Texas politics have long been seen as a relative outlier in the country — a stronghold for Republicans, a petri dish for the cultivation of conservative policies and a body politic sharply to the right of other states and Washington, D.C.
But with Republicans all but certain to control all three branches of federal government in 2017, Texas may be the consummate political model for the country, an example conservative politicos draw inspiration from and a lesson for liberals to fear. In more ways than one, the politics and policies of Texas have been thrust onto the national stage over the course of the next four years. There are others that share a similar political makeup and certain policy priorities with Texas, but no state in this cohort carries nearly the same political or economic weight.
Texas has been solidly red for a generation. The Texas Supreme Court is unanimously Republican, both Senators are Republican, the Governor's Mansion has held Republicans since 1995 and, when the 85th Legislature gavels in in January, 115 out of the 181 seats will be held by Republicans. In fact, 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the last time Texans voted for a Democrat in a presidential election. Texas Democrats have been excluded from statewide office longer than Democrats in any other state.
Sound familiar? This November, along with president-elect Donald Trump's unexpected victory, Republicans retained control over both chambers of Congress and captured the highest number of Republican governorships and state legislators in modern history. Furthermore, Republicans will soon have dominance over every branch of the federal government—including the U.S. Supreme Court.
The incoming presidential administration has indicated that it shares many of the same priorities of high-profile Texas Republicans. Trump and his transition team are intent on undoing the legacy of the preceding administration as quickly as possible, similar to Gov. Greg Abbott, who as attorney general filed 31 lawsuits against Obama's government and as governor has derided the Clean Power Plan as a federal “power grab.”
Though they were nemeses in a bitter primary season, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz also shares similar views with Trump's incoming administration. Both maintain that there is little to no scientific consensus that our climate is changing or that humans are responsible for it. Both are outspoken opponents of Roe v Wade and are committed to rolling back abortion rights.
In recent years, Texas has embraced many conservative policies, such as defunding Planned Parenthood, requesting across-the-board state agency budget cuts, targeting environmental regulations and OK'ing open carry. Many legislative, executive and judicial successes for Republicans in Texas serve as forerunners to national congressional debates and discussions on these issues. For example, the Texas Legislature defunded Planned Parenthood in 2011, long before the protracted and divisive issue played out on the national stage in Congress in 2015.
In general, the Texas GOP's wish list closely mirrors that of the administration. A fundamental cornerstone of Trump's candidacy — in fact, the jumping-off point for his campaign — were proposals to erect a massive wall along the country's southern border to stymie the flow of illegal immigrant and to deport undocumented immigrants en masse. Border security, illegal immigration and deportation are front-burner issues for Texas Republicans — which Trump has elevated to the national stage of political discourse.
Come 2017, the United States will face an administration and Congress that share many priorities and ideologies with Texan politicians. Furthermore, the Supreme Court will soon be manned with a ninth Supreme Court Justice molded in the likeness of the late Antonin Scalia, and state legislatures and governorships across the country are as Republican as ever.
While this may seem unprecedented in modern history, it is not. A formidable political entity — with the second-largest population, GDP and total land area in the country — stands out as a fitting bellwether: The Lone Star State.