It has been one week since primary Election Day in Texas, and political pundits are still trying to make sense of what exactly the results could mean for the political climate in the state, and even the country, going forward.
One hypothesis is that the primaries were a battle between the more moderate and far-right factions of the Texas Republican Party. In the case of one North Texas congressional district, more traditional American conservatism won out, says Nicole Russell, an opinion writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Russel argues that Dan Crenshaw, who won reelection in Texas’ 2nd Congressional District, is the face in Texas of a “new right” movement that is separating itself from the brand of Republicanism championed by former President Donald Trump. Listen to the interview with Russel in the audio player above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: I bet a lot of people have been pushing back a little bit on your coronation of Dan Crenshaw as the leader of the new right in Texas. What have you been hearing from some Republicans?
Nicole Russel: Actually, my view is not the only one. I think that if you look at the data from his primary results, he garnered about 45,000 votes to his opponents 10,000. And so, even though several mainstream outlets suggested that the far-right would best him, I think his primary results show differently.
Do you not believe that there is an internal dissent within the GOP? It seems like there is a sort of pro-Trump wing that has been trying to pull the party further to the right, as some moderates have been trying to resist.
I definitely agree that there is a pro-Trump right, I just don’t think it’s here in Crenshaw’s district. I think those primary results show that even with a far-right Trump supporter running against him, that his voters preferred him. And if you notice, Dan has really separated himself from Trump. And so that’s where I get my thesis from.
Perhaps we should define how you see the “new right,” as you describe it.
The new right is what I hope the new right would be, which would be a conservative movement that would separate itself somewhat from Trump. Not necessarily all of his policies; a lot of conservatives agreed with his policies. But perhaps more with his personality and with his demeanor: [he’s] unable to accept the election results; constantly putting out statements from his [political action committee] that sound like a 12-year-old boy having a temper tantrum. And so I think the new right would be a movement that separates itself from that kind of demeanor and really embrace more standard conservative policies, which Crenshaw has done in Congress.
How much of Crenshaw’s success comes from his celebrity status as opposed to his political savvy?
I honestly don’t know the answer. He definitely has a more broad appeal than, I think, your average Texas politician. He does appeal to a lot of voters: he’s got the veteran base; and he is popular in the mainstream media, especially from his “Saturday Night Live” appearance. So I would agree with you that he definitely gets some of those votes and that doesn’t hurt him. But he does have a real strong conservative stance on many things, and I think that has helped him, as well, in Congress.
If Dan Crenshaw is the face of the new right, as you call it, who are the other new right politicians?
I do hope he could represent, in some form, a way forward past Trump, sort of a post-Trump conservative era. I don’t know exactly where those politicians will come from. You have Morgan Luttrel, his friend that won in [Texas’] 8th [Congressional District]. So I think some of them will come from Texas.
I know he has other allies in Congress, and hopefully as more time goes on, away from the Trump presidency, hopefully they’ll become more brave and bold and really come out of the woodwork and support a new kind of conservative movement that has upgraded themselves from Trump.