Abbott’s inaugural address a frightening foretaste of things to come

Associate Editor Noah M. Horwitz put it well Tuesday in his blog post when he noted the departure of outgoing Gov. Rick Perry’s moderate conviction politics and the arrival of incoming Gov. Greg Abbott’s brand of right-wing lunacy.

“Fast forward to today, and everything has changed,” Horwitz said. “Compared with Abbott and Dan Patrick, the new lieutenant governor, Perry is on the centrist end of his state party.”

The new governor bore him out on this point Tuesday morning. If you want any indication of where Abbott’s moral compass lies, look no further than his inaugural address.

While unsurprising for its policy proposals, including unsnarling traffic, implementing new solutions for drought-stricken towns and lessening the creeping influence of the federal government on state affairs, the “More We Must Do” speech, so titled for the anaphoric exhortations to do more for and better by the people of Texas, was shot through with references to religion, the Scriptures and, surprisingly but tellingly, the modern evangelical anthem “You Raise Me Up.” 

We’ve reviewed each of Perry’s inaugural addresses, and as we suspected and remembered, none were as overtly religious as Abbott’s was Tuesday.

Much was made during the gubernatorial campaign of Abbott’s rock-ribbed conservatism and whether or not it would exceed Perry’s. Abbott has left us in absolutely no doubt about that. If he can be said to have done one thing extremely well Tuesday, it was to have differentiated himself right out of the gate from his predecessor.

We do not grudge the man his religion. He is entitled to it just as anyone else is. But the effects of his infusion of religion into the office could be manifold. As Abbott has made abundantly clear, his religion drives everything. That wouldn’t be such a problem if it didn’t harm the less privileged so disproportionately and lead to policies that skirt the First Amendment. His faith is the justification for his objection to abortion rights and climate change policy, to name just two issues, as well as his support for such overtly religious displays as the Ten Commandments on state property.   

The U.S. Constitution enshrines the right of the people to be free from “law[s] respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The idea was that no one should be punished for not adhering to the dominant religion.

But under Abbott, as well as fellow traveler Dan Patrick, who was sworn in as lieutenant governor Tuesday, we have to wonder even more than we did with Perry whether that will remain true. We fear what this will mean for the future course of Texas politics, because while Abbott is just one man and will only be governor for so long, his actions could have ramifications that could be felt for decades to come.

Only time will tell.