One would think Ken Paxton had sufficient issues unto himself.
Securities fraud for one. At least a grand jury thought so. For two, allegations of abuse of office and bribery. So assert some of his former staffers. And then there’s the issue of conspiring to nullify 81 million votes on Jan. 6, 2020.
So why would a busy Texas attorney general, which we assume Paxton to be, arise on a lovely morning in March – my favorite Texas month – and make the birth gender of Rachel Levine an issue?
Why? Well, of course, Ken Paxton felt the need to oppress someone.
I say “of course” because this is what Paxton and his party do.
Levine, U.S. assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, is transgender. Last week she was named one of USA Today’s women of the year.
Between his coffee and his OJ, this caused Paxton to flex the same Twitter finger that would scratch Donald Trump’s itch.
“Rachel Levine is a man,” Paxton tweeted.
This is what stands for leadership in today’s Texas Republican Party.
Nice tweet. It’s sort of like, say, in 1947, a dismayed reader finding Jackie Robinson’s picture on the sports page and sending the clip to the editor with the words, “This man’s skin is a swim in melanin.”
Yes, once upon a time, dignifying a person born with that pigment was something the dignified did not do, especially in the South.
Things changed, and whole industries of indignation sprouted forth when “they” made headlines with their marches and alarming orators.
The voice of the oppressor could be heard as well – loudly and clearly, his path lit by wooden crosses.
And don’t you know politicians lent an ear. Or what’s a Southern Strategy for?
What’s this got to do with Rachel Levine and Ken Paxton’s itchy Twitter finger?
It has to do with the Republican Party playbook and the success it has had in making “others” objects of fear, derision and wedge politics.
One thing about the GOP playbook is that it’s a loose-leaf binder. The party itself might be narrow, but inside is ample room for “others” to use as wedge concerns.
There were brown people who didn’t speak “our language.” There were black “welfare mothers” driving their Cadillacs. There was the “gay agenda.” There were Muslims plotting “sharia law” for all.
Any strategist will acknowledge a problem when a political playbook grows yellow and weathered. Fortunately for the GOP, the 21st century discovery of transgender people in our midst provides for newly Xeroxed strategies on crisp, white paper.
Did we say “industry of indignation”? To judge by actions in Republican-controlled legislatures, one would think that no greater threat exists than a transgender individual in a bathroom stall.
Of course, it is no threat at all – no more so than the “threat” posed by gay teachers or gay office supervisors, or gay soldiers or sailors or Marines, or governors.
But it certainly makes for fresh wedge politics to appeal to those dismayed by equal treatment of “others.”
And so, a rash of do-something legislation. Bills to keep trans athletes in their place. Measures to treat transitioning as child abuse. And let’s not talk about gender issues in school, though some Republican policy makers can’t stop talking about them.
So there’s little mystery as to why Texas’ attorney general would think a March day is a good day to mock a transgender person.
He’s running for re-election and has a stout opponent in a GOP run-off.
He doesn’t want Republican voters to think about securities fraud allegations or alleged professional misconduct or his role in attempting to overthrow a lawful election.
And they won’t if he can change the subject – say to one woman’s gender.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.