The news that Greg Abbott will not call a special session on gay marriage should not have been a surprise to anyone. I wouldn’t even call this a “decision” on the governor’s part, really. In addition to the fact that Abbott has never cited gay marriage as the most serious issue facing Texas today, he is clearly a reasonable adult, and would therefore be unlikely to see it as such. Plus, the Lege had plenty of opportunities to pass anti-gay legislation, and declined all of them; that’s not a particularly ambiguous result, or one that seems like an accident.
Still, the news was a serious disappointment to some of Texas’s most ardent social conservatives in Texas, who are still reeling from the 84th Legislature’s total failure to advance this aspect of their agenda. Their dismay is not surprising: considering that both chambers and all major statewide offices are controlled by Republicans, who won the 2014 elections in a landslide, this was a pretty unproductive session from a socially conservative perspective. But looking back at the session, I don’t think socially conservative activists should be surprised. They’re the ones to blame, at least in part. And if they don’t realize that–which many of them clearly don’t–they’re bound to be disappointed again.
In my assessment, social conservatives were stymied by circumstances this session, specifically guns; the seemingly endless open carry debate absorbed the time and muscle that otherwise might have been allocated to tackling right-wing priorities such as abortion, gay people, or the Texas DREAM Act. They were also thwarted by their usual bogeyman, Joe Straus, and the commitment to tackling real issues like roads and education that he and his affiliates represent. The latter factor is no doubt the one that conservatives will focus on during the next round of primaries; some of the RINOs have already drawn official challenges. The right wing may win a few seats, as they have in previous rounds.
But that approach helps explain how little social conservatives accomplished. The purges marginalize them in two predictable ways.