Everything is bigger in Texas, including a radicalized, weaponized, and emboldened GOP’s audacious abuse of power to fuel their culture wars and subvert democracy. If you want to see a sneak preview of the GOP’s national project to maintain white, minority rule then look no further than Texas, the second-most populous state in the nation, that now serves as a trendsetter for Republican state legislatures across the nation. Texas Republicans, led by Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz, are committed to one-upping their colleagues by introducing the most extreme versions of voter suppression, open carry laws, anti-abortion bills, and critical race theory (CRT) bans. Although the state serves as a massive warning for Democrats and the majority of Americans of what will happen when Republicans dominate the state legislature, it also reveals insights into how activists and organizers can creatively resist and advocate for popular, progressive policies. The Lone Star State has become the “laboratory” for GOP politicians and their hard-right agenda, according to Democrat Ben Chou, who is running to be Commissioner of Harris County Precinct 4. “This is all for a national platform for when they go into the Republican primary,” Chou said, predicting Abbott and Cruz are nursing 2024 presidential ambitions and trying to “one-up” their conservative competition, which includes Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida. Like a reality-TV competition from hell, Texas Republicans are showing off their skills. They’re first flexing with voter suppression. “More than 440 bills with provisions that restrict voting access have been introduced in 49 states in the 2021 legislative sessions,” according to the Brennan Center of Justice which tracks the GOP’s voter suppression efforts across the nation. Texas is leading the way. Under the guise of fighting voter fraud, which is almost nonexistent, Texas Republicans passed Senate Bill 1, which restricts the state’s voting process, narrows local control of elections, and implements absurd voting ID requirements that negatively impact Democrats and voters of color. As an example, in diverse and multi-racial Harris County, nearly 16% of the 1,276 absentee ballot applications received for the upcoming primary elections were rejected for failing to meet the new ID requirements. For perspective, in the 2018 Texas primary, only 2.5 percent of 4,800 applications were rejected, according to election officials. Fewer people can vote, which means the bill is working exactly as planned. The Texas GOP is becoming more extreme because they are responding to their radicalized base, says Azra Siddiqui, president of Wise Up Texas, a non-partisan non-profit that empowers and educates Texans of South Asian descent to partake in civic engagement. Take Sen. Cruz’s masochistic groveling before Tucker Carlson’s audience on Fox News, where he backtracked from a previous statement where he correctly referred to the January 6th violent insurrection as a “terrorist attack.” A few days later, Sen. Cruz was born again hard, and he shamelessly peddled Carlson’s “false flag” conspiracy theory at a Senate hearing questioning DOJ officials. As for Gov. Abbott, Siddiqui believes he was pushed further to the right after being primaried by hard-right candidates, such as former Rep. Allen West, whose “far-right primary voters actually show up to the polls for the primary.” As a result, Abbott criticized vaccine and mask mandates and banned any Texas entity, including private employers, from requiring the vaccine. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton followed up by launching lawsuits against President Biden’s federal vaccine orders for the National Guard. In turn, these anti-mask and anti-vaccine regulations have harmed progressive activism, according to Texas Democrat Jen Ramos, State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) committeewoman for Senate District 21. Before the pandemic, she said, “it wasn’t easy for the GOP to push through their bills without pushback.” In previous years, progressive groups and allies were always protesting at the Texas Capitol against GOP bills. More recently, she said progressives were being outnumbered in testimony ten to one because many didn’t feel safe or comfortable going to the Capitol, where even the Texas state troopers didn’t wear masks in the building. Texas serves as a warning for Democrats across the nation to pay particular attention to state legislature races. Currently, both houses in Texas have a Republican majority. As a result, the GOP controls redistricting. “Gerrymandering exists and we’re screwed when it comes to the state legislature. We’re not going to win a majority there any time soon,” Chou said. “The GOP essentially has never advocated for a fair and representative democracy,” Ramos told me. However, with Republicans’ consolidation of power, Ramos says their new position is, basically, “We don't have repercussions anymore, so we're just going to run for it.” That incl . . . read the full article here.