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OPINION — On Sunday night, Democratic legislators took the heroic step of walking out of the Texas House chambers, denying a quorum, and halting passage of Texas’ voter suppression bill — at least, for now. 

Executed at the 11th hour of the legislative session, this was both a courageous and desperate act, because desperate times call for desperate measures. 

“This is Texas, this is the Alamo,” said Texas State Representative John Bucy at a Monday press conference. “We will do everything we can to stop voter suppression.’’

George Lang

OPINION by George Lang

Texas Republicans are currently planning a second run at this legislation by calling a special session, during which they are likely to succeed in passing Senate Bill 7, but the actions by Texas Democrats should be seen as a potential road map for progressives trying to protect their voters from aggressively autocratic anti-democracy measures. 

What happened in Texas can only be replicated in states that are not exceedingly lopsided in their representation or the Republicans are absent. I asked Oklahoma House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, whether it would work in Oklahoma, and she said such actions would require an extreme set of circumstances. 

“It would be possible here only if dozens of Republicans were absent. Quorum is 51 members,” Virgin said. “I’m assuming that there were Texas Republicans who were absent and that’s why the Dems were able to break quorum.”

Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott is now threatening to deny Democratic legislators their pay, accusing them of dereliction of duty, but Democrats simply used the last blunt-force tool at their disposal. It should be noted that the Texas Democrats’ actions were taken to force the defeat of legislation that would have impacted their constituents. They were working — hard. 

In contrast, Texas Republicans pushing SB 7 are barely working at all on this legislation, having cut and pasted legislation authored by Heritage Action for America, the dark money sister organization of the Heritage Foundation that bragged that they wrote much of the voter suppression language in Georgia’s recent legislation. 

“In some cases, we actually draft them for them,” said Heritage Action’s executive director, Jessica Anderson, to a group of donors in a recording obtained by Mother Jones magazine, “Or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation so it has that grassroots, from-the-bottom-up type of vibe.”

This is common practice — In 2016, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wrote State Question 777, the so-called “Right to Farm Amendment” that would have given factory farm facilities extraordinary power and legal immunity. Using “model legislation” is like receiving the answers to a test. Republicans leaning on dark money groups to do their work for them should get their pay docked, not the legislators trying to preserve voting rights. 

The Texas Democrats are heroes in the war to defend democracy, a war in which our nation is being buffeted from all sides by autocratic forces, whether it is from ransomware terrorists like the Russian organization DarkSide, “model legislation” purveyors like ALEC and Heritage Action or congressional traitors like U.S. Senators Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz and James Lankford.

The danger is clear: more than a dozen Republican-controlled states have passed versions of Heritage Action’s model legislation, and no one knows who is funding this anti-democracy campaign because they are protected by the Citizens United ruling. 

As Georgetown University visiting professor of history Thomas Zimmer wrote in a May 28 Twitter thread, “If democratizing reforms do not come, all the states in which Republicans are in power will soon resemble apartheid South Africa much more than anything that could reasonably be called a functioning multiracial democracy.”

We can either protect our democratic rights and processes, or the United States will become a pariah state. We must start looking at Republican legislators’ measures to curtail voting not as a legitimate political strategy, but as a movement to make the United States of America a former democracy. 

That is what the Texas Democratic legislators were fighting. In this war for the soul of our nation, they are heroes. 

Last Updated June 2, 2021, 1:52 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor