Tuesday, April 20, 2021


The Atlantic's Olga Khazan describes Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne as "the new face of Trumpism in Texas":
Last year, President Donald Trump’s popularity among Texans was flagging, and Democrats in the state, who hoped to take control of the Texas House and win several congressional seats, thought diverse suburbs such as Irving would be reluctant to elect Trumplike Republicans. Van Duyne’s district—where the Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke beat Republican Senator Ted Cruz in 2018 while losing statewide—looked like one of their best opportunities....

But Republicans, including Van Duyne, won all the Texas seats Democrats had targeted, and the GOP maintained control of the state legislature. Van Duyne outperformed Trump, winning her district even as the then-president lost it to Joe Biden—one of the nine House Republicans to manage that feat. Democrats weren’t just beaten; they were beaten by the exact kind of candidate they thought voters were done with....

Trump may be gone, but Trumpism is very much alive.
But when you read Khazan's account of Van Duyne's career, it becomes obvious that she made her name as a mid-2010s Fox News Republican, not as a Trump Republican.
In 2015, in the Dallas suburb of Irving, the fates of two very different Texans collided.

One was 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, a precocious kid in a NASA T-shirt who had built a clock out of spare parts and brought it to school in a pencil case. His English teacher decided it might be a bomb, and the school called the police, who arrested Mohamed for bringing in a “hoax bomb.” ...

The other Texan was Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, a blond 44-year-old with Disney-princess bone structure. She defended Mohamed’s arrest on Facebook, then went on The Glenn Beck Program to repeat the “hoax bomb” lie and complain that the child hadn’t given police enough information....

In 2015, Van Duyne seized on a claim, promoted by the conservative site Breitbart News, suggesting that a Muslim court in Irving was operating under Sharia law. She swiftly posted a condemnation of the idea on Facebook....

The “Sharia Law Court” was in fact a mediation panel for resolving disputes among Muslims in Dallas. These types of mediators exist for Christians and Jews too, and the area’s Islamic community said its panel complied with American laws. The fact-checking site Politifact rated “false” the claim that Muslims “attempted to establish the first Islamic Sharia court inside the United States in the town of Irving, Texas.”

Nevertheless, Van Duyne went on Glenn Beck’s show to denounce the panel. “Equal treatment under the law doesn’t seem to exist,” Van Duyne told Beck. “I think you need to put your foot down and say, ‘This is America; we have laws here already.’ If you want to consult, if you want to arbitrate, that is well within our law ... I’ve got no problem with it. But setting up a separate court—setting up separate law—is not anything.”

Beck cut her off. “This is an actual court?”

“Correct,” Van Duyne responded, inaccurately.

Afterward, Van Duyne pushed the Irving city council to pass a resolution endorsing a Texas House bill that would bar “foreign” laws from superseding American laws. The measure was widely known as an “anti-Sharia” bill, and it thrilled the state’s far-right Republicans.
This isn't Trumpism. Trump is a bigot, but he wasn't responsible for the right's obsession with these stories -- Fox and other right-wing media outlets were. Trump has never really shared the right's obsession with imaginary outposts of Sharia law in America. (According to the Trump Twitter Archive, he tweeted the word "Sharia" only once in all his years on the site.)

If Van Duyne wasn't seen as extreme in a district won by Joe Biden, maybe it's because for years Fox has been regarded as a somewhat opinionated but perfectly respectable news organization. Many centrist suburbanites came to regard Donald Trump as a monster, but they've never felt that way about Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, or Brian Kilmeade.

Van Duyne kept up with times and ran a 2020 congressional campaign you might call Trumpy. Alex Samuels of the Texas Tribune tells us:
Early in her bid for a North Texas congressional seat, Beth Van Duyne went on “Fox & Friends” with three other Republican women to take aim at the brand of liberalism they planned to fight in Washington, D.C.

Informally named a “conservative squad” — the GOP’s antidote to a quartet of progressive women in the U.S. House known as “the squad” — Van Duyne said that, if elected, the GOP group’s goal was to influence a Congress “run by extremists.” ...

After the “conservative squad” appeared on “Fox & Friends” last year, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar said in a tweet that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

Van Duyne responded: “Socialism is the severest form of treachery.”

... In the runup to Election Day, she took up the president’s defense with a gusto, advocating for reopening schools and against further pandemic-related shutdowns. She also espoused pro-police policies, stoking fear about “violent criminals” and the decline of Texas cities in the face of protests over racial injustice.

“Make no mistake: There are gangs. We’ve got drug cartels that are doing business in our street. We’ve got sex trafficking,” she told The Morning News. “Those aren’t things we’re just making up. This is real city crime.”
But most of this is what Republicans would have been saying for the past year with or without Trump. It's what they're saying now, at a time when Trump is speaking up only occasionally, and mostly to whine about his election loss.

Van Duyne's is pro-Trump, but she's not a Trumpist. She's a bog-standard Fox News Republican. Far too many Americans, including quite a few Biden voters, still have no problem with that.

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