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“We’re using the tools we have. But as the minority party, we can only do that so long,” said Texas state Rep. Gina Hinojosa, an Austin-based lawmaker who helped lead the weekend walkout. “We need to ultimately flip this House to be able to stop this right-wing agenda and focus on the needs of Texans.”

“Clearly, leadership was emboldened by the fact that Democrats didn’t flip those seats and find their majority in the House,” added state Sen. Beverly Powell, a Fort Worth-area Democrat.

Democrats’ ability to only derail, but not end, the push in Texas left party officials begging congressional Democrats to intervene by passing new federal voting rights legislation.

“These folks at the legislature have demonstrated that they’re willing to do what it takes, but we need backup,” said Lina Hidalgo, the Democratic chief executive of Houston’s Harris County. “For better or worse, that challenge stops at the foot of the U.S. Senate. Really, it’s a plea for help.”

Texas Republicans are expected to take up a version of their bill — which failed to pass Sunday after much of the state House Democratic caucus walked out and broke quorum — in a yet-to-be-called special session. The push to restrict voting rules has become a GOP priority in state governments across the country, as former President Donald Trump continues to lie and spread conspiracy theories about the election results.

GOP Gov. Greg Abbott called “election integrity” a “must-pass emergency” item in a statement.

“I expect legislators to have worked out their differences prior to arriving back at the Capitol so that they can hit the ground running to pass legislation,” Abbott said in his statement

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. Abbott also said he would veto the part of the budget that funds the legislative branch as retribution, tweeting that there is “no pay for those who abandon their responsibilities.”

An aide to Abbott said a decision on the timing of the special session was not imminent. Texas and other states are already planning special legislative sessions later this year to address redistricting after the Census Bureau releases local-level population data necessary to draw new political maps.

Republicans’ election bill took aim, in particular, at practices put in place by Harris County, the state’s largest county — and an increasing source of strength for Democrats.

The bill would have banned drive-through and 24-hour voting, which Harris County officials piloted during the 2020 election. The bill also added further restrictions to mail voting in Texas, on top of existing eligibility requirements that mean most Texas voters are not eligible to cast ballots that way. And it would have banned election authorities from allowing in-person early voting before 1 p.m. on Sundays, which was seen as an attempt to limit “Souls to the Polls” events popular among Black churches. (State Rep. Travis Clardy, a Republican involved in final negotiations of the bill, told NPR News on Tuesday the reduction of voting hours on Sunday was a “mistake” and wasn’t intended to be in the final bill.)

The legislation also included a provision allowing a court to “declare [an] election void” if it determined the number of “illegally cast” votes was “equal to or greater than the number of votes necessary to change the outcome of an election, without “attempting to determine how individual voters voted.”

Democratic lawmakers pledged to fight again in the special session over similar proposals. “If people want to be pragmatic and roll up sleeves and come up with a proposal, we know how to do that. If people want to fight, we know how to do that,” said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, who represents a San Antonio-based district. “You tell me what Republicans show up [with] and I’ll tell you what kind of session we’re going to have.”

But Texas Democrats likely won’t be able to run out the clock forever. Instead, some are hoping their extraordinary delay over the weekend will spur Democrats in Washington to make their own voting rights push.

Two pieces of voting legislation are in the works but effectively stalled in the 50-50 Senate right now. One is a sweeping election and campaign finance reform bill, H.R. 1, that would institute federally mandated floors for state election procedures — like requiring no-excuse absentee voting and same-day voter registration. Another bill would require certain states and jurisdictions to have changes to election procedures approved by either the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington, restoring “preclearance” requirements in the 1965 Voting Rights Act that were stripped out by a 2013 Supreme Court decision.

In a statement over the weekend President Joe Biden called the Texas bill “an assault on democracy,” calling for Congress to pass the two proposals. He also tapped Vice President Kamala Harris as his point person on voting rights in a speech in Tulsa, Okla., on Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised a vote on H.R. 1 during the final week of June. But the final fate of the bill remains uncertain. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) remains the only Senate Democrat who hasn’t signed onto the sweeping package. And Manchin and a handful of other Democratic senators have also resisted calls to scrap or modify the filibuster, which effectively requires 60 votes to move most legislation in the chamber.

The update to the Voting Rights Act has yet to be introduced in Congress.

Martinez Fischer, who also helped lead the weekend walkout, said he hoped their protest would “wake the nation up,” and called on the Senate to move on H.R. 1.

“It’s important for Leader Schumer and leaders in the Senate to understand just where we are — at a crossroads in America,” he said. “I recognize that there are certain senators that believe that eliminating the filibuster is tantamount to destroying our country. And my only response to that is that there are people who want to destroy our country state by state, and we have to recognize that and that there is a greater good.”



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Politics

How Republicans Became the ‘Barstool’ Party

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A half-decade ago, the originally Boston-based site and its rabid fan community wouldn’t have scanned as “political” at all. But now, its proudly Neanderthal, reactionary ethos aligns perfectly with the side of our political binary that Trump reconfigured: the one whose common denominator is a tooth-and-nail, middle-finger unwillingness to accept liberal social norms.

If you looked at Portnoy circa 2010 — a budding bro-entrepreneur, popping champagne with models in cheesy photo shoots — you’d have to squint pretty hard to see a potential Republican standard-bearer. If you look now, it’s hard not to. It’s commonplace by now to observe that the Trump presidency “changed everything” for Republicans, from conventional wisdom on policy to how their internal politics are conducted. But first and foremost, it changed the face the party presented to the world. Where onetime nominees like Mitt Romney and John McCain tried and failed to subordinate cultural grievance to a more professionalized, inclusive style of politics, Trump succeeded by placing it right on the front of the tin. And when he casually dismantled that old fusion of free-market economic fervor and country-club traditionalism, Barstool was ready.

The rise of the “Barstool Republican,” to coin a phenotype, doesn’t necessarily explain Trump. It is, however, a useful way to understand what’s happened to American politics without constantly invoking the former president’s name. Portnoy’s devotees aren’t MAGA fanatics or Q fans who live to torment liberals, and they’re certainly not part of the GOP’s evangelical base. (One could imagine the last thing they’d want is a Supreme Court that strikes down Roe.) But the Barstool Republican now largely defines the Republican coalition because of his willingness to dispense with his party’s conventional policy wisdom on anything — the social safety net, drug laws, abortion access — as long as it means one thing: he doesn’t have to vote for some snooty Democrat, and, by proxy, the caste of lousy deans that props up the left’s politically-correct cultural regime.

The backlash to liberal domination of pop culture and the past decade’s transformation of speech norms created the Barstool Republican long before Portnoy’s name was bandied about in jest as a political candidate. And if you’ve been paying attention, their cultural revolution dates back to a time when such antics were more likely to get you kicked out of Mar-a-Lago than installed as its lifelong “El Presidente.”

***

Lost in the annals of a time when culture wars weren’t quite as central to our national politics is a nomenclature that now seems almost quaint: the so-called “South Park Republican.”

As far back as 2001, the gadfly conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan was using the term to describe members of his political tribe who shared the anti-P.C., socially libertarian views of “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Stone and Parker, true to form, loudly protested their hatred of both major parties. Still, the label stuck, inspiring sparring New York Times columns and even a book-length exploration of the concept by conservative writer Brian C. Anderson.

In the political climate of the mid-2000s, the concept’s appeal was obvious: As Gen X-ers and younger Baby Boomers entered the ranks of the political elite, it made sense that they would dispense with the blue-blooded stuffiness and social conservatism of the Reagan-Bush imperium in favor of a vaguely countercultural, post-Sixties tolerance. W traded his father’s country-club affect for a pair of cowboy boots, but he wasn’t fooling anyone: The cultural energy in the Republican Party, to the extent that it had any, was in its feather-ruffling libertarian wing, whose influence would soon reach its zenith with the self-proclaimed Ron Paul Revolution. But like so many would-be revolutions, this one was denied — or at least delayed and mutated.

Paul’s 2012 bid to become the Republican Party’s presidential standard-bearer fizzled out in spectacular fashion, failing to convert internet hype into any meaningful primary support. Romney won the nomination and invited the youthful Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan along for the ride (whose rad workout gear and politically inscrutable love of Rage Against the Machine, alas, failed to inspire a Romney-Ryan youth movement).

Crashing on the rocks of both Barack Obama’s megawatt cultural celebrity and the looming coronation of Jeb Bush as the post-“autopsy” face of the GOP, the Rude Republican cohort was at loose ends — until an unlikely salvation came in the form of a 6’3” reality show host and frequent Howard Stern guest descending his golden escalator into the first paragraph of 21st-century American history.

Trump was at first an uneasy fit for both the more culturally-sophisticated, libertarian-leaning members of the Republican coalition as well as their staid religious counterparts. But at the same time he was hotwiring Republican culture and pushing it to the limits of street-legality, anti-P.C. critics saw another revolution happening within liberal politics — and, by the transitive property, pop culture writ large. In their eyes, Hillary Clinton’s campaign represented the triumph of a pro-establishment cultural nanny state that rejected Obama’s attempted de-escalation of the culture wars in favor of a rigid new etiquette of social justice: A rainbow flag hoisted, in effect, over the Bushes’ Kennebunkport compound.

One of Trump’s early adopters articulated the mindset perfectly in August 2015, back when Jeb! was still his closest primary threat: “I am voting for Donald Trump. I don’t care if he’s a joke. I don’t care if he’s racist. I don’t care if he’s sexist. I don’t care about any of it. I hope he stays in the race and I hope he wins. Why? Because I love the fact that he is making other politicians squirm. I love the fact he says shit nobody else will say, regardless of how ridiculous it is.”

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No points for guessing the author: Dave Portnoy, birthing the Barstool Republican with a single 200-word blog post. Trump transformed the political landscape by tapping into a powerful desire for freedom from criticism or censure — a desire that Portnoy shared, and which has only grown more intense and widespread as the panopticon of social media becomes the primary stage for not just national politics, but civic life at every level.

In a column this February for The Week, the Catholic social conservative writer Matthew Walther referred to “Barstool conservatives” as primarily sharing a “disdain for the language of liberal improvement, the hectoring, schoolmarmish attitude of Democratic politicians and their allies in the media, and, above all, the elevation of risk-aversion to the level of a first-order principle by our professional classes.” In other words: culture-war issues.

Oddly enough, despite the inherent thirst for conflict that it brings, the ascent of Barstool-ism within the Republican Party can be chalked up to ideological diversity within the GOP. What could unite free-market libertarians, revanchist Catholics, Southern evangelicals, and working-class Reagan Democrats but their shared hatred of… actual Democrats?

With that as the party’s guiding principle, and no clear policy agenda to speak of — the 2020 RNC literally did not have a new policy platform — those willing to trash the Democratic cultural regime most loudly and consistently are firmly in command, with more staid Republicans forced to at least provide cover, if not actively follow their cues.

They’re forced to defend freshman North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn in the face of his attention-seeking tweets and allegations of sexual harassment from his (very recent) college days, while he ranks in the top 10 members of Congress in missed votes. They’re forced to defend Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz as he faces his own allegations of sexual impropriety — not to mention his frat-boy antics, like showing up to Congress in a gas mask in the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic. They’re forced to defend Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert as she fends off complaints from constituents about her “embarrassing” freshman term in Congress, after winning a primary and general election largely on the strength of her, well, bar ownership.

So just as anti-P.C., vaguely amoral Barstool-ism can be a strength, it can also be a weakness. In a media environment built to reinforce and intensify one’s ideological beliefs, being on the attack all the time can leave you in an exhausting state of constant defense. Yes, it can galvanize — nearly 75 million people voted to re-elect Donald Trump, the Stoolie-in-chief — but it can also exasperate and infuriate in turn — a record 81 million Americans voted for Trump’s purposely less-pugilistic opponent, Joe Biden. It also runs the risk of all novelty: that people might just bore of it. Yesterday’s provocation becomes today’s status quo, and in turn tomorrow’s epic cringe.

When Republican voters made Trump their presidential nominee in 2016, they chose gloves-off culture war over either Jeb Bush’s earnest compromise or the imitations of a careerist provocateur like Sen. Ted Cruz. Trump tapped into a very real dissatisfaction in the American electorate with the liberal status quo around speech and culture, and reaped both the attendant rewards and backlash. Someone like Dave Portnoy is, if not a viable presidential candidate, at least a credible successor to the role of the office’s last Republican occupant: Trump, Gaetz, Boebert, Cawthorn and their ilk all share Portnoy’s single-minded obsession with scoring headlines and affirming their constituents’ cultural identities at any cost.

In a media-obsessed world, it’s a powerful, intoxicating skill. And now that it’s proven a viable pathway to electoral success, Republicans are — perhaps wisely — clinging to it for dear life. As a creation of Judd Apatow, the 21st century’s great dorm-room comedy auteur, once said: “Pandora doesn’t go back in the box, he only comes out.”

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Ted Cruz EXPLODES on Senate Floor with BRUTAL Speech Aimed DIRECTLY at Creepy Joe

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Martin Walsh from Trending Politics reports, Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz went after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris this week for their failure to do much of anything to address the border crisis their policies created.

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Democrats

YES! Republicans TORPEDO Pelosi After She Was CAUGHT Trying To SLAM 2 Bills Through The House

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Mike LaChance from American Lookout reports, Republicans managed to take the wind out of Nancy Pelosi’s sails this week. She was using a procedural trick to fast-track two bills through the House but Republicans didn’t play along.

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