Pope Francis’ Visit Shined Light On GOP’s Misplaced Priorities In Texas

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There was no love loss for right wing conservatives who decried Pope Francis as a “liberal” for his rather populist positions on economics, climate change and the death penalty — but Catholic Republicans like Governor Greg Abbott were in a bit more awkward situation.

Just as the front runners for GOP’s presidential nomination were debating whether a Muslim should even be allowed to occupy the White House, we were reminded how conservatives drummed up fears that John F. Kennedy’s Catholic faith would render him a papal puppet. That proved to be untrue then, and it appears the faith leader still has more influence over his general flock than those they elect. Maybe eventually it will even have an affect on who they elect?

Gov. Abbott himself was attacked earlier this year for his Catholic faith by conservatives who didn’t like a religious Facebook meme he posted that celebrated Mary, the mother of Jesus. It was a small price for Abbott to pay for the many times he has used religion to whip votes on wedge issues.

Abbott even proposed a hyper political (and wholly ineffective and unnecessary) “LIFE” initiative to help play into the Planned Parenthood hysteria. While he distracted his pro-life base press reported that Republicans cut hundreds of millions in Medicaid funds affecting children with severe disabilities and, “causing between 60,000 and 70,000 children to lose access to medically necessary care, particularly in rural areas.” And yes, Texas still has the largest number of uninsured children in the nation.

The Pope’s message of putting the least first has largely been lost on the GOP. One notable exception was Speaker John Boehner who announced his resignation shortly after visiting with the Pope. It was clear from his exit speech that Boehner had grown tired of fighting his own party to prevent the federal government from shutting down, this time over Planned Parenthood.

Reproductive health care isn’t the only target of GOP pitchforks. Their policy priorities fail to acknowledge that caring for the environment, the poor and the sick were Jesus’ words, not the Pope’s.

The Texas Organizing Project is one group who seized the opportunity to make a personal appeal based on these values. “This afternoon, we’re taking the Pope’s message to Gov. Greg Abbott, a fellow Catholic. His response to the stranger has been disheartening, from blocking President Obama’s executive action to celebrating the arrest of an undocumented mother seeking medical care. Gov. Abbott’s actions are far from the Pope’s words about being humane, just and fraternal,” wrote Jessica Azua, immigration organizer for TOP, San Antonio.

TOP targeted Gov. Abbott with a petition aimed at getting him to “meet with Latino families and answer for celebrating ripping apart our families.” The comment refers to a tweet by the governor saying that, “Texas is cracking down on illegal immigration: Immigrant arrested at doctor’s office with fake ID faces deportation.” The tweet links to an article about a woman who was arrested in front of her children while seeking health care at a clinic.

The State of Texas under the new (felony indicted) conservative Christian Attorney General Ken Paxton has also gone as far as denying immigrant parents the birth certificates of their American born children.

Times have gotten harder for immigrants since the GOP presidential field has been on an all out assault on “sanctuary cities,” birthright citizenship and been more interested in building walls along the border than bridges with in it. But lest you thought Abbott and the Texas GOP are merely attempting to halt immigrants from south of the border — they want you to know unequivocally, that it includes those refugees from Syria as well.

Texans and outsiders alike might be unaware that Texas’ top government officials weren’t always so indifferent towards to poor. It was Democratic President Lyndon Baines Johnson that brought much of rural Texas into the modern age, but without more Democrats getting elected many Texans are slowing slipping backward in time and and in many cases back into poverty.

Overall, Texas households saw their incomes shrink, with median income falling 1.2% to $49,392. In other words, the only people doing well in today’s economy are people who were already doing well, the middle class is hemorrhaging, and the ranks of the poor are swelling.” – Texas Food Bank Network





About Author

Joe Deshotel

Joe was born and raised in Beaumont, Tx, but live music and politics brought him to Austin. He has worked in and around government and elections for over a decade including for a member of US Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Mayor of Austin. He currently serves as Communications Director for the Travis County Democratic Party. He is most interested in transportation, energy and technology issues. He also likes Texas Hold'em and commuting on his electric skateboard. Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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