LA Republicans celebrate abortion ruling, embrace far-right talking points at state convention

Josh Archote
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Louisiana Republicans celebrated the overturning of Roe v. Wade, reaffirmed their support for former President Donald Trump and criticized moderate Republicans like Sen. Bill Cassidy at this year's state GOP convention.

Some of the speakers' talking points at the convention embraced far-right rhetoric that some moderate Republicans in the state have rejected, including anti-vaccine rhetoric and the notion that the 2020 election was rigged and stolen by Democrats.

This year's state Republican convention, called Victory 2022, was held at the Cajundome Convention Center on Friday and Saturday. It was the state party's first major event since 2019.

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Saturday's mainstage event began with Louisiana Rep. Clay Higgins leading a procession of motorcyclists around the main stage. 

Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory spoke in support of the abortion ruling, conservatives taking back the governor's mansion and presidency in the coming elections. 

Some speakers also denounced the bipartisan gun bill President Joe Biden signed on Saturday. 

Reactions to abortion ruling

Republicans rejoiced at the news of Roe being overturned, which came just a few hours before the first event kicked off on Friday.  

Many prominent conservative speakers said that the ruling from the high court is only the beginning of more work to ensure other states follow in Louisiana's footsteps and implement strict abortion bans. 

"What's important to note is, almost 50 years ago the court actually got it wrong. Today they got it right," Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said at an impromptu press conference at the GOP convention in Lafayette on Friday.

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"What's also interesting is, for those of you who live in Louisiana, it's such a great day, because today Louisiana leads. Because Louisiana is one of the few states with the most pro-life laws on the books."

Louisiana had trigger laws in effect, now making abortion illegal. All three of Louisiana's abortion clinics — Delta Clinic of Baton Rouge, Women's Health Care Center in New Orleans and Hope Medical Group in Shreveport — must stop providing the procedure.

Drug-induced abortions, which now account for about half of all abortions, are also part of the ban.

"Thank God that we have reached a point in this country where we're doing things the way they're supposed to be done," said Ben Carson, former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Trump Administration, at the convention. 

"All that's been done by the Supreme Court is, quite frankly, to return this important life and death decision to the people and to the representatives of the people rather than to a bunch of elected justices. That's the way our system was designed." 

Carson also said that after the ruling, it's important for the U.S. to consider making the process of adoption easier and less expensive for those who can't support a child. 

Gun laws 

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, expressed disappointment in the bipartisan gun bill that Biden signed into law Saturday. 

The bill was the widest ranging gun violence bill passed in decades. It will toughen requirements for young people to buy guns in the U.S., deny firearms for more domestic abusers and expand local authorities' abilities to take weapons from people judged to be dangerous. 

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"The real issue here -- It's not about guns, it's about the people who pull the trigger. We need to start thinking seriously once again, about what is happening to the hearts and minds of the people in our country," Carson said. 

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy worked on the mental health component of the bill. The state GOP censured Cassidy last year for being one of seven Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

"How many of you are disgusted that 15 Republicans voted to negotiate your gun rights away?" said Ian Escalante, south regional director of Young Americans for Liberty. 

'Shifting to the right'

Some of the more extreme positions taken by speakers reflect how the state party has edged farther to the right since Trump took office. "Mitt Romney Republican" or "Cassidy Republican" have become common insults from Trump-aligned Louisiana Republicans.

They are meant to suggest that these moderate conservatives are Republicans in name only, or "RINOS."

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"We need to make sure that when all y'all throw out John Bel Edwards, you don't put a Bill Cassidy in there," Escalante said. 

Many speakers said that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and that Biden is an illegitimate president. 

Congressman Clay Higgins embraced far-right talking points, including the idea that Trump is actually the current president since the election was rigged and that immigration is leading to the U.S. losing its "culture."

Dozens of lawsuits from Trump and others challenging the 2020 election failed. 

"We cannot absorb 2.3 million illegal aliens into our country every year. We will lose our sovereign identity, our culture as a nation," Higgins said.

He said he wants to shift the center of gravity of the Republican party to the right. Higgins also suggested that the party was willing to take up arms and "meet at the bridge" like in 1776 during the American Revolutionary War, when the first shot of the war was fired at Concord's North Bridge.

"We support legal immigration but this occupier of the White House and his party, the liberals that have taken over his party driving the country to ruin and we have to respond," Higgins said. "Some of us are quite passionate about our willingness to defend and protect and preserve our republic. If we have to meet (at the) bridge like they did in 1776, we'll do that. We'll do that if we have to. But we don't want that. We want to restore our nation legally and peacefully within the Constitution."

Convention speakers included local and national figures 

  • Ben Carson, former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Trump Administration
  • Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, an Evangelical group that opposes LGBTQ+ rights
  • David Bossie, chairman of Citizens United and former deputy campaign manager of Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2016
  • Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's campaign manager in 2016
  • Eileen Sobjack, president of the National Federation of Republican Women
  • Kyle Ardoin, Louisiana secretary of state
  • Billy Nungesser, Louisiana Lieutenant Governor
  • Jeff Landry, Louisiana attorney general 
  • Louisiana U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins
  • Louisiana U.S. Rep. Garret Graves
  • Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory