The Texas GOP is on the verge of out-and-out fascism. Some people say they're not really on the verge, that they've already crossed that line. Is there still a place the Texas Republican Party for mainstream conservatives? The state party seems more interested in making cultural statements than in working on policy to benefit Texans. Will Hurd thinks there's still a place for mainstream conservatives, but the facts on the ground aren't backing him up.
Hurd is a black Republican who represented a heavily (70%) Hispanic district in South Texas, the district with most of the border with Mexico, from south of Piedras Negras along the Rio Grande, past Big Bend Nation Park and up into Socorro and the El Paso suburbs. Romney beat Obama 50.7% to 48.1% but 4 years later, Hillary beat Trump 49.8% to 46.4%. This past year Trump beat Biden 50.3% to 48.5%. The congressional races are usually tight and in 2018, a very flawed Democratic candidate, Gina Jones, nearly beat Hurd-- 103,285 (49%) to 102,359 (49%). He decided to retire and the Republicans were smart enough to figure out you run a Latino in a 70% Latino district, something the brain surgeons the DCCC never quite got. They ran the flawed Gina Jones this time and she lost badly
Tony Gonzales- 149,395 (50.6%)
Gina Jones- 137,693 (46.6%)
Anyway, Hurd's not in Congress any longer. Yesterday, Emma Green published an interview with him in The Atlantic, Will Hurd Wants His Party to Stop Owning the Libs. In the House, he was kind of a centrist, like a conglomerated version of his old district (TX-23). "Middle ground," wrote Green, "is hard to find in the Republican Party these days, though. Before he left Congress following the 2020 election, Hurd was the only Black GOP member of the House. (Two Black men are part of this year’s freshman Republican class.) He was consistently ranked as a relatively bipartisan member of Congress. Many of his former constituents are Latino voters, whom the Republican Party is focused on winning. Theoretically, Hurd is exactly the kind of politician Republicans should want in office. And yet he spent quite a bit of time over the past four years pushing back against the leaders of his own party. During his last two years in office, in particular, he was among the House Republicans who voted least frequently with Donald Trump. The most prominent young figures in the GOP are not moderates like Hurd, but vocal firebrands such as freshman Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado and freshman Representative Majorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. 'We have some serious, generationally defining challenges that we have to address, and these politics are getting in the way of having real discourse,' Hurd said. 'That’s where I get frustrated.'" She talked with Hurd about whether the Republican Party has done a good enough job signaling to voters that it doesn’t want to be just a political home for white people, and whether the GOP has room for stars who want to do more than own the libs."
Green: At the national level, do you think the Republican Party has done a good job of making it clear that it doesn’t want to be mostly a white party?
Hurd: We have to be better. We can’t be seen as being jerks, racists, misogynists, or homophobes. We oftentimes describe the Republican Party as only a handful of national figures. The Republican Party is the people who vote. We are the party that’s going to help everybody move up the economic ladder. And that work is made more difficult by some individuals within the party.
Green: Are you frustrated that the oxygen gets sucked up by people like Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who have become these figureheads for what the new Republican Party looks like?
Hurd: Yes, when oxygen on these national conversations gets sucked up on things, it’s hard, because we are in a new cold war with the Chinese government. Their GDP is going to be larger than the United States of America’s. And they have made it clear that they are trying to surpass the United States as a sole hegemon in the world. These are the conversations that we should be having on a national scale.
We have some serious, generationally defining challenges that we have to address, and these politics are getting in the way of having real discourse. That’s where I get frustrated.
Green: Is what you just described what voters want—or, maybe even more relevant, what big donors want? Is there an appetite for rising above and pursuing bipartisanship over owning the libs?
Hurd: For sure. In this day and age, we try to characterize everything in 280 characters. We try to condense some of these complicated ideas into a pithy tweet. When you say something that's nasty, that's going to get more engagement and more likes. So that has influenced these conversations. But what I learned in winning in one of the most competitive seats in the country is that voters want to be inspired by something better than themselves. When we appeal to that, it's a winning message.
Did that answer the question?
Green: Maybe. I think there’s something really deep here, more than just owning the libs on social media. You left your job in Congress right as one of the most stunning events in recent history happened—the January 6 insurrection. It was kind of like all of that online culture got taken out of the internet and put right on the front lawn of the Capitol. How did it feel to leave Congress and watch your former workplace get mobbed a few days later?
Hurd: I was scared—not just for my colleagues, but for all the staff who were locked down in that building. There’s going to be long-term repercussions. All of that happened because lies had been perpetuated for a long time. We need to step back and say, “Why did that happen? And how can you prevent something like that from happening in the future?”These are all hard questions, and I wish I had the answers to them.
Green: I mean, when you say “Lies had been perpetuated for a long time,” some of those lies were put forth by the president of the United States, including in front of the Capitol on the day of the attack. That’s the leader of your party. Is that hard to sit with?
Hurd: Of course it is. If the Republican Party is going to continue to be successful, it's got to start with accepting the fact that the 2020 election was not stolen. It was lost. President Trump was unable to make the Republican Party appeal to all Americans.