Good day Austin:
What is another word for a party’s political platform? Opposition research.
Indeed, the document produced by the 2014 Republican Convention in Fort Worth was probably most eagerly awaited and avidly read by Texas Democrats. The instant the Republican convention approved its platform before adjourning Saturday afternoon, Battleground Texas issued a fundraising appeal under the headline, This GOP Platform Will Shock You, with the following bullet points drawn (in a couple of cases with a little interpretative license) from the Republican platform.
- Repeal the Voting Rights Act of 1965
- Reparative therapy to "cure" homosexuality
- Climate change is a conspiracy
- Drug test welfare recipients
- Abolish the Department of Education
- Abolish the Department of Homeland Security
- Deny a women’s right to choose even in cases of rape or incest
- Disband the TSA
- Defund Texas schools
- Reject the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
- Withdraw from the United Nations
Battleground Texas’ solution: Donate Now.
If you are actually shocked by that list, you may be a Democrat.
It’s probably a mistake to make too much of a party platform. They are like grade school finger-painting - more about self-expression and remaining usefully occupied than great art.
But they have a great virtue.
While much of politics is about obfuscation and obscuring what a candidate really thinks or would do behind market-tested slogans and bromides, platforms are painfully earnest documents that express what the party, or at any rate factions within the party, truly believe and care about. Sometimes, when the issue gets big enough - like immigration - the planks represent efforts to wrestle a consensus position out of competing points of view. But, most often, they offer a real peek at what the most devoted folks within the party are thinking.
The Republican Party platform also offers a clear view of the developing tension in the party between religious conservatives and libertarians - sort of Get Right with God vs. Live and Let Live. The party’s basic tenet appears to be limited government, and especially a limited federal government, but when it comes to "sin," there is a stark divide between those who think the government has a role to play and those who believe it’s nobody’s business but your own.
As Wayne Slater wrote in the Dallas Morning News:
FORT WORTH — This year’s Republican primary fight featured a showdown between traditional business interests and the tea party. But there’s a deeper battle brewing.
The real divide within the Texas GOP is between Christian conservatives who have been dominant in recent years and "liberty" groups with a more secular view — those who believe government should set a moral agenda and those who want as little government as possible.
"That’s what the conflict is — smaller government, fine. But not less-moral government," said David Barton, a state party leader who heads the conservative Christian group WallBuilders.
In terms of common ground, you could read the first two planks of the platform and get a good feel for what the Texas Republican Party is all about.
Reaffirm Texas Sovereignty as Reserved Under the 10th Amendment, United States Constitution - We strongly urge the Texas Legislature ignore, oppose, refuse, and nullify any federal mandated legislation which infringes upon the states’s 10th Amendment Right. All federal enforcement activities in Texas must be conducted under the auspices of the county sheriff with jurisdiction in that county.
Opposition to socialism - Socialism breeds mediocrity. America is exceptional. Therefore, the Republican Party of Texas opposes socialism in all of its forms.
A selection of other planks follows:
Repeal Patriot Act - We urge the repeal of the USA Patriot Act; and spying on law abiding Americans must stop immediately. We support court ordered warrants on an individual basis in cases directly involving national security.
Abolish NDAA - The Republican Party of Texas abhors any policies of indefinite detention of United States citizens without due process. We urge our government to terminate any practice of detention without due process, including, but not limited to, any enforcement of federal law by the military within the State of Texas, under Sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Emergency War Powers and Martial Law Declarations - We strongly urge Congress to repeal the War Powers Act and end our declared state of emergency. Any declaration of martial law should be approved by Congress.
Census - We oppose the Census Bureau’s obtaining data beyond the number of people residing in a dwelling, and we oppose statistical sampling adjustments. We support the actual counting of people and oppose any type of estimation or manipulation of census data. Only United States citizens should be counted for the purpose of adjusting legislative districts.
Constitutional Convention - We strongly oppose any constitutional convention to rewrite the United States Constitution. We encourage the Texas Legislature to rescind it 1977 call for such a convention. We call upon other states to rescind their votes for such a convention.
Reparations - We oppose any form of reparations.
Confederate Widow’s Plaque - We call for restoration of plaques honoring the Confederate Widow’s Pension Fund contributions that were illegally removed from the Texas Supreme Court.
Congressional Apology - The Republican Party of Texas endorses and supports the Proposed Congressional Apology to the Chinese Americans for governmental actions that denied equal rights to and adversely affected the Chinese in America.
Electoral College - We strongly support the Electoral College.
Voting Rights Act - We urge that the Voting Rights Act of 1965, codified and update in 1973, be repealed and not reauthorized.
United Nations -We support the withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations and he removal of the U.N. headquarters from United States soil.
Citizenship - We call on the Texas Legislature to pass a constitutional amendment that defines citizenship as those born to a citizen of the United States or through naturalization.
American English - We support adoption of American English as the official language of Texas and of the United States.
Climate Change - While we all strive to be good stewards of the earth, "climate change" is a political agenda which attempts to control every aspect of our lives. We urge government at all levels to ignore any plea for money to fund global climate change or "climate justice" initiatives.
Banning the Use of Red Light Cameras - We call for the ban on red light cameras in the state of Texas.
Drivers Licenses - We propose that every Texas driver’s license shall indicate whether the driver is a United States citizen. No such license shall be issued to anyone not legally in the country.
Fully-Informed Jury - We support the right to inform the jurors of their common law power to judge law, as well as the evidence, and to vote on the verdict according to their conscience.
NASA - We strongly encourage the federal government and NASA to work with American citizens and American businesses to research and develop a new vehicle to continue human space flight and maintain America’s leadership in space exploration."
Family Values - We support the affirmation of traditional Judeo-Christian family values and oppose the continued assault on those values. We strongly support a women’s right to choose to devote her life to her family an children. We recognize her sacrifice in the face of the assault on the family. Additionally, we recognize the challenges of single parents and applaud their efforts in creating a stable and moral home.
Juvenile Daytime Curfew - We strongly oppose juvenile daytime curfews. Additionally we oppose any official entity from detaining, questioning and/or disciplining our children without the consent of a child’s parent.
Foster Care - We support eliminating bureaucratic prohibitions on corporal discipline and home schooling in foster homes.
Gambling - We oppose the expansion of legalized gambling and encourage the repeal of the Texas State Lottery. We oppose dedicating any government revenue from gambling to create or expand any government program.
Incandescent Light Bulbs - We support the freedom to continue to use and manufacture incandescent light bulbs.
Minimum Wage Repeal - We believe the MinimumWage Law should be repealed.Livestock and Pet Location - We support the repeal of the National Animal Identification System
Exotic Livestock - We encourage the freedom of farmers, ranchers, and producers to be able to raise and promote all livestock, wildlife and other protected species for conservation, consumption, and economic development.
A few points here. I was present at the temporary platform committee hearing where this last item came up. The chairman referred to it as "erotic livestock," and someone cracked that it must be an Austin thing.
In the plank on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the last section states, "We urge the Texas Legislature to enact legislation to protect law-abiding firearms owners from having their right to bear arms infringed by federal agencies due to such minor mental health diagnoses as non-severe PTS (post-traumatic stress), seeking counseling for minor depression or other minor mental health diagnoses."
There are some planks that seem mutually exclusive with others. For example, the Foreign Aid plank opposes it altogether, except in cases of national defense or catasrophic disasters. Three planks down comes the Israel plank, proclaiming support "inspired by God’s biblical promise to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel … " Israel has long been the top recipient of U.S. foreign aid.
While the convention voted against medical marijuana or a study of medical marijuana, a plank on Hemp Cultivation made it into the platform: We support legislation allowing for industrial hemp cultivation in Texas upon such delineation of industrial hemp by Congress.
Finally, there is the Repeal Joe Straus plank. Actually it is more like four planks. Though they don’t come right out and say it, it is hard to read them any other way.
The first - Election of the Speaker of the House - authored by T.J. Scott of Austin, calls for an Amendment to the Texas Constitution to make the Texas speaker of the House a state-wide elected position.
The second - Texas House Leadership Caucus, reads: As long as Texas Hose members choose the Speaker of the House, we call for the Republican members of the Texas House of Representatives to convene in caucus after each November general election to determine, by secret ballot, their candidate for Speaker of the House, and that rules be instituted to ensure the integrity and security of the secret ballot, so that members may vote without risk of retribution by the prevailing party. We also call for the Republican members of the Texas House to vote as a unified body for their selected speaker candidate when the Legislature convenes in regular session and a vote for speaker is called on the House floor.
The third - House Speaker Pledge Cards, reads: We call on the Texas Legislature to cease the use of pledge cards in all future House Speaker races.
And the fourth - Enforcing the Platform, reads: Every Republican is responsible for implementing this platform. Party candidates should indicate their positions on platform planks before their acceptance on the ticket, and such information should be available on the Party website.
This all seems to designed to keep a Republican Speaker from gaining or keeping power as a result of a coalition with Democratic lawmakers, a la Straus.
And yet the platform also calls for Full Repeal of he 17th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which would, return (to) the appointment of United States Senators by the state legislatures.
That, it seems, would invite the possibility that, for example, a coalition Democrats and a minority of Republicans could send a Joe Straus figure, instead of a Ted Cr uz type, to Washington. Certainly David Dewhurst would have prevailed over Cruz if that is how senators were chosen in 2012. But, I suppose, if the Republican platform were to be realized, a future Cruz could come back from his rejection by the Texas Legislature as its pick for the U.S. Senate, to run and win a statewide election for Speaker of the House.