We Have an Issue: This Chaos Didn't Sow Itself
The Trump era ends with a bang, egged on by Texas politicians like Ted Cruz and Ken Paxton. Plus: Time to vote in the Austin Music Poll!
My original draft of this column was a breezy little number about political theatre and the pointless-but-for-the-political-points posturing of so many Republican politicians, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who belly-flopped in his attempts to sue four battleground states that went for Biden, and Sen. Ted Cruz, who has spearheaded a challenge to the Electoral College vote count. I can't imagine either Paxton or Cruz thought they'd actually reverse Trump's defeat with these stunts, but by stoking conservative ire that the election was stolen and the system is rigged, they achieved their real goal – to genuflect to Trump and court his base.
From the Senate floor Wednesday morning, teeing up his political tap dance, Cruz said, "We are gathered at a time when democracy is in crisis."
And then Trump's MAGA rally in D.C. turned into an insurrection when Trump followers breached barriers at Congress, forcing an evacuation, and Cruz left the Senate chamber to the invaders, there for the express purpose of preventing the peaceful and lawful certification of our democratically elected next president.
We are gathered at a time when democracy is in crisis.
Who put us there, Ted?
As detailed in this week's cover story, Paxton's priority doesn't appear to be his day job as A.G. (As I type this, he's still in D.C., a featured speaker at Trump's rally. I wonder if he took a personal day?) Paxton's been under indictment for felony securities fraud charges for five years now, but his tarnish turned dingier yet when he took a personal interest in the criminal investigation of real estate magnate (and Paxton donor) Nate Paul. That interest alarmed his staff enough for them to alert authorities; cue recriminations, mudslinging, federal investigation, a whistleblower lawsuit. News Editor Mike Clark-Madison and staff writer Kevin Curtin unravel what we know, and what we don't know, about the whole sordid tale here.
Our annual Austin Music Poll kicks off in this issue. The Chronicle's been conducting the poll for 40 years now, but right now, it feels especially urgent to cheer on our favorite musicians, industry professionals, and their many innovations in a calamitous year for the local music scene. Check out the nominees on p.39 of this week's paper and cast your ballot through Feb. 1 at vote.austinchronicle.com.
Online This Week
Bursting the Bridgerton Bubble: In our Opinion section, a professor of English literature argues that the hit Netflix show isn't escapist romance but rather the narrative of a traumatized Black man stuck in the fairy-tale world of his white social peers.
Alright, Alright, Alright: Austin FC's roster continues to fill, including the just-announced signing of former U.S. World Cup player Matt Besler, who channeled Austin's own Matthew McConaughey in a video tweet trumpeting his move to Austin.
Big News From Robert Rodriguez: The El Rey Network, the cable channel platform for Hispanic audiences and talents that Rodriguez started in 2012, shut down on New Year's Day. But in brighter news, Rodriguez announced that he's developing a sequel to We Can Be Heroes, an end-of-year hit for Netflix.