Trump ally Ken Paxton's controversial 'legal warfare' style has worked in the culture wars
As I headed to Texas from Arizona, the very Republican state certainly had that orange guy’s very defiant, attack-attack-attack politics on its mind.
Soon after Donald Trump’s May 24 rally in Dallas, Texas prepared for the impeachment of its Republican attorney general, Ken Paxton. It’s scheduled for lunchtime, May 27 (Saturday, 1 pm).
The right in Texas has been getting all riled up about it. Mr Paxton is a Trump ally and a bipartisan but Republican-led committee of representatives in the Republican-dominated Texas House recommended he be impeached for a number of abuses that may have been crimes.
The case against Mr Paxton matters – to much more than Texas.
As Texas’s top law enforcement officer, Mr Paxton has styled himself as chief litigator of the culture wars. After the 2020 election, he used his office to challenge the results and has mounted numerous legal challenges to actions by the Biden administration.
Though Mr Trump, who endorsed Mr Paxton’s campaign for re-election to a third term last November – has not commented, his son Donald Trump Jr. said the investigation into “America First patriot Ken Paxton” is a “disgrace.” The junior Mr Trump tweeted: “MAGA stands with Ken Paxton against this RINO/DEMO led witch hunt!!!”
Other prominent right-wing figures have also come to Mr Paxton’s defence. Former Trump adviser Stephen Miller called on conservatives to “stand with Ken” because he frequently challenged the Biden administration on points of law. “Few in America have done more to advance the conservative legal movement, stop the lawless Biden executive onslaught, and defend our shared values,” he wrote.
And Kyle Rittenhouse, who has become a darling of the right after being acquitted for fatally shooting two Black Lives Matter protesters in Wisconsin in August 2020, challenged the very basis of the case against Texas’s chief law enforcement officer. Mr Paxton’s accusers, he said, were working with “anti-gun Democrats” and “attacking our pro-gun attorney general”.
Mr Paxton’s perils and chutzpah are part of a particular style of politics that might be called Trumpian had it not been so distinctly his own, long before Mr Trump came to national political prominence. That style has been described as “legal warfare” and it’s become part of the right’s playbook – and not just in America – which is why all eyes should be on what happens with Ken Paxton in Texas.