The fundraising letter from Governor Abbott sent out as a young man, fueled by white nationalist ideology and the “great replacement” theory, was gunning down back to school shoppers at an El Paso Walmart, was pretty direct in its message.
Dated Aug. 2, the day before the massacre, the letter began: “If we’re going to DEFEND Texas, we’ll need to take matters into our own hands.”
“Unless you and I want liberals to succeed in their plan to transform Texas — and our entire country — through illegal immigration, this is a message we MUST send,” the letter states.
Well, somebody did take matters into his own hands, and so people “transforming Texas” by buying some notebooks and pens and new sneakers for their kids wound up dead on the floor of a superstore. Local GOP reaction to this is predictably defensive and clueless.
Texas Republican analyst Adryana Aldeen, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, agreed. She said she’s known Abbott for years; he’s married to a Latina; and she sees him as one of the most respected leaders in Texas.
“This is a regular fundraising letter that is focusing on defending Texas because that’s the message of the governor,” Aldeen said, who blamed Democrats for failing to come to the table on immigration reform.
First, let’s be clear: the ethnicity of Abbott’s wife is absolutely beside the point. I’m sure that in his personal life, Abbott is perfectly nice to Latinx people around him. This isn’t about the people he knows. It’s not even about the Latinx people he doesn’t know, who haven’t gotten themselves a position as a “Republican analyst”; they are, quite literally, beside the point. As in, expendable, not worth consideration. That some of them are shot dead in a burst of horrific violence doesn’t seem to even make the governor or Ms. Aldeen miss a beat. There is, after all, a price to be paid for political power and people like Ms. Aldeen seem happy for someone else to pay it, and to spin madly to make it seem reasonable.
Nobody is trying to draw a direct line of causality between a dumb fundraising letter designed to whip a bunch of people into a frenzy and make them vote for Republicans out of fear. We know better. The point is that if when you have the dominant political party in the state using this kind of rhetoric, they are contributing to a climate of fear and paranoia, and in a climate of fear and paranoia some people are going to act out in very violent ways.
That may not make Governor Abbott (and Ms. Aldeen and her calculated stupidity directly responsible for what happened in El Paso. It does make their political movement responsible for the atmosphere they are creating in Texas.
If Abbott and Aldeen (and John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and Dan Patrick and the whole misbegotten lot of them) don’t stop for minute and think about whether they are in some indirect way complicit in this, then they are so lacking in self-awareness and the capacity for reflection that they aren’t fit for their public roles, or frankly for any kind of responsibility in civic life.
And surprise; they’re not.
So let’s not play their stupid game. Let’s not say “El Paso happened because of Governor Abbott,” because we can’t really draw that kind of direct line between events.
But perhaps we can settle on “Governor Abbott is working to create a culture of fear and paranoia in Texas that is going to drive some people to violent, barbaric acts” and hold him and his peers accountable for that. (Along with the bad policy, lack of leadership, lack of personal accountability, shady dealing, and everything else his time as governor has given us.)
And most of all, we should remember this and make Texas great again by the time-honored American method: vote the assholes out.