The radicalization of the Texas GOP

The locus of political and economic power is shifting in the United States. And it's shifting toward Texas. According to the 2020 Census, Texas gained 4 million residents over the last 10 years and, therefore, will be allocated two additional seats in Congress. California and New York will each lose one. 

Texas is becoming more ideologically diverse, but the state remains under Republican control. The Texas Republican Party, however, is becoming increasingly radical. 

A candidate for office in Tarrant County, Amyn Gilani, reports that a local Republican Party operative, David Medlin, has been shouting racist slogans as Gilani campaigns. At least one of the incidents was captured on video:

Amyn Gilani, who is running for the Place 5 Council seat in Colleyville, said he was in the parking lot of City Hall on Saturday and walked past political volunteer David Medlin and Place 5 City Council member Chuck Kelley, who were having a conversation. “David Medlin sticks his fist out and says, ‘white power,’” Gilani said.

There was a second incident on Monday, which Gilani recorded on his phone. He was again outside City Hall and said Medlin had been with a group of incumbent Colleyville council members, including Callie Rigney and Kathy Wheat, before Medlin drove away in his truck and said “white power” toward Gilani.

Medlin has worked for years with the True Texas Project, a far-right organization with strong ties to the most powerful Republican political figures in the state. Medlin's conduct is not out of character for the group, which was previously known as the North East Tarrant County Tea Party. 

In 2019, one of True Texas Project's leaders, Fred McCarty, said he understood why a gunman who complained about a "Hispanic invasion of Texas" killed 23 people at an El Paso Walmart. "You’re not going to demographically replace a once proud, strong people without getting blow-back," McCarty said. His comments were consistent with the white supremicist "replacement theory." McCarty's comments were echoed by his wife, True Texas Project founder Julie McCarty, who said, "I don’t condone the actions, but I certainly understand where they came from."

For the McCartys, this was not a learning experience. An April 24 Facebook post from the group declared "We’re under attack," above a series of magazine covers about the diversification of various countries. 

Another True Texas Project Facebook post from the same day celebrated Tucker Carlson's recent endorsement of "replacement theory," which was condemned as racist by the Anti-Defamation League.  

None of this, however, has interfered with the close relationship between the True Texas Project and the most powerful Republican politicians in Texas.

Powerful GOP officials maintain close ties with the True Texas Project

Allen West, the bombastic chairman of the Texas GOP, uses the True Texas Project as an extension of the party infrastructure. West regularly gives stemwinding speeches at True Texas Project events. West spoke to the group on February 15 and April 15 and is scheduled to address them again on June 14 and June 17.

It's not surprising that the True Texas Project's embrace of xenophobic conspiracy theories has not dissauded West from associating with the group. This year, West established a presence for the Texas GOP on GAB, a social network that caters to white nationalists. Texas Governor Gregg Abbott (R) urged West to remove the account, saying "anti-Semitic platforms like Gab have no place in Texas."

West refused, and established his own account on GAB. He initially followed only six accounts, but one of them was white nationalist Nick Fuentes, the leader of the racist "Groyper" movement. 

At some point this month, West stopped following Fuentes. Meanwhile, West has also adopted a slogan favored by QAnon conspiracy theorists, "We Are The Storm," as the official motto of the Texas GOP. (West claims the phrase is from a poem he likes and not related to QAnon.)

But West is just one of many Republican officials with ties to the True Texas Project. A fundraiser for the True Texas Project last week featured Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), according to a photo posted to the group's Facebook page.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller (R) was also in attendance along with numerous local elected officials. On Tuesday, Miller sued the Biden administration claiming that "a program that provides debt relief to racially and ethnically diverse farmers and ranchers...discriminates against white ones, including himself." Miller filed the suit in his personal capacity with the support of a new non-profit run by former Trump aide Stephen Miller. Emails leaked from Trump's first campaign revealed Miller "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof’s murderous rampage."

Another frequent speaker at True Texas Project events is Rafael Cruz, the father of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). The elder Cruz, who frequently serves as a campaign surrogate for his son, spoke to the True Texas Project shortly after the January 6 attack on the Capitol "when the group’s leadership was defending the pro-Trump mob on social media" and is scheduled to speak to them again on September 13.

In 2019, shortly after the group's incendiary comments on the El Paso shooting, Senator Cruz filmed an endorsement for the group. "Julie, Fred, thank you for your passion — to each of you who has made such a difference in Texas defending liberty, thank you," Cruz said. 

Senator Cruz refused to answer questions from the Washington Post about his relationship with the True Texas Project. Instead, a spokesperson for the Senator said Cruz was "not aware of every tweet, post, or comment of activists in the state of Texas." 

The corporate cash behind the Texas GOP

Over the last five years, major corporations have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the Texas GOP's activities. In January, Popular Information contacted the top corporate donors to the Texas GOP and asked if, in light of the party's radicalization under West, it would continue to donate. 

Only one company, Lyft, answered the question. Lyft said that it has “no plans to donate to the party in the future” and is “troubled by Chairman West's statements.”

Major donors to the Texas GOP including Altria ($145,000), AT&T ($125,000), Anheuser-Busch Companies ($113,000), Verizon ($115,000), PepsiCo ($65,000), Time Warner Cable ($35,000), and Google ($25,000) did not respond to inquiries. 

Will these companies continue to fund the Texas GOP as the party becomes more extreme? We don't know yet. The first campaign finance filing for the Texas GOP is not due until July 15. Stay tuned.