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A Party of Extremes: The Texas GOP Platform (Part II)

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After taking a couple of weeks in the glorious woods of Maine to recover from the nausea caused by considering the Texas Republican Platform, I've managed to repress the trauma and take another look at the document which represents the hopes and dreams of a hundred crazy special interest groups in all their fevered glory.

Educating Our Children

The 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. This section includes strong support for parental rights and more local control of education, including cutting down educational bureaucracy, making educators more accountable to the public and a sort of vague endorsement of school choice.

There are some interesting and surprising ideas in this section. There's a call to abolish the Department of Education. There's a call to abolish the 'No Child Left Behind' program, coupled with an endorsement of 'Knowledge Based Education', which I guess is the alternative. Not surprising since we're dealing with Texas, there's a ringing endorsement for corporal punishment in the schools. There's a plank opposing multiculturalism and one opposing bilingual education. Perhaps my favorite is a clear statement supporting the efforts made by the legislature to encourage the hiring of teachers with knowledge in specific fields rather than general education degrees, which is a very good idea for improving the quality of the teaching force.

Inevitably, things go south before the section wraps up. First there's the section on 'Religious Freedom in Public Schools', which not surprisingly, wants to protect the right of students to engage in organized public prayer in school, though it does oppose any government or school sponsored prayer. It also makes a peculiar request for "the Legislature to end censorship of discussion of religion in our founding documents," which seems bizarre considering the almost total absence of any discussion of religion in any of our founding documents. Perhaps the Platform Committee's ignorance of our founding documents is a sign of where the problems lie in our public school system.

The moralists and religious extremists get in a few more hits, with an extremely disappointing section supporting 'equal treatment' of so-called Intelligent Design and a recommendation for a prohibition on any counseling of students on reproductive rights or contraception. Yet overall this is one of the more interesting and sensible sections in the platform.

Promoting Individual Freedom and Personal Safety

This section starts out with one of the strongest endorsements of gun rights I've ever seen.  It includes total opposition to any regulation of firearms, opposition to taxes on guns or ammunition, opposition to gun registration, and support for the right to carry concealed weapons in public buildings, at schools and at work.

Civil libertarians will also be pleased with a strongly worded section on Electronic Privacy, opposing government surveillance of all sorts, and opposing the implantation of Radio Frequency Identification Chips in humans, a program which no one has ever actually proposed and which only exists in the minds of the crazies at the John Birch Society, but which certainly ought to be opposed on principle whenever we're pretending we live in a Science Fiction novel.

To keep Governor Perry happy, there is a section supporting the Boy Scouts of America and rejecting "any attempt to undermine or fundamentally change the ideals of the
organization," which I guess ought to include the attempt by the Mormon church to take the BSA over and purge it of homosexuals, though I'm pretty sure that's not what they meant. Of course given that there is every indication that Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, was a heavily repressed homosexual, it could be argued that the Scouts were gay from the word go. Perhaps Perry's anti-gay crusade is just a symptom of how similar he is to Baden-Powell. Can you say 'overcompensation'?

There's more evidence in this section of a very confused reading of the Constitution and of our history, with a demand that we "return to the original intent of the First Amendment and toward dispelling the myth of separation of church and state." I wonder what other Constitutional amendments they think are mythical.

There's a very strongly worded section on Protecting Citizens from Crime which has some good ideas like opposition to property seizure and asset forfeiture, but also includes a statement against drug legalization, support for the death penalty for rape and the nasty idea that consensual sex between people less than 36 months apart in age should be considered rape if one is a minor.

Strengthening the Economy

Up until this point we've seen some good ideas and some bad ideas and a lot of planks included to pander to the religious right. In this section the fiscally conservative right gets to dance its dance of victory, with some clear influence from the Ron Paul movement, though surprisingly the section does not include a call for abolishing the Federal Reserve and getting rid of paper money.

The section does include many ideas to reduce federal spending, including a hard cap on federal expenditures, a balanced budget, cutting federal offices, prosecuting profiteering government contractors, abolishment of the Congressional retirement program, elimination of corporate welfare and an end to earmarks in budget items.

The sub-section on the Tax Burden is particularly interesting. It calls for the repeal of the 16th Amendment and the elimination of the IRS, replacing the income tax with a national retail sales tax, though it does not specifically endorse the Fair Tax scheme.

It also includes a demand that the tax cuts be made permanent, supports the home mortgage deduction, proposes the abolishment of property taxes and Texas' controversial new franchise tax, and opposes tolling existing roads and any form of internet taxation or taxes levied based on global warming. Most appealing to me is the proposal of a tax deduction for private school tuition and home schooling expenses.

Overall this is one of the most coherent and generally positive sections of the platform.

The next sub-section is a brief look at energy policy, which manages to be a stronger and clearer energy policy than the Bush administration has managed to express. It includes opposition to a windfall profits tax, expanded drilling and reductions of unnecessary regulation. But it also makes very clear that the environment should be protected within reasonable limits and supports the development of alternative energy technology. Overall a very positive statement on the issue.

Restoring American Sovereignty and Leadership

Who knew Texas needed to have a foreign policy? Well in this section, which may be one of the weirdest in the whole document, we get to see one laid out in detail. This is also the section where the Birchers and Ron Paul crazies had the most success in getting some of their ideas included.

First there's the section on Domestic policy, which basically means a two page explosion of nativism and extremist paranoia. If you thought PATRIOT Act was a stupid acronym, wait until you find out about SAVEUSA which is an acronym for seven dumb ideas to make sure no one ever crosses our southern border and we remain a lily-white nation with a critical labor shortage. This is later reinforced with a section which opposes any form of citizenship for former illegals, taking away 'birthright' citizenship for children of illegals born in the US, prohibiting medical care and education to illegals and even prohibiting federal funds to cities with 'sanctuary' laws and states which give illegals drivers licenses. Irrational nativism remains strong in Texas.

There is a nice quote in this section from Teddy Roosevelt. It's the only quote in the document and I think it's heavily edited and taken out of context. I wonder if the committee realized how offended Teddy would have been by this platform.

The real craziness starts to creep in pretty quickly, starting with a statement against foreign military bases on American soil. Perhaps we're going to let some Iraqis have a base here in exchange for letting us have bases there. Then there's a statement against allowing the sale or even management of US assets by foreign companies, essentially declaring that we should just drop out of the world economy. But the real accomplishment for the Ron Paul fringe is the inclusion of a statement against the Security and Prosperity Partnership and the mythical North American Union. They want to make absolutely sure we never join any non-existent globalist organizations.

One regrettable inclusion comes in the generally positive section on the armed forces which suggests banning all homosexuals from military service and substantially reducing the role of women in the military.

Then there's the section on International Relations where the Texas GOP chimerically declares that we're going to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world except for those parts we're going to gratuitously invade. This section actually includes a list of countries and what we're going to do to them. It's kind of like a struggle between the Neocons and the Bircher isolationists, alternating between condemning China and and embracing Israel, and supporting the Iraq War and other War on Terror campaigns, while demanding that we reject any "One World Government Organizations", drop out of the International Monetary Fund, drop out of the World Trade Organization and abrogate our commitments to NAFTA and any similar regional trade treaties. And best of all, there's a lengthy section on not just dropping out of the UN, but taking measures against it or any organization like it in the future, including kicking the UN out of their headquarters in New York, repudiating any debts to the UN, opposing the formation of an International Criminal Court and passing an "American Sovereignty Protection Act" to declare that the UN could never override US law or the Constitution. You really have to read this section for yourself. It's such an impassioned screed against the UN that it's hard to describe in just a few words.

Then, strangely, the whole thing ends with a whimper, concluding with a tacked-on Minority Report Concerning School Choice where seven members of the Resolultions Committee prove that they are so aggressively wrongheaded that they want to go on record as opposing one of the better planks of the platform and put their names down against better education for our kids through school choice. In case you ever have a chance to vote against these remarkably stupid individuals, there names are: Kyleen Wright, Pamela Derr, Tony Sims, Deon Starns, Rick Miller, Richard Whitmore and Paul Stockard. If there's one thing Republicans ought to be able to agree on it's school choice. There's no excuse for opposing it.

Stuff and Nonsense

While this second half of the platform was less blatantly offensive on major issues, it's just chock-full of bad ideas and little bits of craziness from various factions.

Most troubling overall are the theocratic overtones of this part of the platform. It includes the declaration that "America is a nation under God founded on Judeo-Christian principles" and that "the public acknowledgment of God is undeniable in our history and is vital to our freedom" and of course the fundamentally ignorant call for "a return to the original intent of the First Amendment and toward dispelling the myth of separation of church and state." Along with the various radical pro-life elements, endorsement of school prayer and support of Intelligent Design, this adds up to a real victory for the religious right and an embarrassment for sane Republicans who actually understand the First Amendment and realize that there's not an endorsement of religion in any of our founding documents.

The nativist and isolationist elements are also troubling, but at least they're lightened by the inclusion of a selection of crazy ideas brought to us by the Paulistas. It's almost as if the Resolutions Committee looked at all the proposals that came in from civil libertarians and Paul supporters and decided to reject all the substantive and intelligent ones like ending the War on Drugs and instead let through mostly the silly ones like keeping us out of the nonexistent NAU and banning the equally fictional RFID.

The best thing I can say about the later portions of the platform is that at least there's less gay bashing and there are some positives, like the strong positions against excessive taxation and in favor of smaller government. Overall it continues the pattern, established in the first sections, of including everything but the kitchen sink, no matter how inappropriate (foreign poilicy statements on individual countries) or offensive (gay bashing) or extremist (advocating theocracy) it happens to be.

As a Republican considering running for office in 2010, I can't imagine being held to this platform, as a plank early on in the document suggests will be required of candidates. I'd take pleasure in actively running against most of the platform. The Republican Party in Texas and nationwide is better than this mishmash of foolishness, and I look forward to seeing a national platform which looks nothing at all like it.

Other Views

Many others have commented on how ridiculous the platform is, both from the left and the right. Here are some examples. One of many fun rants from the left. Some observations from the Texas Log Cabin Republicans. Some cogent points from Theocracy Watch.

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About Dave Nalle

  • Lumpy

    Gee I’m glad I donlt live in Texas. Up here the republicans are at least halfway sane.

  • Lee Richards

    Too bad they don’t have the guts to change their name to the Texas Christian-Republican Party, since that surely represents their values and goals.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    The weird thing is that from what I could tell at the state convention, these hardcore theocrats are a pretty small minority of the party. They’re probablu less thanm 20% overall, but they’ve gotten themselves into positions of power and the indifferent majority have gotten used to voting along with them. I’d say that the pro-liberty people in the party now outnumber the religious right and may well push them out of the way in a few years. I’m hoping that documents like this are their last gasp at leaving a mark on the party before an alliance of libertarians and moderates crushes them once and for all.

    Dave

  • Arch Conservative

    I don’t know Dave…I’ve talked to a few texans that are pretty damn grateful for Rick Perry and the Texas GOP right about now.

    They’ve told me that the economy in Texas is booming and I have read several reports that rank Texas as the number one state in the nation to do business.

    Of course there are other things aside from the economy that you take issue with as you discussed in your article but it must be nice to live in a state where the economy is so good while many other places are suffering and the national economy is the focal point of the presidential election.

    Where would you rather be raising a family of four right now Dave, in Texas under Perry and the GOP or Michigan under Granholm and the Dems who have not been content just to run the economy of there into the ground but to run it so deep into the ground that some economists are calling it the worst economy seen since the Great Depression and people are leaving the state by the thousands?