Earlier this week, Texas Democrats undertook a walkout from the Texas State Senate in a last-ditch effort to block the inevitable passing of Senate Bill 7. Texas’ proposed bill is yet another article in the list of election reform bills being passed in state legislatures across the country that the president and his party have all uniformly likened to Jim Crow laws.
Despite the complete lack of credible evidence to support these claims, media outlets have already seized on the attack line. Democrats have formed a staunch wall of opposition against election reform bills recently drafted by Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country. Texas Democrats have been the first group to take drastic action against a proposed election reform bill. By choosing to skip floor sessions and deny the Republican majority a quorum until the end of the regular legislative session, they have effectively vetoed the proposed legislation until the governor summons a special legislative session at a later date.
A keen memory of recent political events might lead one to reminisce about the walkouts Oregon Republicans initiated two years ago. In circumstances not too different from Texas, Republicans in 2019 chose to abandon the Oregon legislative session in May and June to prevent several left-wing Democratic proposals from being passed in the state Senate. Like the Texas Republicans, Oregon Democrats had a sizeable majority in the state Senate, but not enough to form a quorum solely consisting of their own legislators.
The bills that triggered these walkouts were intended to lessen oversight on public sector employee unions, institute a statewide tax increase on businesses, tax carbon emissions in the form of a cap-and-trade market, and add additional gun ownership restrictions.
With no other options to negotiate further with Democrats, the Republican senators refused to attend floor sessions at various intervals in May and June. Finally, in June, these senators were forced to hide out or travel out of state to Idaho once Governor Kate Brown directed the state police to forcibly detain them and bring them back to the Oregon Senate before the end of the legislative session. The June walkout made national news with late-night anchors and television hosts condemning the Republicans as antidemocratic hostage-takers, with little to no pushback on that narrative.
GOP Villians, Democrat Heroes?
During the June walkout, a far-right militia group known as the Three Percenters made a public statement offering to harbor and defend any Republican legislators avoiding the state police. This statement immediately went viral, allowing the media to aggressively tie in the militia with GOP senators – who had unabashedly rejected the militia’s support and assistance. Reality was set aside, and speculative media punditry fueled outrage across a nation led to believe that these Republican senators somehow coordinated with right-wing militias in the state.
Legislative walkouts in state legislatures had occurred a handful of times in the past; even once initiated by Oregon House Democrats themselves in 2001. Conveniently, this was never brought up by media pundits who reported on the 2019 Oregon walkouts. Compared to this week’s glowing coverage for the supposed heroism of Texas Democrats, Oregon Republicans were viciously attacked and harassed for using the state Democrats’ own tactic against them.
The spin from the media on the actions of Texas Democrats has been one of raucous support and has revealed its intent to energize Democrats in support of federal intervention in states’ voting laws. In reply, U.S. House Democrats have vocally turned up the pressure on their Senate colleagues to fast-track the passing of H.R.1, which would institute national election reforms that would supplant a state’s own election laws. After all, who could let such a useful crisis go to waste?
Read more from Jose Backer.