The Dallas Morning News

This is a Bad Move, Texas GOP

Censuring member of Congress over gun safety, same-sex marriage is intolerant, shortsight­ed


The Republican Party in Texas demonstrat­ed again this past weekend that it prefers to operate in a private echo chamber instead of an inclusive big tent. And that’s not a recipe for conservati­ve governing coalition.

On Saturday, the Texas GOP’S executive committee overwhelmi­ngly voted to censure U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-san Antonio, a thoughtful, steady conservati­ve lawmaker who is being punished for breaking with party orthodoxy.

The executive committee lambasted Gonzales for favoring legal protection­s for same-sex marriages and for supporting the Bipartisan Safer Communitie­s Act that, ironically, Sen. John Cornyn helped broker. The executive committee’s bill of particular­s also found fault with Gonzales for opposing a controvers­ial package of House rules and a border security bill.

Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush built the modern GOP around conservati­ve governing, not ideologica­l litmus tests to cancel independen­ce. The party’s transforma­tion in the past decade has forced moderate Republican­s to retire or endure extreme partisan competitio­n in party primaries. Gonzales is hardly the first target of the state Republican Party’s increasing­ly extreme political apparatus. In 2018, the state party censured Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, a moderate from San Antonio, after accusing him of breaking with the party’s conservati­ve agenda.

Governing requires growing support from the middle out, adding and multiplyin­g support instead of dividing and subtractin­g from the ranks. Nationwide and in Texas, the GOP should be embracing, not ostracizin­g, thoughtful conservati­ves like Gonzales who believe in core conservati­ve principles like limited government, lower taxes and modest regulation. The gun issue is particular­ly of importance to Gonzales, whose congressio­nal district along the U.s.mexico border includes Uvalde, the site of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School last year. However, Gonzales’ political independen­ce on a handful of issues was enough for the party to turn on him and open the door to supporting a challenger to him in the next primary.

The state GOP’S insistence on total political fidelity is a shortsight­ed, vindictive threat to meaningful conservati­ve candidates who can win general elections. Punishing a conservati­ve lawmaker who voted his conscience on issues important to his district signals that state party’s inability to allow diverse views within its ranks. In the long run, such insularity will shut out moderate candidates and policies that tend to gain broad support from the political middle where most Americans feel comfortabl­e. There are few better paths to ensuring a Democrat represents Gonzales’ district in the future.

Most Texans see nuance in political disagreeme­nts and don’t think that expressing a different opinion is an act of treason. And that’s true in this district where Gonzales won the seat in 2020 with the backing of his predecesso­r, Will Hurd, a moderate Republican who occasional­ly broke with the Trump administra­tion over border policy and set an example for leading in a bipartisan spirit without a bitter tone.

At moments like these, the state GOP becomes its own worst enemy when it embraces insularity over big-tent candidates and policies. And with more Americans increasing­ly identifyin­g as independen­ts, the politics of insularity is a long-term losing propositio­n.

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