Time for Texas Democrats to end the charade

About a month ago, Texas Democrats found out they didn’t have the votes to stop Republicans from passing an election-integrity bill, and so they fled the state to deny the legislature quorum. A month later, some have returned to the Texas legislative chambers. Those that have returned have been attacked by fellow Democrats for aiding and abetting “voter suppression.” This kind of thinking is inimical to a stable political regime.

Texas Democrats have been remarkably effective at preventing the passage of an election-integrity bill spearheaded by Republicans. They stalled the bill at the end of the legislative session and fled the state after Governor Greg Abbott called a special session to address the matter. Over a month later, when some representatives finally returned to the legislative chambers, fellow Democrats pilloried them. Representative Ana-Maria Ramos from Texas’s 4th district tweeted:

Democrats like @TurnerForTX and @jamestalarico checked in today to help Republicans pass anti-voter bills. There is currently an injunction stopping TX from arresting Democrats, yet these Democrats on the floor today chose to participate in voter suppression.

Others joined in, saying that they were “praying” that no other Democrats returned to the chambers. This is utterly unacceptable rhetoric. The Democrats who have returned to fulfill their elected duty as representatives are not coming back to pass voting restrictions. If the legislative chamber ever does meet quorum requirements, not a single Democrat will vote for the bill. 

No, the Democrats who are returning are doing so because they believe that the legislative chamber itself deserves their presence. They want to work on legislation they think can help their constituents. We know this because they have told the public why they are coming back. To lambast these progressive representatives as supporters of voter suppression would be farcical if it weren’t so harmful. 

We can’t have a functioning polity if a party leaves every time they don’t get the legislation they like. Denying quorum does not prevent just a single voting bill from moving forward. The move prevents every kind of legislation from moving forward. Texas Democrats aren’t responsible for passing the voting-integrity bill any more than the Freedom Caucus is responsible for the latest infrastructure bill. A functioning democratic regime relies on the premise that the “other side” is allowed to pass laws, even ones you disagree with.

It seems that Texas Democrats have simply given up on this fundamental premise. If the Democrats from Texas denied quorum for a day, or a week, in order to raise awareness for a local issue, that might be understandable. However, the representatives who have attacked their fellow party members are actually attacking the crux of the democratic order. 

Democracy doesn’t die in darkness; it dies when political factions are unwilling to accept the basic principles on which democracies are founded. The Texas Democratic Party needs to stand up for the legislative process and tell its members to come back and do their job. It’s long overdue to end this charade.

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