Armed Fascists March at Texas State Capitol, Austin
Many fascist eyes are on Texas right now. 2017 has been a year of legislative victories for Texas Republicans, which has long been a party of Christian Fascist fundamentalists and white supremacists. Threatened by increasing diversity, especially in the state’s rapidly growing urban areas, an influx of liberals from California and other states, and constant resistance from various forces to the implementation of their fascist agenda, Texas Republicans have been on the offensive to legislate their brand of white Christian fundamentalism against immigrants, women, and LGBT people for years. They have made big advances through the years, but the implementation of their program has not gone as smoothly as they would like.
Then came Donald Trump and the inauguration of the Trump-Pence regime. With that, the Texas fascists seized an opportunity to go on the offensive and gain new momentum. A version of SB4 – a law to ban sanctuary cities in Texas – had failed in every legislative session since 2011, but was finally signed into law this May, and is scheduled to to into effect in September.
In 2013, under the Obama presidency, the Texas legislature passed a major law against abortion rights that was largely overturned by the Supreme Court in 2016. This year, it succeeded in passing SB8, which requires the burial or cremation of fetal remains and effectively bans second trimester abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. Now it has put more restrictions on abortion, birth control, and women’s healthcare on the agenda for the current month-long special session. With Christian Fascist Neil Gorsuch now embedded on the Supreme Court, and Trump’s further attacks on judges, and his promises to stack federal courts with conservatives, there is a strong likelihood that the new, brutal anti-abortion measures will be upheld by the courts.
And last week, despite hours of testimony and widespread opposition, SB6 – the notorious “bathroom bill”- passed through the state Senate almost unanimously. SB6 requires transgender people to use the bathroom of their birth gender in government buildings. It was introduced by state senator Lois Kolkhorst, who said, “I think the God I believe in, the cross I wear today, said there was man and woman.” Texas Republicans want the passage of this bill to be a model for other states that are considering similar legislation, though it’s worth noting that the bill had to be revised to appease business leaders worried about the loss of business from a backlash or boycott. Now, even some government buildings, such as stadiums and convention centers, will be exempt if they are privately leased.
All of this has not come down without resistance. Many of the items on Governor Greg Abbott’s and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s fascist wish list did not pass in the regular session. They called for a special session, which is happening now, to plow through 20 items in 30 days, including the bathroom bill, more slashing of Planned Parenthood’s ability to deliver any kind of health care to women, school vouchers that will intensify segregation, and more. Every day there have been testimonies, rallies, and other actions at or near the Capitol, staged by a diverse array of groups and individuals.
Refuse Fascism has been out there with them. On Wednesday, July 26th, in the wake of SB4, threats to Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA), and the horrible deaths of 10 migrants who suffocated in a truck crammed with human “cargo” brought over the border, an organization called Movimiento Cosecha organized a force of about 50 young people from all over the U.S. to converge on the “battleground state” of Texas to protest. With two large banners that said, “Permanent Protection, Dignity, and Respect,” and “#OutragedandUnafraid,” they blocked traffic for about twenty minutes before 15 of them were arrested. This willingness of undocumented youth and allies to disrupt business as usual and put their lives on the line is heroic, and needs to be emulated.
At the same time, the Texas fascists want to play a larger role by providing a model for fascists in other states. At the end of June, the Texas Attorney General Paxton initiated a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding that the Department of Justice rescind DACA or face a lawsuit. This letter was co-signed by attorney generals from Arkansas, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia, as well as the governor of Idaho. In his letter, Paxton commended the Trump administration for rescinding Deferred action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), using that as the legal precedent for rescinding DACA. By July 12th, the Homeland Security Secretary (now the White House Chief of Staff) John Kelly said DACA will probably be found to be legally unsustainable. The threats against DACA affect the lives and futures of 1.9 million people.
Meanwhile, a group calling themselves the Texas Freedom Force is gathering shock troops on the ground, showing up with weapons at protests to intimidate and silence the opposition. Their next action is to “defend” a confederate monument in San Antonio on August 12th. They have called on “Texans & out of state Confederate Supporters … to pack Travis Park and send a clear message to San Antonio City Council that we will not stand idly by and watch as they try to remove a piece of Texas History & a monument that honors our confederate veterans that gave their all fighting for a cause they believed in. …As Robert E. Lee once said, ‘The enemy never sees the backs of my Texans.’”
What all of this illustrates is the symbiotic relationship between the fascist Trump-Pence regime and the fascists on the state level. In Texas, the fascist movement that contributed to the ascendancy of Donald Trump has been building for years and perhaps had more traction here than in other states. Yet they were not able to advance key parts of their agenda without Trump and Pence in the highest levels of government. No doubt the Trump-Pence regime is counting on Texas, as a reactionary border state, to enact and enforce their most vicious attacks on immigrants, women, LGBTQ people, and all those they deem to be internal enemies and outsiders. The Trump-Pence regime needs victories here in Texas, just as the state-level fascists need this administration to consolidate its power at the federal level. It is a mutually reinforcing relationship.
A recent article in the New Yorker warns, “The Future is Texas: The State is Increasingly Diverse, but Right-Wing Zealots are Taking Over.” But those of us who are organizing for Refuse Fascism here in Texas say the future is not written, for this state or the country. For the future of humanity and the planet, we, in our millions right here in Texas, can and must be a model of opposition and resistance, driving out the Trump-Pence fascist regime and taking down the Texas fascists with it.