Vulnerable House GOPers Wobble Trying To Dismiss Far-Right Talk Of Civil War At Texas Border

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

As some of their far-right colleagues salivate over Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s performative legal and political standoff with federal border agents, vulnerable House Republicans are toeing an all-too-familiar line between criticizing their hardliner colleagues’ rhetoric and still demonizing the Biden administration.

Since the Supreme Court issued a limited decision allowing Border Patrol agents to cut through razor wire that the Texas National Guard put up near a border town to block migrants from crossing the border into Texas — and effectively blocking federal law enforcement from accessing parts of the border — Abbott, Texas Republicans and other House GOPers have made a big show of encouraging Texas officials to ignore the ruling. Some Republicans like Reps. Chip Roy (R-TX) and Clay Higgins (R-LA) have used inflammatory, rebellious language to encourage Texas officials to “stand your ground” against Border Patrol and to invoke talk of a “civil war.”

Abbott, for his part, has made a lot of noise about defying the SCOTUS decision, but hasn’t actually done that.

Vulnerable House Republicans find themselves in familiar terrain, squirming to properly criticize their colleagues for inflammatory rhetoric, while also keeping attacks on the Biden administration live as the party heads into an election cycle without a policy platform beyond something something Biden border crisis. Donald Trump has even effectively tanked a bipartisan Senate immigration bill because solving the “crisis” during an election year would be a “gift” to Democrats.

The Messenger spoke to a handful of House Republicans that the outlet classified as “moderate,” some of whom are running in districts that President Biden won in 2020. Each walked a tightrope, criticizing the “rhetoric” pushed by their extreme colleagues, but maintaining the Republican Party’s 2024 talking point — that migrants are waging a war on the U.S.-Mexico border and it’s all Biden fault.

A sampling:

“That is not the rhetoric I would use,” Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) told The Messenger in the same breath as this: “I think this shows how the border is such a terrible abject crisis. … And listen, when we let problems like this fester, of course, people are going to start to look for unusual options.”

Rep. John Duarte’s (R-CA) tone was similar.

“The rhetoric is unfortunate. The situation is unfortunate,” he said. “We have a complete leadership vacuum at the border. And governors are trying to fill that vacuum and it’s becoming controversial. This is all routed back to Joe Biden’s failure to secure the border.”

Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) dismissed the notion that anyone is talking about an actual civil war: “I don’t take it literally,” he said.

It’s a tricky needle to thread and a hallmark conundrum of the Trump era. They must try to appeal to voters back home, some of whom may be squeamish about “Civil War” talk, but others of whom have been convinced the country is being invaded by people fleeing violence and poverty.

The Best Of TPM Today

Greg Abbott’s Performative Border Clash Is A Classic MAGA Era Stunt

Dissenters Decry ‘Judge-Driven’ Mistakes As 8th Circuit Declines To Hear Major Voting Case

What Latest Polling Says About The Mood In Ukraine—And The Desire To Keep Fighting

Yesterday’s Most Read Story

Relish What One Person Can Do To Defend The Rule Of Law — David Kurtz

What We Are Reading

Ohio Man Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison for Firebombing a Church that Planned to Host Drag Show Events — DOJ

Bolsonaro’s Son Targeted by Police in Spying Agency Probe — Bloomberg

G.O.P. Infighting and Democratic Mischief Animate Montana Senate Race — New York Times

Correction: This article initially gave the impression that Joe Biden won Dusty Johnson’s district in 2020. He did not. TPM regrets this error.