Yes he did! Retired game warden Pete Flores poaches Democratic Senate seat!

 

Good day Austin:

Well, at least they didn’t chant, Sí, se puede.

That would have been overkill, gloating, rubbing it in.

But exultant Republicans did spontaneously chant the English version of the United Farmworkers-cum-Barack Obama motto – Yes we can! – at Pete Flores’ victory party last night, because, yes they did, yes he did, with the retired game warden convincingly defeating Pete Gallego, a former state representative and member of Congress, in what for Democrats was a must-win, can’t-lose district, a devastating defeat that serves as a pin prick to what overnight looked like overblown Democratic expectations in Texas for 2018.

This from last night’s Flores’ victory, in every detail, could be the most excruciating seven minutes of video a Texas Democrat could ever have to endure watching.

Dan Patrick: Pete Flores made history. For the first time in history there are 21 Republican senators. For the first time in history we have an Hispanic Republican senator.

Seven weeks from tonight I have a message for the Democrats that Pete Flores and his hard work delivered here. All this talk about a blue wave, well the tide is out.

Patrick: And here’s the message to the Democrats: If you think – and this is a 66 percent Hispanic district – if you think Hispanic Republicans across the state are going to vote for abortion, open borders, to take your guns away, to raise your taxes, well, the message was sent tonight and the answer is “no.”

Patrick introduced Flores and then, at about the 2:15 mark, as Patrick was high-fiving Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey – he’s the one under the Trump (and some, I assume are good people)  sign – the crowd spontaneously began chanting, Yes we can!

From Chuck Lindell’s story:

Casting serious doubt on Democratic hopes for a blue wave in Texas, Republican Pete Flores defeated Democrat Pete Gallego in Tuesday’s runoff election for a vacant seat in the state Senate — a seat that had been safely Democratic in previous years.

Flores will represent Senate District 19 when the Legislature convenes in January, filling the final two years of the term vacated when former Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, resigned in June, shortly before he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in defrauding investors in a Texas oil services company.

With Tuesday’s victory, Republicans will hold 21 of the Texas Senate’s 31 seats, giving Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick an even stronger base of support in the 2019 legislative session.

¡Ay, caramba!

Reading those three paragraphs and you realize this was as important, as consequential an election as is likely to occur in Texas in 2018.

The stakes could not have been higher.

Yup. There it is. Right above ROGER STONE: “I will never roll….

But Democrats, don’t worry. Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa has it covered, issuing the following statement:

Come November, no Democrat can sit on the sidelines and no campaign can take any vote for granted. We need to make sure that every voter understands what’s at stake.

Governor Abbott stole an election, plain and simple. Republicans set a date that would guarantee low voter turnout, then Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Republican special interests poured money into the race, denying the people of West Texas and the U.S. Mexico border representation that shares their values.

This was a hard-fought race, but make no mistake, Texas Democrats will not stop fighting to give every Texan the fair shot they deserve.

Shame on Texas Republicans – using their money and power to win an election.

LBJ is rolling over in his grave.

And it was ultra-sneaky running a candidate who bore such a superficial resemblance to Gallego.

And the same first name.

And, who without any doubt, actually lived in the district.

Christian Archer struck a more somber, realistic note:

From Dylan McGuinness’s story in the Express-News.

Christian Archer, Gallego’s campaign strategist, said he was shocked by the results, adding that they weren’t able to generate as much excitement as the Republicans.

“I don’t have any regrets, but I have a lot of disappointment,” Archer said.

Flores’ win marked an incredible upset in a district that political observers said shouldn’t have been competitive for Republicans. Low turnout in special elections and high-level GOP interests in preserving a Senate supermajority helped push Flores across the line, they said.

“It will provide a completely unexpected gift for Republicans for the next legislative session,” said Mark Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University.

Jones said Flores’ victory all but assured a Republican supermajority next year, which would allow Senate Republicans to bring bills to the floor without any Democratic support

Maybe Gallego lacked a spark.

From yesterday in the thick of Election Day get-out-the-vote efforts, Gallego was the calm in the storm. Or the drizzle.

Before Gallego decided not to run again for his old seat in Congress, now held by U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, whose own already decent re-election prospects against Gina Ortiz Jones, look brighter this morning, I quoted Rick Treviño, who ended up in a runoff for the Democratic nomination against Jones, as saying, of Gallego:  “Sequels are bad, trilogies are worse, and this guy is no Rocky IV.”

 

From Asher Price’s story on the Quinnipiac poll:

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has a 9 percentage point lead over challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, according to a poll of likely voters released Tuesday.

The Quinnipiac University poll has Cruz holding a 54 percent to 45 percent lead over O’Rourke. Ninety-three percent of those polled who picked a candidate said their minds were made up on the matter.

As in previous polls, white and male voters tend to favor Cruz; voters of color and women tend to favor O’Rourke.

“The Texas U.S. Senate race between Sen. Ted Cruz and Congressman Beto O’Rourke, and Democratic hopes for an upset win there, have boosted talk of a Senate takeover. These numbers may calm that talk,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll, said in an analysis accompanying poll results. “Congressman O’Rourke may be drawing big crowds and media attention, but Texas likely voters like Sen. Cruz better.”

From Quinnipiac:

Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz has a 54 – 45 percent likely voter lead over U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, his Democratic challenger, in the Texas Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released today.

This is the first survey of likely voters in this race by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll, and can not be compared to earlier surveys of registered voters. Among Texas likely voters who choose a candidate, 93 percent say their mind is made up. That includes 94 percent of Cruz backers and 92 percent of O’Rourke backers.

Women are divided as 50 percent back Cruz and 48 percent back O’Rourke. Men back Cruz 57 – 42 percent. White voters back Cruz 66 – 32 percent. O’Rourke leads 97 – 3 percent among black voters and 54 – 45 percent among Hispanic voters.

Republicans back Cruz 94 – 6 percent, as Democrats go to O’Rourke 94 – 4 percent. Independent voters are divided with 51 percent for O’Rourke and 47 percent for Cruz.

Texas likely voters approve 53 – 44 percent of the job Cruz is doing and give him a 52 – 43 percent favorability rating.

O’Rourke gets a divided 43 – 42 percent favorability rating.

This is not good news for O’Rourke. Cruz has a higher favorability rating. And O”Rourke is not doing nearly as well as he needs do with Hispanics, and Lupe Valdez, the Democratic candidate for governor, may be of marginal help to him on that score.

From Quinnipiac:

There is a wide racial gap in the Texas governor’s race, as Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott leads former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez 58 – 39 percent among likely voters.

Gov. Abbott leads 69 – 28 percent among white voters as Valdez leads 83 – 16 percent among black voters. Hispanic voters are divided with 49 percent for Abbott and 45 percent for Valdez.

But, that’s just one poll.

From Reuters:

Among the bright spots for Democrats: U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas had a 2-percentage-point lead over Cruz among likely voters in the state and U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona had a 3-point lead over Republican congresswoman Martha McSally in the race to succeed U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, one of Trump’s most vocal critics from within his own party.

Both leads are within the poll’s 4-percentage-point credibility intervals, a measure of precision, meaning the candidates are drawing about the same level of support.

The finding suggests that O’Rourke has a shot at becoming the first Democrat to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate in a quarter century.

“There’s a possibility it could happen. I’m not saying probable. But it’s possible,” said Larry Sabato, director of the UVA Center for Politics.

Cruz’s feuds with Trump during his unsuccessful 2016 campaign also hurt his standing with some Texas Republicans, Sabato added, saying: “That damaged him with parts of the Texas electorate that he needs for re-election.”

The Reuters/Ipsos/UVA poll was conducted online, in English, from Sept. 5 to 17. It surveyed between 992 and 1,039 people in each of five states including California and weighted the responses according to the latest government population estimates.

So, take your pick.

Beto O’Rourke is no Pete Gallego. Or rather, Pete Gallego is no Beto O’Rourke.

But no Democrat can be cheered by yesterday’s outcome.

As Henson and Blank recently laid out, even if everything breaks O’Rourke’s way, he’s still very unlikely to win, and yesterday’s outcome in Senate District 19, while not a real test of general election mobilization, does nothing to suggest that Texas Democrats are going to be able to expand the electorate – especially with Hispanic voters even in the thick of the Trump presidency – in the dramatic way on which their success in the  2018 midterm election depends – or that Texas Republicans are less motivated or will be caught napping.

THE ODDS AGAINST O’ROURKE: SOME BACK-OF-THE-ENVELOPE VOTE COUNTING IN THE TEXAS SENATE RACE

A series of recent articles focused on Republican concerns over Senator Ted Cruz’s reelection chances has Democrats beaming, and national reporters falling all over themselves to get in front of the possible defeat of Cruz in deep red Texas. The attraction of the storyline for editors and reporters is obvious enough, and poll numbers showing low single-digit leads for Cruz provide a ready rationale for ever more breathless speculation on Beto O’Rourke’s chances of pulling off an upset. But a look at recent election outcomes and some simple back-of-the-envelope math highlight just how unlikely an O’Rourke victory is in Texas.

While “unlikely” doesn’t mean impossible – this is where we usually insert something about a “non-zero probability” – the magnitude of the change in the patterns evident in recent Texas elections would have to be historic. If we consider recent midterm elections since 2010, the average Republican vote total has been 2,798,519 votes, which we can round to 2.8 million for simplicity. The average Democratic vote total in those races has been 1,846,459, which we can round up to 1.9 million (again, for simplicity). This means that Democrats, on average, have to make up approximately 900,000 votes to get in the range of a tie in Texas. What would this take? (The table below also includes presidential results from 2016, just to provide context, though those results are not factored into these averages).

Recent Top of the Ticket Election Outcomes in Texas
Year Race Republican Vote Total Democratic Vote Total Republican Vote Total Advantage Republican Vote Share Advantage
2016 President 4,685,047 3,877,868 807,179 +9
2014 Senator 2,861,531 1,597,387 1,264,144 +27
2014 Governor 2,796,547 1,835,596 960,951 +20
2012 President 4,569,843 3,308,124 1,261,719 +16
2012 Senator 4,440,137 3,194,927 1,245,210 +16
2010 Governor 2,737,481 2,106,395 631,086 +13

This assessment is based on some quick math, rather than finely grained projections, geographic or otherwise, and there are plenty of other ways one might go about this exercise. But simply thinking about vote totals based on previous elections provides a succinct look at what one is talking about when one considers Beto O’Rourke defeating Ted Cruz.

A good starting point is one of the underlying assumption of many assessments of O’Rourke’s chances: the potential migration of votes from the expected GOP vote either to O’Rourke or to the Texas army of the non-voting. The most recently released poll, as of this writing, showed 15 percent of likely Republican voters saying that they’ll cast a vote for O’Rourke. According to a few different analytic approaches using University of Texas / Texas Tribune polling data of registered voters, as well as Texas Lyceum data of registered and likely voters, the size of the poll of potential Republican cross-over voters is probably closer to 6 percent. This estimate is drawn from current polling, which almost certainly reflects a different underlying population than the likely electorate once general election voting begins, so the size and magnitude of the shift in this data may or may not emerge in actual voting. But assuming just for the sake of this exercise that O’Rourke has or will convince 15 percent of Republican voters to cast a vote for him (which would be quite impressive), we can subtract those votes from the average Republican vote total and add them to the average Democratic vote total, resulting in 420,000 votes shifting to the O’Rourke column. This would cut his likely deficit to 480,000 votes.* While this 15 percent estimate seems high given the context (and divergence of) the polling data, it tests the outer limits for one of the clear concerns of Republicans in Texas and elsewhere: the possibility of either a lack of enthusiasm or outright discontent leading to an increase in Republican non-voting among usually reliable midterm voters.

In addition to discontent with Cruz amongst Republicans, O’Rourke would also have to turn out Democrats at significantly higher rates than normal. So let’s assume, again for the sake of argument, that Democratic turnout increases by 20 percent, which would add another 380,000 votes to O’Rourke’s total. Even under this optimistic scenario, combined with the outer-bound estimate of Republican defections, this surge in turnout would only result in a decrease in the overall expected gap between O’Rourke and Cruz to 100,000 votes – a little more than 3.5 percent under our rough turnout assumption – still in Cruz’s favor.

This simple, back-of-the-envelope calculation using incredibly optimistic expectations (if you’re a Democrat) about the electorate shows why, when experts are asked about O’Rourke’s chances at toppling Cruz, they are so cautious in feeding the hype. Even under extremely rosy circumstances, O’Rourke needs BOTH a momentous shift in voter sentiment, AND a momentous shift in Democratic turnout: possible, but still not probable.

The risks of cool: Is Beto skating on thin ice with his old DWI?

Good Friday Austin.

Forty-four years ago, at the age of 20, I drove drunk and got in a minor accident.

I have no memory of what happened.  All I know is I could have killed someone. I could have killed myself.

I was two years into college at Tufts University. I had moved into a house off-campus for the first time with a friend, and we were throwing a party and, well, hardly anyone showed up (I’m not even sure  my housemate came).

In despair and humiliation, I consumed most of what was probably a 750 ml bottle of Jack Daniels, my drink of choice, having outgrown the sicklening sweetness of Southern Comfort. That summer I had made a pilgrimage in my parent’s hand-me-down Dodge Dart to the Jack Daniels distillery on my drive from Somerville, Massachusetts, to visit a college friend in Seguin. (It would also be my first visit to Austin.)

The next morning after my “party” – actually the next afternoon –  I woke up in my bed and realized I couldn’t account for the night before.

I didn’t know where my car was. I walked in circles around the neighborhood and the nearby campus looking for it, sheepishly asking friends if they had seen me the night before. (I didn’t bother to ask why they had not shown up for my party, which would have saved me from the awful dilemma I found myself in.)

Eventually, I got a call from the Somerville police. I had apparently grazed a car with my car and parked it, or nicked the other car while trying to park the Dart. There was not much damage to either car, and there had been no one in the other car, but that was sheerest good fortune.

I went to the police station. I told them what I knew, which was not much, and the officer, who was used to dealing with students from Tufts and other fancy schools in an area teeming with them, told me I had a privileged and lucky place in the world, and not to blow it.

That was it.

I felt embarrassed, ashamed, chastened and enormously privileged and lucky.

I told my family and a few friends about what happened, but have seldom mentioned it since.

To this day, a mere sniff of Jack Daniels makes me retch, though I learned in the last few years that that reaction only applies to Jack Daniels and its inferiors, and not to the many finer whiskeys now so available, which are better savored than swilled.

I am telling you about this experience because it kept coming to mind of late as I thought about how to assess Beto O’Rourke’s DWI twenty years ago, in the early morning hours of Sept. 27, 1998, following on the night of his 26th birthday.

I am back this week after two weeks back East for the wedding of my son last Saturday, and my nephew, the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend.

Just before I headed East, Gardner Selby had done a PolitiFact Texas looking at whether O’Rourke had been arrested for drunk driving back in 1998, as Silvester Reyes, the congressman he unseated in 2012, had charged in a campaign ad that year.

That DWI was not in dispute.

As Selby noted, “Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke of Texas has said that in younger days he was twice arrested in his hometown of El Paso–once, he says, for leaping a campus fence and the other time for driving while intoxicated.”

“The oldest published account of the arrests appears to be an April 2005 El Paso Times news story about O’Rourke’s successful run for a seat on the El Paso City Council. The story, which we found by searching the Nexis news database, quoted the incumbent, Anthony Cobos, stressing O’Rourke’s DWI arrest. Cobos, who later served as county judge before being convicted on embezzlement charges, said at the time: “I think you lead by example and his example speaks for itself.”

According to the story, O’Rourke was arrested on a DWI charge in September 1998 that was dismissed in 1999 after he completed a court-recommended DWI program. “I’ve been open about that since the very beginning. I have owned up to it and I have taken responsibility for it,” O’Rourke told the paper.

But, on the Friday before Labor Day I saw on my phone a tweet about a story revealing new information on the 20-year-old DWI.

The story had originated with Kevin Diaz, a Washington correspondent with the Houston Chronicle.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke has long owned up to his drunken driving arrest 20 years ago, describing it in a Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News op-ed piece earlier this week as a “serious mistake for which there is no excuse.”

Although the arrest has been public knowledge, police reports of the September 1998 incident – when the Democratic Senate candidate had just turned 26 – show that it was a more serious threat to public safety than has previously been reported.

State and local police reports obtained by the Chronicle and Express-News show that O’Rourke was driving drunk at what a witness called “a high rate of speed” in a 75 mph zone on Interstate 10 about a mile from the New Mexico border. He lost control and hit a truck, sending his car careening across the center median into oncoming lanes. The witness, who stopped at the scene, later told police that O’Rourke had tried to drive away from the scene.

O’Rourke recorded a 0.136 and 0.134 on police breathalyzers, above a blood-alcohol level of 0.10, the state legal limit at the time. He was arrested at the scene and charged with DWI, but completed a court-approved diversion program and had the charges dismissed.

In a statement Thursday, O’Rourke did not address the witness account of his alleged attempt to flee.

“I drove drunk and was arrested for a DWI in 1998,” O’Rourke said. “As I’ve publicly discussed over the last 20 years, I made a serious mistake for which there is no excuse.”

That and a separate arrest for jumping a fence at a University of Texas-El Paso facility have long been a matter of record in O’Rourke’s public life, both on the El Paso City Council and in Congress. But the unexplained details of the crash and DWI in Anthony, a suburb about 20 miles north of El Paso that borders New Mexico, could now emerge as a potential attack point in his quest to unseat Texas Republican Ted Cruz.

The report (and the reporter referred to in the report, is I believe, simply a reference to a witness, not to a member of my besieged and dwindling craft) paints a far more disturbing picture of the scene than my default assumption that O’Rourke had simply been pulled over for weaving, or the like,  and found to be drunk.

His story doesn’t really add up, except perhaps as the best a drunk suspect could come up with on the fly.

But again, who am I to talk?

O’Rourke told the El Paso Times in 2012 that “he was driving an intoxicated friend home in the fall of 1998 when he was arrested for DWI.”

There is no mention of the other person in the police report.

O’Rourke was never charged with attempting to leave the scene – and it’s not clear from the report how exactly the witness kept him from fleeing. O’Rourke completed a diversion program and the charge was dismissed.

Case closed.

But, when I read the Chronicle story, I assumed it would explode.

O’Rourke had been on a most remarkable run that had made what should be an unwinnable race at least competitive. But, to sustain his momentum, everything needed to continue to break just right, and now here was that unforeseen thing breaking very wrong.

It seemed like the kind of story that could give serious pause to that small but crucial category of Texas voters who don’t usually vote Democratic but were thinking about giving this open and engaging new guy a shot.

From New York Magazine:

It’s true that drunk-driving offenses are nothing new for Texas voters — former governor George W. Bush once pleaded to driving under the influence, an incident that came out in the press just before he won the presidency in 2000, and did not seem to hurt his standing in the eyes of Texans. But O’Rourke came closer to causing death and destruction than Bush. O’Rourke has also positioned himself as a forthright chronicler of his own imperfect past, and the fact that he left out a key part of it may hurt his reputation for candor.

I thought that it certainly meant that every time he was compared to a Kennedy – which is all the time – the underside of that likeness would now kick in.

I thought that myself and other reporters – at fault for not having had the story sooner – might look at O’Rourke at least a little differently.

And I thought that even Betomania might now be tinged with some doubt, that even his supporters might pause for a moment to take it in.

But, I was wrong, at least so far – and I say so far because I am sure the Cruz campaign and/or allied super Pacs, will eventually make great use of it – because the story didn’t blow up and, so far at least, it doesn’t appear to have slowed O’Rourke’s momentum one whit.

The week between my two weddings, O’Rourke appeared on The Ellen Show, after DeGeneres, in awe of his viral tweet on NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem, tweeted …

I didn’t watch the show live, but I figured this would be a very safe space for O’Rourke to offer a fuller, more Beto-like explanation of the new facts about his long-ago DWI.

When I looked later, The Ellen Show had cut up his interview into bite-size videos, one of which had the promising title, US Senate Candidate Beto O’Rourke Gets Candid on His DUI.

 Here it is. You can watch it, and then I’ll break it down into even more bite-size morsels.

 

Yes indeedly-doodly, as Ted Cruz might saying doing his best Ned Flanders.

Ellen proceeded cautiously.

 

 

OK Beto, let ‘er rip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was, in and of itself, a good answer, and one that, as someone who benefited from the same privileges twenty years earlier, I wholly subscribe to.

To Beto I say, “Right on my white brother.”

The audience loved it, and I thought, fine, now keep going. Put a little texture, some telling detail, on what happened way back when. Lay a little candor on us. At least tell us that no one showed up at your birthday party and you were drowning your sorrows

But no. That was it.

OK. I understand this isn’t Ellen’s job, but then she shouldn’t present her tropical pink set as  place where candor, and not just canned righteousness, might flourish.

I understand this was not 60 Minutes.

This was not Oprah.

I believe, as Beto told Ellen, that she is force for goodness and kindness.

But, as an interrogator here, she is who she is when she voices Dory.

Somehow – and this is how good he is – O’Rourke had turned an opportunity to come clean about a shameful moment in his past into an opportunity to be further praised and congratulated on national television for his moral virtue.

Wow.

But wait, there’s still half the 2 minutes and 37 seconds left in the Beto O’Rourke Gets Candid on his DUI segment.

There is still time to see him sweat.

And, indeed we do, as Ellen marvels at O’Rourke’s heroic journey across Texas in the dreadful heat of summer.

But Ellen is all about solutions, not just problems.

In this case it’s a custom-designed Beto for Senate fan harness to keep O’Rourke cool on the campaign trail.

 

 

OK.

Having survived Ellen, O’Rourke took his chances this week with a tougher customer – Stephen Colbert.

Colbert gave O’Rourke a lot of time – offering a four-minute  comedy monologue setting up his seven-minute interview with O’Rourke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK.

Texans of every political stripe know there is no shame in a super-cool booking photo.

Poster by Sabo

But O’Rourke’s DWI was dispatched by Colbert as old news that O’Rourke had already apologized for.

Colbert didn’t return to the subject in his interview with O’Rourke, though he did ask a number of other pertinent questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was another charming, bravura performance by the phenom.

But, while O’Rourke is consistently earnest and modest in his presentation, there does lurk the danger of simply being too cool, which can, at some point, invite the jealousy and resentment of the less cool, not to mention the uncool.

Texas Democrats do not want their underdog hero’s campaign to unspool amid the Revenge of the Nerds.

I expect the Cruz campaign to present O’Rourke as an indulged child of out-of-touch privilege who could afford to collect a cool booking photo or two along the way and not pay a price.

O’Rourke is only a year younger than Cruz, but as Colbert noted this week, he appears much younger.

 

That can be an advantage for O’Rourke, if it embodies his fresh energy.

Or it can be a disadvantage if the Cruz campaign is able to persuade voters that O’Rourke is callow, or even hollow.

When it’s all over, the defining image of O’Rourke’s campaign may be him effortlessly gliding by  – looking 20, or 40, or nearly 47 – on a skateboard in the parking lot of a Brownsville Whataburger last month.

He is cool, but the peril of being so cool and beguiling is that he can skate by on things that maybe he shouldn’t skate by on

That may be what it takes to elect a Democrat to statewide office in Texas in 2018. But, with the new details about the old DWI, the way he’s handled it so far, and the opponent he is up against, he may skating on thin ice.

 

Remembering the Alamo … and remembering the rest of Texas history

 

Dan chandler, from Plano, attends a State Board of Education meeting at the William B. Travis Building, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Good day Austin:

Last month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, at a bill signing to make sex trafficking a felony in his state, said, “We’re not going to make America great again. It was never that great.”

His audience gasped.

For a politician, it was neither a smart nor a sensible thing to say.

Cuomo is expected to win renomination this week for governor, even though his opponent, Cynthia Nixon, played Miranda Hobbes, who was the smartest and most sensible of the quartet of lead women characters on “Sex and the City,” and even though Election Day is on a Thursday, instead of a Tuesday, so as not to conflict with Rosh Hashanah or the 17th anniversary of 9/11.

But I think President Trump was right in concluding that, as for as any higher ambitions, Cuomo’s remark, which I’m sure didn’t come out quite as he intended, was a career-killer from which there can be no comeback.

Yes, American politicians can get carried away with endless, pious self-congratulation about how great America is. But who wants to live in a country led by someone who doesn’t think the country is all that, or at least, was all that.

I truly believe one can accept that America was founded on the genocide of the continent’s indigenous people and the enslavement of Africans — and still believe this is a great country, maybe even, as is de rigueur among the political class, the greatest ever.

Really.

I also believe that every nation — including the former Republic of Texas — is entitled to its own mythic stories, especially one as good, and heroic as that of the Alamo.

Everybody the world over remembers the Alamo.

So, I do not begrudge the State Board of Education’s disposition Tuesday, under enormous political pressure, to continue to refer to the “heroic defenders of the Alamo” in the state’s curriculum standards.

From Julie Chang’s story for the American-Statesman:

Heeding concerns by conservatives that the State Board of Education is trying to water down how Texas history is taught in middle school, a board-nominated committee has backtracked on a recommendation to remove references to heroes and a letter by William B. Travis in lessons about the Alamo.

More than 60 people signed up to testify before the board Tuesday to express concerns about proposed changes to the state’s social studies curriculum standards, particularly those that address the Alamo, slavery, the civil rights movement and references to Judeo-Christianity in American history.

The curriculum standards serve as the framework for history, government and economics textbooks and lessons for the state’s 5.4 million public school students.

Multiple board-nominated committees, made up mostly of educators, met this year as part of a broader effort to streamline curriculum standards across subject areas. The board is expected to take a preliminary vote Wednesday on whether to accept changes to the social studies curriculum.

Elected officials and others spoke against the recommendation to change the curriculum standard that reads, “explain the issues surrounding significant events of the Texas Revolution, including the Battle of Gonzales, William B. Travis’s letter ‘To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World,’ the siege of the Alamo, and all the heroic defenders who gave their lives there.”

One of the board’s committees this spring had recommended removing the reference to the letter as well as heroic defenders.

“These are the most famous words in all of Texas history,” U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Houston, told the board after reading an excerpt from Travis’ letter on Tuesday. “I cannot fathom any possible way that one can teach Texas history without teaching William Barrett Travis’ plea to the people of Texas and all Americans and the world.”

Travis, the commander of the Texian rebels at the Alamo, sent the letter to ask for help as he was being surrounded by Mexican forces. The missive is said to have inspired many of the volunteers who ended up joining the army that Sam Houston later led to defeat Mexican forces.

Stephen Cure, the Texas State Historical Association’s director of education and a member of one of the board committees, said the panel, looking for areas to streamline, thought the language was redundant because it’s impossible to learn about the siege of the Alamo without learning about the letter or its defenders.

Under pressure, a majority of his colleagues on the committee said they would be willing to change its recommendation, Cure said Tuesday.

“The outcry from the people of Texas said that they felt it should be in there and, from the committee’s perspective, we felt that it was better to make a productive recommendation,” Cure said.

The new curriculum standard with the restored language now reads that students must learn about the siege of the Alamo, including Travis’ letter and “the heroism of the diverse defenders who gave their lives there.”

But, as Jerry Patterson, the former land commissioner and as staunch a defender of the Alamo and its heroes as one will find, noted when I talked to him Tuesday night, the controversy was really much ado about almost nothing, affording politicians an opportunity to beat their chests about a threat more imagined than real to the heroic standing of Alamo defenders in the way history is taught in Texas.

Of stripping the Alamo defenders of their “heroic” status, Patterson said, “The state Board of Education was never going to do that. Everybody knew that they weren’t going to do that. And furthermore it wasn’t this huge politically correct, conspiratorial dark cloud. It was just trying to make the language shorter. But nonetheless it created an extremely safe opportunity for politicians to bravely, at great risk— NOT — step out there and try to do something that people might like.”

From Lauren McGaughy’s story in the Dallas Morning News:

“I stand before you today as a member of one of your volunteer workgroups maligned by some of our state’s highest elected officials and respected media outlets,” Stephen Cure, the former director of education with the Texas State Historical Association, told the board. “Let’s set the record straight.”

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But Cure, who helped write the proposed changes, said the volunteers didn’t remove the word “heroic” because they thought the Alamo defenders didn’t deserve the moniker. It was taken out, he insisted, because the group was sure their heroism would be taught even without an explicit requirement to do so.

“You can’t teach the siege of the Alamo without teaching the [Travis] letter and the heroism. As the Declaration of Independence says, it’s ‘self evident,'” Cure said. “Our primary goal, or primary path, was to reduce the amount of content in the standards.”

Cure said the group recommended deleting the entire phrase — first added in 2010 — because it would be impossible for teachers to educate students on each and every person who defended the Alamo. He blasted reporters for not calling the volunteers who wrote the standards but said he didn’t reach out to elected officials who criticized their work

Here is the opinion that Ted Cruz, embroiled in a  re-election contest with U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, posted on Fox News Tuesday:

The Board of Education was holding a hearing in Austin on the proposal Tuesday. Fortunately, according to the San Antonio Express-News, “the board appeared poised to keep the words in the curriculum” when it is scheduled to discuss the issue Wednesday. A final decision is expected in November.

 The advisory group, called “Social Studies TEKS Streamlining Work Group,” even recommended dropping the requirement that students in Texas should be able to explain the importance of a letter from Col. William B. Travis, commander of the rebels at the Alamo. The letter was addressed to “the People of Texas and All Americans in the World” and is known as the “victory or death letter.”

This letter has been considered a vital founding document of Texas history ever since it inspired thousands of men to take up arms in revolution to free Texas from the oppressive regime of General Santa Anna.

Travis wrote in the letter:

“The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken – I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls – I shall never surrender or retreat.”

And go down fighting Travis did – alongside scores of his comrades, from brave Tejanos such as Toribio Losoya and José Gregorio Esparza, to legends of the American frontier like Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett.

The volunteers were outnumbered by at least 7 to 1 by the Mexican Army. They were surely aware of General Santa Anna’s slaughter of civilians in the rebelling state of Zacatecas the previous year, and his Mexican Army’s brutal treatment of prisoners and noncombatants.

But rather than retreat or surrender, the defenders of the Alamo defied the promise of “no quarter” from Santa Anna, and shed their blood so that Texas could be free of his oppressive regime.

Among the politically correct jargon supposedly justifying the proposed changes to the Texas social studies curriculum, one statement stood out: “Heroic is a value-charged word,” and thus it must be purged.

Indeed, “heroic” is very “value-charged.” It is not a term to be used lightly.

But the troubling implication here – in addition to scrubbing patriotism from our schoolbooks – is that our children cannot be taught history with a sense of value and valor. This is an absurd claim.

Who would teach their child about the historical reality of human slavery, and fail to call it evil? That is a true and necessary value-charged word.

Who would teach about the men landing at Normandy on D-Day to free Europe from Hitler’s tyranny, and not call them brave?

Who would tell of Mother Theresa helping the sick and poor, and not call her good?

The classroom is not supposed to be a place without values. It must be a place with the right values.

Somehow, in an age when professional athletes disrespect our flag only to get millions of dollars in advertising deals, and our public forums are increasingly devoted to tearing down our national legacy rather than building it up, it is not surprising that some bureaucrats rewriting schoolbooks should try to eliminate one more source of American pride from our schools.

But that gives Texas families a chance to be a part of history once more.

We are not called to defend the Alamo with muskets and cannon today, but to defend it in our public square, and in our schools. We can preserve the legacy of its defenders, and of all heroes throughout our history who teach us duty and faith and sacrifice.

We can value the things worth valuing.

We can remember.

By all means, remember the Alamo, and even revere the defenders as heroic.

But that does not mean that one must forget all else.

In 2003, University of Texas historian H.W. Brands wrote a piece in Texas Monthly, headlined, “The Alamo Should Never Have Happened: Generations of Texas schoolchildren have been taught that the battle at the center of the Texas revolution was our finest hour. Maybe so— but it was also a military mistake of mythic proportions.”

It closes as follows:

For decades student of Alamo history have refought the battle, debating how many people died there and where they fell. Much less attention has been paid to the larger issue of whether it should have been fought in the first place. Questioning patriotic sacrifice is bad form, especially with the powerful words of the dead commander haunting the collective conscience.

But sacrifice is not synonymous with good judgment, and in truth the defense of the Alamo was woefully misguided. Houston was correct that San Antonio had little significance for the defense of the Texas settlements. Even if Travis and the others had held the Alamo, Santa Anna might easily have left a token force to pin them there and sent the main body of his army after Houston and the rest of the rebels. Nor did the delay caused by Santa Anna’s insistence on taking the Alamo slow his advance appreciably. Santa Anna spent two weeks at Béxar, two weeks in which Houston made scant progress in organizing or training the Texas army. The rebels were no readier for battle in early March than they had been in late February, as Houston’s subsequent forced retreat east demonstrated, and they would have been far readier had their ranks included the men killed at the Alamo. Santa Anna’s losses at Béxar were considerably greater than those of the Texans, but his army was so much larger that he could afford to be wasteful.

The primary result of the Alamo’s fall was precisely what Santa Anna intended: the terrorizing of the Anglo settlements in Texas. As word raced east of the disaster at Béxar, the settlers fled toward Louisiana in what later was called, with relieved levity, the Runaway Scrape. Santa Anna had long since decided that the American colonization of Texas was a mistake, which he intended to rectify by removing the Americans. The destruction of the Alamo, and the refugee flight it precipitated, got the process well under way.

The only thing that saved the revolution (as it really became after the declaration of Texas independence on March 2, 1836) was Santa Anna’s impatience. Hoping to catch the Texas government, which had joined the flight east, he committed a cardinal sin of invading commanders: He divided his army. And then he allowed Houston, who until this point had shown every indication of retreating clear to the Redlands of East Texas, to corner him where Buffalo Bayou joins the San Jacinto River.

Houston’s victory at San Jacinto had nothing to do with the defeat at the Alamo (or the subsequent massacre at Goliad), except that it (and Goliad) furnished a rousing battle cry and an excuse for a slaughter that matched in ferocity and scale anything the Mexicans had committed. And in fact, the victory at San Jacinto, though an enormous morale booster, neither ended the war nor guaranteed Texas’ independence. The captured Santa Anna was overthrown in absentia, and the agreements he negotiated with the Texans were immediately disavowed by the Mexican government. Mexico continued to claim Texas for another decade and in 1842 succeeded twice in reoccupying San Antonio. What finally settled the Texas question was the intervention of the United States, which annexed Texas in 1845 and defeated Mexico in the war of 1846-1848.

By that time the Alamo had entered the mythology of Texas. A prime characteristic of myth is that every sacrifice serves a purpose; the larger the sacrifice, the more profound the purpose. During the Texas Revolution itself, the legitimacy of the rebellion was disparaged by opponents of slavery, who held that the chief purpose of the breakaway was to ensure the future of slavery in Texas (Mexico had outlawed the institution), and by others who judged it a landgrab by armed speculators. The sacrifice of the Alamo afforded an emphatic riposte to the criticism. Would the heroes who died there have done so for the base motives ascribed to them by their critics? Hardly. They must have fought and died to secure democracy and individual rights.

And so they did—at least some of them, and at least the rights of some people. But whether the Alamo was the proper place to do it is another question entirely. It casts no aspersion on the defenders’ courage to assert that they got the answer to this question wrong. If anything, there is a certain sublime nobility in an act that reflects bravery undiluted by good sense. And it is entirely in keeping with everything about the Texas Revolution, and with much that is characteristically Texan, that this military mistake was not the work of ignorant or fatuous commanders, as has typically been the case in history. No Raglan ordered the Alamo garrison to stand against Santa Anna; the defenders’ decision to do so was theirs alone. Texans have long prided themselves on their individuality, including their right to be wrong in their own way. For them, the Alamo is the perfect shrine.

When I talked Tuesday night to Miguel Suazo, the Democrat challenging George P. Bush’s re-election, he said. “I think it’s kind of silly not to refer to the Alamo defenders as heroes for multiple reasons.  If you’re telling Texas history and telling the Texas story, a small group of individuals fighting a major battle against long odds, I think that’s pretty heroic in and of itself, regardless of the imperfections behind some of the men if you want to delve deeper into the history.”

As Brands wrote: “What finally settled the Texas question was the intervention of the United States, which annexed Texas in 1845 and defeated Mexico in the war of 1846-1848.”

And, one need not look to a revisionist historian to get a stark appraisal of the “Texas question” that probably doesn’t and won’t find its way into most Texas classrooms. For that one need only read the extraordinary  “Personal Memoirs of  Ulysses S. Grant,” which Grant wrote as he lay dying.

 

I write this as someone who, brought up in New York, and educated in Long Island public schools, grew up believing that Robert E. Lee was a nobler and wiser figure than Ulysses S. Grant — who, I came to understand, was a drunk and later a corrupt president, or at very least a president negligent to his friends’ corruption.

(Before the Texas Senate race is over, I imagine the Cruz campaign will run ads noting that O’Rourke named one of his sons Ulysses. While O’Rourke, who studied literature at Columbia University, claims this is a nod to the ancients and that he and his wife named their son, Ulysses “because we didn’t have the balls to name him Odysseus,” I am sure it can be made to appear to be the self-loathing, political correctness of a renegade son of the South.)

And, while my sympathies were not with the Confederacy, I recall receiving in school very nearly “Birth of a Nation” instruction on the terrible failure of Reconstruction, focused almost entirely on carpetbaggers and scalawags.

As Sen. Cruz asks in this Fox opinion piece on the importance of values in the classroom, Who would teach their child about the historical reality of human slavery, and fail to call it evil? That is a true and necessary value-charged word.

Carisa Lopez, Political Director at Texas Freedom Network speaks in support of renewing a fight to have the board change the curriculum standards outside the William B. Travis Building during a State Board of Education meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Yes. Of course.

But the question is, amid being taught the heroic story of the Alamo, are Texas schoolchildren also being taught about the insidious role of slavery in the founding story of Texas, and the central role the annexation of the slave-state Texas into the Union and the Mexican-American War played in precipitating the Civil War?

From Grant’s memoir, CHAPTER III: ARMY LIFE—CAUSES OF THE MEXICAN WAR—CAMP SALUBRITY

There was no intimation given that the removal of the 3d and 4th regiments of infantry to the western border of Louisiana was occasioned in any way by the prospective annexation of Texas, but it was generally understood that such was the case. Ostensibly we were intended to prevent filibustering into Texas, but really as a menace to Mexico in case she appeared to contemplate war. Generally the officers of the army were indifferent whether the annexation was consummated or not; but not so all of them. For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory. Texas was originally a state belonging to the republic of Mexico. It extended from the Sabine River on the east to the Rio Grande on the west, and from the Gulf of Mexico on the south and east to the territory of the United States and New Mexico—another Mexican state at that time—on the north and west. An empire in territory, it had but a very sparse population, until settled by Americans who had received authority from Mexico to colonize. These colonists paid very little attention to the supreme government, and introduced slavery into the state almost from the start, though the constitution of Mexico did not, nor does it now, sanction that institution. Soon they set up an independent government of their own, and war existed, between Texas and Mexico, in name from that time until 1836, when active hostilities very nearly ceased upon the capture of Santa Anna, the Mexican President. Before long, however, the same people—who with permission of Mexico had colonized Texas, and afterwards set up slavery there, and then seceded as soon as they felt strong enough to do so—offered themselves and the State to the United States, and in 1845 their offer was accepted. The occupation, separation and annexation were, from the inception of the movement to its final consummation, a conspiracy to acquire territory out of which slave states might be formed for the American Union.

Even if the annexation itself could be justified, the manner in which the subsequent war was forced upon Mexico cannot. The fact is, annexationists wanted more territory than they could possibly lay any claim to, as part of the new acquisition. Texas, as an independent State, never had exercised jurisdiction over the territory between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. Mexico had never recognized the independence of Texas, and maintained that, even if independent, the State had no claim south of the Nueces. I am aware that a treaty, made by the Texans with Santa Anna while he was under duress, ceded all the territory between the Nueces and the Rio Grande—, but he was a prisoner of war when the treaty was made, and his life was in jeopardy. He knew, too, that he deserved execution at the hands of the Texans, if they should ever capture him. The Texans, if they had taken his life, would have only followed the example set by Santa Anna himself a few years before, when he executed the entire garrison of the Alamo and the villagers of Goliad.

In taking military possession of Texas after annexation, the army of occupation, under General Taylor, was directed to occupy the disputed territory. The army did not stop at the Nueces and offer to negotiate for a settlement of the boundary question, but went beyond, apparently in order to force Mexico to initiate war. It is to the credit of the American nation, however, that after conquering Mexico, and while practically holding the country in our possession, so that we could have retained the whole of it, or made any terms we chose, we paid a round sum for the additional territory taken; more than it was worth, or was likely to be, to Mexico. To us it was an empire and of incalculable value; but it might have been obtained by other means. The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times.

As William S. McFeely, in, “Grant: a Biography,” wrote: “Grant proceeded in his  Memoirs to a brief essay on how wars are begun in America. His point loses no force in the twentieth century, for having been written in the nineteenth.”

From Chapter IV: Corpus Christi—Mexican Smuggling—Spanish Rule in Mexico—Supplying Transportation.

The presence of United States troops on the edge of the disputed territory furthest from the Mexican settlements, was not sufficient to provoke hostilities. We were sent to provoke a fight, but it was essential that Mexico should commence it. It was very doubtful whether Congress would declare war; but if Mexico should attack our troops, the Executive could announce, “Whereas, war exists by the acts of, etc.,” and prosecute the contest with vigor. Once initiated there were but few public men who would have the courage to oppose it. Experience proves that the man who obstructs a war in which his nation is engaged, no matter whether right or wrong, occupies no enviable place in life or history. Better for him, individually, to advocate “war, pestilence, and famine,” than to act as obstructionist to a war already begun. The history of the defeated rebel will be honorable hereafter, compared with that of the Northern man who aided him by conspiring against his government while protected by it. The most favorable posthumous history the stay-at-home traitor can hope for is—oblivion.

 Mexico showing no willingness to come to the Nueces to drive the invaders from her soil, it became necessary for the “invaders” to approach to within a convenient distance to be struck. Accordingly, preparations were begun for moving the army to the Rio Grande, to a point near Matamoras. It was desirable to occupy a position near the largest centre of population possible to reach, without absolutely invading territory to which we set up no claim whatever.

Finally, and at length, a passage from Grant’s memoir that Ta-Nehisi Coates cited in The Atlantic on Jan. 20, 2011, under the headline, The Literary Heroism Of U.S. Grant.

Coates: “I present the following words from Grant’s memoir. This has always struck me as one of the most eloquent defenses of the Union which I’ve ever seen. I haven’t read enough Jefferson, but I have to believe that Grant is one of the greatest writers to ever occupy the White House. This is the writer enlisting the entire arsenal–literature, legal theory, history and memory all in one.”

CHAPTER XVI: THE COMING CRISIS:

Up to the Mexican war there were a few out-and-out abolitionists, men who carried their hostility to slavery into all elections, from those for a justice of the peace up to the Presidency of the United States. They were noisy but not numerous. But the great majority of people at the North, where slavery did not exist, were opposed to the institution, and looked upon its existence in any part of the country as unfortunate. They did not hold the States where slavery existed responsible for it; and believed that protection should be given to the right of property in slaves until some satisfactory way could be reached to be rid of the institution. Opposition to slavery was not a creed of either political party. In some sections more anti-slavery men belonged to the Democratic party, and in others to the Whigs. But with the inauguration of the Mexican war, in fact with the annexation of Texas, “the inevitable conflict” commenced.

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Doubtless the founders of our government, the majority of them at least, regarded the confederation of the colonies as an experiment. Each colony considered itself a separate government; that the confederation was for mutual protection against a foreign foe, and the prevention of strife and war among themselves. If there had been a desire on the part of any single State to withdraw from the compact at any time while the number of States was limited to the original thirteen, I do not suppose there would have been any to contest the right, no matter how much the determination might have been regretted. The problem changed on the ratification of the Constitution by all the colonies; it changed still more when amendments were added; and if the right of any one State to withdraw continued to exist at all after the ratification of the Constitution, it certainly ceased on the formation of new States, at least so far as the new States themselves were concerned. It was never possessed at all by Florida or the States west of the Mississippi, all of which were purchased by the treasury of the entire nation. Texas and the territory brought into the Union in consequence of annexation, were purchased with both blood and treasure; and Texas, with a domain greater than that of any European state except Russia, was permitted to retain as state property all the public lands within its borders. It would have been ingratitude and injustice of the most flagrant sort for this State to withdraw from the Union after all that had been spent and done to introduce her; yet, if separation had actually occurred, Texas must necessarily have gone with the South, both on account of her institutions and her geographical position. Secession was illogical as well as impracticable; it was revolution.

Now, the right of revolution is an inherent one. When people are oppressed by their government, it is a natural right they enjoy to relieve themselves of the oppression, if they are strong enough, either by withdrawal from it, or by overthrowing it and substituting a government more acceptable. But any people or part of a people who resort to this remedy, stake their lives, their property, and every claim for protection given by citizenship—on the issue. Victory, or the conditions imposed by the conqueror—must be the result.

In the case of the war between the States it would have been the exact truth if the South had said,—”We do not want to live with you Northern people any longer; we know our institution of slavery is obnoxious to you, and, as you are growing numerically stronger than we, it may at some time in the future be endangered. So long as you permitted us to control the government, and with the aid of a few friends at the North to enact laws constituting your section a guard against the escape of our property, we were willing to live with you. You have been submissive to our rule heretofore; but it looks now as if you did not intend to continue so, and we will remain in the Union no longer.” Instead of this the seceding States cried lustily,—”Let us alone; you have no constitutional power to interfere with us.” Newspapers and people at the North reiterated the cry. Individuals might ignore the constitution; but the Nation itself must not only obey it, but must enforce the strictest construction of that instrument; the construction put upon it by the Southerners themselves. The fact is the constitution did not apply to any such contingency as the one existing from 1861 to 1865. Its framers never dreamed of such a contingency occurring. If they had foreseen it, the probabilities are they would have sanctioned the right of a State or States to withdraw rather than that there should be war between brothers.

The framers were wise in their generation and wanted to do the very best possible to secure their own liberty and independence, and that also of their descendants to the latest days. It is preposterous to suppose that the people of one generation can lay down the best and only rules of government for all who are to come after them, and under unforeseen contingencies. At the time of the framing of our constitution the only physical forces that had been subdued and made to serve man and do his labor, were the currents in the streams and in the air we breathe. Rude machinery, propelled by water power, had been invented; sails to propel ships upon the waters had been set to catch the passing breeze—but the application of stream to propel vessels against both wind and current, and machinery to do all manner of work had not been thought of. The instantaneous transmission of messages around the world by means of electricity would probably at that day have been attributed to witchcraft or a league with the Devil. Immaterial circumstances had changed as greatly as material ones. We could not and ought not to be rigidly bound by the rules laid down under circumstances so different for emergencies so utterly unanticipated. The fathers themselves would have been the first to declare that their prerogatives were not irrevocable. They would surely have resisted secession could they have lived to see the shape it assumed.

I travelled through the Northwest considerably during the winter of 1860-1. We had customers in all the little towns in south-west Wisconsin, south-east Minnesota and north-east Iowa. These generally knew I had been a captain in the regular army and had served through the Mexican war. Consequently wherever I stopped at night, some of the people would come to the public-house where I was, and sit till a late hour discussing the probabilities of the future. My own views at that time were like those officially expressed by Mr. Seward at a later day, that “the war would be over in ninety days.” I continued to entertain these views until after the battle of Shiloh. I believe now that there would have been no more battles at the West after the capture of Fort Donelson if all the troops in that region had been under a single commander who would have followed up that victory.

There is little doubt in my mind now that the prevailing sentiment of the South would have been opposed to secession in 1860 and 1861, if there had been a fair and calm expression of opinion, unbiased by threats, and if the ballot of one legal voter had counted for as much as that of any other. But there was no calm discussion of the question. Demagogues who were too old to enter the army if there should be a war, others who entertained so high an opinion of their own ability that they did not believe they could be spared from the direction of the affairs of state in such an event, declaimed vehemently and unceasingly against the North; against its aggressions upon the South; its interference with Southern rights, etc., etc. They denounced the Northerners as cowards, poltroons, negro-worshippers; claimed that one Southern man was equal to five Northern men in battle; that if the South would stand up for its rights the North would back down. Mr. Jefferson Davis said in a speech, delivered at La Grange, Mississippi, before the secession of that State, that he would agree to drink all the blood spilled south of Mason and Dixon’s line if there should be a war. The young men who would have the fighting to do in case of war, believed all these statements, both in regard to the aggressiveness of the North and its cowardice. They, too, cried out for a separation from such people. The great bulk of the legal voters of the South were men who owned no slaves; their homes were generally in the hills and poor country; their facilities for educating their children, even up to the point of reading and writing, were very limited; their interest in the contest was very meagre—what there was, if they had been capable of seeing it, was with the North; they too needed emancipation. Under the old regime they were looked down upon by those who controlled all the affairs in the interest of slave-owners, as poor white trash who were allowed the ballot so long as they cast it according to direction.

I am aware that this last statement may be disputed and individual testimony perhaps adduced to show that in ante-bellum days the ballot was as untrammelled in the south as in any section of the country; but in the face of any such contradiction I reassert the statement. The shot-gun was not resorted to. Masked men did not ride over the country at night intimidating voters; but there was a firm feeling that a class existed in every State with a sort of divine right to control public affairs. If they could not get this control by one means they must by another. The end justified the means. The coercion, if mild, was complete.

There were two political parties, it is true, in all the States, both strong in numbers and respectability, but both equally loyal to the institution which stood paramount in Southern eyes to all other institutions in state or nation. The slave-owners were the minority, but governed both parties. Had politics ever divided the slave-holders and the non-slave-holders, the majority would have been obliged to yield, or internecine war would have been the consequence. I do not know that the Southern people were to blame for this condition of affairs. There was a time when slavery was not profitable, and the discussion of the merits of the institution was confined almost exclusively to the territory where it existed. The States of Virginia and Kentucky came near abolishing slavery by their own acts, one State defeating the measure by a tie vote and the other only lacking one. But when the institution became profitable, all talk of its abolition ceased where it existed; and naturally, as human nature is constituted, arguments were adduced in its support. The cotton-gin probably had much to do with the justification of slavery.

The winter of 1860-1 will be remembered by middle-aged people of to-day as one of great excitement. South Carolina promptly seceded after the result of the Presidential election was known. Other Southern States proposed to follow. In some of them the Union sentiment was so strong that it had to be suppressed by force. Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri, all Slave States, failed to pass ordinances of secession; but they were all represented in the so-called congress of the so-called Confederate States. The Governor and Lieutenant-Governor of Missouri, in 1861, Jackson and Reynolds, were both supporters of the rebellion and took refuge with the enemy. The governor soon died, and the lieutenant-governor assumed his office; issued proclamations as governor of the State; was recognized as such by the Confederate Government, and continued his pretensions until the collapse of the rebellion. The South claimed the sovereignty of States, but claimed the right to coerce into their confederation such States as they wanted, that is, all the States where slavery existed. They did not seem to think this course inconsistent. The fact is, the Southern slave-owners believed that, in some way, the ownership of slaves conferred a sort of patent of nobility—a right to govern independent of the interest or wishes of those who did not hold such property. They convinced themselves, first, of the divine origin of the institution and, next, that that particular institution was not safe in the hands of any body of legislators but themselves.

Meanwhile the Administration of President Buchanan looked helplessly on and proclaimed that the general government had no power to interfere; that the Nation had no power to save its own life. Mr. Buchanan had in his cabinet two members at least, who were as earnest—to use a mild term—in the cause of secession as Mr. Davis or any Southern statesman. One of them, Floyd, the Secretary of War, scattered the army so that much of it could be captured when hostilities should commence, and distributed the cannon and small arms from Northern arsenals throughout the South so as to be on hand when treason wanted them. The navy was scattered in like manner. The President did not prevent his cabinet preparing for war upon their government, either by destroying its resources or storing them in the South until a de facto government was established with Jefferson Davis as its President, and Montgomery, Alabama, as the Capital. The secessionists had then to leave the cabinet. In their own estimation they were aliens in the country which had given them birth. Loyal men were put into their places. Treason in the executive branch of the government was estopped. But the harm had already been done. The stable door was locked after the horse had been stolen.

During all of the trying winter of 1860-1, when the Southerners were so defiant that they would not allow within their borders the expression of a sentiment hostile to their views, it was a brave man indeed who could stand up and proclaim his loyalty to the Union. On the other hand men at the North—prominent men—proclaimed that the government had no power to coerce the South into submission to the laws of the land; that if the North undertook to raise armies to go south, these armies would have to march over the dead bodies of the speakers. A portion of the press of the North was constantly proclaiming similar views. When the time arrived for the President-elect to go to the capital of the Nation to be sworn into office, it was deemed unsafe for him to travel, not only as a President-elect, but as any private citizen should be allowed to do. Instead of going in a special car, receiving the good wishes of his constituents at all the stations along the road, he was obliged to stop on the way and to be smuggled into the capital. He disappeared from public view on his journey, and the next the country knew, his arrival was announced at the capital. There is little doubt that he would have been assassinated if he had attempted to travel openly throughout his journey.

State Board of Education member Marisa B. Perez-Diaz, D-District 3, speaks in support of Texas Freedom Network renewing their fight to have the board change the curriculum standards outside the William B. Travis Building during a State Board of Education meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

`The blue wave has a physics all its own.’ On electoralizing the Indivisible resistance.

Good Monday Austin:

Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg, the married couple, co-founders and co-executive directors of Indivisible, the network of grassroots organization founded to resist the Trump presidency in the immediate aftermath of his election as president, returned this weekend to Levin’s hometown of Austin, where the idea of Indivisible was born over drinks at DrinkWell, 100 days out from the election where the success of their efforts to electoralize the resistance will be tested.

I first wrote about Indivisible on Jan. 18, 2017, two days before Trump’s inauguration as president. Here’s the top of the story:

WASHINGTON, DC – When the history of grass-roots resistance to President Donald Trump is written, it might be recorded that the movement was born in Austin – prefigured at the Randalls supermarket on Brodie Lane in the summer of 2009, conceived at a North Loop neighborhood bar over Thanksgiving weekend 2016, and crafted in great part by battle-tested veterans of the office of U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett.

It was at Randalls in the first summer of the Obama administration that Doggett, the longtime Austin Democrat, was besieged by tea party protesters chanting “Just Say No” to the health care reform that would come to be known as Obamacare. It was a jarring scene that set the tone for what would be a dreadful August recess for Democratic members of Congress at bitterly contentious town hall meetings across the country and presaged an Obama presidency to which the tea party and Republican Party just said “no.”

Seven years later, in the aftermath of Trump’s election, Ezra Levin, who grew up in Austin and Buda and worked for Doggett in Washington from 2008 to 2011, was back in Austin for the Thanksgiving holiday with his wife, Leah Greenberg, another Capitol Hill veteran. They got together at Drink.Well. on East 53rd Street with an old friend who was leading a new progressive group in Austin, to talk about how to channel their mutual despair and knowledge of congressional politics into effectively doing to the Trump presidency what the tea party did to the Obama presidency.

“We knew how Congress works and we knew how a pretty darn small group relative to the total population came together and implemented a very thoughtful strategy with very specific concrete tactics to resist an administration and a Congress that they didn’t agree with, and that was the tea party,” Levin said. They left Drink.Well. with a plan to draft a manual to replicate the tea party strategy — stripped, of course, of what they considered its noxious ideology and mean streak.

Three weeks later, on the evening of Dec. 15, Levin, 31, tweeted out a link to a Google Doc: “Indivisible: A practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda. Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.”

“The tea party implemented a two-pronged strategy, and that was very locally focused, focused on their members of the Senate and their one member of Congress, and then they consciously chose to be defensive and almost exclusively defensive,” said Levin, who now lives in Washington.

“And they also understood that they weren’t setting the agenda, that at that time Democrats controlled the House and the Senate and the presidency, so what they could do is simply respond to it,” he said. “And they did that in a few concrete, not rocket science kinds of way. They showed up in person at public events, at town halls, at district offices and then called in response to whatever new thing President Obama or the Congress was trying to do.”

“We started out writing a practical guide for progressives who find themselves in kind of the same situation now, with a president we believe is illegitimate and is looking to destroy some key tenets of American democracy, and who controls the Senate and the House,” he said.

The response from across the country was swift and overwhelming: high-profile coverage in mainstream and progressive magazines, two segments on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show,” an op-ed in The New York Times, and a tsunami of grass-roots interest.

I spoke with Levin and Greenberg, who are 33 and 32 respectively, just before they spoke to a phone bank training attended by about 40 folks in a room at the Austin History Center on Guadalupe Street.

“We are at 100 days until the election. Literally it’s 99 days and nine hours,” Levin said. “This was the weekend of action pivoting directly into electoral activity.”

“Indivisible began as an advocacy, talking about how to pressure their member of Congress, whoever that was, and then whoever their elected officials were at the local and state level,” he said. “That’s a great strategy in off years. When an election is coming up, a great way to build power is to change who that member of Congress is, or to change who the senator is, or change who the state rep or state senator it.”

“What we’ve been doing at the national level, is preparing to pivot folks in that direction.”

“n the same way that we provided call scripts on Trumpcare in Ohio or national days of action to do sit-ins or die-ins at congressional offices against Trumpcare, we’re trying to help the groups now register voters, endorse  candidates, get out the vote, phone bank, text, all the nuts and bolts of electoral politics, is where we have the most power now.

“What we’ve seen over the last 16, 17, 18 months is in the special elections, in the primary elections, in the off-year elections, they don’t get won on Election Day,  they get won by boots on the ground doing the work, day in, day out leading up tot that.  So we’re building the blue wave. That’s what the groups  are doing.”

Why spend pivot weekend in Texas, which still seems an uphill climb for electorialization?

“I think the story of the last 18 months has been surprises. We’ve seen 3, 6, 9, 12-point swings against Trump in competitive races, places that traditionally political prognosticators in Washington, D.C., say, “Oh they’re not winnable.

“But then we win in rural Virginia. We win an Alabama Senate race. We win special elections w. we win a plus-Republican district in Pennsylvania, Conor Lamb. ”

“The blue wave has a physics all its own and it’s going to come crashing down in places that traditionally don’t see this kind of progressive power. So Texas is fertile ground for that because the powers-that-be in Texas, for instance, have used redistricting to gerrymander themselves a whole bunch of districts that are gerrymandered for traditional election years, not for wave election years.”

“And when you have a candidate that’s  as hated as Ted Cruz going for re-election you even have a shot of going statewide, even tough Democrats haven’t won a statewide election since the mid-90s. This year could be different.”

” A year ago the question was, is it even possible we could take the House back,” Greenberg said. “We were very optimistic because of what we were seeing on the ground level. Already people were doing the work at the ground level in places where nobody was expecting a victory.”

“We’ve actually focused on Texas,” Greenberg said. : We have a statewide organizer for Texas in part because we think there is real potential here.”

Let us pause here for a moment, and fast forward a few hours to the latest in a series of Walk the Lines events organized by Justin Nelson’s campaign for attorney general against Ken Paxton as a critique of gerrymandering, which is nowhere more obvious than in Austin, which has been carved up into six congressional districts leaving Austin votes the master of none of those districts and leaving Austin the largest city in the country without a congressional district to call its own.

From a June 15 story by Chuck Lindell on how Nelson and Paxton are on opposite sides of the gerrymandering debate:

Before they became election foes, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Democratic challenger Justin Nelson landed on opposite sides of a U.S. Supreme Court fight over the ability of politicians to gerrymander political districts to give one party a distinct advantage in future elections.

In one of this term’s most eagerly awaited cases at the high court, Paxton came down on the side of Wisconsin Republicans who are defending state Assembly districts that were ruled unconstitutional for giving the GOP a disproportionate advantage at the polls.

Because redrawing political districts after each census is an inherently partisan task, Paxton told the Supreme Court in an August brief joined by 15 other Republican-led states, there is nothing “invidious or irrational” about having a partisan political purpose in preparing new maps.

Paxton also warned about letting judges decide when the quest for partisan advantage goes too ggfar, saying it would create legal standards so vague that every state would be exposed to lawsuits, giving the losing political party a “plausible chance” of overriding the will of a majority of lawmakers.

Nelson, on the other hand, argued that allowing the party in power to gain an outsized electoral advantage undermines democracy and improperly dilutes votes.

“The foundation of American democracy rests on ‘the consent of the governed.’ When lawmakers engage in partisan gerrymandering, they corrode this consent by punishing groups on the basis of their political beliefs in an effort to deprive them of equal representation,” Nelson wrote as the lead lawyer for a Supreme Court brief on behalf of two voter advocacy groups, FairVote and One Nation One Vote.

Here’s some of what went on last night, at an event attended by Nelson and four of the six Democratic candidates representing pieces and shards of Austin: Longtime gerrymander survivor Lloyd Doggett, the only incumbent in the bunch; Julie Oliver, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, and would count Dogged as a constituent if she is elected; Joseph Kopser, who is facing Republican Chip Roy in the campaign to succeed U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, who is retiring, and Mike Siegel. Siegel is challenging U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who, living with his family at the intersection of great wealth and bad pipes, consumes more water than any other family in the city of Austin.

Here’s a litte of what they had to say at the event, held upstairs at Antone’s, a classy venue, albeit the Home of the Blues, and not House of the Blue Wave.

Also in attendance last night were the Lafairs, who have created a gerrymandering board game, Mapmaker.

Becca Lafair, left, Josh Lafair, her younger, taller brother, and Louis Lafair, Becca’s twin.

Louis just graduated from Stanford University, and Becca is entering her fifth year at Northeastern University in Boston (a school where the normal course of study is five years, as students alternate academic and real world experience.) Josh is a senior in high school.

Josh: “We grew up in a gerrymandered district in Austin.” They were formerly represented by Doggett, now represented by McCaul.

The Lafairs took moral umbrage at this.

“Voters should be choosing their politicians, but what’s happening is politicians are choosing their voters, and that’s just not right.”

And, Louis said, “we’ve always loved playing board games with each other.”

“I invented a board game when I was 11, that was my first board game,” said Louis.

Well, that explains Stanford.

What was that?

“I was called Pathwayz, spelled with a z, because I was 11.”

“It was published eight years later.”

More Louis: “We researched it. There weren’t any other gerrymandering games out there.:

The goal of the game is to win the most districts.

Louis: “The real reason we’re doing this is to start a conversation about gerrymandering.”

In other words, the goal is to win, but feel bad about it.

Louis: “We have a proclamation inside every box – gerrymandering is not a game.”

But Louis said, “We spent a lot of time making sure it was a really fun game. There’s the whole anti-gerrrymandering community and there’s the whole board game community.”

In the meantime, the game, which will be available shortly is  being sent to the Supreme Court, governors and others, and has been endorsed by notables like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lawrence Lessig and Doggett.

Back to Levin and Greenberg.

I wondered why they chose to spend pivot weekend Texas, not necessarily the ripest for victory.

“I think the story of the last 18 months has been surprises. We’ve 3, 6, 9, 12-point swings against Trump in competitive races, places that traditionally political prognosticators in Washington, D.C., say, “Oh they’re not winnable.'”

I asked them how they would counsel Democratic candidates to talk about impeachment.

This was apropos a recent back-and-forth on impeachment between the O’Rourke and Cruz campaigns via Gardner Selby at PolitiFact Texas.

Cruz’s campaign said in a July 17, 2018, press release that O’Rourke “continued today his reckless and radical Senate campaign based on impeaching Pres. Donald Trump. He is the only candidate to the U.S. Senate to call for impeachment,” the release said.

We wondered: Is O’Rourke alone among Senate hopefuls in advocating the Republican president’s impeachment?

Not so, we found, though it looks like he’s the only Senate nominee to date to say he’d vote to launch impeachment proceedings.

xxxx

Our search of the Nexis news database showed that as early as August 2017, O’Rourke said he’d vote for Trump’s impeachment. Most recently, the Dallas Morning News quoted O’Rourke saying in July 2018 that Trump merited impeachment for his performance in the just-completed summit with Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin.

O’Rourke responded to a News reporter: “Standing on stage in another country with the leader of another country who wants to and has sought to undermine this country, and to side with him over the United States — if I were asked to vote on this I would vote to impeach the president. Impeachment, much like an indictment, shows that there is enough there for the case to proceed and at this point there is certainly enough there for the case to proceed.”

Then again, O’Rourke in December 2017 was among 364 House members to vote for tabling a proposal by Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, to impeach Trump, records show. Before that vote, Democratic leaders released a statement referring to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry that said impeachment wasn’t timely.

When we asked Cruz’s campaign how the senator determined that O’Rourke was alone among Senate candidates calling for impeachment, spokeswoman Catherine Frazier pointed out by email that the News story noting O’Rourke’s willingness to vote for impeachment quoted Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, leveling a more limited claim. Roe called O’Rourke “the only major-party candidate in America to call for impeachment.”

Another Cruz contact, Emily Miller, emailed us a web link to a November 2017 Reuters news story describing O’Rourke saying that Trump’s racially charged rhetoric and divisive governing style had led O’Rourke to support impeachment. O’Rourke was quoted saying: “I’m now convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that Donald Trump is unfit for that office.”

O’Rourke spokesman says he’s not ‘called’ for impeaching Trump

When we reached out to O’Rourke about Cruz calling him the only Senate candidate to call for impeachment, campaign spokesman Chris Evans said by email: “Beto has never called for the impeachment of President Trump.”

Evans maintained that O’Rourke’s responses to reporters and voters about voting in favor of impeachment weren’t the same as the candidate calling for impeachment. Evans elaborated that O’Rourke hasn’t brought up impeachment “at town halls or rallies, has not sent fundraising or petition emails on it, has not posted social media advocating for it, and has not used his current position of public trust to do so through floor speeches, letters or resolutions.”

Evans also pointed out an interview we’d missed. For an episode of Showtime’s “The Circus,” posted online in May 2018, O’Rourke replied that as a member of the House, he’d vote right then to impeach Trump. Asked if he’d vote as a senator to convict Trump, O’Rourke replied: “Until I’m in that position and am able to hear the case made by each side, all the facts laid out, I can’t give you an answer on that–nor would you want me to.”

xxxxx

Our ruling

Cruz said O’Rourke is “the only candidate to the U.S. Senate to call for” impeaching Trump.

Since August 2017, O’Rourke has been saying that he’d vote to impeach Trump, which would start with a vote in the House, where he serves. O’Rourke might be the only Senate nominee to say as much. However, Democratic Senate contenders in Minnesota and California also have talked up Trump’s impeachment.

We rate this claim about O’Rourke’s uniqueness False.

“Our network got involved in response to Trump. They want to resist the Trump agenda. So this is something that animates them,” Levin said. “I will say that impeachment is a political process. It’s something where you need not just vote to impeach in the House but convict in the Senate. You need Republican votes, by definition. You are not going to get two-thirds of the Senate just from Democratic hands, so you need Republican votes. So, it’s a process.

“On the first day of Congress, if we take the House or the Senate, we can get Donald Trump’s tax returns, we can launch investigations, we can get more information, we can get the smoking gun that is out there. To say you will vote for impeachment right now – it is a fine line to walk when folks are not putting it front and center, or when they’re saying they’ll re-evaluate – that’s actually the right move. We need more information, we need investigations.

“And the things that Texans care about when we talk to them in Wimberley, is they care about the state of democracy, they care about democratic institutions, like voting, like redistricting, like money in politics. They worry that it’s being taken over by a small segment of society. They care about health care. They care about families being detained and separated and put in cages along the border and elsewhere. These are the things that we see getting a lot of folks out.

“And I think it’s smart for candidates like Beto and others to be talking about those issues. We will get to the questions of what is going on in the Trump campaign and this administration, and the only way we will get there is if we retake the majority and force them to give reveal that information.”

“We were both congressional staffers, we both worked for Democratic members of Congress,” Levin said. “I didn’t have a super high opinion of Republican members of Congress, but I would not have accused them of doing essentially what they’ve done, which is turn a complete blind eye to what this administration does. They have proven again and again and again that they are not willing to act as a check on this administration, which is their constitutional duty, so the only answer in this moment is,we need to retake power so that we can start having a Congress that acts as a check on this administration.

“And then what comes from that, will come from that.

“We are in favor of impeachment proceedings, but the way impeachment works is to start investigations and you get information, and it’s worth noting that the Senate doesn’t vote to impeach, the Senate votes to convict, so that is going to be the question put before Sen. O’Rourke, and that will come after a long series of investigations that reveal exactly what’s going on.”

(*in the realm of phone banking on a summer Sunday in Austin, ginormous is defined as around 40.)

“The only question we get asked again and again is, “Yeah but, can the resistance be electoralized, can you actually win elections?” Levin said. “The rule of the last 20 months has been surprise wins by anti-Trump forces all over the country. Is it a sure thing? A Democrat hasn’t won statewide in Texas in over 20 years. And yet we  were out in freakin’ Beaumont Texas on a Friday night and there were 15 people phone-banking for Beto O’Rourke.

“This is everywhere.

“It’s going to be won if people put in the work day after day from now until Election Day, and so far we’re seeing the energy out there.”

 

 

xxx

Run Hard: Blue Action Democrats rally against `naysayers’ and `conventional wisdom’

Good Monday Austin:

While other people yesterday were doing whatever people do on a summer Sunday afternoon in Austin, I spent several hours with a couple of hundred Democrats at a fundraiser for Blue Action Democrats, a relatively new club in Southwest Travis County.

My favorite moment was Austinite Julie Oliver, the Democratic candidate challenging U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, invoking Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

Oliver:

Naysayers. Have any of y’all come across any of them?

So,  I’m going to reference a movie: Walk Hard: The Dewy Cox Story.

“I do believe in you. I just ruthnow you’re going to fail.”

If y’all haven’t seen it, there’s a really funny scene where John C. Reilly, he is playing this Johnny Cash figure, he’s young, he’s about to hit the road on his very first musical tour and his wife is played by Kristen Wiig, and as she’s saying goodbye to him, kissing him, seeing him to the door, she’s like, You’re never gonna make it,” and smiling and waving and singing out the window and it’ really funny.

This is not the exact scene. Couldn’t find that. But close.

Oliver:

So I see that because I hear it sometimes, but when I hear that something clicks inside and I never thought of myself as competitive, but since I’ve been hearing that lately I’ve been game on. Game on.

Because, honestly all these race are winnable. We have to believe that. That’s the very first step is believing. Because when you believe that these races are competitive and winnable, that informs your reality. You know what happens from there. Action is stirred. 

“Well it looks like I got some proving myself to do.”

Walk hard, hard
When they say, “You’re all done”
Walk bold, hard
Though they say, “You’re not the one”

Even if you’ve been told time and time again
That you’re always gonna lose and you’re never gonna win
Gotta keep that vision in your mind’s eye
When you’re standing on top of a mountain high

You know when I was a boy, folks used to say to me
“Slow down Dewey, don’t walk so hard”
And I used to tell them, “Life’s a race and I’m in it to win it
And I’ll walk as damn hard as I please
How do I walk boys?”

“I’m casting my vote for Julie because we got cut five blocks out of our own district,”  said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, who, thanks to gerrymandering lives outside his district. ” I have never seen a more dangerous time for our country. Our democracy is under direct threat from someone who daily tells us that he admires every third world thug that he salutes and praises.”

Doggett told his mostly white audience that while talk in Democratic circles is getting the Hispanic or black vote out, “What we really need is our next-door neighbor, the person across the street.”

(See Ken Herman’s column on this from last week.)

The key races where we can win are right here in theses precincts – electing Vikki Goodwin  to serve in the state House. We know gerrymandering divided up our city in the way that we’re the largest city in America that does not control a congressional district. It’s wrong, but it’s obvious that the Supreme Court will provide no remedy for that. The remedy is in our hands, not at the courthouse but at the ballot box.

This is an election in which we either resist and stand up and provide a genuine check and balance to all of the hatred and bigotry of Donald Trump or we let our country continue to sink and decline.

One of the nice touches of the Blue Action Democrats event was that the runners-up in the contested races were invited as well and given a chance to speak.

All three of U.S. Rep. Joseph Kopser’s three rivals for the Democratic nomination to succeed U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, in the 21st Congressional District, were on hand.

Mary Wilson, who is back in the pulpit full-time at the Church of the Savior in Cedar Park, talked about a recent mission delivering supplies to Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries on the border.

Next up was Derrick Crowe, who is moving with his wife to D.C., where his wife just landed a good job with Ballou High School.

Crowe:

Raise your hand if you know what the Dunning-Krueger Effect is?

For folks that don’t know it’s a phenomenon that’s been well documented. There are two types of people that are absolutely sure that they are great at the thing that they are doing. The first group of people are the experts. And the second group of people are the people that are too dim  to know they are not good at it. I am convinced that the Trump administration are the best example of the Dunning -Krueger Effect that we’ve ever had in an American administration. 

I think if psychologists would look they would find a very similar effect in terms of empathy. That there are people that are so lacking in empathy that they think they are great it.

xxxxxx

And you mentioned the folks that are loath to speak out against Donald Trump unless they’re retiring. We call that ring and run where I come from. And the solution to a ring and run Republican is a knock-and-drag Democrat.

It is absolutely essential that we take these congressional seats. Do everything you can to put Joseph Kopser and Julie Oliver in Congress this year.

Then it was Elliott McFadden’s turn.

On vacation last week, I read a book called the Storm Before the Storm. It’s about the generation before Julius Caesar the led to the end of the Roman Republican, and we are that generation in our country.

(OK. so this is Elliott McFadden’s idea of beach reading? Was he on Martha’s Vineyard shunning Alan Dershowitz?)

From the book description:

The Roman Republic was one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of civilization. Beginning as a small city-state in central Italy, Rome gradually expanded into a wider world filled with petty tyrants, barbarian chieftains and despotic kings. Through the centuries, Rome’s model of cooperative and participatory government remained remarkably durable. The Romans commitment to regular elections and peaceful transfers of power was unmatched in the history of the ancient world.

In 146 BC, Rome finally emerged as the strongest power in the Mediterranean. But the very success of the Republic proved to be its undoing. The republican system was unable to cope with the vast empire Rome now ruled. Rising economic inequality disrupted traditional ways of life. Endemic social and ethnic prejudice led to clashes over citizenship and voting rights. Rampant corruption and ruthless ambition among the elite sparked violent political clashes that cracked the once indestructible foundations of the Republic.

Chronicling the years 146-78 BC, The Storm Before the Storm dives headlong into the first generation to face the treacherous new political environment made possible by Rome’s triumphant success. Abandoning the ancient principles of their forbearers, men like Marius, Sulla, and the Gracchi Brothers set dangerous new precedents that would start the Republic on the road to destruction—a stark warning for modern readers about what happens to a civilization that has lost its way. This was the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic.

Yikes.

McFadden:

Congressman Doggett said it today. Our Republic is at stake in this election. If you don’t believe it, look at those children being ripped from the families. Watch a Supreme Court that is hanging in the balance which  can roll back Roe v. Wade. 

This is the election of our generation That is why I am supporting Joseph Kopser so he can go to Congress with Julie Oliver and hold this president accountable.

Kopser said that the primary had made him a much better candidate, which I think is true.

I talked with Steve Kling of Dripping Springs, who is taking on state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels.

I asked Kling a question prompted by some recent tweets, and his answer was a variation on Oliver’s rap on naysayers.

Kling:

When we started this 16 months ago we were considered a long-shot race. We’ve been upgraded by various pundits to a tough-but-winnable scenario. If we’re looking at some of the trends we’re seeing precinct-by-precinct across this district, if we can just get the level of turnout we get in a presidential – that’s saying a lot – but if we can get that, we can win this.

And it’s organizations like Blue Action Democrats that have a template of producing really strong turnout. If we can replicate that in just northern Bexar County alone, just that part of my district, we’ll actually win this, despite whatever happens in Comal or Kendall. 

I think we can actually win this by two or three points if we do that.

I asked, per the tweets, whether the felt he was getting the kind of support he needs or expects from Democratic Senate incumbents in adjoining districts?

 

Kling:

I really wish I could say that I was.

Unfortunately, that is a long string of unreturned phone calls, unresponsive. I’m surrounded by  Democratic state senators. We tried to set up meetings with them. I don’t know why they decided to stay on the sidelines. I don’t really know how to interpret that. They either don’t understand how important 2018 is or they don’t care. I don’t know which is worse.

We have an opportunity to break the (Republican) supermajority. 

If we turn two Senate seats we will be in a Senate where they won’t be able to do a vote without at least one member of our caucus.

I have been running this for 16 months and I have said the enemy is conventional wisdom. Getting the number that we’re seeing from our primary, getting the numbers we are getting from growth and talking to groups like Progress Texas and seeing the demographics that are moving into this area, the fastest growing area of this country.

This is a very winnable district. And really there’s an outcome if we get the help from the Democratic Party and the incumbents, and there’s one without, and they may be very different, and so trying to get an audience with my fellow Democrats that can really help make a difference in this race has been really important. We just haven’t been able to get the traction, and I don’t really know why.

The one Democratic senator I sat down with, who will remain nameless, has told me that one of the reasons that, at least from his perspective, that we are not getting traction, is they are frightened by the vindictiveness of Dan Patrick, which to me, that’s a vote of no-confidence for my friend Mike Collier (the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor).

The most important race right now is Mike Collier’s race. Even if I win, I’m really relegated to banging my head against the brick wall of Dan Patrick for four years. We’ve got to get Mike Collier in there and he’s the one who really needs the support from Democratic incumbents and, to my knowledge, he isn’t getting it either.

To be fair, the Senate Democratic Caucus, headed by Sen. (José ) Rodríguez, has  been as helpful as they can be. They have contributed to our campaign. Sen. Rodriguez has been an outspoken advocate of Democratic challengers. The adjacent. 

Of the Democratic incumbents who have been less forthcoming, Kling said, “If they want to make Dan Patrick happy, they can switch parties and let us know where they really stand.”

Yikes.

We conclude our coverage of yesterday’s event talking to Will Simpson, who is writing a book about his losing campaign for the Democratic nomination to challenge state Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, in House District 47, which was ultimately won, in a runoff, by Vikki Goodwin.

From the Texas Tribune:

C’mon Trib, give the guy a break.

That’s better.

Simpson:

I have very thick skin. I spent a lot of time with (Austin City Council Member) Jimmy Flanagan who helped me try to get an idea of what it was going to be like. And he prepared me –  `You’re a first-time candidate, you’re probably going to lose, no matter what.”  

And we never believe that.

I probably will run again.

Simpson said he hopes to have a E-book out before Election Day.

Even if I don’t run again, somebody else may be able to learn something from my story.

Or maybe not.

I’m anal with note-keeping so I was able to reconstruct an outline of a book really fast.

I want to tell the story. I want somebody else to read the story of what it’s like.

I’m calling it Blue Wave.

His campaign slogan – a good one – was, ‘Where there’s a Will there’s a way.”

He lost his father during the campaign. That was tough.

:

We knew it was a rough district. Western Travis County is not blue Travis County. The south end is, the north end, where I live really is not. I live in Leander. the Travis County part of Leander. I’m a native. I was born in Austin.  I knew what I was getting into, but there was a ton that I didn’t know.

Like …

What I thought was a good candidate was way, way, way, way apart from what the masses were looking for. I’m very critical thinking and `can they win’ is part of the equation. Average person is emotion-driven, especially right now.

I didn’t focus enough on hard-core fundraising up front. I put in a lot of my own money, which is now gone. It really is a marketing campaign.

One of the things that almost kept me from running is that I believed I had too much integrity to be a national Democrat. I tend to tell it like it is too much. And that can hurt you in a campaign. I may not ever be a good candidate. A candidate needs to be a marketer first. I don’t like that, but that’s a very true statement.

At the end of the day a lot of what I had to offer wasn’t actually good for what a lot of the voters in the Democratic Party wanted by the time it came to the primary in March.

They wanted someone more progressive and they wanted someone who was female. And I understand why they wanted that because I can see it and I agree.

One of the things I may do, because I still do want to serve and make a difference, I may actually go and try to run in Wilco where those Democrats that you can find are different. And so I’m closer to them, I’m an old white guy like them. People want someone they feel they can relate to.

Did he find the loss emotionally wrenching?

Not for me. I’m a COO by nature. I am the wet blanket. I don’t tend to live in the emotional world. My wife, who is my better three-quarters, is, so it was harder on her and the family, even though we talked about it. That was hard on me.

Me losing? I live to take risks.

Simpson is the chief operating officer of a technology recruiting firm.

Simpson:

I’m fully supporting Vikki. It’s going to be damn close. She has 13,000 votes to switch out of 100,000, that’s a big margin to turn, and the blue wave isn’t going to hit. HD-47 is in the top ten districts in voter turnout, period, so it’s already a high-voting district.

What?  No blue wave?

Not in Texas there won’t be.

So why is his book going to be called Blue Wave?

That title is meant to be ironic. I don’t know what I’m going to put underneath it (as a subtitle.)  Overall in the nation, we are going to have a better midterm then we’ve had in a long time.

But, Simpson said:

I believe in math. It is going to be very hard in Texas. God love Beto, I am out writing checks and helping him every chance I get. He is not going to win. I don’t believe it. I’ve got his yard sign in my yard.

I think Julie has a shot. Personally I’m not a big fan, but I do think she has a shot, so that’s good for us.

Kopser?

I think Kopser has the money, he has the ground troops. Mathematically, it is a harder one to win. But he is more attractive to those kinds of people, so I think it’s a tossup.

And MJ Hegar, who is challenging U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, in CD31?

I don’t like her at all. But the Travis County Democratic Party should hang its head in shame to see how effective and how hard Wilco works relative to Travis County.  (He thinks John Bucy has a good shot at ousting state Rep. Tony Dale in House District 136.) MJ has very good ground game going and lot of money and national recognition. When Guy Kawasaki posts your video …

She will get traction. I think she’ll actually kick it open. I think she’ll turn it. We’ll know in the next 60 days how fired up the other side is. If 100 percent turns out, the Democrat loses. Period.

So there you have it.

Political curmudgeon and forthcoming memoirist Will Simpson says there is no blue wave coming, that if everyone turns out, Democrats lose, that Beto O’Rourke, the great blue hope, God love him, can’t win, but that Julie Oliver and MJ Hegar, neither of whom he particularly cares for, could pull upsets.

Wet blanket? Sure. But naysayer? Apparently not.

A little while later, Lynn Kurth, who was emceeing the Blue Action Democrats program, called out for Simpson.

“We have something for you.”

But Simpson had already left.

I asked Kurth later what she had for Simpson.

“Will was going to get one of the Get Shit Done Club pins. I’ll mail Will his pin.”

 

 

Asche is to ashes, but is James Dickey a man the Texas GOP can trust?

 

Good day Austin and San Antonio:

About two hours into yesterday’s afternoon session of the Texas Republican Convention, in the lead-up to the vote for chairman, the battle between James Dickey, the current chairman, and Cindy Asche, his rival, was truly joined.

The outcome, based on Senate caucus votes in the morning, was already clear. Dickey would prevail by a large margin but the Asche camp was persisting with some tactical maneuvers, though it was unclear to what end.

At which point, Amy Clark, the outgoing vice chair of the party, who was presiding over the session, recognized Toni Ann Dashiell, the state’s national committeewoman and a leader of the Asche forces, to speak.

DASHIELL: I have a very important announcement and I would like to yield my time to Jennifer …

JENNIFER STONER: I’m Jennifer Stoner, Republican Party accounting director … for eight years, and I have resigned my position as accounting director …

Amy Clark: Ma’am. I’m advised this is out of order.

Having cut off Stoner, Clark went called on delegate Terry Holcomb.

Terry Holcomb, Senate District 3, I am speaking in heavy opposition to this. I never thought I would say this at a Republican Party State Convention in Texas, but don’t California my Texas. What are we really talking about here? They say they don’t concur with the will of the voter.

This sounds like something Hillary Clinton would do when Trump beat her. We heard speech after speech about unity and here we are doing the most divisive thing possible. We want to burn the party down so she can be queen of the ashes.

I encourage you to vote “no” and let’s join together behind Chairman James Dickey.

Before the vote, Dickey and Asch each got five last minutes to speak to the delegates.

Dickey strode to the stage access;pained a score of well-known figures in the Texas conservative firmament.

Dickey:

This has been a challenging year.

It was challenging being the third chairman of the Republican Party in two years.

It was challenging standing up strongly for what we believed in and having donors and elected officials and everybody else not know what we really meant by that and not knowing that was going to be a positive things and to turn it around and have it result in growth and benefit and this amazing unity that you see up here has been so humbling. and I am so grateful that every  one of you who has seen this with your own eyes and felt it with your own heart.

We have lived out leadership over the last year  taking strong stands, doing the hard work that needs to be done and I will tell you there were significant obstacles to that.

When I ran a year ago, I kept getting badgered with, “Will you keep everybody from the old administration that had failed, would you keep all of those things, and, of course my response was, “I have no intention of changing things up, time will tell and what the party needs is the most important thing.”

It has been tough to try to unify the group while there has been a core faction of folks from prior leadership that were disappointed that they were out, and were disappointed that they didn’t win the election, and were trying to do everything they could possibly do to overturn the bodies who had voted and I thank you guys for looking past that, looking over  that, looking through that.

You can look around and judge by your own eyes how things are going. It is so important that we move forward together. We have President Trump. We have the House. We have the Senate. We have the Texas House. We have the Texas Senate. We have city councils, school boards county commissioners and county judges. We are going expand our victories here and we can do that if we unite to win, and we have offered that olive branch and we are consistently offering.

You can decide by your own eyes, which campaign, which candidate has shown an interest in and a commitment to growing this party by being welcoming and open versus tearing it apart. And I ask you, vote for winning, let’s beat the Democrats in November. Let’s support President Trump. And let’s continue to have new donors, new supporters, new voters feel welcome and encouraged and loved so together we grow our majority.

God bless you.

Then it was Asche’s turn to take the stage.

ASCHE:

I know many of you are not happy with me for being here right now. But I hope, I hope you will allow me the opportunity to be heard one last time.

xxxx

This race is not about me. I am not running because I want to hold office.

You deserve to know the truth. You deserve to have leadership that is above reproach, because the only way we can advocate for our party’s principles and our elected officials and candidates is to be known as people of our word.

I have been accused of running a negative race and spreading mistruths, but every piece of information we’ve put out has been backed up overwhelmingly by evidence and support.

In fact, if you missed it just a moment ago, our current accounting director, Jennifer Stoner, submitted her resignation minutes ago. Jennifer has been with the party for eight years. She was hired by Cathie Adams and proudly served under Steve Munisteri. She is known by every one of those state chairmen as a professional  of unquestioned personal and professional integrity.

According to Jennifer, she has resigned because, in her entire time as accounting director, she has never seen the level of dishonesty, manipulation and erroneous reporting that she has seen, that she has seen from this chairman, and her direct quote, her quote was, “He is not trustworthy.”

The crowd, about two-third Dickey supporters, was growing increasingly restive.

Please hear me out.

The information that was disseminated via both RPT email and also on James’ printed campaign literature was not approved or verified by the accounting department or with Jennifer’s consent. Unlike any previous chairman, Mr. Dickey has required  that she submit an Excel spreadsheet instead of a PDF, where the data can easily be moved and manipulated and the numbers simply don’t match up. The way the numbers are communicated by the current chairman are in contrast to the processes that have been used and approved for almost ten years. And this past Wednesday, when directly asked by an SREC member at the SREC meeting if Jennifer had approved the numbers being disseminated, he lied.

She asked him publicly to retract the email and the statement multiple times but, as you know, he has not. She has offered a resignation statement but has promised me that she will return if Mr Dickey is not elected.

Talking amid some tumult not he floor, Asche ran out of time.

ASCHE:

My time has expired because I could not complete it.

I am asking you to vote and I am praying God will give you the wisdom to make the right decision.

It was a gripping scene, and properly seen as Act II of a drama that played out a year ago when Dickey was first elected chairman by the State Republican Executive Committee.

Here are scenes from Act I, trom a June 2, 2017  First Reading: Trump loyalty an issue in Dickey-Figueroa contest for Texas GOP chairmanship

(Candidates to become chairman of the Texas Republican Party James Dickey, the current chair of the Travis County Republican Party, and Rick Figueroa, a Houston-area businessman, recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of a meeting of the Texas State Republican Executive Committee at the Sirloin Stockade in Round Rock June 1. 06/01/17 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The 62 members of the Texas State Republican Executive, meeting at Austin’s Wyndham Garden Hotel, will choose a new Republican State Party Chairman Saturday to replace Tom Mechler of Amarillo who resigned two weeks ago because, when you get right down to it, he would rather “spend time with my 6 children, 16 grandchildren, and my beautiful wife Becky,” than the 62 members of the SREC who are so divided down the middle in all matters Mechler that Amy Clark, the party’s vice chairman and top ranking figure with Mechler’s resignation, might have to break a tie vote to determine his successor.

There are two candidates – Rick Figueroa of Brenham and James Dickey of Austin, the chair of the Travis County Republican Party. (A third candidate, Robert Morrow, tweeted he was running but that’s it so far, and he will not be a factor in the race. See my recent First Reading: Robert Morrow throws his jester’s hat in the ring for Texas GOP chair on an ‘Impeach Trump’ platform;)

On the face of it, Figueroa ought to have he edge.

He is the favored choice of Mechler, who named him ten months ago as co-chair of the Republican Party of Texas’ New Leaders on the Rise Committee, and in recent months has been crisscrossing the state with Figueroa on the Republican Party of Texas Hispanic Engagement Listening Tour.

Figueroa is also in good with President Trump, serving on his Texans for Trump leadership team and on his National Hispanic Advisory  committee and now President Trump’s National Coalition of Hispanic Leaders.

And, maybe it’s me, but wouldn’t the Texas Republican Party benefit from the headlines that it had selected its first Hispanic chairman?

Dickey also comes with a couple, three strikes against him.

  1. He managed to lose the chairmanship of the Travis County Republican Party in the March 2016 primary to the aforementioned Robert Morrow, no mean feat and one that made the Travis County Republican Party an object of intense and sustained national ridicule.
  2. While he says he was never a “Never-Trumper” he was part of a movement to “free the delegates” to stop Trump, until Trump became the nominee, when Dickey climbed on board the Trump train, but for those punching tickets, that was a mite late.
  3. Trump won 27 percent of the vote in Travis County.

Normally, three strikes and you’re out. But in this case, I’m giving the slight edge to Dickey.

Why?

  1. He is a far more familiar figure to the members of the SREC, somebody who knows them, who they know, who knows the rules and seems more likely to follow their lead than lead them where he wants to go, and won’t get too big for his britches. He’s paid his dues.
  2. He is not Mechler’s choice.
  3. While naming an Hispanic chair might seem, symbolically and practically, a good thing to do, this is the Republican Party, which rejects anything that smacks to them of pandering, and are particularly disinclined to choose someone for the symbolic value if that’s the reason they are picking him

Here is a summary of the argument against Dickey from Travis County Republican Bill Crocker, a former Texas national committeeman and former RNC general counsel, in an endorsement letter he wrote this week for Figueroa.

When his county chairman’s seat came up for election in 2016, Dickey spent very limited time and money in the first reporting period campaigning to defend his turf. And in doing so, lost his seat to a conspiracy theorist who made Texas an international laughingstock. When Dickey had the opportunity to make amends for this stinging loss and be a unifier at the 2016 National Convention, he instead chose to attempt to subvert the will of Republican voters all across the nation by being a leader in the “Never Trump” and “Free the Delegates” movement. At the same time, Rick was working to unite the bitterly divided factions of our party. In fact, during one particularly heated moment in our Texas caucus, I am told that a Cruz delegate and Trump delegate were on the verge of a physical fight. Rick approached this altercation to talk with both of them, and by the end of it the three of them were praying together. The mark of true leadership is the ability to lead and find peace in even the most difficult of situations.

Mr. Dickey also has a spotty record of raising funds for the Travis County Republican Party. When he lost his seat to Robert Morrow, the Travis County Republican Party was in rough financial shape. The most important job of the Chairman is to raise funds. During election years, the RPT will need to raise a minimum of 2-3 million dollars, just to ensure we maintain our current seats. A person who struggled to keep money in the bank is not a person with the capability of raising that level of funds.

Finally, Dickey does not have a strong record of success in his current position. In addition to his inability to maintain his own seat, Dickey has failed to hold on to the precious few Republican seats in Travis County. In fact, from my research, of the 56 partisan elected seats in Travis County today, only 2 are held by Republicans. Friends, we cannot let Texas begin to look like Travis County.

Whether it was his temperament or that he thought he had it in the bag. Figueroa did not go for the kill at the forum that night.

From that First Reading,

Afterward, I noted to Figueroa that I thought he had pulled his punches a couple of times during the night, not attacking when he could have.

“You noticed that,” he said. “It was intentional.”

Figueroa said he’d like to win, but if he doesn’t, it will be OK. He has a great life for which he is very grateful.

There was also this moment at that Williamson County forum.

The question addressed this tweet, about those rumors, came up the next night, at an SREC forum on the chairman’s race, the night before the election.

Figueroa were asked by the party’s general counsel, Patrick O’Daniel, who was moderating the discussion, whether he intended to keep the current party officers and committee chairs in place.

Figueroa said he woudn’t make any changes.

Then Dickey answered:

Dickey:

As both Patrick and (RPT Treasurer) Tom (Washington) can confirm, I had conversations with both asking them whether they were willing to stay on if I win election tomorrow. There is a very logical process for making change. You figure out the goals. You figure out the talents and skills needed. You match people with talents and skills needed. Until I’ve got an indication we are not going to meet the goals or we don’t have the necessary talents and skills needed, my bias is to leave things alone and that’s exactly what I’d do and that’s why I extended those invitations to Patrick and Tom.

But, the next day, right after his one-vote victory, Dickey announced that he was replacing almost the entire board, O’Daniel and Washington included.

I spoke some weeks ago about this with Melinda Fredericks, a former vice chairman of the party who represents Senate District 4. She told me that as soon as they broke for lunch that day she approached Dickey.

“I pulled him over to the side of the room and said, `James, you said you were going to keep the officers and you just didn’t.’ And he said, `Wait a minute, wait a minute, Melinda, what I said was I asked the officers if I were to ask you, would you continue serving as an officer?”

But, Fredericks said she told Dickey, “You led us to believe that you were going to keep the officers,” and he replied, `I had to in order to win.’ “

“I said, `Wait James, that is ends justify the means and that is totally unacceptable and you owe us an apology,” she said.

When I asked Dickey about this last Friday (June 8), he said that’s simply wrong.

I have consistently said, including to Melinda, that that is an absurd claim on its face. Not only would I not do such a thing but that the idea that I would do an impression of a Bond villain disclosing my plan to one of my most stalwart opponents is as ridiculous as it sounds,” Dickey said.

Dickey said that, at the forum the day before the election, “It  actually was my intention at that moment to keep them, which is why there is that impression, even though there was no such blanket statement.”

DICKEY: 

The more I thought about Patrick O’Daniel’s conditions upon which he would remain, I both had concern  about the specifics of the conditions and the fact that there were conditions, and so that changed my mind on that.

And Tom Washington, for the first time in his entire service as treasurer, warning the SREC members that the party was in dire financial straits and likely to be out of money by November, his choosing to hide that fact until the night before the election was, in my opinion, a breach of fiduciary duty and unacceptable, and he didn’t do that until ten or eleven o’clock that night.”

Mechler wrote a  post about all this at the Houston politics blog, Big Jolly Times, at the end of May, to which Tom Washington appended his own version of events:

This is an important point. James Dickey would prefer that you pay attention to his point that he never agreed to actually reappoint either Patrick O’Daniel or myself to our former duties. The actual key point here is that James Dickey used deception with the SREC voters to mislead them on his actual intentions in order to gain votes that he would not have gotten otherwise. James Dickey had already lined up his officers in advance and announced them as soon as the election was completed. He had no intention of following through and reappointing Patrick or myself.

James asked me for a meeting during the Friday evening before the election. He asked me if I would serve as Treasurer if he was elected on Saturday. I did not know that he was asking me only to give him a chance at shifting votes in the SREC with people who wanted some stability in the RPT key officers if he was elected State Chair.

I was fine with not being reappointed by James Dickey. I had reservations about serving with James because I had known him for over 15 years. I knew that there would be benefit to the continuation of the financial condition of the Republican Party of Texas if I continued as Treasurer but I had to address my reservations. I knew that James would be under extreme fundraising pressure if he was elected. Any signs of stability that the major donors saw in the party would be helpful.

In fact, before I told him I would serve because of my reservations, I gave James Dickey two conditions that he had to agree to in advance.

Condition #1 was that he retain Jennifer Stoner as RPT Accounting Director. Jennifer does a fine job for the Republican Party of Texas and I had no desire to retrain another person in that role.

Condition #2 was that James not interfere with the Republican Party of Texas keeping true and accurate accounting records and filing true and accurate reports to the FEC and TEC for our political and financial activities. James agreed to both conditions and I agreed to serve if James was elected.

James Dickey did in fact win the election by one vote (after shifting 3 votes with his deception that James intended to reappoint Patrick and myself).

The deception came to light in Chair Dickey’s first comments from the podium after election. James read his list of officers and did not reappoint Patrick O’Daniel or myself to office. He then added for the benefit of the deceived voters that he found that both Patrick and I had insisted on conditions for our service which he, James Dickey, could not accept.

James Dickey then made the first mistake of many that morning. He invited Patrick O’Daniel and me to the podium to give our final officer’s reports. Patrick went first. Prior to giving his report, Patrick clarified that he had made no conditions to his continuing service to the Party. James stated in response that Patrick had insisted on the retention of all of the Assistant General Counsel’s currently serving. Patrick stated again that he made no conditions to his service.

I was up next. I told the SREC that I did have two conditions to my service and I was sorry that they were unacceptable to Chair Dickey per his statement contrary to his acceptance with me on the prior evening. I then told the SREC what the two conditions were. You could hear an audible gasp from the SREC members.

Perhaps some were just becoming acquainted with Chair Dickey’s brand of ethics.
James stood up quickly and clarified that he only had issues with Patrick O’Daniel’s conditions for service (Patrick didn’t make any). James then said from the podium that his issue with me was my lack of transparency in financial reporting to the SREC over my seven years of service to that body.
During my service, I had increased the financial transparency that the SREC had from previous State Treasurer’s. First as Assistant Treasurer and then as State Treasurer, the SREC received a full income statement in detail by fund as well as Cash balances by fund. The new State Treasurer has since eliminated reporting by fund to the SREC.

Two weeks later, James Dickey contacted me to apologize for his conduct and statements to the SREC involving me.

James Dickey’s conduct involving the appointment of new officers for the Republican Party of Texas illustrates James Dickey’s ethics, morals, honesty and integrity in action.

Marvin Clede, a member of the SREC from Senate District 17, also commented at Big Jolly.

The comments to Melinda Fredericks are telling. —Melinda then asked him “why did you mislead us?” He replied “I had to or I would have lost the race because 2 votes would be determined based on my response.”—

I was one of those 2 votes who expected different things from Mr. Dickey. And this does not even address the heavy handed and impolitic way he dealt with the chair of the Auxiliaries and Coalitions Committee who is my colleague on the SREC. At the very least I am concerned about style and character expressed in subsequent actions. There are difficult questions to evaluate in this upcoming election, which to date, has become exceptionally divisive.

Dickey won that election by a single vote.

As I wrote then,

Travis County’s James Dickey was elected Saturday to lead the Texas Republican Party, defeating Rick Figueroa on a 32-31 vote of the State Republican Executive Committee.

Dickey succeeded Tom Mechler, whose sudden resignation two weeks ago left it to the statewide Republican Party leadership in the nation’s largest red state to pick his successor in a previously scheduled meeting at Austin’s Wyndham Garden Hotel.

“I am deeply humbled,” Dickey said, adding that he was only disappointed by the divisions revealed by the razor-thin margin.

For Dickey, chairman of the Travis County GOP, the victory was a stunning success for a campaign that was thrown together and executed in less than two weeks, quickly piling up endorsements from conservative activist groups.

Dickey’s victory signaled the strength of grass-roots tea party leaders, who felt Mechler was insufficiently aggressive in pushing the state party’s platform at the Capitol. Texas Right to Life also backed Dickey.

won

After Saturday’s vote, Mechler said he was “shocked and disappointed” with the result.

The next state convention in June 2018 will decide whether to ratify Saturday’s choice or select someone else as chairman.

Figueroa said he had no intention of challenging Dickey for chairman in 2018.

“It’s not who I am,” he said.

Ultimately, Mechler couldn’t impose his choice on an executive committee that was divided down the middle between what are described, broadly speaking, as establishment and tea party wings.

Mechler’s abrupt resignation two weeks before the executive committee’s meeting might have been intended to improve Figueroa’s chances, but it didn’t work, and there was some resentment on the committee that the chairman was trying to force his choice on them.

Yesterday, Bill Crocker nominated his daughter, Cindy Asche, for state party chair. Mechler was her most prominent supporter.

Dickey prevailed, and this time it wasn’t close.

From today’s story.

The final vote was 5,680 votes, or 65.4 percent for Dickey, a former Travis County Republican Party chairman, and 3,009 votes, or 34.6 percent for Asche, a nurse from Frisco who serves as chaplain of the Texas Federation of Republican Women and whose father, Bill Crocker, is an Austin attorney who formerly served as the Republican national committeeman from Texas and general counsel of the Republican National Committee.

After the tally was announced, a relieved and smiling Dickey briefly took the stage to offer his thanks to strains of the Beatles “Come Together,” and to ask those who voted for him and those who didn’t to “come together” to beat the Democrats in November.

As for Asche’s exit music, well, there wasn’t any, but if there were, the choice is obvious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Texas GOP: Abolish abortion, property taxes, taxpayer-funded lobbying and gun licensing requirements

Good Friday Austin:

The Texas Republican Convention’s Platform and Resolutions Committee and the Legislative Priorities Committee finished their work late last night with some drama.

The submission of the platform was accompanied by the submission of a far shorter minority report, signed by nine members of the committee and intended to be something the public beyond the 10,000 hard-core Republicans in attendance at the biennial convention San Antonio are likely to read.

The Legislative Priorities Committee, led by Amy Clark, the vice chair of the state party, is a new innovation this convention.

Here, in no particular order, are the five issues it recommends that the full convention identify as the five top issues the party should set as its goals for the next session of the Texas Legislature.

The plank that packed the most emotional wallop, and was attended by the most angst, was on abortion.

As I  wrote about in a First Reading earlier in the week, this was a tug of war between the abortion abolitionists, who want Texas to abolish abortion and ignore and resist Roe v. Wade, and what Texas Right to Life describes as the “prudent incrementalist” approach of chipping away, with an aim to ultimately undoing Roe through legislation and the courts.

The 2016 platform adopted the radical abolitionist approach as its priority, and the new language recommended by the new committee, is a hybrid, which leaders on both sides considered mixing “oil and water,” but which the abolitionists especially found distasteful.

In his closing remarks in favor of the compromise plan, Terry Holcomb from San Jacinto County, representing Senate District 3, said that people needed to realize just how radical the implications of at the undiluted abolitionist plank are.

Holcomb:

So obviously I’m going to speak in favor but I am going to try to educate this bunch, I mean. I’m the one who wrote the original language, so forth and so one, but when someone says, “All we have to do is ignore Roe,” that shows the literal lack of understanding of the impact this would have, because you wouldn’t just have to ignore Roe, you’d have to arrest DA’s, you’d have to arrest doctors, you might even have to arrest governors and lieutenant governors and all these other people, and the magnitude is something that we need to get our arms around because if we ever decided we had the backbone to abolish abortion, this is what we’d have to do.

It has nothing to do with the federal government, it has to do with what we would do right here in Texas. And that is going to require more than people can possibly imagine. Blood. Tears, Treasure. The whole thing.

While the language they settled on had the support of most of the members of the committee, Melissa Bodenger of Austin, representing Senate District 14, was overcome with emotion with passage of what she considered to be a dangerous and destructive recommendation when Clark called the question.

Bodenger:

This is lunacy. No legislator is going to walk out of his office with this. And I’m sorry, but who here signed up to start defying the Constitution? I mean, seriously? Seriously, you’re going to do that? My God, how selfish. 

On adjournment, Bodenger was still trembling.

Bodenger:

This is the Constitution.

States cannot nullify decisions of the federal courts

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land.

They’re going to defy the federal government on purpose.

Why are we blowing a hole in the Constitution? That is what the left does.

From Holcomb after adjournment:

This is compromise language, stating we want to abolish abortion but, until we get there, it offers incremental steps.

He said that the rank-and-file delegates who endorsed the purely abolitionist priority two years ago – and wanted to see it simply reiterated in this platform – really didn’t fully comprehend the implications of  what they were saying.

They do not understand the magnitude. They don’t understand what it is actually saying.

It was a more of a political, emotional position without ever really truly looking to understand the reality and the impact.

This is not over. the abolitionist guys are going to be there, first thing out, guaranteed, to try to change it from the floor. This is not final.

Here is the platform and minority report.

The 30-page platform has 331 planks and one resolution – the censure of Rep. Byron Cook.

There is also a seven-page minority report with 81 planks.

It was submitted by nine members of the committee led by Steven Armbruster of Round Rock. It was signed by:

Steven Armbruster, SD5
Henry Peyton Inge, SD12
Todd Gallaher, SD18
Brandey Batey, SD20
Brian Hill, SD21
Stephen Broden, SD23
Beth Cubriel, SD25
Morgan Graham, SD27
Mark Dunham, SD2
The preface explains its premise:

Our platform planks should be strong, clear assertions of the contemporary principles of our party membership. They should unite our membership under shared ideals rather than divide the membership with fractious detail. These assertions should be tailored for brevity, clarity, unity, and to distinguish our positions from those of our opponents.

This platform has planks that define the principles of the Republican Party. In addition to this platform we have included specific action items that would help implement principles in our platform.

The minority report was mostly the handiwork of Armbruster.

Armbruster:

I’ve been working on the platform for the last ten years and the number one complaint that I have gotten in the last four years is that the platform is too long, too unruly, too contradictory of its own self and that the average voter doesn’t read it.

The delegates read it because they gave up a weekend, or, in my case, a week of my life to come play politics. But the people I know at church, the people that I know through work and my friends, they’ve never read the platform. It’s so long, they pick it up and thumb through it and say, “I’m not gong to read this.”

It becomes an exercise to produce a document that, once we leave here, nobody reads. The only people who actually use it are the political activists.

My whole point behind this – and I told the members of the committee – this is a one-time deal. I’ll not do this again. I won’t bring a simplified platform again. We get one shot at doing this, and we’re done, but I want the 8,000 delegates to have their voice heard.

Ambruster said he was elected by his Senate District with the explicit promise to do what he’s doing.

My people have sent me here to produce a simplified document.

The major debate comes down to this one point. What is a platform? Is a platform what it historically has always been, which is a statement of beliefs and principles which the members of an organization all agree on or, is it a laundry list of items which you want to see acted on.

I’ll be honest, I call our platform a Christmas tree. We built a Christmas tree and then every special interest group and every individual that has their pet project comes along and hangs it on there and, since 2006, our platform has done nothing but get larger.

 

 

Getting interesting late: GOP Platform Committee restores Cook censure, doubles down against homosexuality

 

Good day Austin (and San Antonio):

A little before 9 last night, I left my dual posting at the side-by-side ballrooms where the Texas GOP Convention Platform/Resolutions and the Legislative Priorities committees were meeting until they were kicked out of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center at midnight, in order to walk down the hall a ways to cadge some coffee from the urn in the back of the room where the Rules Committee was meeting.

I had written a story a few hours before about how the Platform and Resolutions Committee had, on a voice vote, dismissed resolutions to censure U.S. Sen John Cornyn and three North Texas members of Congress, mostly for some budget votes, and also, by the narrowest margin, rejected a resolution to censure state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana.

Another censure resolution, directed at state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, failed by a single vote Wednesday. Cook is a top Straus lieutenant who, as chairman of the State Affairs Committee, enforced their shared priorities. Like Straus, he is retiring from the House.

Critics of the censures warned the party was forming a “circular firing squad.”

But Stephen Broden of Senate District 23 responded, to audience applause: “I understand the need for unity, but sometimes we have to excise those who are disruptive to that unity.” He cited Benedict Arnold, the most famous traitor in American history, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who in 1951 were convicted of espionage for the Soviet Union and put to death.

From the back of the room I saw Amy Hedtke doing what she does – live-streaming a public meeting – in this case the Rules Committee, which was of special interest because of the possibility that it might revise Rule 44, which enabled the local censure resolutions against Cornyn, the three congressmen, Cook and, earlier this year, the successful censure of House Speaker Joe Straus by the State Republican Executive Committee (which Hedtke live streamed.)

The Rules Committee resisted each and every attempt to water down Rule 44.

Hedtke is a unique individual.

Last May I devoted a First Reading to her –  Some like it hot: How Amy Hedtke went from Scout mom to anarchist Republican and James O’Keefe heroine.

But that was a long way back in Hedtke time, quite a few adventures, a Beto-quantity of livestreams and a spell or two in jail ago.

Hedtke would have liked to have been a delegate to the convention, but Ellis County Republicans denied her that honor, holding her ill-concealed anarchism against her, so, she’s here concentrating on her live-streaming.

After grabbing a cup of coffee – actually two – I went over to tease Hedtke about Cook surviving the censure resolution, in which she provided a significant whereas.

This is Hedtke being arrested after a disagreement with Cook about whether she was within her rights to livestream a hearing of the State Affairs Committee he chaired and she attended out of her interest in abortion abolition.

This landed her in jail, and then in court ,where she fared well in pressing her claim that she was within her rights to livestream at the hearing: 3RD COA DISMISSES AMY HEDTKE: “YOU WON – NOW GET OFF OUR LAWN!”

When I asked what Hedtke made of Cook beating the censure rap, she gave me an “it isn’t over for Cook,” shrug.

“At conventions,” Hedtke said, “you get three bites of the apple.”

Indeed, neither she or I knew that at just about that very moment, the Platform and Resolutions Committee was reversing its position on the Cook censure.

This puzzled me, especially coming from Madden, a veteran former state representative from Richardson.

Madden had spoken against the censures of Cook, who he formerly served with, and of John Cornyn and three North Texas Republican members of Congress.

Why would he have thought better of his opposition to the Cook censure?

During a break in the Platform Committee’s deliberations, I approached Madden and asked what had changed.

“I was hearing back from people in my district, “`Gee, you really need to do that,'” he said, referring to backing the Cook censure. “I said, `OK.'”

Why, I asked, were his folks so exercised about Cook and Madden’s failure to support the censure?

“Because they’ve been exercised about him because that’s basically Ken Paxton’s home district, and the suit,” Madden said. “I didn’t think about that.”

Neither had I, and, oh, yes, of course. How obvious.

Look back at this Chuck Lindell story from July 2016: Ken Paxton: Is his legal trouble motivated by politics?

Facing possible prison time over accusations that he defrauded investors in 2011, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton insists that he is the victim of a politically motivated witch hunt because he dares to run his powerful agency based on conservative Christian values.

Paxton places most of the blame for his legal troubles on a vendetta by a friend-turned-adversary, with some cutthroat politics in Collin County, where the criminal charges originated, thrown into the mix.

Prosecutor Brian Wice isn’t buying it, calling the assertion “as predictable as it is untrue.

Let’s skip down a few grafs.

Paxton blamed much of his legal problems on a Republican rift between conservatives like him and moderates like those who supported former state Rep. Dan Branch, his GOP primary opponent in the 2014 attorney general’s race. Then he singled out one GOP legislator.

“It’s not a coincidence that the chief witness against me in these charges is a political adversary of mine,” Paxton said in the video.

That witness/adversary is state Rep. Byron Cook, a Corsicana Republican who endorsed Branch in 2014 and who the grand jury named as a victim of Paxton’s allegedly fraudulent representation of Servergy. Cook also was known as “Investor 1” in the SEC lawsuit against Paxton.

Cook and Paxton both started in the Texas House in 2003 and became friends, with Paxton living in Cook’s Austin apartment, and later a house Cook purchased in Austin, during their first two legislative sessions.

They also belonged to the same investment club, and Paxton supporters say that Paxton brought Cook, an experienced investor, into several lucrative deals before approaching Cook about investing in Servergy in the summer of 2011.

Cook, who can expect to be called as a witness if the criminal and civil cases against Paxton go to trial, declined to answer questions about his dealings with Paxton, who went on to the Texas Senate in 2013 and became attorney general in 2015.

Those who know Cook say the Servergy deal fractured his friendship with Paxton.

Paxton’s supporters, however, say the friendship had already been strained as Cook established himself as a leading moderate and Paxton as a conservative — culminating in Paxton’s unsuccessful bid to unseat House Speaker Joe Straus, a Cook ally, in 2011.

Paxton supporters question why Cook waited four years to air his grievances about the Servergy deal, suggesting it was payback by GOP moderates who strove to marginalize Paxton in the Legislature — particularly after he challenged Straus — and were unhappy he became attorney general over Branch.

Wice disagrees, saying the Texas Rangers began by investigating whether Paxton broke state law by failing to register with the State Securities Board — a third-degree felony for which he was later indicted. Allegations of fraud were uncovered later, he said.

“The Rangers followed the evidence wherever it led them,” Wice said. “It eventually led them to Byron Cook, and not the other way around.”

‘I will get to work’

Whatever the genesis, Cook’s allegations play a large role in the criminal and civil cases against Paxton.

For a Paxton partisan, censuring Cook is always a good idea.

Senate District 8 is Ken Paxton’s former seat, and, in all likelihood, his wife, Angela’s future seat.

“Double Paxton,” I said.

“Double Paxton,” Madden said.

More from Madden and his original thinking about the Cook censure.

“Byron. I knew him, I knew him well. He’s not running again. He’s not up. The electorate has spoken. Let it go. That’s what I did the first time (the committee voted on the censure). No big deal.”

But, on reflection, “I’ve got to take care of the people who are here. To me it was not the most important thing going on. And we beat the censure motions they had on the congressman and Sen. Cornyn bad. That was more consequential.”

The Platform and Resolutions Committee, which has a representative from each the state’s 31 Senate Districts, is actually the temporary committee. Today, each Senate district caucus met and selected  who they want to represent them on the permanent Platform and Resolutions Committee, which will meet this afternoon and approve the final version of the platform that will be voted on by the convention on Saturday.

If Madden had not switched sides on the Cook censure, he could have been replaced on the Platform and Resolutions Committee. As it is, he presented his report to the caucus on the work of the committee, and was named its representative on the permanent committee by acclamation.

But, the censure switch wasn’t the only, or even latest change the committee made in the platform last night.

It was Marco Roberts of Houston, a leader of the Log Cabin Republicans serving on the committee, who sought to strike the new language, written by Pastor Stephen Broden (see Cook/Benedict Arnold/Julius and Ethel Rosenberg analogy above.)

Here’s a little about Robert’s GOP bona fides from his Facebook page.

Believer in the fundamental rights of the First Amendment and the right to property.
Secretary/Board Member at Log Cabin Republicans of Texas
President at Log Cabin Republicans of Houston
Precinct Chair 0154 at Republican Party of Texas
Studied Political science at Texas A&M University
Went to American School Foundation
Lives in Houston, Texas
From Mexico City, Mexico
Manages Log Cabin Republicans of Texas, Log Cabin Republicans of Houston and Freedom First Republicans

Roberts:

I reject the idea that anyone is a bigot just because they have a religious view. I don’t support that and I don’t call anybody that because I do understand that people have sincere values in this area. 

The  last two years I’ve been doing everything I can to defend our religious freedom in many different ways. I wrote an Op-Ed Friday in the Houston Chronicle defending the Supreme Court decision …

From the Houston Chronicle:

Same-sex wedding cake ruling shows how we can all just get along

By Susanna Dokupil and Marco Roberts

June 8, 2018

The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 Monday in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission that compelling a baker to create a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding was unconstitutional under the Free Exercise Clause. While religious liberty advocates won a legal victory, both sides — indeed, all Americans, religious or not — won a victory for freedom of conscience and mutual tolerance.

Jack Phillips, the baker, told a same-sex couple that he would sell them any products in his shop. However, he refused to create a cake for their wedding because he would not use his artistic self-expression to participate in a ritual that conflicted with his faith. The couple claimed unlawful discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission agreed.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy, got seven votes with only Justices Ginsberg and Sotomayor dissenting. In other words, all the conservatives and the moderates agreed on the result. The importance of that consensus cannot be overstated.

But what is really going on in this opinion? The majority focuses heavily on a key fact: Members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission expressed open hostility to Phillips and dismissed the validity of his religious views in the process of ruling against him. Meanwhile, the opinion never suggests that Jack Phillips behaved in an impolite or disrespectful manner. Rather, it goes into great detail to explain that the applicable civil rights laws were not clear, and Phillips may reasonably have believed he acted legally.

Motive matters in First Amendment religious liberty cases. Even strikingly similar cases can reach opposite results based on the court’s assessment of a party’s intent to follow or flout the law. In 2005, the court decided two landmark cases involving Ten Commandments displays on the same day. In one, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott successfully argued that a Ten Commandments monument on the Texas state capitol grounds was constitutional because it was presented in the context of other monuments and displays. In the other, Kentucky’s county courthouse displays failed the test of constitutionality because the court found that their intent was to promote religion.

Seven Justices agreed that government-sponsored hostility toward religious beliefs is unacceptable: “[T]he government, if it is to respect the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise, cannot impose regulations that are hostile to the religious beliefs of affected citizens, and cannot act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs and practices.” A seven-vote majority for this statement is a huge victory for religious liberty.

At the same time, seven Justices agreed with the opinion’s closing words: “[T]hese disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.” The Court absolutely refused to make a sweeping ruling that either side is always right. Rather like parents settling disputes between children, the majority seems inclined to consider not only who has rights, but also who has played well with others.

Roberts, on Broden’s amendment.

I can live with what you wrote here if you take out that one sentence.

Rolando Garcia from SD 15 in Harris County offered words of support for Roberts’ effort to remove the offending sentence.

I think Marco’s amendment acknowledges that all of us are willing to adopt any language that affirms marriage between man and a woman as God-ordained, that affirms we respect people who believe that.

The only question is the attack on homosexuals. That is the language this committee rejected  …. and a few people are determined to put back in.

The real point of contention is that language. It is just not necessary and it does us harm and it does not do anything to advance the protection of traditional marriage.

Broden:

This section is titled, Homosexual Behavior, and the sentence that Marco is attempting to remove is the one sentence that addresses homosexual behavior. The title of the platform is Homosexual Behavior and the one sentence that Marco is recommending that we remove addresses  homosexual behavior.

(Broden repeated himself for emphasis, so I did as well.)

Not in a negative way, in terms of disparaging people. It is addressing why it is and why we’re against it. I don’t see it as strident or caustic or an attack as Rolando has identified it as an attack. It is not an attack.

And I’ll just read it again.

Homosexual behavior, which is part of the title, homosexual behavior is contrary – contrary is not an attack, it’s a statement of an observation or truth – is contrary, it’s contrary to the fundamental truth that has been ordained by God in the Bible.

I don’t see that as an attack. 

I believe it’s addressing the title of the platform, which was Homosexual Behavior. What it is and what do we say about it. If we remove that, nothing is said about homosexual behavior, nothing at all.

And I would say to this committee, if it’s saying nothing about it, then why is it titled Homosexual Behavior?

Robert’s motion to delete the sentence was defeated on a voice vote.

Committee chair Mark Ramsey: I will remind members, we have probably spent an hour today on just this one plank.

The came the debate on Broden’s complete amendment with the sentence intact.

William Lan Lutz, a member of the committee from Austin:

The words we choose on this issue matter, especially to younger people.

I believe in the traditional values that are found in the Holy Bible, and that is a book that is filled with love from Genesis 1, Chapter 1 to the end of Revelation.

Love is all throughout the Bible.

And so the question is how do we impart biblical truths beginning with Genesis and say that we believe but do it in a way – and I think Pastor Broden and others on this committee are trying to figure out and are struggling because it’s hard, it’s not easy, to strike the right balance between affirming that we believe in God’s biblical truths while at the same time respecting people as human beings.

It’s the old, criticize the sin but love the sinner. 

So how do we come up with a message that we as Republicans love people?

Roberts said that Republican condemnation of homosexuality was increasingly on the wrong side of an issue politically, especially with younger voters.

In every state on these issues for the last two or three years, every time you’ve lost.

I have succeeded in getting the Young Republicans, the Log Cabin Republicans to agree on religious freedom. How? By advocating the idea that everyone is entitled to the same religious freedom as everyone else. 

What I hear Pastor Broden is, “I don’t see it this way. I don’t see it this way.”

Well I get that, but what about other people?

So what I am asking for is a plank that while still affirming all the things you want, still takes into consideration the rest of us in the party that you may not hear from sometimes.

I am not asking you to deny anything. I am just asking you to affirm what you think is good and then leave it at that. You don’t have to single out what you don’t like about some of us.

I just ask, you know, Roger Williams said 400 year ago, a Christian evangelist who started this small idea about freedom of the church, he said, “To compel worship stinks in the nostrils of God.”

And so what I ask for you guys is to think about that and start affirming what you want and stop with the condemnation.

Allison Winter from SD 4 spoke in favor the plank.

I’m speaking in favor of this. It has the language of God in here, which was taken out of the other one.

The Republican Party, the majority of us, do have faith in God and want that to be in there.

This speaks of what we’re for, marriage between a man and a woman, a biological man and a biological woman, these are two important words.

The other thing is that even as we say what we are for we have to say what we are opposed to also, and that is really important to take stand.

We should not be afraid to take a stand for what is in our hearts.

Broden:

I hear Marco, I want that to be understood. I hear Marco and I hear the passion of what he is saying. 

And I hear (William Lan Lutz.)

And the implication of both of them is that this is negative, that it is an attack.

And I think they are saying that, and I’m not sure, is because of the word, “homosexual.”

Certainly the sentence is not an attack, it’s a  statement: “Homosexual behavior is contrary to…”

That’s not an attack, that’s a statement or an observation. You can agree with it or not. I understand that. But it is not an attack.

If it’s about the word, the plank itself, the title of the plank has the word.

And if you’re suggesting that the word is an attack, then it seems to me that you are having a problem with the plank and the label of the plank, and in Marco’s presentation the word “homosexual” shows up, in his words, so if you are having a problem with the word, why are we having a problem or not having a problem with the word being in Marco’s presentation of the plank, Homosexual Behavior?

I’d like to call the question, because we can a debate on this forever.

Ramsey: We do get another crack at this tomorrow afternoon for those who do choose to come back.

We have 21 for, do we need to take the negative?

Hearing no objection, the amendment passes by a vote of 21 for.

 

Texas GOP to choose between abolishing abortion and `prudent pro-life incrementalism’

Good morning Austin:

I am in San Antonio for the Texas Republican Convention. The general sessions don’t begin until Thursday, but, since Monday, the Platform, Rules and Legislative Priorities committees have been meeting at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center.

Two years ago, the Republican convention set five legislative priorities.

We, the delegates of the 2016 Republican Party of Texas State Convention, call upon the 85th Texas Legislature to:

1. Pass constitutional carry while maintaining licensing as optional for reciprocity purposes.

2. Abolish abortion by enacting legislation to stop the murder of unborn children; and to ignore and refuse to enforce any and all federal statutes, regulations, executive orders, and court rulings, which would deprive an unborn child of the right to life.

3. Prioritize the allocation of funds to effectively secure the border through whatever means necessary, including but not limited to barriers, personnel, and technology over land, sea, and air, because the federal government refuses to secure the southern border of Texas.

4. Call for a limited Article V convention of states for the specific purpose of restricting the power of the federal government, including the implementation of term limits, and balanced budget amendment. Any proposed amendments must be ratified by ¾ of the states.

5. And to replace the property tax system with an alternative other than the income tax and require voter approval to increase the overall tax burden.

The Legislature obliged on priorities 3, funding for border security, and 4, calling for a limited Article V convention of states.

Not so on 1, constitutional carry, which means the Second Amendment should be all the license any American needs to carry a gun, or on 5, replacing the property tax, or on 2, the abolition of abortion.

This last is a really quite radical position for a the dominant and dominating political party in the state of Texas. It calls on the state to ignore the Supreme Court and completely outlaw abortion.

It would criminalize women who have abortions and doctors who perform abortions.

It didn’t get very far in the Legislature, but Arlington Rep. Tony Tinderholt did introduce it as House Bill 948.

From the Texas Observer in January 2017

The Republican lawmaker behind a controversial bill — which could make it legal to charge women and providers with murder for an abortion — defended the proposal by saying completely removing access to the procedure would “force” women to be “more personally responsible” with sex.

State Representative Tony Tinderholt, of Arlington, said in an interview with the Observer that, if passed, the bill would reduce the number of pregnancies “when they know that there’s repercussions.”

“Right now, it’s real easy. Right now, they don’t make it important to be personally responsible because they know that they have a backup of ‘oh, I can just go get an abortion.’ Now, we both know that consenting adults don’t always think smartly sometimes. But consenting adults need to also consider the repercussions of the sexual relationship that they’re gonna have, which is a child,” Tinderholt said.

House Bill 948 would ban and criminalize abortions at any stage, direct state officials to ignore “any conflicting federal” laws, and would no longer exempt pregnancies as a result of rape, incest or fetal abnormalities. The bill would remove the exception for abortion in the state’s penal code for criminal homicide, meaning that women and providers could face charges as serious as murder for the procedure.

The abortion abolitionists – who fashion themselves in the tradition of the anti-slavery abolitionists – want to keep the language in the platform, which shouldn’t be a problem, and also to keep it as one of the party’s top legislative priorities, which is more contentious, and is opposed by Texas Right to Life.

Texas Right to Life wants to continue to pursue a course of what it describes as “prudent pro-life incrementalism” that they believe has weakened and could eventually lead to overturning Roe v. Wade.

It is akin to the decades-long strategy of civil rights groups to overcome legal segregation.

The abolitionists hold as their model a movement whose victory came as a consequence of the Civil War.

Here in Texas and elsewhere, the abolitionists hold the traditional pro-life groups with a certain contempt.

Enough with the pro-life platitudes. Enough with the empty pro-life promises.

Forty-four years of regulated child sacrifice is enough. We are done congratulating these compromised officials for their half-hearted efforts. We are done celebrating their so-called victories.

Children are being torn apart on their watch, on our watch.

It’s time we demand the abolition of abortion.

They may not be the obvious enemy.

That’s the face of the pro-choice movement and it’s very clear that that’s wicked, that’ s evil up front and not hiding at all.

But the pro-lifers are also an enemy, more insidious in their own way.

From abolishhumanabortion.com>

“Abolitionist” is not a synonym for “pro-lifer.”

Pro-life is the expression of a moral opinion. Abolition is the expression of a moral action. When you call yourself “pro-life” you are letting people know what you think about abortion. When you call yourself an abolitionist, you are telling them what you aim to do about it.

Pro-lifers prefer gradual, over immediate, abolition.

Abolitionism has historically been wed to the doctrine of immediatism.  The history of the pro-life movement has been one of gradualistic means and measures, incremental legislation, ameliorative programs, and the inclusion of exceptions to abortion along the way to its eventual total abolition. Abolitionists reject the idea that you can effectively fight evil by allowing it in some cases or do away with it by planned out incremental steps which preserve it along the way. Abolitionists reject the notion that you can ever commit evil in order that good may come. Abolitionists cry NO COMPROMISE!!! Pro-lifers cry “get the best that you can get when you can get it,” and consistently support the “lesser of two evils.”

You can be a secular pro-lifer. You cannot be a secular abolitionist.

To be an abolitionist you must believe in a higher law. One does not need to believe in a higher law or deity to embrace an adverse opinion regarding abortion. But to argue that abortion is evil and ought to be abolished regardless of whether 99.99999% of the rest of the human population agrees with you requires the existence of a binding moral law which has its reference point outside of humanity.

Pro-lifers prefer common ground. Abolitionists prefer to proclaim the gospel.

A majority of pro-life leaders and organizations argue that one need not convince a person that God exists or that abortion is sin, in order to convert them to the pro-life position. While this may be true, abolitionists never choose to remove God or the gospel from the conversation. Abolitionists believe that abortion exists because men  deny that God does. The pro-life movement argues that we should talk less about sin and more about science. Less about salvation and more about “saving the babies.”

Central to the work abolition is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Bringing abortion and its justifications into conflict with the Gospel is the primary mechanism of Abolition. Abolitionist understand our work as being part of the Great Commission. Abolitionists adopt these Five Tenets of Abolition and practice these  Two Modes of Abolitionism

THE PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT ARGUES THAT WE SHOULD FOCUS ON SAVING THE BABIES. THE ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT ARGUES THAT WE SHOULD FOCUS ON CONVERTING THE CULTURE. ABOLITIONISTS BELIEVE THAT SAVING SOULS HOLDS THE KEY TO SAVING BABIES. ABOLITIONISTS BELIEVE THAT A CONVERT TO CHRIST IS A CONVERT TO THE CAUSE OF ABOLITION.

On Tuesday, the convention’s Legislative Priorities Committee, which will recommend to the convention what the priorities should be for the next legislative session, heard from John Seago, the legislative director of Texas Right to Life, Bradley Pierce, who leads Abolish Abortion Texas, and Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life.

Pojman talked about Texas’ long and continuing record of pro-life legislation that has made it one of the most restrictive for abortion in the nation.

Joe Polman

I will focus on Seago and Pierce, because it is their two views that are competing for primacy at the convention. Each wants their view of where the anti-abortion movement should direct its energy to emerge from the convention as one of the Texas Republican Party’s legislative priorities for the session that begins in January.

John Seago, Texas Right to Life.

What follows are excerpts from what Seago told the committee.

The Legislature is built to kill bills.

We have to practice prudence.

We have to be very selective about our priorities. We have three criterion.

Will this bill save lives?

Talking about what we will do with the body of a baby after he or she is murdered does not save lives. Yes, it’s good public policy. Yes, it shows our respect for life. But we’re talking about after the abortion.

It wasn’t a legislative priority for our organization, because we want to save lives.

Does this bill move the cultural conversation to the right topics?

The two things I want to have a conversation with my pro-choice neighbor about is the humanity of the pre-born child and the inhumanity of elective abortion.

When we talk about clinic regulation, well, what’s the debate around clinic regulation? It’s about how long it takes to drive to an abortion clinic. It’s about how wide the hallways are in an abortion clinic. Those are not culture-changing conversations.

But when we talk about dismemberment abortions, when we talk about the ugliness of the violence of elective abortions, that’s the conversation I want to have with my pro-choice neighbor. So if we pass a bill prohibiting dismemberment abortions, as we did in 2017, I get to explain to my pro-choice friends, or even just my apathetic Republican friends, why abortion is injustice, why it’s an act of violence.

The third criterion, is, does this bill work to undermine Roe v. Wade? 

We live in the shadow of Roe v. Wade. There’s no denying it.

We are not afraid, our organization is not afraid of the courts. In fact, we feel we have to use the federal courts to undermine the legal foundation of Roe v. Wade.

Attempts to circumvent the court ruling, or simply ignore the Supreme Court (won’t work.)

Our organization is convinced we have to use the courts, but not just in an arbitrary way.

The last ten years there have been successes and the legal foundation of Roe is shaking.

What we will be seeking to pass in 2019 is going to be a pro-life PreNDA legislation.

Here is Plank 88 from the 2016 platform”

88:  Right to Life – All innocent human life must be respected and safeguarded from fertilization to natural death;  therefore, the unborn, the aged, and the physically or mentally challenged have a fundamental individual right to life, which cannot be infringed.

Seago:

Texas law doesn’t live up to that principle. Texas law has dangerous loopholes in it right now.

We say we are going to protect pre-born children at 20 weeks because that’s when they have the capacity to feel pain, except for children who are expected to have a disability.

We say for those children we are going to give you less protection. We say we are going to allow you to be aborted after 20 weeks.

That is a disgrace to Texas. That is a black mark on our pro-life record. Usually in Texas and in U.S. law we provide more protections for individuals with disabilities or individuals with diseases. We give more legal protection, not less. But what Texas law does is the opposite.

So, what PreNDA seeks to do is fill that loophole and provide non-discrimination language to Texas law. So saying that we see certain abortions as discriminatory and we want to prohibit those.

Also PreNDA legislation doesn’t just say no to abortion, it says yes to life. We want to expand these mothers’ access to perinatal care, palliative care and other social and medical services.

We can talk to our pro-choice neighbors. We can talk to Democrats. 

It’s a very dynamic legal attack.

We don’t think ignoring a court and having a federal-state standoff is a legitimate strategy.

We have a reputation for being stubborn. But we do take into consideration what’s possible.

We think prudent incrementalism is the right strategy to adopt.

Seago was followed by Pierce.

From HeritageDefense.org.

Bradley Pierce is a co-founding attorney of Heritage Defense, where he helps defend the parental rights of Christian homeschooling families around the country against threats by social services. After being homeschooled in the late 80′s through graduation, Bradley earned a degree in History and English from Baylor University while serving as student body vice president, then went on to earn a Juris Doctor degree from Baylor Law School. He and his wife Cindy have seven children.

Here are excepts from Pierce:

I’m a Christian, I’m a husband, a father, an attorney. I’m a loyal Republican. I’m here from Williamson County, SD 5. I’m an abolitionist. I’m here on behalf of Abolish Abortion Texas.

I’m here to talk about a legislative priority that is already a legislative priority

Our legislative priority that we’re pushing is our name. Abolish Abortion Texas.

The Abolish Abortion plank from the 2016 platform: We call upon the Texas Legislature to enact legislation stopping the murder of unborn children; and to ignore and refuse to enforce any and all federal statutes, regulations, executive orders, and court rulings, which would deprive an unborn child of the right to life.

Pierce:

It got the most top votes in the committee when it was considered. It was adopted by nearly 90 percent of delegates in 2016. It led to HB 948 being filed in our legislative session with 12 co-authors. It got the support of over 68 percent of Republican primary voters three moths ago on our Republican primary ballot.

Why ignore Roe?

There’s two ways to approach Roe. Change the court or ignore the court.

Well, here’s what 45 years of trying to change the court looks like, just a little bit of history here.

Pierce recounted how a succession of Supreme Court justices appointed by Republican presidents have affirmed Roe.

Even if we had President Ronald Reagans now into infinity Roe would not be overturned at this rate. 55,000 plus babies are murdered in Texas every year. I don’t call that success.

Some people say Roe is the law of the land.

No it isn’t. 

This Constitution will be law of the land. Roe is unconstitutional so it’s not the law of the land.

Nowhere in the Constitution is there a right to an abortion, either expressed or implied

Where the court has ignored the Constitution, we must ignore the court.

And some may say, Bradley, that’s lawlessness. No lawlessness is what we live in right now. Lawlessness is 55,000 babies a year being murdered.

The Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being. God is.

Not only can we resist it. We must resist it.

If we don’t ignore Roe there is no end in sight to the Nile River of blood that is flowing through our land.

This is a legislative priority in our platform and we need to defend legislative priorities. If we put on a legislative priority and then our Legislature substantially ignores that and then we rip that legislative priority off, you’ve just sent a signal.

Dear Republican legislators: You can ignore the grassroots of your party and our response to that is we’ll give up. We’re sending them a signal that we’re giving up.

People say this is not very specific. Specific? We’re saying outlaw abortion. How much more specific does it need to be?

The legislators are complaining. “We don’t like this.” Good, that means we’re having an effect.

We’re not here to pass things they are going to do anyway. We’re here to tell them what conservative Texans want.

This has not become less important. 110,000 estimated have died since this became a legislative priority. This has gotten more important every single day.

 The 2016 platform includes both abolition and incrementalist planks.

The same is likely to be true of the 2018 platform.

“It’s contradictory, but that’s where our party is right now,” Seago said. “You could have both in the platform. Once you go into the Legislature, we are not advocating for abolition because we don’t think it’s an effective legal strategy. We’re saying PreNDA is something the Legislature will do, it’s something that will get us a step closer. instead of asking them to do something the Legislature has already shown they are not interested in doing.”

Seago acknowledges that there is power to the abolitionist argument that it will appear the party is softening its stand on abortion if it steps back from identifying abolition as a top legislative priority.

“They messed up,” Seago said of the 2016 convention. “They shouldn’t have put abolition in in the first place. There are a lot of committee members who were supportive of it last time who see that that’s not a prudent decision.”

But, Seago said of the abolitionist stance, “It’s pretty popular for conservative Republicans.”

“It’s a family discussion,” he said. “It’s just about strategy.”

But, in testimony later in the day before the Platform Committee’s State Affair Subcommittee, Pierce framed the issue in typically starker terms.

To end abortion, he said, “I think we should be willing to lay down our own lives.”

As it finished its business Tuesday evening, the State Affairs Subcommittee voted without disagreement to recommend that the abolitionist plank remain a legislative priority for the Texas Republican Party for the coming session.