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Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

OPINION: Paxton trial reminds us of extensive fractures within our system.

Tate Burchfield / Hilltop Views
Texas Capitol building, where the Sept. 16 proceedings were held, undergoing rehabilitation work. The State Capitol is in a turbulent state both inside and out.

Sept. 16 saw the culmination of the impeachment process against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The 51st Attorney General found himself in this position due to unearthed information about collusion, extramarital affairs and criminal activity which occurred during his time in office.

Despite the extensive nature of the evidence used, the Texas State Senate failed to impeach Paxton; he was acquitted of all charges against him. The failure to keep our politicians in check represents the contemporary trend of misconduct being ignored in both state and federal legislatures.These ineptitudes and misaligned goals have manifested with deadlocked legislatures across the nation. Political polarization and the fear of losing popularity has allowed for politicians to operate seemingly unchecked. To combat this, we constituents need to hold our legislators accountable for their actions and inactions. Ultimately, voters must insert themselves into the equation to check and balance the government where it has failed to do so. 

In my lifetime, I have witnessed three major impeachment trials, two of which were against former President Donald Trump. Although the first trial against Trump ended in an acquittal, the second resulted in an indictment. Following this win for justice, I assumed that the new impeachment against Paxton would not be plagued by the problems of Trump’s 2020 trial. 

Impeachment trials have always operated with a certain amount of spectacle in the United States. During Trump’s first impeachment trial, I recall a teacher who continuously played court footage until the trial’s conclusion. Media fervor is expected for such high-profile happenings in the government. The American public loves scandal, arguments and the ability to pass judgment, which are leading it to become the new American pastime.

However, looking beyond the spectacle of their court proceedings, impeachments illustrate an essential flaw in our American democracy. Impeachments are a bad thing that should signal to the public that a politician is failing their role. But, if that is true, how could Paxton’s career have a potential renewal?

Paxton was originally impeached in May 2023 in a landslide 121-23 ruling in the Texas House. Both branches of the Texas Legislature are controlled by the GOP, so this initial ruling illustrated a potential future of bipartisan justice during a wave of right-winged legislation. The Senate floor on Sept. 16 did not feature the same level of assuredness as the House of Representatives.

For any of the 16 articles, 21 senators had to vote in favor of a conviction in order to remove Paxton from office. Currently, there are only 12 Democratic senators in office, meaning that there would need to be bipartisan consensus for a Paxton conviction. Only Sens. Robert Nichols and Kelly Hancock crossed party lines, resulting in a dismissal of all of the impeachment articles. 

The Senate’s display shown on Sept. 16 leads one to question if there is an innate ideological difference between House and Senate Republicans. How could 60 Republican House representatives find it necessary to impeach Paxton, but only two Republican senators?

One presumes that Republican senators are more concerned with their portrayal in the media than governmental integrity. Voting for acquittal could mean potentially being ousted by the ever-growing sect of radical Republicans, which was demonstrated by Paxton’s fierce attack of Sen. John Cornyn.

Paxton’s acquittal should serve as a wakeup-call for the Texas populace, alerting us of our failing system. Although we cannot control the actions of our politicians, we can control who we vote for. The trend toward radical self-serving elites in Texas is a distressing one, but it does not need to be final. 

The trial’s conclusion is an unnerving reminder of the weight that identity has on politics. As the senate inches toward the next potential special session proposed by Gov. Greg Abbott, voters must remember that it is our responsibility to alleviate political polarization and injustice. And that can only be achieved with education and mobilization.

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About the Contributor
Tate Burchfield
Tate Burchfield, Staff Writer
Tate Burchfield is a first year student on the hilltop, and this is his first year writing for Hilltop Views. He is interested in politics and the arts. He is from Galveston, Texas and is excited to spend his time in Austin with Hilltop Views.

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