On Monday, the Houston Chronicle published an article entitled “Texas Rep. Jacey Jetton is fighting for his political future – and, he says, the soul of the GOP.”
The article begins, “In many ways, state Rep. Jacey Jetton could be the poster child for the Texas Republican Party. He is a young, married father of color, the son of a Korean immigrant and a member of the Army National Guard.”
“He is a ‘Christian first’ who leads religious services in his home every other Saturday. In his first two terms in office, Jetton has helped usher in some of the state’s most conservative and controversial measures, including border wall funding, a sweeping elections bill, an abortion ban and a prohibition on gender-affirming care for transgender youth.”
“But some in the GOP can’t get over one lingering detail: Jetton voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton on corruption charges in May.”
The Houston Chronicle article proceeds to list instances of the Republican party rejecting Jetton as a state representative, including allegations that he is a Republican in name only (RINO) made by many in the right; and Paxton and U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls endorsing a primary opponent Matt Morgan over Jetton and calling Jetton a “liberal.”
Jetton, the self-proclaimed “Reagan Republican,” who has “always been a fan of the Bushes,” “sometimes feels like he’s fighting for the heart of the Republican Party. Conservatism, he said, should be about ‘preserving what we call the American dream for future generations’ – ideally through limited government and a free market.”
Jetton mentioned Trump’s name in a criticism of rampant “tribalism” in both parties and admitted that he didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, although he did in 2020, The Houston Chronicle reported. He blames the “Texas dynasty” for being a “lightning rod for Republicans in the Trump era,” associating this with the country’s “addiction to fear and anger.”
Conversely, he listed his favorite Republican leaders: the Bush family, Greg Abbott, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio and Nikki Haley.
The concept of the “soul of the GOP” is an intriguing notion. While politicians of all ideologies campaign under the “Republican” party, many on the right no longer consider themselves “Republicans,” favoring the descriptor “conservative.”
Oxford Languages offers two separate definitions for “conservatism.” The first is “commitment to traditional values and ideas with opposition to change or innovation,” and the second is “the holding of political views that favor free enterprise, private ownership, and socially traditional ideas.”
Colloquially and socially, it seems that modern-day conservatism encompasses both definitions. Conservatives certainly favor free enterprise and private ownership, values which Jetton argued define the “soul of the GOP.”
Yet the third aspect of the second definition; political views which favor socially traditional ideas; is not congruent with Jetton’s voting record. Furthermore, the first definition, commitment to traditional values and ideas with opposition to change or innovation, is appealingly one which Jetton rejects altogether.
Jetton is right in that many of his constituents feel betrayed and angered by his voting records. This has long and increasingly been the case, a phenomenon by no means catalyzing from his “Yes” vote in the Paxton impeachment trial, but certainly compounded by this.
The major grievances from conservative voters against Jetton are illuminated in a November “Letter of No Confidence” in the state representative. The letter was signed by a supermajority of Republican precinct chairs in HD 26, and it called for his removal from office in the next election cycle.
The following is an excerpt from an article from Katy Christian Magazine, which analyzed many of the letter’s complaints against Jetton, including:
“Republican Party Platform 32, involving the right to bear arms and to nullify any gun laws that violate rights of the Second amendment or rights of due process. Jetton violated this principle with his vote to pass SB 728, which allowed the federal government to declare a person ‘mentally ill,’ ‘unwell’ or ‘dangerous’ and to seize their weapons.
GOP Legislative Priority 7, which protects gun rights against threats such as red flag laws.
Voted to Approve Speaker Dade Phelan, violating platform 233, requiring Texas Republican members to vote as a unified body for a Speaker candidate;
GOP Legislative Priority 5, to ban democratic chairs.
Voted “Yes” in the Illegal House Impeachment Trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton;
Authored and Voted To Pass HB 1898, which establishes a tax-funded grant program to fund children’s hospitals to include funding for “transitional operating support,” which is in violation of Republican Platform 209- Protecting Minors to prohibit sexual transition and Platform 156- Gender Identity;
And GOP Legislative Priority 3, To Ban the Gender Modification of Children.
The letter listed several more accounts of Jetton’s betrayal of his Republican constituents and colleagues, including GOP Legislative Priority 1, To Protect Texas Elections and Platform 137, Medical Freedom.”
Perhaps in Jetton’s world schema, he has honored the GOP with every vote he’s cast and every bill he’s authored. When you scrutinize many Texas House Republicans, it seems like Jetton is less an outlier and more a growing norm. Look no further than the likes of Mano DeAyala, Lacey Hull, Stan Kitman, Gary Gates to name just a few.
Perhaps the Republican party is simply shifting, and in the changing world, it has taken moderate stances in recently constructed issues, such as the medical gender modification of children.
A divide in the GOP as the party changes in a modern world; this idea would certainly explain Jetton’s votes, along with the actions and votes of his House allies, such as Lacey Hull, Dade Phelan, and so on. It would explain why so many of his constituents do feel betrayed, as if their values aren’t being upheld by what appears to be a member of their party. It would also explain the rejection of the descriptor “Republican,” by many, in favor of “conservative.”
Who determines how far along the ideological spectrum the pin for the “soul of the GOP” resides? Is it one politician in particular? Is it the voters? The politicians’ constituents? The answer to this question appears elusive; unmeasurable.
What is measurable is where on the ideological scale Jetton’s values reside, as captured by a Rice University Analysis tool for the ideological scoring of legislators. The tool describes Jetton, in 2023, as “slightly liberal.”
The Trumps and the Bushes of the world: who is truly Republican? Who is not? It almost seems pointless to debate. Jetton is completely accurate in his observation of the growing polarization within the right-winged party.
Jetton opponents argue that Bush Republicans led the impeachment effort against Paxton, which was one nationally viewed instance in a series of “betrayals” against their traditional beliefs. Liberal and Moderate, Bush Republicans are popularly dubbed RINOs by their right-winged constituents for compromising far too often with Democrats on partisan issues.
We’d like to emphasize that these politicians, including Jetton, are receiving heat for compromising or caving entirely to Democratic demands on partisan issues. These politicians, particularly observed in the House, have been accused of siding against their constituents and conservative colleagues in top-priority Republican bills.
As Jetton pointed out, Bush-era Republicans differ tremendously from Trump Republicans.
Trump Republicans also must be differentiated from “extremists,” although they’re often cast as such. Political extremists hate-monger and execute violent tactics for political gain, which is not remotely the same as speaking out in protection of a belief system.
The former is a dangerous phenomenon which happens on both sides of the political-ideological scale, while the latter is a civic duty. “Trump Republicans” believe that they (nonviolently) merely maintain the sentiments that the GOP has historically upheld, until recently.
Yet perhaps a better approach to dissecting the massive divide in Republicanism- and all factions which have emerged- is to quit pointing fingers altogether, and to simply elect legislators and representatives who actually believe in your particular Republican values.
Fort Bend County, which Jetton represents, is a conservative community in the manner which most people perceive conservatism: the upholding of free enterprise, private ownership and commitment to socially traditional values and ideas. The county is largely Christian and largely composed of Trump Republican voters; not because the community is hateful and lost-souled, but because the community wants a world which to them feels natural, God-fearing, affordable and safe.
If Fort Bend County and the city of Katy are disappointed in moderate, Bush-era Republicanism, the regions should consider electing a strong, unwaveringly-moraled grassroot fighter to Austin. A prime example would be State Rep. Steve Toth of the Woodlands, or Matt Morgan, Jetton’s primary opponent.
“Let it be known, let it be clear now, the Bush era in Texas ends today!” Buzbee declared in his closing remarks during the Ken Paxton impeachment trial. It’s time to end Jetton as Katy’s State Representative.