There was a time, way back in 2015 and 2016, that Texas Republicans were part of the last line of defense against the looming specter of President Donald Trump. Former Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Ted Cruz and a bevy of Lone Star Never Trumpers held the line as best they could, calling Trump a "cancer on conservatism," a "pathological liar" and utterly amoral. Even as late as the 2016 Republican National Convention, it seemed like Texas might end up being home to conservative resistance against Trump.
Over the last three-plus years, that balloon has popped. Disappointing, if not entirely unexpected. What's been less predictable has been Texas Republicans' growing, literally religious fervor for the president. Perry, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and First Baptist Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress, among many, many others, have gone in on the idea that Trump isn't a gift to those who have longed for a conservative leader willing to exercise hard power, but an agent of God.
In a portion of Fox News interview released Sunday, Perry — who once said Trump "offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued" — said the president was handpicked by God.
"I said, 'Mr. President, I know there are people that say — you know, you said you were the chosen one.' And I said, 'You were.' I said, 'If you're a believing Christian, you understand God's plan for the people who rule and judge over us on this planet in our government,'" Perry said.
To Perry's credit, he also said President Barack Obama wouldn't have been president without being "ordained by God." Patrick's rhetoric last week about the 2020 election was significantly more apoplectic.
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“We're not talking about taking on Democrats, we're talking about enemies of the word of God in many cases," Patrick said during an interview with conservative radio host Chad Hasty. "I know that may sound controversial, but they like to create chaos ... It's the left that wants to create chaos by electing a Democrat who's following their ideology, which, if you look at their policies, there are many, many, many that are against the word of God on so many issues."
Patrick's been reading from the gospel according to Jeffress.
Earlier this month, the pastor — whose church and its $130 million sanctuary enjoy tax-exempt status from the federal government — struck a similar tone discussing the ongoing impeachment inquiry into the president. The push to get rid of Trump — Jeffress said of the man who's committed adultery on multiple occasions, used to wholeheartedly support abortion and believes that some children should be kept in cages — is an attack on Christian values.
"Never in the history of America have we had a president who was a stronger warrior for the Judeo-Christian principles upon which this nation was founded than in President Donald J. Trump,” Jeffress said on Lou Dobbs Tonight. "Evangelicals understand that the effort to impeach President Trump is really an effort to impeach our own deeply held faith values, and we’re not going to allow that to happen."