During closing arguments in Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial Friday, Rep. Andrew Murr, who led the House investigation of the attorney general, closed with a compelling Sam Houston quote, apropos given that Houston’s Bible had been used for oath-taking at the start of the trial: “ ‘Do right and risk the consequences.’ Now is your time to do right.”
Too bad most Senate Republicans didn’t. Seventeen of them chose to do otherwise. Just two had the courage to vote for acquittal repeatedly: Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills and Robert Nichols of Jacksonville.
The Senate found Paxton not guilty of 16 articles of impeachment, thanks to an abundance of Republican politicians who act like they are lost — but in truth are heading in the wrong direction entirely. The Texas GOP has become a miniature version of the national MAGA party, choosing fealty to a person over principle, a politician over the party’s traditional values. Instead of Donald Trump, it’s Ken Paxton.
The 17 Republican Senators who voted to acquit deserve no praise for standing up to a “witch hunt” or a “sham” impeachment. They deserve scorn and fury: They no longer represent conservatism or the values that they suggest they do.
Ken Paxton is now more powerful than ever; the clear message is that he and those like him can do practically anything and still retain favor and their positions if backed by the right people. Paxton is backed by the most spineless of people who refuse to stand up to MAGA delusions And the worst of it? They believe themselves full of virtue and righteous indignation. According to them, they showed courage against those other Republicans who attempted a coup d’etat. You know, the deep state kind.
There was no grand conspiracy against Paxton. There were no back-room meetings of disgruntled employees, masking as Cool Kids, conspiring to overthrow an arrogant, mean boss. There was no FBI that hoped to get to Paxton by way of whistleblowers Ryan Bangert, David Maxwell, Blake Brickman and Jeff Mateer. There is just a cocky AG who isn’t upright enough to do his job with integrity and honor but isn’t sloppy enough to get caught red-handed. Lucky for him.
The prosecution could have done better. At times, watching the attorneys call their witnesses and bring up page after page of proof was like watching an all-star football team just barely fall short of the end zone, again and again, in the championship game. Unfortunately for them, there was no smoking gun, no check proving bribery, no backroom recordings describing a quid pro quo, no direct evidence tying the plethora of coincidences together with foolproof evidence that proved Paxton attorney Ken Buzbee’s now-famous line: “There are no coincidences in Austin.”
But any person who listened to the testimonies with an open mind could tie it all together and see that something was seriously wrong. Words like “corruption,” “fraud” and “bribery” carry a lot of weight. And the 17 cowards in the Senate decided they didn’t have it in them to bear the weight of justice.
These Republicans put politics and their own reelection campaigns about truth, justice, and integrity. They put their own personal gain above their constituents, because — last I checked — it’s not in the best interest of the people of Texas to have a power-hungry, crooked lawyer running the attorney general’s office.
It shows that the people who make policy decisions that affect your income, your kids, your work and your freedoms will always put their own interests ahead of yours, and in doing so, they’re forming a new kind of Republican Party.
It is not adherent to the conservative values and policies that made it successful. This Republican Party is suspicious of everyone who tries to speak truth and justice, to uphold what is good and true and right. Instead of listening to those who might help correct it — the Bangerts and Brickmans of the world — they take combine fear and anxiety, imagine conspiracies, assign good intent for malice and accept misdeeds in the name of beating the “deep state.”
Such Republicans in Texas have become a version of what they always said they were fighting against: Democrats who uphold values that serve their interests and surely not liberty. They have remained loyal to and embraced a politician who behaves exactly in the way that makes people loathe politicians. Paxton’s obsessive relationship with developer Nate Paul, the lover, the four different cell phones, the paranoia over the FBI, the misuse of public office — all compelled trusted staffers to become whistleblowers.
The message this sends to everyone is that Republicans in Texas do not revere truth, justice, honor and integrity. That you can purport to be the party of faith and family values while supporting a politician who violates both, and you will keep your job. That as long as officeholders haven’t been blatantly caught red-handed making bribes or being corrupt, they’re welcome in Texas in positions of authority.
The message Republicans send to the whistleblowers — men of honor and integrity — is that they’d rather let them bleed out publicly, than stand by them.
Saturday was a sad day for what conservatism is and should be. It’s an infuriating time for people who want integrity in their leaders. It does not bode well for the future of the Texas Republican Party. In fact, it very much explains how we got to this impeachment in the first place.
“Be men, be free men, that your children may bless their father’s name,” Houston said to his troops before the decisive Battle of San Jacinto. Our children and their children will not look kindly on this modern battle of a trial.
Texas Republicans may be “free,” but they’re held hostage by a worldview that doesn’t serve anyone but themselves. Just like Ken Paxton.
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