Remembering the Alamo in the House of Straus

texas-house-of-representatives-speaker-vote-choice-(january-2015)

Good morning Austin:

Below, courtesy Jim Henson and Joshua Blank of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, is a map of yesterday’s vote for speaker.

texas-house-of-representatives-speaker-vote-choice-(january-2015)
Henson and Blank write:

The outcome of the vote for Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 84th was never in doubt, leaving most analysis of the voters for Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) and Scott Turner (R-Frisco) to focus on the sources of division. As a first cut at that discussion, we put together a map of the votes by district. The large margin of victory enjoyed by Straus doesn’t provide a lot of leverage, but the map does highlight the degree to which the North Texas/Dallas-Forth Worth ring counties continue to be a center of insurgency in the Texas GOP.

And, here, for another visualization, is the vote for speaker across the partisan/ideological spectrum, per Rice University political scientist Mark Jones.

The 19 Turner votes are as follows: Rep. Rodney Anderson, District 105; Rep. Dustin Burrows, District 83; Rep. Pat Fallon, District 106; Rep. Bryan Hughes, District 5: Rep. Mark Keough, District 15; Rep. Stephanie Klick, District 91; Rep. Matt Krause, District 93; Rep. Jeff Leach, District 67; Rep. Matt Rinaldi, District 115; Rep. Scott Sanford, District 70; Rep. Matt Schaefer, District 6; Rep. Matt Shaheen, District 66; Rep. David Simpson, District 7; Rep. Stuart Spitzer, District 4; Rep. Jonathan Stickland, District 92; Rep. Tony Tinderholt, District 94; Rep. Scott Turner, District 33; Rep. Molly White, District 55; Rep. Bill Zedler, District 96.

The outcome would appear to have substantially strengthened Straus’ hand, said Jones, by demonstrating that Straus had the support not just of every Democrat in the House, but the overwhelming majority of Republicans, including most of those of the tea party persuasion.

The recorded vote, Jones said, enabled Straus to effectively call the insurgents’ bluff.

At a debate on the race for speaker last week at Southern Methodist University between Reps. Jason Villalba of Dallas and Matt Rinaldi of Irving, Rinaldi, newly elected after defeating Republican Bennett Ratliff in the Republican primary, predicted that Straus’ support would prove thinner, and that Turner would get more votes than people were expecting.

Didn’t turn out that way, and after the vote, Villalba wondered why Turner would have wanted to put other members, especially incoming freshman, in the position of compromising their future effectiveness in a vain campaign.

Indeed, seven of the 19 were freshman who, on their very first day in office sought to take out a sitting speaker who they may never have ever met, who they had never served with and who they knew they couldn’t defeat or even mortally wound. (An eighth freshman among the 19 – Rep. Rodney Anderson – had served a previous term in the House under Straus.)

Of all 19, Jones said, “They are ready to sacrifice effectiveness in getting their legislation passed for their ideological principles.”

“It’s tough to get our representatives to vote in accordance with what the grassroots wants,” Rinaldi said at SMU, praising Rep. Stickland, who was in his audience that day. “They are putting themselves out there. They won’t get the best committee assignments, they won’t get the preferential treatment. It’s a brave road to take and it’s a tough road to take and sometimes people will only do it if they see the clear path to victory.”

Of course, those people don’t remember the Alamo. I have heard more than one tea party voice in recent years suggest that, when their cause of the moment is derided as doomed, they remember the Alamo. After all, it is the names of those martyrs that are recalled yet today, while the names of those who took the safer course are long forgotten.

Texans generally, but the Turner 19 in particular, have an Alamo complex.

Here is the stop of the Handbook of Texas entry on the Alamo.

ALAMO, BATTLE OF THE. The siege and the final assault on the Alamo in 1836 constitute the most celebrated military engagement in Texas history. The battle was conspicuous for the large number of illustrious personalities among its combatants. These included Tennessee congressman David Crockett, entrepreneur-adventurer James Bowie, and Mexican president Antonio López de Santa Anna. Although not nationally famous at the time, William Barret Travis achieved lasting distinction as commander at the Alamo. For many Americans and most Texans, the battle has become a symbol of patriotic sacrifice. Traditional popular depictions, including novels, stage plays, and motion pictures, emphasize legendary aspects that often obscure the historical event.

Will history look back at the yesterday’s events and recall the “illustrious personalities” among the Turner 19? When the attendance roll was called at the start of yesterday’s opening day proceedings, Jonathan Stickland, who may have made the most marked impression of any freshman in the last session, issued forth a thunderous, “PRESENT!”

And 19 is a good number.

The “few and the brave” is better than the “many and the brave.” Any more than 19 and you are starting getting past a list that a grade school student can memorize. If you take out the Matts – Krause, Rinaldi, Schaeffer and Shaheen – you’re down to 15 names to remember. Turner’s a given, so you’re down to 14. You’ve got the rhyming couplet of “Klick and Stick;” Dustin Burrows, which is both a name and a complete sentence, and Tony Tinderholt, which is just a terrific, unforgettable name.

Straus, of course, was gratified by the results, and, in his remarks, suggested both equanimity and that he knows how to keep score. Said the speaker:

What happens on this floor isn’t about any single member, myself included. This House is about something that’s bigger than all of us: It’s about a fair process that points us toward common ground, a process that rewards hard work and respects the will of every district and the judgment of every Member. This House belongs to no single interest and no special interest. It belongs to 27 million Texans, all of the people we represent, and their scorecard is the only one that matters. On their behalf, I declare that this Texas House stands together, and we are ready to lead.”

The line about the “scorecard” – an obvious reference to Empower Texans’ Michael Quinn Sullivan – won big applause, for which MQS offered a couple of bows on Twitter.

And:

Here from the report on the vote on the Empower Texans site by Cary Cheshire:

Conservative Mandate Gets Red Lighted

On the day of the vote, Straus received complete and unanimous support from the Democrats.

Turner’s votes came from only Republicans, namely a number of known conservative standouts and leaders unafraid to buck the status quo.

State Rep. Bryan Hughes, who serves as the pro-life whip, supported Turner and pushed fellow members to do the same in a speech on the House floor. State Rep. David Simpson, who challenged Straus in the last session, gave Turner his support as well.

State Rep. Scott Sanford also offered words of support for Turner from the front mic, emphasizing the importance of the will of the people of Texas and reminding legislators of their job as representatives of The People. Sanford currently represents House District 70, the same district from which current State Attorney General Ken Paxton launched his bid to unseat the Speaker in 2011.

Paxton was rewarded by Texas voters for his courage in standing up for conservative principles. They used the next two elections to catapult him into the Texas Senate and his current office.

It’s not known what is next for the Texas House, Speaker Straus, or Rep. Turner, but one thing is clear: The voters of Texas are demanding conservative results. They will lift up their champions to higher office, and vote out those who go on the record against them. And they are watching.

Like Paxton, Ted Cruz has used an outsider tea party strategy to catapult himself into the U.S. Senate in 2012 and a very likely candidacy for president in 2016. It is an approach that has also earned Cruz a lot of criticism, including from others on the right.

In October 2013, around the time of the government shutdown that Cruz was in the thick of, conservative talk radio host Michael Medved wrote:

On the eve of the federal shutdown, as House Republicans agreed to insist on defunding Obamacare as the price of keeping the government open, Rep. John Culberson of Texas rallied his colleagues by invoking the doomed heroes of United Flight 93. Declaring that the moment somehow reminded him of Sept. 11, the congressman cheered his colleagues with the words: “Let’s roll!”

Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas likes to cite Braveheart to inspire his followers, urging beleaguered conservatives to “Hold! Hold! Hold!” against the on-rushing enemy in the spirit of Mel Gibson’s version of 13th century Scottish warrior William Wallace.

Every day during the crisis, excited callers to my radio show draw parallels between today’s GOP stalwarts and the doughty band who fought to the last man at the Alamo or the 300 Spartans who perished at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Is it merely coincidence, I’ve been asked, that the number of Republicans in today’s House and Senate comes to a combined total of just about 300? (Actually, 278 — but close enough).

Doomed role models

It does little good to point out the obvious problem with invoking such fierce examples as role models for today’s conservatives: United Flight 93 crashed and burned, killing all on board; William Wallace was drawn and quartered by his English enemies; the defenders of the Alamo were slaughtered; and the 300 Spartans were overwhelmed by invading Persian hordes. The problem with doomed, hopeless struggles is that they’re doomed.

In response to such common sense observations, enthusiasts snarl about gutless RINO (Republicans In Name Only) cowards, appeasers and turncoats. All who dare question a laughably impractical and self-destructive strategy selfishly place their own safety above commitment to a worthy cause. Sometimes, they argue, decent men must take a selfless stand against the odds and prepare to sacrifice themselves for higher principle.

The defenders of the Alamo were slaughtered. Duh. But Medved broadcasts from Seattle, so what does he know.

But then, even more pointedly, at around the same time, Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, wrote a piece for National Review criticizing Cruz under the sacrilegious headline, Forget the Alamo.

The Texas senator is fond of quoting William Barrett Travis’s famous letter from the Alamo. It ends with the stirring words “Victory or death!” The Alamo defenders did die, and needlessly, as their position was neither strategic nor defensible.

Fortunately for Texas, there was another, more sagacious leader, Sam Houston. Houston knew that victory was better than death. He gathered troops to his banner and kept them from seeking immediate revenge for the massacre at the Alamo. Patiently, he waited for the right moment to strike. Six weeks after the Alamo fell, he found that moment, surprising the Mexican army at San Jacinto so completely that the battle was over in 18 minutes. The inscription on the San Jacinto monument describes both the battle and its consequence elegantly: “The slaughter was appalling, victory complete, and Texas free!”

Conservatives who love liberty more than political death ought to forget the Alamo. Far better to follow the words and deeds of prudent men of principle like Reagan and Houston, who knew what it took to win.

Well, everyone has a right to their opinion.

As reported by Bloomberg, Cruz allowed as much in a recent interview on Fox & Friends, in which he confirmed he was seriously considering a bid for president:

Cruz also responded to remarks from former Senator Rick Santorum, a potential rival who recently told the New York Times that Cruz is just a verbal “bomb thrower” with no experience.

“Well look, there may be people that throw attacks. I think Rick Santorum is a good man, and he’s entitled to express his views,” Cruz said.

What voters will be seeking, he said, is someone willing to stand up and lead. “I mean, that’s the test, as a primary voter, that I intend to apply,” he said. “Who is standing up and leading?”

I see Stickland and Rinaldi and others among the Turner 19 as of a Cruzian bent, informed, as is Cruz, by a kind of siege mentality. (Remember the Alamo?)

2014 may have been an extraordinarily good year for Republicans in Texas, but, at the SMU debate with Villalba, Rinaldi saw storm clouds on the horizon.

“If we have a blue future, we have a small window,” he said. “We’ve already wasted six years. We have an opportunity to do historic things, not just for Texas but for people watching all over the country, looking for us to set an example.”

Given that, Rinaldi said, voting for Turner was “the easiest decision I ever made.”

For today’s benediction, I will go to two Facebook posts – the first, from T.J. Scott, a Travis County tea party activist and Republican precinct captain, posted on Turner’s Facebook page, and the second, a post from Rep. Matt Krause, who seconded Turners’ nomination.

TJ Scott: GOD Bless you Scott for sacrificing your time and treasure to give us a champion!

Matt Krause: Today I cast my vote for bold, principled, servant leadership in the form of Scott Turner. I was absolutely honored to do so and this vote will always stand out as one of the most memorable (and easy) votes of my legislative career.Congrats to Speaker Joe Straus on another term with the gavel. I look forward to working with him and all those in the House to ensure a successful session. Day 1 down, 139 more to go.

Reader Comments 0

2 comments
beancounterz
beancounterz

Nice map of the state, but what does the coloring mean?

PinkMuse
PinkMuse

@beancounterz Seriously?  There's a legend below the map that gives that information.  You're a tea party person, right?