I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear car tires squealing, I check to make sure it’s not Ken Paxton running from yet another subpoena. Of course, the state attorney general’s multiple legal troubles, including members of his own staff saying he’s too corrupt, point to the unfortunate fact that if you’re a Texas politician, it doesn’t matter how dishonest, inept, or dumb you are as long as you have an R by your name. 

The first time I realized that was after Libby Willis faced Konni Burton in a debate back in 2014. Libby showed herself to be knowledgeable and grounded in what we used to call reality while Konni — well, you couldn’t exactly say she was knowledgeable or particularly grounded in anything but the fevered swamps of the right-wing echo chamber. 

Her focus was performative, throwing out red meat to her far-right supporters. Would she lose support because of her poor debate performance, I wondered? I needn’t have. She went on to win, and I learned a depressing but necessary lesson about today’s politics.


Once upon a time, Texas politicians, even the ones with an R by their names, could suffer if they said the wrong thing. Think back to 1990 when Republican Clayton Williams was ahead of his opponent Ann Richards in the governor’s race until he told reporters the cattle roundup at his ranch being spoiled by rain was like rape. “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.” He went on to lose. Today a Texas Republican could say the same thing or something 10 times worse, and there would be absolutely no repercussions. 

Paxton isn’t the only statewide Republican with ethics problems. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is under suspicion because his top aide was indicted on bribery charges for taking money for state hemp licenses that are administered by — you guessed it — Miller’s office. Before that, the former rodeo star was mainly known for making racist and misogynist remarks that play well in Trumpland, a.k.a. Nonreality, posting on Facebook that the U.S. ought to bomb “the Muslim world.” Why we pay a man entrusted to promote Texas agriculture who wastes his time spouting such garbage is beyond me. 

Even some mainstream Republicans opposed him for re-election, but he easily won with the Trump stamp of approval. His opponent now, Democrat Susan Hays, has gotten endorsements from even fairly conservative newspapers like the San Antonio Express-News, the Houston Chronicle, and the Dallas Morning News. But those endorsements won’t mean much. Remember, Miller has an R by his name, and that capital letter means never having to say you’re sorry.

In today’s Republican Party, candidate quality means nothing, and for that reason alone you should vote against every single Republican on the ballot. But if you need more reasons, there are plenty. The GOP has not been a normal American political party for at least a decade. Extremist views and even violence are now deeply embedded in its DNA. Members are not interested in compromise, which is absolutely necessary in our system, or facts.

They are the party of the dopiest and most dangerous conspiracy theory, that Trump won the 2020 election. In a democracy, it’s an absolute necessity that political parties lose gracefully. You want to use legal options? No problem. Once those are exhausted, it’s time to STFU. Once Republicans began to say they’ll only accept an election if they win, that’s when they disqualified themselves.

If you want the coming decade to be known for an exponential increase in political violence, then by all means, vote Republican. Countless commercials for the GOP show macho candidates toting weapons, sometimes even using Democrats as targets. After Gabby Giffords, the El Paso Walmart, the Pittsburgh synagogue, January 6, and most recently the vile attack on the 82-year-old husband of the Speaker, it’s time to stop this insanity. 

Republicans have had plenty of chances to distance themselves from Trump and January 6, but they haven’t. Punish them for that. Don’t allow them in government at any level. Republicans have no solution for inflation or high gas prices except giving lap dances to authoritarians like Putin and MBS.

At the national level, all they’ll do is give tax breaks to the wealthy, force women to give birth, continually weaken our democracy, and engage in petty culture war b.s. At the state level, they’ll let us freeze again, undermine our health by not expanding Medicaid, and do nothing to stop mass shootings, and don’t even get me started on how backward they are on abortion. Enough! Vote the bastards out.

Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue is a 65-year-old native Texan who still remembers when we were the Friendship State. 

This column reflects the opinions of the author and not the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at He will gently edit it for factuality, clarity, and concision.



  1. Thanks, Rhonda, coming from you that’s a high compliment. I always love me Bob Ray Sanders. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s editorial page now isn’t much. But when Bob Ray was there, it was always interesting.