Paxton acquittal a mockery of justice
Earlier this month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was acquitted by the Texas Senate of all 16 articles of impeachment filed against him. Despite being previously suspended from his duties due to alleged fraud and abuse of power, the Senate declined to remove him from public office.
The acquittal comes as a slap in the face to many who see the ruling as a product of partisan solidarity rather than actual justice. Taken in conjunction with his recent attack on the transgender community, the verdict also directly undermines the legislature’s legitimacy.
The attorney general has been a highly controversial figure in Texas politics since he first took office in 2015. His approval rating amongst Texas voters has remained consistently at around 30% before the trial, with a low of 27% once the trial commenced.
In recent years, he has taken more hardline conservative stances on issues like LGBTQ+ equality and reproductive rights. Most notably, he came under fire for a legal opinion he published on transgender youth, in which he labeled gender-affirming care as “child abuse.”
He has even gone as far as to investigate parents and hospitals that supply this type of care for minors, which often involve strictly therapeutic measures.
When it comes to reproductive rights, Paxton has celebrated the overturning of Roe v. Wade. He has filed lawsuits against pharmacies that offered abortion medication and infamously fled his home in order to avoid a subpoena in a lawsuit filed against him by a pro-choice advocacy group.
Paxton’s indictment has painted an even uglier picture of him. The charges alleged serious ethical violations that include abusing public investigation laws, firing whistleblowers and engaging in bribery.
Despite these high-profile crimes that have significantly impacted the people of Texas, he has now returned to his duties after a four month suspension. So, what does this demonstrate about the government’s ability to properly discipline politicians in a non-partisan way?
Well, it shows that polarization makes it unlikely. The Texas Senate is composed of 31 members, 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Nine Republicans were needed to remove the Attorney General completely. His wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, was barred from voting in the case. Yet still, the Senate chose not to vote him out.
Ultimately, what this shows is that the Texas government has now become so polarized that it is willing to forego criminal acts to keep the power imbalance.
It’s our duty as citizens to stand up and take action when faced with injustices like this. While Paxton is not on the ballot again until 2026, there are other issues and offices that are worth paying attention to this November — the most notable being the next mayor of Houston.
Michael King is a Political Science senior who can be reached at [email protected].