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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Sanity lacking in Texas

by John Brummett | June 21, 2022 at 4:28 a.m.


Did you hear about the Republican U.S. senator from Texas who has an A-plus from the National Rifle Association and got booed Friday at the Texas Republican State Convention?

He'd been caught working with Democrats.

It just goes to show that the Republican Party has become infested by right-wing extremists who are mostly to blame for the dysfunction of American politics.

You're saying, hey, the Democrats contain extremists, too, with all that police-defunding, culture-canceling illiberalism.

And I'm saying those people are bad and I have said so to the point that "progressives" berate me these days with glee equal to that of right-wingers. But the nuts on the Democratic side are not yet as destructive to simple compromise, collaboration and incremental advancement as the nuts on the Republican side.

To reiterate: Insurrection does not excuse intolerance, illiberalism and ineptitude, but is worse.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the solid Republican with that perfect NRA grade who is second to Mitch McConnell in Senate GOP caucus leadership, got brought up to speak at his state party's annual convention. Part of the purpose was for him to report on the now-more-tentative-than-ever framework for compromise on post-Uvalde issues that he led nine other Republican senators in working up with 10 Democrats.

He got widely booed throughout his remarks.

Let's review how it came to be that Cornyn got crossways with the kook base of his home-state party.

Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who seems to enjoy irritating her left flank by working with Republicans, got off the phone after getting a report about the Uvalde horror. She burst on to the Senate floor and ran into McConnell. She asked him who in his caucus she could see about bipartisan gun talks. McConnell referred her to Cornyn.

Twenty senators equally divided came up with something tamely incremental. They celebrated it for a few days until its unraveling appeared likely because of people such as the Texas Republican convention-goers.

The components of that decidedly cautious compromise are money for mental health and school security, more investigative authority to consider juvenile records on gun sales, closing the boyfriend loophole that lets a girlfriend-battering boyfriend get a gun though a wife-battering husband can't, and deferring to the state on red-flag laws but providing federal grants for implementation for states choosing them.

Nineteen states have red-flag laws already. The rest currently hold that a person holding a gun to his or another's head has the same Second Amendment right as the rest of us.

No one's gun would be threatened by the Senate compromise except a battering boyfriend's. That's unless additional states decided on their own for red-flag laws allowing a person believed to be a threat to himself or others to be removed of his or her gun based on evidence presented in court.

A Republican operative was saying on social media over the weekend that you dare not engage in any incrementalism on such things with Democrats because they'll end up taking all your guns for sure.

I replied that that was utter nonsense. You can seek to take, in court, one threatening person's gun without wanting to take everyone's sporting or self-protective weapon.

The Republican operative came back to say, yeah, well, if you let a state do a red-flag law, then a wife abuser would gaslight his wife--making her out to be nuts--to the point that she would have her gun taken from her, thus losing her only means of protecting herself from him.

That's a boldly creative scenario. Most likely, red-flag laws would work much like restraining orders, which women often get in court against abusers. I suspect that a red-flag hearing's threat to continued gun possession would exist more for the batterer than the battered.

Here's another problem the right-wing extremists have with this Senate agreement: They don't like closing the boyfriend loophole. They think a boyfriend who beats up a girlfriend shouldn't lose his gun unless she marries him.

It's all a version of insane, including the Texas Republicans' resolution calling Joe Biden the illegitimately proclaimed winner of the presidential race of 2020.

These folks also passed a resolution condemning homosexuality. And they denied a booth to the Fort Worth chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, who represent gay and lesbian Republicans.

A spokesman for the Log Cabin Republicans said he regretted that a small group of people controlled the party. He vowed to be back next year seeking a booth and hoping for broader-based state party leadership.

A gay Texan would really have to want tax cuts and hate teaching history in school to stay in a party that treats him that way.

So, to be clear: The problem is not that kooks took over the Texas Republican Convention last week. It's that the outnumbering sane Republicans who exist--I just know it--weren't there.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.



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