Texas has been a Republican state for the past several decades, but over the past two years—fueled by the Tea Party movement and the religious right—the state has tilted even farther to the right. At first glance, yesterday’s election results seem like more of the same. Mitt Romney may have lost the electoral college and the national popular vote, but he thumped Barack Obama in Texas, 57 percent to 41 percent. In 2008, John McCain carried the state’s electoral votes by a measly nine percent margin. Ted Cruz, the Tea Party-backed Republican, sailed into the Senate; he also won by sixteen points, over the Democrat Paul Sadler, and he’s considerably more conservative than the woman he’s taking over from, Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Taking a closer look, however, yesterday’s elections were a rebuke to the far-right faction of the Republican party. Even in Texas, the Tea Party should take a moment to reflect.
Despite having tacked to the right in the primaries, Romney was clearly among the more moderate of the high-profile Republicans in the 2012 elections. Although he came up short, he outperformed the Republicans to his right. That was apparent in the Senate races. Obama won five critical swing states–Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, and Virginia–by a narrower margin than the respective Democratic candidates for Senate did. Missouri and Indiana split their tickets: both states went easily to Romney, but opted for Democratic senators. The reason for those last two upsets is that the extremism of the modern Republican party has become hard to ignore. The Republican candidate for Senate in Missouri, Todd Akin, tumbled in the polls after opining that only some sexual assaults count as “legitimate rape.” The Republican candidate for Senate in Indiana, Joe Mourdock, similarly offended voters by explaining that a pregnancy resulting from rape reflects “God’s will.” To paraphrase Oscar Wilde,