As the Texas Republican Convention came to a close Saturday, the delegates held their biennial presidential straw poll. Unsurprisingly, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas won a huge plurality among the plethora of candidates, which included Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, the convention's keynote speaker, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, father of Land Commissioner Republican nominee George P. Bush.
Perhaps the biggest shock of the straw poll was that Gov. Rick Perry, who has held the top statewide office here for the past 13 ½ years, finished in a distant fourth place. Ahead of him were Cruz, Ben Carson, an obstreperous right-wing physician and folk hero with no political experience, and Paul.
These results further exemplify the dominance of a virulent strain in the Texas Republican Party, one in which moderation and pragmatism are displaced by ideology and small-minded rigidness. As this country approaches the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Presidential election, we would all be wise to remember the words of Nelson Rockefeller, a fiercely moderate, if not liberal, one-time Republican governor of New York. Rockefeller, upon losing the Republican nomination for President to Barry Goldwater, a right-wing senator from Arizona, lamented the sorry state of his party in a convention speech marred by cacophonous booing from Goldwater's supporters.
"There is no place in this Republican Party for those who would infiltrate its ranks, distort its aims and convert it into a cloak of apparent respectability for a dangerous extremism," Rockefeller said. "The Republican Party must repudiate these extremists."
Fifty years later, little has changed. The more common-sense candidates such as Bush or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — or even to a lesser extent, Perry — finished near the bottom of the pack, while dangerous extremists like Cruz and Carson carried the day. For the same group of partisans that endorsed "restoration therapy" for LGBTQ people, I cannot honestly say that I am surprised. But the state truly deserves better.
Horwitz is an associate editor.
On Thursday, the 2014 Texas Republican Convention was officially called into session in Fort Worth. While outside the convention hall, Second Amendment enthusiasts proudly brandished their semiautomatic weapons as examples of their support for open carry, as my fellow associate editor discussed on Wednesday, inside, debate over the platform was front and center.
At issue were contentious fights over both immigration and LGBTQ rights. Nativist groups, inspired by the recent success of state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, in his Republican primary for lieutenant governor, lobbied hard for a plank supporting a limited guest worker program to be nixed. Meanwhile, in the area of social issues, the convention's platform subcommittee debated whether to move forward or backward. Early drafts show that language referring to homosexuality as an affliction that "tears at the fabric of society" was dropped, while a plank endorsing "gay conversion" therapies, which have been universally condemned by professional psychological associations as both ineffective and cruel, was added.
Republicans, at least those in touch with some of the harsh truths for the future of their party, must make important choices on these platform debates, ones that will guide how the party morphs in the face of a changing society. As Latinos make up a growing portion of the electorate, Republicans must soften their tone on immigration in order to remain viable. Not removing the only immigrant-friendly provision from their manifesto would be a good place to start.
Similarly, the country has already settled questions such as "Is homosexuality morally acceptable?" Both at the ballot box and in the board room, the answer in our society has been a resounding yes. However, the Texas Republican Party has been running behind. Once again, striking the most inflammatory and incendiary language regarding this issue would be a good starting point, though it would be useless if the asinine conversion plank were added in its place.Horwitz is an associate editor.
Because of regulations imposed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, members of Open Carry Texas, an advocacy group that promotes the open carry law in Texas, will not be allowed to openly carry assault weapons inside the Texas Republican Convention, beginning Thursday in Fort Worth. The decision by the city comes as a result of a state law that forbids the carrying of weapons in an establishment with a liquor license.
But while those carrying assault weapons may not be allowed inside, their presence will still be felt as they take to the streets around the convention center. The protest, which comes on the heels of similar stunts by the group in public establishments, such as Starbucks and Chipotle, is meant to voice members’ support for a law that would allow Texans to openly carry handguns in public. Currently, state gun laws allow the open carry of long rifles, but not their shorter-barrelled brethren, which must be both concealed and licensed.
The National Rifle Association has condemned the group, calling its actions “downright weird.” Members of Open Carry Texas are up in arms because they believe that the NRA is selectively advocating gun rights. But the statement released by the NRA does not display any weakness on strong beliefs in the Second Amendment. The gun debate is one of many issues in politics that appeal to ideology more than pragmatism, and having a large number of gun carriers concentrated in a local business is alarming to people who choose not to exercise their right to openly carry a weapon. The argument that open carry proponents use — more guns mean more safety — is rendered moot when people do not feel safe, and the law puts guns in the hands of extremists. What could be more disconcerting than being surrounded by loaded weapons while trying to enjoy a cinnamon dolce latte?
Davis is an associate editor.