Gov. Abbott needs to rethink who he will support in 2024?
It’s not like we really thought this would go differently, but we were still disappointed to see Gov. Greg Abbott endorse Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination. Not shocked, not even a little surprised, but disappointed nonetheless.
For a Texas Republican governor, it makes sense, since the GOP is plainly coalescing around a third Trump campaign.
And for Abbott in particular, it’s a standard move: In nearly 30 years of public service, he hasn’t tried to lead his party on bold new paths. But he hasn’t won statewide office every four years by making enemies in his party’s base, either.
The only exception might be his failed campaign for school choice, which collapsed the day before Abbott and Trump appeared at the border Saturday. Abbott has pushed, cajoled and threatened Republicans, calling for several special sessions, and instead ended up losing precious votes on the issue.
If, as Robert Frost said, the road less traveled made all the difference, Abbott often prefers to take the easy road his base has charted, making for as small of a difference as possible traversing his political career.
Abbott framed his backing of Trump around the border and immigration, his biggest focus since President Joe Biden took office. Yes, the border was in much better shape when Trump was president, but his blunt approach was too costly in fiscal, legal and human terms.
A better Republican with a more deft administration would take the best of Trump’s policies and, ideally, lead Congress to forging a longterm immigration solution.
Trump is threatening mass roundups and deportations that would be logistically impossible, prohibitively expensive and inattentive to the needs of the American workforce.
Still, for all the reasons it made sense for Abbott to support Trump, those same reasons demonstrate why Abbott could have thrown his weight behind a better choice, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Republicans would be better off with a nominee with much less baggage than Trump and much better instincts on how to govern.
It’s too bad Abbott couldn’t show the courage of Iowa’s governor, Kim Reynolds, who came out a couple weeks ago for DeSantis–for all the good it’s done De-Santis so far in polls.
For once, Abbott could have decided–since he’s given the GOP base what it wants for so long, what’s the risk in breaking out?
Why not show some leadership and end his career on a historic note?
He’s not politically vulnerable; he’s well-liked, a popular governor in a red state who isn’t up for re-election.
Texas is a GOP juggernaut: Supporting De-Santis or Haley would have made a powerful statement that the party should consider a new, more promising path, and Abbott would have had little to lose and likely, in reality, lost little but some disgruntled MAGA support.
It would have been refreshing to see Abbott embrace some risk and demonstrate some real leadership skills at a time when the GOP seems a bit lost, a bit too satisfied with the status quo, and has no problem supporting a man facing so many criminal and civil charges.
Abbott’s decision to support Trump is most disappointing because of what it conveys about where we are politically for 2024.
Trump is morally indefensible, politically divisive and threatens to govern in a second term through authoritarian steps that focus more on his own desires for retribution and revenge rather than conservative policies.
Worst of all, Trump still refuses to acknowledge the 2020 election results.
He threatens to do the same if he loses in 2024, and a fiery minority of right-wing extremists pose a threat if he activates them on behalf of his lost cause.
Texas is among the states with the most people charged in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
By supporting Trump again, Abbott signals that he condones all of this, even if he doesn’t.
The governor has been more careful than most in raising questions about the 2020 election, but standing with Trump erases any nuance or legitimate concern about voting and counting procedures.
At a time when the Republican Party needs strong voices to counter chaos, Abbott could have served his state and his party by breaking from Trump.