Two fulcrums of tension so far at the 2016 Republican Party of Texas convention: how much the far-right GOP loathes the “establishment” GOP, and how much the entire GOP loathes Democrats. A, er, joke on the convention big-screen earlier: “Q. Why should Democrats be buried 100 feet deep? A. Because deep down they’re really good people.” Death! It’s hilarious.
Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick were the big names on stage during the general session this morning. You can think of the general session hall as a sort of twangy disco-casino, too dark and filled with flashing colored lights to really know where you are or what time it is, how much money you’ve spent, or how to identify the closest exit.
The general vibe: Ted Cruz is great, and there’s a national presidential race happening between Hillary Clinton, who is awful, and … another person.
The part of Abbott’s speech that will stick with me was this line, a resigned utterance in between trying to sell copies of his book, calling for a constitutional convention, and railing against Planned Parenthood: “We need to come to grips with reality.”
It’s the perfect encapsulation of the current tension in the party: how do you steer a ship that’s veering wildly out of control … on purpose?
After Patrick spoke — the first guy on stage at the convention to utter the name “Trump” — it became clear that the Texas GOP is making a play at having it all: plowing forward behind Trump for “unity’s” sake, while focusing, at the local and state level, on useless, hateful “bathroom” bills, dangerous (and unconstitutional, and therefore costly) anti-abortion laws, malicious meddling in the business of local politics and hapless flailing against Obamacare.
San Antonio state Representative Joe Straus, the Texas House speaker who is hated passionately by the GOP’s tea party contingent, didn’t speak at the general session this morning. He just sauntered on stage to wave at the crowd. It’s unclear from the speaker schedule if he was really supposed to talk, but the fact that Straus is frequently derided as a Republican-in-name-only who blocks vital conservative legislation means the convention was, at least at first, missing a vital centrist GOP voice.
Keep an eye on our live updates page for more: interviews with Trump supporters, theological takes on conventional wisdom from our own Dr. David Brockman, LGBTQ updates from John Wright and hot, hot political takes from Chris Hooks.