Published on June 30th, 20140
What the Texas GOP Platform says about the party
Every two years the Texas GOP engages in a bizarre and amusing spectacle. The party’s grassroots pushes though a platform influenced primarily by conspiracy theories and religious fundamentalism. Instead of issuing an immediate press release with links to the party platform, the GOP sits on it. For weeks after the close of the convention the press tries to get copies of the final text while the party whistles, hoping that the negative publicity generated by early leaks will die down before the full text is available in broad daylight.
They did it again this year and it has mostly worked. When the platform was finally released, its bizarre, rambling, and at times downright frightening text warranted nothing more than a brief blurb in the Chronicle. All the advanced leaks about immigration reform and gay baiting managed to whitewash the even more disturbing elements found in the final document.
The whole sordid exercise raises an inevitable question. Why do Texas Republicans consistently produce a platform that its candidates and officials have to run away from? What does this document and this process say about the condition of the Texas GOP?
No one takes the platform at face value for good reason. There is no way to defend this document without sacrificing every shred of credibility. It’s written in a kind of florid hyperbole, as though it were dictated through a megaphone or found scrawled on the basement walls of a serial killer. This is not political communication. This is a political scream, too unapologeticlly insane to ignore or forget.
As you would expect from a psychotic screed, the Texas GOP Platform is interminably long. Connecticut’s GOP platform is a single-page statement of beliefs posted on their website. Illinois’ GOP platform spreads out across a roomy 14 pages. Texas’ platform runs to 40 pages.
It covers every conspiracy theory you’ve heard bouncing around the Internet plus a few you probably haven’t. There’s all the usual blather about abortion, school prayer, homosexuality, evolution, climate change and so on. There’s the standard language about Agenda 21, Sharia Law, Benghazi, Smart Meters, the gold standard, the IRS, etc.
The platform demands we dismantle most of the Federal bureaucracy explicitly, by eliminating five agencies including the Department of Homeland Security. However, the platform also proposes, accidentally one must assume, to dismantle virtually the entire leadership of the Federal bureaucracy through a provision on page 4 that would eliminate all unelected Federal “appointed bureaucrats.”
Then things move from sloppy to truly weird. A few of the most remarkable highlights:
The parallel army plan – The platform proposes to establish local militias with the assistance of county Sheriffs. If that sounds familiar, then perhaps you’re old enough to remember when this arrangement was used to keep order in the South a generation ago. The militia clauses (there are several of them) are really disturbing for what they suggest about who, exactly, is participating in grassroots Republican politics now in Texas. Supporting the deliberate reorganization of the terrorist paramilitaries that once dominated the South isn’t even vaguely amusing.
Endorsing the Anti-Vaccination movement – On page 19 the party promises to protect Texans against the oppression of mandatory vaccination. Good folks can count on Jesus to heal their Whooping cough.
Repeal the Voting Rights Act – ‘Natch. We never needed it in the first place. The kind of voters we want have always been free to vote in Texas.
The Child Abuser Protection Clauses – Why on earth does the state platform keep including a series of obtusely worded provisions to protect people “accused” of child abuse while describing the family as a “sovereign authority over which the state has no right to intervene?” These are accompanied by ambiguously worded provisions protecting people who sequester and beat their foster kids in the name of “corporal punishment” and “home schooling” (pp 16 & 26). Clauses like these have been in the platform for years. What are these weirdos doing to their kids that makes them so nervous about CPS?
Israel is God’s country – Everything Israel does is divinely ordained. Opposing Israel on any matter will call down the wrath of God on us. Seriously, read the clause on page 37.
Drive-by Truckers Clause – No one should limit truck drivers’ conceal/carry rights in any way.
The American Taliban Clauses – The platform insists that America has a state religion, which is Judeo-Christianity, whatever that is. The platform requires that all civil laws be subject to divine, religious law. The so-called “separation of church and state” is a liberal myth, in case you didn’t already know. The word “God” shows up 14 times in the platform.
Protecting the Gun Rights of the Insane – This is not a joke, it’s on page 23. According to the Texas GOP platform, no one should have their “2nd Amendment rights” infringed due to a “minor mental health diagnosis.”
Improve education by slashing funds – Again, not making this up. It’s on page 27. Money spent on education is mostly wasted anyway.
Eliminate every tax except sales taxes – I don’t even know what to say here. Nothing screams “Liberty!” like a 300% sales tax.
Defending the Alamo from the UN (Or ‘The Seven Flags over Texas’ Clause)– Apparently the symbolic designation of the Alamo as a United Nations “World Heritage Site” is not being taken as a complement.
Still Opposed to the Department of Energy Dammit – On page 31, the platform committee pauses to wipe the froth from their mouths. While panting vigorously they manage just enough breath to utter this gem of a line: “We still support the elimination of the Department of Energy.” Just in case that one might have slipped by.
They’ll pry the light bulbs from my cold dead hands! –Like the Grinch on Christmas Eve, Democrats are apparently coming in black helicopters to unscrew your light bulbs right out of their sockets. Republicans are going to let it shine! See page 31.
And on, and on, and on.
Republicans in other states do not generally issue zany platforms. This is a Texas problem, not a Republican problem. Connecticut has a one page statement of beliefs. Alabama doesn’t even publish a platform, probably a smart move. Neither does Florida. And Mississippi? Have a read. Mississippi Republicans of all people deliver a concise and coherent statement of beliefs. No joke, it’s good.
The Texas GOP is a pretty bizarre organization, but the platform is operating on a completely different plane. Does the platform represent the party’s agenda? No, but it serves as a warning of trouble to come.
You can tell that the platform is not a statement of the party’s beliefs because no effort is being made to reach consensus on platform planks. On some subjects the platform takes multiple contradictory stances, many of which are nonsensical on their face. On page six the party takes diametrically opposite positions on the question of calling for an Article V Constitutional Convention in platform planks that are set right next to each other. The platform emphatically stakes out contradictory positions on nearly every foreign policy plank. It calls for mandatory labeling of GMO’s on food on page 25 while at the same time opposing all food safety laws on page 18.
The Texas Republican Party platform is not a statement of the party’s beliefs, but a dumping ground for the craziest ideas of its weirdest participants. The platform is the place where the party lets its extremists vent their bile, giving them the sense of validation that eludes them in their day to day interactions with normal people. At the mic before the platform committee, they finally find colleagues who understand the inherent evil of the National Animal Identification System (p.8) or the oppression wrought by the Davis-Bacon Act (p.32).
This sanctuary for weirdos is not harmless. Texas’ GOP Platform may not represent the true state of the party today, but it does tell a story. The platform is evidence of the damage inflicted by a party too frightened to regulate itself.
Much of what the party and the electorate shrugs off after each convention as the raving of a few extremists becomes core policy about six to eight years later. By consistently failing to stand up to the wildest extremes of the party, the Texas GOP is continuously drawn farther from any contact with reality. As the party becomes more and more strenuously committed to fantasy-based solutions to imaginary problems the state and the wider national party pays a price. When the reckoning comes it will be expensive.
But, not as expensive as that sales tax.
Get your very own copy of the 2014 Texas GOP Platform here:
About the Author: Chris Ladd is a Texan who is now living in the Chicago area. He is the founder of Building a Better GOP and has served for several years as a Republican Precinct Committeeman in DuPage County, IL, and was active in state and local Republican campaigns in Texas for many years.