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The Texas GOP made extreme declarations while gathered to talk party priorities

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

About 5,000 Texas Republicans came together in Houston this weekend to make decisions about their party's priorities. And some of their positions are striking. The platform declares homosexuality, quote, "an abnormal lifestyle choice." It endorses abolishing the 1965 Voting Rights Act. And the Texas GOP officially holds the false view that President Biden, quote, "was not legitimately elected." Texas Tribune Editor-in-Chief Sewell Chan was reporting at the convention. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

SEWELL CHAN: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: There are 275 planks in this platform, and many are noteworthy. Besides the ones I mentioned, there's one that would require Texas students to, quote, "learn about the humanity of the preborn child." Another would remove the legislature's power to regulate guns. These were not part of the state party platform in 2018 or 2020, so why has the party moved so far to the right on so many of these issues?

CHAN: Well, one thing that we've noticed is that the party has actually been emboldened since the 2020 election, although President Trump lost that election. Obviously, you know, his narrative of a stolen election has continued to be very, very powerful. There was a sense in 2018 and even in 2020, when the party last formed its platform, that they had to moderate a little bit to meet the center given that Texas Democrats had made some surprising gains in the 2018 midterm elections. But with Biden seen as very unpopular and with the Republicans seen as being in a strong position for this year's midterms, the party has felt really emboldened to appease the far right.

SHAPIRO: The party controls the House, Senate, governor's mansion and every statewide office in Texas. So how much of a real-world impact could these extreme declarations have?

CHAN: Well, that's it. We have to remember that a platform is not the same as the legislative priorities. You know, Texas Republicans have actually made - have had so many victories on voting, abortion rights, redistricting that, you know, some observers are like, you know, what more could they hope for? And so we have to keep in mind that some of the platform is, you know, again, throwing kind of red meat and not so much specific legislative language. You know, that said, if you zoom out, you know, the platform would take us back to an America that's very different from the one today. It would include repealing the federal income tax; you know, not having U.S. senators directly elected, but rather, you know, elected by state legislatures; and even not having directly elected state officials, but having a kind of state electoral college that would choose the governor and other officers.

SHAPIRO: People at the convention also booed one of their state's most powerful Republicans, Senator John Cornyn. What happened?

CHAN: Well, it's very striking. And Senator Cornyn, of course, is a George W. Bush-era Republican - in the news a lot for being part of this group of 10 Republican senators, you know, open to a bipartisan framework on gun safety. He was booed on Friday quite loudly. He tried, over many heckles, to kind of actually explain what's in the bipartisan framework and talk about what he would not agree to, which includes restricting the rights of current gun owners. But people weren't having it.

SHAPIRO: Just in our last 30 seconds or so, was there much pushback to some of the more extreme positions like the big lie that the 2020 election was stolen?

CHAN: Well, there was some. There was pushback against the homosexuality provision. I think, you know, delegates I talked to - frankly, there was a bit of an eyeroll like, you know, as if, you know, we're going to say the election was illegitimate. But that's not really an actionable item. So that's important to keep in mind too, although, of course, the position itself is fairly extreme.

SHAPIRO: That's Sewell Chan, editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune. Thank you so much for talking with us today.

CHAN: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
Lauren Hodges is an associate producer for All Things Considered. She joined the show in 2018 after seven years in the NPR newsroom as a producer and editor. She doesn't mind that you used her pens, she just likes them a certain way and asks that you put them back the way you found them, thanks. Despite years working on interviews with notable politicians, public figures, and celebrities for NPR, Hodges completely lost her cool when she heard RuPaul's voice and was told to sit quietly in a corner during the rest of the interview. She promises to do better next time.