End the duopoly

Analysis: The best antidote for a political scandal? Sound a base note.

If you don’t like the way a discussion is going, change the subject.

That’s fundamental to politics — a tool employed with great skill by President Donald Trump and, it turns out, by lesser political lights. Appeal to the heart of your voting base.

Social issues often provide some of the best political diversions. Gov. Greg Abbott has landed himself a two-fer, extending what has been a sustained battle with local government to an attack on the city of Austin’s controversial policies for where homeless people can camp and linger. And now there’s another, more incendiary issue to talk about as Abbott and other state officials weigh in on a Dallas-area custody fight that hinges, in part, on the gender identity of a child.

Maybe this wasn’t the intent, but those subjects — appealing as they are to the state’s Republican base — are getting more public attention from the elected class than the fall of Republican Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who was undone by the public release of a recording of a confoundingly raw and blunt private conversation about politics.

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Now the Texas House is right back where it started two years ago — electing a new speaker to replace the one it’s got.

But never mind all of that.

Some distractions are real issues that the conservative base was paying attention to even without the help of politicians in state government.

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