Texas GOP congressman censured by party for sensible votes on gay rights, gun control

Way back when I was managing editor at a weekly newspaper in Boston, the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) – the national group for LGBT folk (and supportive others) in the GOP – set up a local chapter in Massachusetts.

In that heavily Democratic state, they faced much opposition.

The Log Cabin sales pitch was simple: yes, the Republican Party is, overall, very anti-gay. But to have an organization of openly gay Republicans could eventually turn that tide because 1) members of the GOP would see they have family and friends who are conservative and gay, and 2) Log Cabin clubs and members could be a force for change by showing that you can be conservative AND supportive of gay right AND still be elected (and re-elected) in conservative districts.

Nearly 50 years later, it’s not going well:

The Republican Party of Texas voted Saturday to censure U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio, over his recent votes that split with the party.

The State Republican Executive Committee passed the censure resolution 57-5, with one member abstaining. It needed a three-fifths majority to pass.

The move allows the party, which is otherwise required to remain neutral in intraparty contests, to set aside that rule for Gonzales’ next primary.

The last — and only — time the state party censured one of its own like this was in 2018, when the offender was then-state House Speaker Joe Straus. He was also a moderate from San Antonio.

Gonzales did not appear at the SREC meeting but addressed the issue after an unrelated news conference Thursday in San Antonio. He specifically defended his vote for the bipartisan gun law that passed last year after the Uvalde school shooting in his district. He said that if the vote were held again today, “I would vote twice on it if I could.”

“The reality is I’ve taken almost 1,400 votes, and the bulk of those have been with the Republican Party,” Gonzales said.

I really bought the LCR sales pitch hook, line and sinker.

Our newspaper ran supportive profiles of them. I wrote a couple of editorials early on supporting their efforts which, considering the way the GOP was constituted in Massachusetts at the time, seemed likely to succeed in a state where most Republicans (Govs. Will Weld and Paul Cellucci, etc.) were not of the virulently crazy variety.

Boy, was I wrong. Even in Massachusetts currently, the state where LGBT rights are the nearest of any state to being a statewide non-issue, the GOP has turned hard right.

As for the Log Cabin folks, they simply ignore the fact that their party is, on LGBT issues, walking down a path that would be familiar to Jews in Germany in the late 1930s.

Not only has their party not gotten increasingly supportive on LGBT issues, the GOP is actually censuring members who vote positively on even the most anodyne LGBT legislation.

Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas).

Nikki Haley is trying to occupy that as-yet unobtainable sweet spot in female GOP electoral Venn diagram where strong, motherly and fascist intersect

The New York Times, being “respectable,” isn’t putting it quite that way. NYT is calling it “the treacherous road for GOP women.”


The early days of Ms. Haley’s campaign, which she announced on Tuesday, quickly illustrated the challenges facing Republican women. For decades, female leaders in both parties have struggled with what political scientists call the double bind — the difficulty of proving one’s strength and competence, while meeting voters’ expectations of warmth, or of being “likable enough,” as former President Barack Obama once said of Hillary Clinton during a 2008 primary debate.

But for Republican women, that double bind comes with a twist. There are conservative voters who harbor traditional views about femininity while expecting their candidates to seem “tough.” Several strategists suggested Republican primary voters would have little patience if a female candidate were to level accusations of sexism toward another Republican. And Mr. Trump, who remains a powerful figure in the party and is running again, has already attacked Ms. Haley with criticism some view as gendered.

Even before she entered the race, Mr. Trump dismissed Ms. Haley as “overly ambitious,” which struck some observers as sexist. And soon after her official announcement, he suggested her appointment as U.N. ambassador was less a reflection of her credentials than of his desire to see her male lieutenant governor take over as governor. She also confronted a male CNN anchor, who asserted that Ms. Haley and women her age — 51, decades younger than Mr. Trump or President Biden — were past their “prime.”

Ms. Haley, who could be joined by other female contenders, including Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, is operating within a G.O.P. that has often dismissed debate about identity as the purview of the left, and has, in many corners, increasingly lambasted discussions of gender and race as “wokeness.”

What the dynamic has turned out to be, of course, is that GOP women — Elise Stefanik, Kari Lake, Nikki Haley — need to out-fascist the male fascists to have any chance whatsoever.

It’s been weird to watch as competent Republican women, whom I long ago fantasized as the would-be saviors who get fed up with the nonsense and eventually wrest control from the male Tea Party fanatics, are all turning out to be the kinds of people who would have been goose-stepping down the Champs-Élysées in 1940 marveling at the manliness and leadership qualities of Monsieur Hitler.

GOP consultant writes Times op-ed trashing Nikki Haley

The problem with a piece like this is that it singles out Haley for a lack of standards and morals that is pervasive in the GOP right now. Why pick on her for something most of them are doing?

I remember the first time I saw Nikki Haley. It was in a high school gym before the 2012 South Carolina Republican presidential primary. Tim Scott, who was then a congressman, was holding a raucous town hall, and Ms. Haley was there to cheer him on. The first woman governor of South Carolina, the first Indian American ever elected to statewide office there, the youngest governor in the country. Whatever that “thing” is that talented politicians possess, Ms. Haley had it. People liked her, and more important, she seemed to like people. She talked with you, not to you, and made routine conversations feel special and important. She seemed to have unlimited potential.

Then she threw it all away.

No political figure better illustrates the tragic collapse of the modern Republican Party than Nikki Haley. There was a time not very long ago when she was everything the party thought it needed to win. She was a woman when the party needed more women, a daughter of immigrants when the party needed more immigrants, a young change maker when the party needed younger voters and a symbol of tolerance who took down the Confederate flag when the party needed more people of color and educated suburbanites.

When Donald Trump ran in the 2016 Republican primary, Ms. Haley stood next to Senator Marco Rubio, the candidate she had endorsed, and eviscerated Mr. Trump as a racist the party must reject: “I will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the K.K.K. That is not a part of our party. That is not who we want as president.” She was courageous, fighting on principle, a warrior who would never back down. Until she did.

The politician who saw herself as a role model for women and immigrants transformed herself into everything she claimed to oppose: By 2021, Ms. Haley was openly embracing her inner MAGA with comments like, “Thank goodness for Donald Trump or we never would have gotten Kamala Harris to the border.” In one sentence, she managed to attack women and immigrants while praising the man she had vowed never to stop fighting. She had gone from saying “I have to tell you, Donald Trump is everything I taught my children not to do in kindergarten” to “I don’t want us to go back to the days before Trump.”

I suppose Republican in-fighting is a good thing no matter what.

Desantis’ campaign tried to ban guns from election night event, but asked someone else to take the fall for it

The night that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was having his November post-election victory party at the Tampa Convention Center, his campaign put in a request that would be odd for anyone not as blatantly dishonest as DeSantis:

He wanted to ban guns from the event, he just didn’t want to take the heat for banning guns from an event in Florida:

As Gov. Ron DeSantis prepared for an election night party in downtown Tampa last year, city officials received a surprising — and politically sensitive — request.

The Republican governor’s campaign wanted weapons banned from his victory celebration at the city-run Tampa Convention Center, a city official said in emails obtained by The Washington Post. And the campaign suggested that the city take responsibility for the firearms ban, the official said — not the governor, who has been a vocal supporter of gun rights.

“DeSantis/his campaign will not tell their attendees they are not permitted to carry because of the political optics,” Chase Finch, the convention center’s safety and security manager, said in an Oct. 28 email to other city officials about the request, which was conveyed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, a state police agency led by a DeSantis appointee.

Finch further explained that because of “Republicans largely being in support of 2A,” referring to the Second Amendment, “Basically it sounds like they want us to say it’s our policy to disallow firearms within the event space if anyone asks.”

Tampa Convention Center officials ultimately rejected the request from the DeSantis campaign to ban weapons. State law allows concealed firearms to be brought inside the public facility unless the renter insists on a gun-free event. On election night, the campaign did require guests to pass through metal detectors, Finch said.

The story in the Washington Post goes on to note:

In response to questions from The Post about gun bans at DeSantis events, the governor’s deputy press secretary, Jeremy Redfern, said in an email, “We do not comment on speculation and hearsay. The Governor is strongly in support of individuals’ constitutional right to bear arms.”

Lindsey Curnutte, a spokeswoman for the governor’s political team, said, “We follow the guidance of the FDLE and local law enforcement to keep the governor and his family safe during events.”

This is not the first time that gun nut Republicans have tried to ban guns from their own events while pushing for universal open carry laws for everything from handguns to assault rifles.

Because, with the GOP, trying to protect little kids in grade schools from guns is too much to ask, but protecting Republicans and their families from random gun violence is of the highest priority.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, trying to explain why his family deserves protection from dangerous people who carry guns in public, but that little preschool and grade school children do not. Just kidding. Nobody from the DeSantis campaign has even tried to explain the contradiction.

Extremist right-wing again takes aim at the only one-house state legislature in America

Growing up, I hated everything about living in Nebraska, including the fact that its college sports teams went by the name “Cornhuskers.”

By extension, I hated the fact that the state had a single-house legislature, otherwise known as the Unicameral.

What I did not realize then, but know now, is that this configuration of state government, unique to Nebraska, was the brainchild of U.S. Senator George Norris, dubbed widely in the press at the time of his electoral loss in 1942 as “the last of the progressive Republicans.”

He was a staunch supporter of The New Deal and Franklin Roosevelt, despite being from the opposing party. He was pro union and was widely credited with the creation of the Tennesee Valley Authority. He is also credited with the fact that Nebraska has another distinction among the states that lasts until the present day: it is the only state where every single one of the residential electric, sewer and gas utilities is publicly-owned. That last part is remarkable in a state where the Republican Party has been so firmly in control for so long.

Norris was a visionary, and I now see how having one, non-partisan house of the legislature, in which there are nominally no Republicans and no Democrats, allows our Unicameral to get some progressive-ish legislation passed that would otherwise be impossible if a state party was in control of how people voted on the floor of the legislature. (Norris tried to start a movement whereby all state legislatures were one house, but obviously that didn’t work out.)

Votes for leadership in the Unicameral, including the Speaker, are by secret ballot.

Being well-liked and respected are therefore more important to the process of choosing a Speaker than is having the loudest mouth, the most strident agenda, and having a state party apparatus behind you. This means that Democrats and Republicans alike are free to vote their conscience, which they often do.

This means that, in a state where statewide offices are increasingly held by Republican extremists, the Speaker of the Unicameral very often tends be a more thoughtful kind of person because bombastic types tend to not be the most popular people in the Unicameral. This is not always the case, but it is true more often than you might imagine. And since state parties — and I include Republicans and Democrats in this — can often be beholden to corporate interests who have donated the most money to the party, this kind of corporate influence on legislation can be lessened under a Unicameral system.

Which is why, of course, Republicans in Nebraska hate both the one-house system AND the secret ballots for the legislative leadership. They are trying once again in this legislative session to change both.

Nebraska officially called its non-partisan unicameral for the first time in 1937, but a proposal by one conservative senator seeks to upend that longstanding tradition and embrace the partisan divide he says has always been present.

To State Sen. Steve Erdman, the unicameral is non-partisan in name only.

“Everyone assumes that but we’re not supposed to talk about it,” Erdman, from District 47, said. “It’s like it’s the elephant in the room.”

So Erdman is seeking to amend Nebraska’s constitution, turning the unicameral legislature into a bicameral legislature with a senate and a house. He said Nebraska’s legislature has underperformed neighboring bicameral systems.

“If the unicameral is so wonderful and we’ve accomplished so much, why are our taxes so high,” Erdman said.

And he said the body’s nature is already very partisan.

“There’s been a level of partisanship ever since it was created,” Erdman said. “And as time went by, the beliefs of the two parties have changed, have divided more than they were, so it looks like there’s more of a division.”

But an outspoken opponent of Erdman’s proposal–state senator Danielle Conrad–says that the legislature shouldn’t embrace the divides even in the face of what she referred to as “creeping partisanship.”

“This is not how we do things in Nebraska,” Conrad, from District 46, said. “This is not how we have organized ourselves as a government. And instead of just casually joining into partisan shenanigans, we as elected leaders should fiercely honor our oath and protect our institutions.”

Conrad says the official non-partisanship is a tradition worth preserving.

“It works,” she said. “It helps to keep the focus on the business of the people, not partisan special interest.”

Erdman says his proposal would give more power to rural areas, with a senator for every three counties, which would come out to 31 senators. There would be a 63-person house of representatives apportioned by population.

The creation of the U.S. Senate in the drafting of the Constitution was exactly this sort of trade-off between direct democracy — whomever has the most votes, wins — and artificially inflating the power of rural Americans vs. the cities. In some ways it made sense in the 1700s, mostly as a way to get rural buy-in for the nascent federal government and the Constitution.

But it is not needed in Nebraska and would only serve to amplify the power of the Republican Party and rural areas at the expense of Omaha and Lincoln, where most of the state’s residents live.

Conservative forces have not had much luck over the many years they have been trying to change the one-house system. Let’s hope they fail again this legislative session.

Nebraska’s one-house state legislature, the Unicameral.

Gay Republican who won NY congressional seat appears to be a giant fake

The 2022 congressional mid-terms race in New York’s 3rd Congressional District was billed as the first U.S. House general election to feature two gay men — one a Republican, one a Democrat.

The Republican, George Santos, won in a bit of an upset that saw Republicans in NY state make notable gains that helped the GOP take control of the lower chamber of Congress.

The problem is that much of Santos’ biography now appears to be fake:

George Santos, whose election to Congress on Long Island last month helped Republicans clinch a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, built his candidacy on the notion that he was the “full embodiment of the American dream” and was running to safeguard it for others.

His campaign biography amplified his storybook journey: He is the son of Brazilian immigrants, and the first openly gay Republican to win a House seat as a non-incumbent. By his account, he catapulted himself from a New York City public college to become a “seasoned Wall Street financier and investor” with a family-owned real estate portfolio of 13 properties and an animal rescue charity that saved more than 2,500 dogs and cats.

But a New York Times review of public documents and court filings from the United States and Brazil, as well as various attempts to verify claims that Mr. Santos, 34, made on the campaign trail, calls into question key parts of the résumé that he sold to voters.

Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, the marquee Wall Street firms on Mr. Santos’s campaign biography, told The Times they had no record of his ever working there. Officials at Baruch College, which Mr. Santos has said he graduated from in 2010, could find no record of anyone matching his name and date of birth graduating that year.

There was also little evidence that his animal rescue group, Friends of Pets United, was, as Mr. Santos claimed, a tax-exempt organization: The Internal Revenue Service could locate no record of a registered charity with that name.

His financial disclosure forms suggest a life of some wealth. He lent his campaign more than $700,000 during the midterm election, has donated thousands of dollars to other candidates in the last two years and reported a $750,000 salary and over $1 million in dividends from his company, the Devolder Organization.

Yet the firm, which has no public website or LinkedIn page, is something of a mystery. On a campaign website, Mr. Santos once described Devolder as his “family’s firm” that managed $80 million in assets. On his congressional financial disclosure, he described it as a capital introduction consulting company, a type of boutique firm that serves as a liaison between investment funds and deep-pocketed investors. But Mr. Santos’s disclosures did not reveal any clients, an omission three election law experts said could be problematic if such clients exist.

And while Mr. Santos has described a family fortune in real estate, he has not disclosed, nor could The Times find, records of his properties.

The defeated gay Democrat, on the other hand, has an admirable and easily verifiable CV:

Zimmerman received a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University and a master’s in business administration for Fordham University. In 1988, Zimmerman co-founded a marketing communications company. He served on the John F. Kennedy Center’s Presidential Commission on the Arts and the National Council on the Humanities, nominated by Presidents Bill Clinton (D) and Barack Obama (D), respectively. As of 2022, Zimmerman was a Democratic National Committee member.

Was nobody in the Zimmerman campaign doing research on his opponent?

Or, for that matter, did nobody in the mainstream press bother to do even the most cursory check of the candidates?

Weird. So, so weird.

They’re coming for divorces next

One of the greatest things to happen for women in Western democracies was the ability of women to leave marriages at will. The ability to more easily divorce men who abused them gave women a power they never had before.

It’s no secret that many Republican conservatives have long felt that the ability of women to easily divorce men is one of the greatest catastrophes to befall Western civilization.

So it should come as no surprise that many high-profile Republicans are also saying that now is the time to work toward abolishing no-fault divorce laws:

Following the Supreme Court’s elimination of the federal right to abortion in June, conservatives have taken aim at other fundamental protections, such as same-sex marriage and access to contraception. But some on the right are resurfacing a different, long-simmering project: stigmatizing divorce, including, in some instances, attacking no-fault divorce laws.

No-fault divorce in the U.S. was first adopted in California in 1969, and New York was the last state in the country to pass a no-fault divorce law, which it did in 2010. Although state laws differ, in general no-fault divorce means that one party can successfully dissolve a marriage without needing to first prove wrongdoing by the other partner – including adultery, abuse, or desertion.

Ohio Republican Senate nominee J.D. Vance praised the idea of staying in violent marriages in remarks to high school students in southern California last September. Vance argued “all of us should be honest” about how “making it easier for people to shift spouses like they change their underwear” by leaving marriages that were “maybe even violent” had negative effects on the children, according to Vice, which first reported the comments.

Although Vance’s comments were made before the overturning of Roe v. Wade, they’ve taken on a new salience amid a conservative movement that sees formerly out-of-reach goals as newly attainable. And Vance has lots of company in right-wing media.

Reactionary YouTuber Tim Pool recently discussed no-fault divorce laws on his show, titling the clipped segment: “No-Fault Divorce Has DESTROYED Men’s Confidence In Marriage, Men Don’t Want To Get Married Anymore.” The discussion focused on how no-fault divorce laws were to blame for what the panel perceived to be a rise in prenuptial agreements, which segued into a meandering discussion lamenting divorce in general.

“The courts are heavily biased in favor of women to an insane degree, especially with children,” Pool said, parroting a cliche often espoused by so-called men’s rights activists, an anti-feminist movement that claims men are structurally disadvantaged in divorce proceedings and family court. (Although it is true that women are generally granted sole custody more frequently than men, the reasons for that are complicated and have to do with men historically having higher incomes and sexist ideas about mothers being natural caregivers.)

Crazy. They really do want to turn the tables back to the time when (to paraphrase Pat Schroeder) “men were men, women were children, and children were 14-hour-a-day chimney sweeps.”

Nobody should be shocked that Tom Brady is pals with Ron DeSantis

I have never liked Tom Brady as a person. This put me in a distinct minority of Boston-area residents, so I didn’t say it out loud much because it’s a stupid thing about which to pick a fight with friends, family and acquaintances.

As an athlete, he’s obviously in a class by himself. And I felt sorry for him during the entire made-up Deflategate scandal because it was clear he did nothing wrong and was being targeted by an NFL commissioner who was always jealous of the attention Brady received in popular culture.

I even started supporting, in my own small ways, the Patriots during this time because I had moved back to Red State America and it made the wingnuts crazy to say out loud in a public setting, “Tom Brady is the greatest athlete who ever lived.”

I don’t actually believe that, of course. It was just a way to get an amusing rise out of a certain kind of person.

I have always been confused that people in the Red State America hated Brady so much — it was partly the ultra-liberal Massachusetts thing, I guessed — because Brady is clearly, ideologically speaking, closer to Mississippi than he is to Boston.

He was wise enough, and financially savvy enough, to keep his mouth shut about this most of the time, despite his (and his coach’s) very public flirtations with Donald Trump — even after Trump was revealed to have racist, fascist tendencies. Brady and Coach Belichick did some sly stepping away from Trump after Jan. 6, but I’ll guess this was strategic more than it was that either man is no longer in Trump’s camp politically. I’m sure they’ll both secretly vote for Trump if he runs again.

So none of us should be shocked that Brady appears to be good buds with Ron DeSantis (R-Weimar Germany):

Tom Brady, the seven-time Super Bowl champion, has for years been the subject of public affection from former President Donald J. Trump.

But according to Tim Michels, the Republican nominee for Wisconsin governor, Mr. Brady is now on texting terms with another Republican seen as a White House contender: Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

Mr. DeSantis attended a Green Bay Packers football game last month and spent part of the game texting with Mr. Brady, according to Mr. Michels, who hosted the Florida governor in Green Bay and told supporters in Wisconsin last week about their time together. Mr. Brady first expressed support for Mr. Trump in 2015, when he was quarterback of the New England Patriots. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020.

“I took Governor DeSantis to the Packer game at Lambeau Field,” Mr. Michels told a gathering of the Lake Country Patriots, a far-right group, on Thursday at a brewery in Oconomowoc, Wis. The New York Times was denied entry to the publicly advertised event, but obtained a recording of Mr. Michels’s remarks.

Mr. DeSantis, who on the day of the Packers game had appeared at a rally for Mr. Michels and Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, “had never been to Lambeau Field before and he wanted to go,” Mr. Michels said. “We’re sitting there, you know, we’re watching the game and all of a sudden, I look over and he’s texting and he says, ‘How do you spell Lambeau?’”

Here is a thing I used to say in Boston out-loud that got me in trouble: Brady will run for national office eventually, and he will do it as a right-wing Republican. Possibly (probably?) as a full MAGA right-winger.

People in Boston used to tell me I was nuts for thinking that. I don’t think so many of them think it’s crazy any longer.

Plus they all hate Brady now because he went to Florida, so Brady’s former supplicants in New England all talk shit about him anyway.

DeSantis (left) and Brady.

Corporate executive suites becoming less politically diverse; more Republican, less democratic

From the good folks over at the National Bureau of Economic Research:

Executive teams in U.S. firms are becoming increasingly partisan. We establish this new fact using political affiliations from voter registration records for top executives of S&P 1500 firms between 2008 and 2020. The new fact is explained by both an increasing share of Republican executives and increased assortative matching by executives on political affiliation. Departures of politically misaligned executives are value-destroying for shareholders, implying the increasing political polarization of corporate America may not be in the financial interest of shareholders.

No big shock here. Large corporations are putting out press releases touting how progressive they are, but behind the scenes they support the worst right-wing politicians and their political action committees.

Even in Massachusetts, Republican moderation is dying

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR), the organization for LGBTQ Republicans and their straight GOP allies.

The group has been around since the 1970s when it was formed to fight the Briggs Initiative in California, which would have barred gay men and lesbians from being teachers.

That referendum was defeated by the voters, thanks in large part to the fact that Republican then-Governor Ronald Reagan came out publicly against it.

It is thought that LCR did much work behind the scenes to rally opposition to Briggs among Republicans. It had to be behind the scenes because, at the time, public support for homosexuality was thought to be risky even for Democrats. For Republicans it was almost unheard of.

After the Briggs defeat, I think even a lot of LGBTQ Democrats had high hopes for LCR, which pushed the notion of being “fiscally conservative and socially liberal.”

At that time there were far greater numbers of what one might call “reasonable Republicans” who thought that the loonies of the religious Right, including former Miss America Anita Bryant, were embarrassments who were pulling the GOP away from its primary purpose of making sure corporations had as much power as was politically possible,

Of course, things did not turn out as hoped for, at least in terms of the people who ran LCR in the late ’80s and early ’90s when I first started writing about them in Boston. Back then, LCR dreamed of pulling the GOP to the center on social issues. By all means, be as right-wing as you want to be on corporatism. But, at the very least, don’t waste valuable party time on the culture wars.

I’ve been thinking about all of this because a couple of weeks ago I wrote about the GOP gubernatorial primary in Massachusetts, where a pro-Trump election denier was running against a more traditional pro-business Republican.

If there is any state in the union where Republicans could feel free to throw off the shackles of Trumpism and elect sane Republicans, it would be Massachusetts.

Everyone who thought that was wrong. Even in Massachusetts, Republican voters chose Geoff Diehl, the crazy Trump candidate.

In one sense, it is good because, while the statewide electorate in the Bay State will elect Republicans to the governorship — Bill Weld, Mitt Romney, Charlie Baker — they are not likely to choose a Trump crazy over Democrat Maura Healey.

In another sense, it is a very bad sign because in Massachusetts, arguably the home of the “reasonable” Republican, political moderation is on life support.

Mass. GOP primary winner Geoff Diehl will face Democrat Maura Healey.