not allow President Trump to continue his baseless lies that have put everything America stands for at risk. If Abbott can’t speak truth to power then he hasn’t earned the privilege to retain any himself.
Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
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.