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The Good, the Bad and the Crazy – The Texas GOP Platform (Part I)

June 25th, 2008 · 5 Comments ·

Now that some time has passed since the Texas Republican Party Convention, copies of the platform have finally become available. It may be the longest party platform ever, and while it does have some good parts, it also has some glaring flaws when compared to past platforms of the Republican Party and to the ideals which I’d like to see the party continuing to embody today. It seems to be the result of a process where no restraint was applied at all and space was given to issues based on how loudly their advocates could shout. As a result it’s a mishmash of every kind of extreme position representing every outspoken faction in the party.

As those who’ve been reading my articles are aware, I was a delegate to the Texas GOP Convention. Resolutions which eventually made it into the platform were one of my special interests. I had a lot of success at my precinct and district conventions presenting arguments against certain proposed resolutions which I thought were intolerant and reflected badly on the party. In particular I was able to stop dead two proposed resolutions, one condemning homosexuality and one opposing any form of gay unions. But the way the resolution process works, resolutions from all the districts come to the state convention through the Resolutions Committee, and even though a resolution is defeated in one district, it’s quite likely to show up again from another district. Activist groups circulate resolutions they like to their agents all over the state, so the same resolution may get sent to the convention for consideration by dozens of different districts. So my success in SD25 meant relatively little in the face of all the other districts contributing to the process. Of course, all of this then gets sent on to the national Republican convention where all the state platforms are drawn on to create a national platform.

The primary characteristic of the 2008 Texas Republican Party Platform is that it’s insanely long. In small print it is 25 pages long with over 250 separate resolutions included in it. It’s like they took every district convention, edited out only the duplicate resolutions and mashed it all together into one huge and ridiculous compendium of the trivial and bizarre. As a result, I can’t even begin to address the content of the platform in a single article, so this is the first in what will probably be a three part series.

In the formation of the platform a number of special interest groups were competing to get their particular agendas represented as heavily as possible. These included the religious right, nationalistic warhawks, libertarian leaning republicans and through the Ron Paul movement a significant number of paranoid John Birch Society fanatics. My hope was that most of the crazier and more extreme ideas of all of these groups would get weeded out, but because the bar for inclusion was set so low, a surprising number of really unappealing ideas made it into the platform. In an ideal world the platform would represent primarily the views that all elements of the party hold in common, but as a result of what I can only conclude was laziness or fear on the part of the Resolutions Committee the platform instead tries to represent every possible viewpoint to some extent and the result isn’t pretty.

A Good Start

Before I get down to looking at some of the worst aspects of the platform, let me say that on some of the largest issues the thrust of the platform is relatively positive. There is a preamble and an initial statement of principles which are pretty reasonable. In fact, I’d take the statement of principles as the entire platform and be satisfied with that. The statement of principles makes a great start when it says:

“We respect and cherish the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and our Founders’ intent to restrict the power of the federal government over the states and the people. We believe self-government, based on personal integrity of a proper moral foundation, is the best government. This is best balanced with limited civil government, coupled with public trust, to provide collectively for the people those services not efficiently achieved individually.”

It also goes on to endorse school choice and smaller government and private enterprise. All great stuff. It also includes two very strong statements which represent a real victory for the religious right. One is the strongest statement possible on abortion, declaring that life begins at fertilization. The other is a fairly strong statement against gay marriage, though it comes up short of condemning civil unions or attacking homosexuality in general. I sort of suspect that they put the statement of principles out front in the hopes that people wouldn’t read any further and get a positive impression based on the statement and then never read some of the pure rat-brained craziness in the main body of the platform.

Section by Section

The platform addresses specific issues in a number of topical sections. Some of those sections were clearly dominated by certain interest groups. Basically it looks like each group with an agenda to push got a section for its agenda, with the result that these sections often read like a manifesto from the most extreme elements in the party. Some of them are very positive. Others are very specialized and of limited applicability. A few are truly troubling and offensive.

It’s clear that civil libertarians had some successes, especially where their interests dovetailed with those of some traditional republicans and conservatives, but what is even more clear is that where their interests are the strongest the religious right had a substantial victory. The sections of the platform which they were interested in influencing are among the most strongly worded and most extreme.

Preserving American Freedom

Under this heading we see some of the best stuff in the platform. Right up front there’s a moderately worded resolution suggesting that the Patriot Act should be reviewed and revised for constitutionality and in consideration of citizens rights. That’s a great thing to see in the platform. Another nice thing to see is a clear statement opposing a constitutional convention, something which the party had previously endorsed. The vocal opponents of toll roads had some victories, with strong statements opposing annexation, property forfeiture and eminent domain seizures and endorsing substantial property rights protections, calling property ownership an ‘inalienable right’. Also good to see was a resolution proposing that union members should have a say when their dues are used for political purposes. There’s also a strong and clear resolution explaining in detail which affirmative action is a bad idea. Some reasonable ideas on judicial reform are also proposed, many of them very specific to Texas law.

Of particular interest in this section are a couple of resolutions about how the platform is to be used, urging the State Republican Committee to require candidates to indicate where they stand on all 250+ items in the platform and then decide whether or not to give them money based on how they line up with the platform. I’d have to hope the standard of compliance would be set pretty low, because I can’t imagine a candidate in 100% agreement with the platform being electable even in a Republican dominated state like Texas. I’m tempted to run for office again just so I can see how the party leadership would react to my much marked up responses (with comments in red ink) to a platform compliance test.

At the end of this section there’s a nasty little sub-section called “Honoring the Symbols of Amerian Heritage” which basically endorses every unnecessary, uberpatriotic first-amendment violation they could think of. It’s got an endorsement for posting the ten commandments publicly, for keeping ‘god’ on the money and in the pledge of allegiance and prohibiting flag burning. It’s trivial stuff, but it’s stupid and uncalled for.

Strengthening Families, Protecting Life and Promoting Health

It’s hard to know where to start with this section. It’s like a wet dream (which they would probably like to ban) for the religious right. Imagine every possible extreme idea coming out of the craziest evangelical churches and then add a few ideas you didn’t think even the worst godflogger would be willing to sign off on in public. The presence of some of the stuff in this section makes me embarrassed to even live in the same state with these people, much less being in the same political party. In all seriousness, as I got to the end of the section I expected to see an endorsement of death camps for homosexuals. The only good news is that I suspect 90% of this crap will be gone when the national platform is written.

I’ll swallow my nausea and present some details.

First off, there’s an endorsement of the Defense of Marriage Amendment. Not only that, but it includes a statement urging that same sex unions be made illegal. But it gets better. They also want to make it a felony to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, restore the sodomy law which was struck down by the Supreme Court, they want to prohibit gay adoption, take away the parental rights of gay birth parents, and support statutory protection for anti-gay groups against criminal prosecution. Yes, it’s the protect Fred Phelps law. Every bigot’s dream come true. And it shouldn’t be a surprise that they also endorse covenant marriage. Why not. After all, Mike Huckabee was the featured speaker at the convention.

But wait, there’s more! They also want to ban all pornography and have the FCC shut down broadcasters who run certain types of programming and advertising. No more viagra adds for you, my morally upstanding fellow citizens. Just burn your copy of the Constitution and replace it with a Bible.

At this point, with the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution in shreds you’d think they were done, but we haven’t even gotten to the part about “Protecting Innocent Human Life.” Of course, I expect any Republican platform to be more or less pro-life and I’ve resigned myself to that fact, but in the ongoing celebration of religious fanaticism, they go on for almost two pages in an effort to redefine the ultimate expression of anti-abortion zealotry. The reason they go to such lengths is clearly that they don’t think calling for an outright ban on abortion is feasible. Instead their gaol is to sort of nibble it to death.

Along the way they want to ban any form of assisted suicide, as many forms of abortion as they can, any funding for abortion clinics, all forms of fetal tissue harvesting, stem cell research, human cloning, RU486, the ‘morning after’ pill and even surrogate motherhood and adoption of unborn embryos. The other main thrust of their strategy is to have the state propagandize abortion to death, by requiring parental notification, providing extensive information on abortion alternatives and fetal pain to abortion clinic customers, much of this supported with state funds. Then they want to make doctors who perform abortions liable to suit for malpractice by patients who have second thoughts and they want to make them potentially liable for criminal prosecution.

Some of the rest of this section isn’t so bad. The moralistic movement does at least go hand in hand with a strong belief in parental rights, and that’s represented in several resolutions protecting parental rights and privacy from the state. The section also seems to be informed by the recent egregious behavior of child welfare agents in dealing with the FLDS compound in West Texas, with a strong statement on accountability for those agencies. Some of it is a bit neanderthal, with an endorsement for corporal punishments of children not just in family homes, but also in foster care and schools. It looks like the civil libertarians and fiscal conservatives also got in some of their resolutions here, with an endorsement of widespread welfare reform and a gradual phase-out and privatization of social security. Unfortunately, one of the resolutions pushed by Governor Perry also made it in, with a proposal to not only ban any new forms of gambling in the state – while 80% of the cars in Louisiana casinos have Texas plates – but also to go even farther and repeal the state lottery and also prohibit the state from profiting from gambling. The voice of the Baptist womens quilting societies remains strong on this issue to the great fiscal detriment of the state and every taxpayer in it.

A Reality Check

The problem with a lot of these resolutions is that while they represent the hopes and dreams of certain very vocal factions, they don’t represent the mainstream of the nation or even the Republican Party terribly well, and they aren’t the kinds of positions which candidates who actually want to get elected can effectively run on.

Look at some of the specific issues raised here in context. 57-58% of the public supports civil unions or gay marriage and 40-46% of Republicans do. 81% of the public supports at least some form of abortion and 31% of Republicans consider themselves ‘pro-choice’ while almost half oppose any kind of ban on abortion. The situation is similar on Stem Cell Research. While support for federal funding is weak, support for the research itself is quite strong, with about 58% of the overall population in favor and 46% of Republicans supporting it. With all of these issues the numbers for independents who are key to any Republican victory run as high as or higher in the favorable column than the national average. Taking extremely conservative postions on these issues is a guaranteed election loser when you’re a minority party which needs to win votes outside of your loyal base. If you’ve got a negative position on an issue and almost 50% of your own party doesn’t agree with you, you’ve got a problem.

The content of the Texas Republican Platform is a telling reflection of how divided the party is and how potentially destructive the most extreme factions are. Yet consideration of political realities renders much of what’s in the platform essentially irrelevant. Most of these extreme positions absolutely cannot make it to the national platform, and local politicians who want to get elected are going to have to ignore many of these resolutions, no matter what provisions are in the platform to try to force them to comply with it. For most Republicans with any political involvement at all, this platform is going to get stuffed in a drawer while they pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s ridiculously indulgent of counterproductive extremism and an embarrassment to a party which wants to have any kind of meaningful political future.

Dave Nalle has worked as a magazine editor, a freelance writer, a capitol hill staffer, a game designer and taught college history for many years. He now designs fonts for a living and lives with his family in a small town just outside Austin where he is ex-president of the local Lions Club. He is on the board of the Republican Liberty Caucus and Politics Editor of Blogcritics Magazine. You can find his writings about fonts, art and graphic design at The Scriptorium. He also runs a conspiracy debunking site at IdiotWars.com.

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5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rev Spitz // Jun 26, 2008 at 12:04 am

    Any coward who supports abortion has the blood of babies on their hands
    SAY THIS PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I am a sinner and am headed to eternal hell because of my sins. I believe you died on the cross to take away my sins and to take me to heaven. Jesus, I ask you now to come into my heart and take away my sins and give me eternal life.

  • 2 Dave // Jun 26, 2008 at 12:36 am

    Why would you associate supporting abortion with cowardice? Given the threats, acts of violence and even acts of full-on terrorism directed at those who support abortion by anti-abortion fanatics I’d think one would have to be anything but a coward to support abortion.

    Dave

  • 3 Pat Jackson // Jun 26, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    First, thanks for being so thorough in your Part 1 coverage of the Texas GOP Convention ! Second, glad you were able in SD 25 to stop resolutions condemning homosexuality and opposing gay unions. As you discovered, though, what I’ve alluded to in emails: it doesn’t do much good to do well in one SD convention, if most of the other SDs are passing such bad resolutions.

    You’re certainly right that “activist groups circulate resolutions they like … across the state.” The problem is, the activist groups we are most concerned with are those churches that are part of the Religious Right. They coordinate every Sunday, and sometimes inbetween, at other church functions. They are already networked with like-minded churches around town, across Texas, and in other states.

    That’s why the Paul groups have to coordinate across Texas, if we have any chance of getting the GOP back to normal! As it is, we’re like clueless amateurs having the temerity to fight an army of professionals.

    I was puzzled by your mentioning the Paul movement having a number of “John Birch Society fanatics.” I’m new to the Paul movement, but I’ve not encountered any such. Doesn’t mean you’re wrong in saying there are or have been some in the movement, just that they are apparently a minor element.

    I cherish your thinking that “in an ideal world, the platform would represent primarily the views that all elements of the party hold in common.” It’s not “laziness or fear on the part of the Resolutions Committee” that “the Platform instead tries to represent every possible viewpoint.” What is supposed to happen at the Senate District or County level happens at the State level:
    the committee eliminates duplicates;
    compares the “new” resolutions to the prior Platform;
    perhaps tweaks the old resolutions to match anything new in the new versions of old resolutions;
    looks at really new resolutions (from down the line, or presented in the hearings; and decides whether or not to include them (in the SD 14 case,they threw out every one of about 15 resolutions my precinct primary had passed concerning rules. I thought about bringing them up at the State level, but finally didn’t, having had the experience two years before of the Platform Committee refusing to add an important education plank that I spent three days trying to get accepted); and
    if the majority of the Committee is neutral to, or in favor of, the new resolutions, they accept them.

    The Committee is supposed to accept any resolution from down the line, and just put them in appropriate categories, worded well. In an ideal world, the delegates decide which to include in the platform. But the way it is now, the delegates merely rubber-stamp the work of the Platform Committee. Most of the delegates don’t even know about the rules, or the Platform Committee, or what the Platform Committee is working on.

    That’s why I tried to get the rules changed on the floor to have the delegates to each convention sent information in advance about the fact that they can get a copy of the rules. They should also be able to get a copy of the final platform from the previous Convention. Most delegates won’t keep their copies from the previous time, and many delegates will be new, so they won’t know, and won’t realize they can try to change these planks. Of course, many won’t try, since the only way they can entails them having to arrive three days early. This is no way to run a democracy!

    Yes, democracy would mean staying late on Saturday to have the convention discuss and vote on each individual plank. But then the planks would be what the delegates wanted. Of course, with the RR in firm control, they have already gotten what they want in the Platform Committee. So they are happy to rubber-stamp the results. But the rest of us aren’t so happy.

    This is getting long, so I better quit, if people are going to read it. Let me just say that the RR are absolutely serious that Republican candidates subscribe to every one of the 250+ resolutions. And to them, it is not trivial nor stupid, but essential, to endorse displaying the Ten Commandments in public, keeping God in the Pledge and on money, prohibiting flag burning, etc.

    I would hope you are right that “90% of this crap will be gone when the national platform is written,” but, since the RR made sure that most of the delegates to the national convention were their people, and since they have been well organized in every state for years, I fear that the national platform will be just as nasty and embarrassing as the Texas GOP platform is.

    Again, the only organization I see that could possibly make a difference, in Texas and elsewhere, appears to be the Ron Paul people. But when I went to a meeting, Robert said there would be no effort to coordinate with the Ron Paul groups in other Texas counties. What we need to do is start working to get

    our people as precinct chairs in every county;
    enough to choose who will be SD and County convention chairs and convention committee chairs;
    our people attending precinct conventions and becoming delegates to the SD conventions;
    enough to pass good resolutions and become delegates to the State convention;
    enough to appoint good people to the Rules and Platform State convention committees;
    enough to elect good people to the National Nominating Committee; and
    enough to elect good people to the National Convention.

    Pat Jackson
    Precinct 252
    “Lively, effective writing”
    Writer and Public-Relations Consultant
    Chair, Coalition Enabling Our Children
    Manager, Nan Jackson Art
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/patjacksonwriter
    512-453-6426

    —– Original Message —-
    From: Dave Nalle
    To: Pat Jackson
    Cc: Mary Anderson ; John Arszyla ; Jared Barger ; Anya Bernal ; Luz Bernal ; Michael Brennar ; John Burton ; Chad Byrd ; Sandra Colvin ; Mike Costello ; George Dewey ; Sue Dewey ; Pat Faith ; Jonathan Far ; David Geoffrion ; Michael Hokett ; Janet Jones ; Tim Liner ; Dustin Meador ; Nicole Murphy ; Larry Nelson ; Chris Rogers ; Bill Simons ; Jerri Ward ; Kevin Wright
    Sent: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 10:09:23 PM
    Subject: Re: Learning from Fwd: Texas Pro-Life Pro-Family Coalition State GOP Convention Wrap-Up

    I don’t know how familiar any of you are with the level of success with
    the religious right had in the shaping of the Texas GOP platform at this
    year’s convention, but you might be surprised at just how much influence
    they wielded.

    My analysis and a link to the full document can be found at
    http://www.republicofdave.com. It’s just the first installment, but
    happens to cover the areas of the platform where the religious right was
    so shockingly successful. It’s a real eye-opener.

    Dave

  • 4 Dave // Jun 26, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Good to hear from you here, Pat.

    First, thanks for being so thorough in your Part 1 coverage of the Texas GOP Convention ! Second, glad you were able in SD 25 to stop resolutions condemning homosexuality and opposing gay unions.

    Fat lot of good it did in the end.

    You’re certainly right that “activist groups circulate resolutions they like … across the state.” The problem is, the activist groups we are most concerned with are those churches that are part of the Religious Right. They coordinate every Sunday, and sometimes inbetween, at other church functions. They are already networked with like-minded churches around town, across Texas, and in other states.

    The dangerous thing about churches is their already established organizational structure, something which they have from the get-go and which we have to build from the ground up. Kind of like starting Jacobin clubs back in 18th century France, or perhaps the grange movement in our own history. Or Ben Franklin and his American Philosophical Society.

    I wonder if pro-liberty activists need to move beyond just being political groups to being social groups as well. Just as the churches have more than just political activism bringing them together, maybe we need the same thing, even if it’s only beer.

    That’s why the Paul groups have to coordinate across Texas, if we have any chance of getting the GOP back to normal! As it is, we’re like clueless amateurs having the temerity to fight an army of professionals.

    We need to build a core cadre of people who meet on a regular basis and exchange ideas and make plans which they then follow up on and actually implement. Just organizing through the internet probably isn’t enough.

    I was puzzled by your mentioning the Paul movement having a number of “John Birch Society fanatics.” I’m new to the Paul movement, but I’ve not encountered any such. Doesn’t mean you’re wrong in saying there are or have been some in the movement, just that they are apparently a minor element

    I wish they were a minor element, but they appear to be the most vocal and active element on the internet and at the conventions I’ve attended. They’re the ones who rail on and on about the central bank and fiat currency and globalism and the Council on Foreign Relations and the Bildebergers and probably David Rockefeller and 9/11 Truth if they’re really hardcore. Paul is a Bircher huimself and is they keynote speaker at their convention this fall. They have a very destructive and extreme agenda which undermines the liberty movement.

    decides whether or not to include them (in the SD 14 case,they threw out every one of about 15 resolutions my precinct primary had passed concerning rules.

    The SD 14 convention was much more receptive to trimming the resolutions than most were, apparently. And it’s pretty clear that actually trimming anything was of little interest at the state level.

    The Committee is supposed to accept any resolution from down the line, and just put them in appropriate categories, worded well. In an ideal world, the delegates decide which to include in the platform. But the way it is now, the delegates merely rubber-stamp the work of the Platform Committee. Most of the delegates don’t even know about the rules, or the Platform Committee, or what the Platform Committee is working on.

    That was what I concluded was going on. It’s an idiotic way to do it. Who knows what kind of ridiculous stuff will come out of a small district convention. Like it or not, the platform represents the party, and I don’t want to be represented by a homophobic, paranoid hate-memo.

    That’s why I tried to get the rules changed on the floor to have the delegates to each convention sent information in advance about the fact that they can get a copy of the rules.

    A very good idea. In fact, it ought to be an absolute requirement.

    They should also be able to get a copy of the final platform from the previous Convention. Most delegates won’t keep their copies from the previous time,

    I had all that material in advance because it’s on the net. I went over the material and distributed short handbills with recommendations of what items to approve and reject. One goal for a statewide movement might be to do something similar on a large scale and make sure that every delegate knew what was in the platform in advance, even if the party organization isn’t going to take that responsibility.
    Of course, with the RR in firm control, they have already gotten what they want in the Platform Committee. So they are happy to rubber-stamp the results. But the rest of us aren’t so happy.

    A lot of stuff which wasn’t RR issues also got rubber stamped and some of it was pretty dumb too. That’s what I’m writing my next article on.

    This is getting long, so I better quit, if people are going to read it. Let me just say that the RR are absolutely serious that Republican candidates subscribe to every one of the 250+ resolutions. And to them, it is not trivial nor stupid, but essential, to endorse displaying the Ten Commandments in public, keeping God in the Pledge and on money, prohibiting flag burning, etc.

    I guess if people sign off on that stuff and no one finds out and uses it against them in a campaign it might work, but that platform is just fodder for every democrat to use to make Republican candidates look like nuts and fascists.

    I would hope you are right that “90% of this crap will be gone when the national platform is written,” but, since the RR made sure that most of the delegates to the national convention were their people, and since they have been well organized in every state for years, I fear that the national platform will be just as nasty and embarrassing as the Texas GOP platform is.

    I hope that’s not the way things are going. It hasn’t happened in past years, and despite what we saw here in Texas the media is reporting that the RR may be losing ground and becoming disillusioned. Despite everything that’s wrong with McCain, he really isn’t popular with the RR, and that’s a positive sign, anyway.

    Again, the only organization I see that could possibly make a difference, in Texas and elsewhere, appears to be the Ron Paul people. But when I went to a meeting, Robert said there would be no effort to coordinate with the Ron Paul groups in other Texas counties.

    Robert seems like a nice guy, but IMO he’s a liability. He’s got his own agenda and he’s too far on the fringe and too angry and confrontational. He’s unsubtle and not politically astute. He seems not to play well with others. IMO the route to statewide coordination is through the RLC. I was at the RLC caucus at the state convention and while they were a bit chaotic, they’re serious about getting chapters in every county and getting something done.

    Dave

  • 5 The Republic of Dave » Blog Archive » A Party of Extemes: The Texas Republican Platform (Part II) // Jul 9, 2008 at 11:55 am

    […] first section after the reprehensible section on family values, which I covered in my last installment, addresses the one family value which they seem not to have gotten completely wrong, education. […]

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