Paxton Acquittal: Protecting the Lawless is what Authoritarian Parties Do
The logic of corruption dictates GOP actions at the state and national levels
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“Today it could be General Paxton, and tomorrow it could be you,” warned Texas Rep. John Smithee in May as the impeachment proceedings against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton started. Smithee's appeal to his peers to stop this dangerous attempt at cleaning up the Texas GOP is symptomatic of the climate of corruption that prevails in the party at the state and national levels.
For two reasons, it's unsurprising that Paxton was acquitted of all charges by his cronies in the Texas Senate. The Texas GOP is one of the most extreme in the nation. Paxton has been a vociferous supporter of Trump's claim that Trump won the 2020 election. In October 2021 Paxton, a hard-core Trump defender, characterized Joe Biden's presence in the White House as an "overthrow" --the word implying that Biden pulled off a coup to take power.
A 2022 Texas GOP resolution expands on this attempt to make Biden a lawless figure: it calls him an illegitimate and “acting” president. For those who study authoritarianism, this is a red flag: it not only discredits Biden but implies that he won't be there for long and can be removed at any time.
The logic of corruption also matters here. The GOP has embraced the methods and values of authoritarianism. It now depends on propaganda (the "Big Lie"), intimidation, and corruption --election denial being a form of corruption--for its identity and to maintain itself in power. In particular, it is a party that has remade itself in Trump's image, with the goal of protecting the corrupt and the criminal dictating its actions.