The Republican Poseurs Who Claim to Be True TexansBreaking News
tags: conservatism, Texas, Carpetbaggers
Earlier this week, a campaign video emerged out of Texas showing a brawny bull-rider trying to buck his way into Congress. The ad, featuring Republican candidate and former professional wrestler Dan Rodimer, checked all the Republican boxes, from complaints about “communism” to whingeing about how Democrats “hate our way of life.” “Commies in D.C. are ruining America,” railed Rodimer, claiming the time had come to “make America Texas again.” For good measure, Rodimer referred to himself in the third person as “Big Dan.”
There was little to distinguish Rodimer’s ad from dozens of other campaign clips from Trumpian Republicans. But one thing stood out: As reporters from both the American Independent and The Washington Post found, Rodimer hardly has any claim to representing Texas. “Originally from New Jersey, Rodimer attended a preparatory school in the suburbs before moving to Florida for college and law school,” the Post wrote, while noting Rodimer’s buttoned-up, mild-mannered campaign ads from just a year before, when he ran for Congress in Nevada. Trading his starched polo for a 10-gallon hat and replacing his meek voice with a half-baked impression of Doc Holliday, Rodimer had refashioned himself as a cosplay cowboy—one who’d firmly back the kinds of illiberal, authoritarian policies swiftly rising in popularity on the Texas right.
But Rodimer—one of nearly a dozen Republicans running in a May 1 special election for the seat vacated when Representative Ron Wright died of Covid-19 in February—leaned a bit too far into his Lone Star affect. Even an oleaginous Republican like Congressman Matt Gaetz saw through the veneer; as Gaetz wrote, “Texas shouldn’t import its congressmen. Big Dan is all hat, no cattle.” Yet rather than charting his own path, “Big Dan” was simply following in the bootsteps of other carpetbagging fraudsters before him—attempting to stake a claim to Texan authenticity without any ties to the state itself, all in the service of expanding the oppressive policies that have defined Trump’s Republican Party.
But there’s one more irony at the heart of these far-right transplants attempting to claim the mantle of Texanness. When the state first began convulsing toward independence in the 1830s, the state’s residents broke into two camps. On the one end was a multiracial cohort composed of older Anglos and most of the state’s Tejanos, content to remain within the anti-slavery republic of Mexico. On the other end was a contingent of young, transplanted Anglos, comprising the so-called “War Party.”
As historian Thomas Richards Jr. wrote in Breakaway Americas, these new migrants “radicalized the struggle” for Texas independence, attempting to spark a revolution in order to cement slavery in the new Texan nation-state forevermore. The “War Party” was “ardently pro-slavery and stridently racist toward non-Anglos.” And, in the end, it was the “War Party” that proved successful—spiraling the region into bloodshed, annexation to the U.S., and, eventually, fratricidal war in the U.S. itself.
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