Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Texas Talk--Part IV

This is the fourth and final part of my report on the Texas Republican Convention, from June 5-7. Part I and Part II were on some of the speeches. Part III and today's Part IV are on the platform debate.

If you read Part III, then you have some understanding of how the process works. It’s kind of a game against the clock. The priorities for debate are set long before the floor of 7000 or so delegates gets to work. The minority reports, dealing with the relatively simple issue of medical marijuana and then the more complicated issue of immigration, took until around 4:00 on Saturday afternoon. By this time, everyone is tired, and frustrated by the cumbersome discussion—which had included a 45-minute counted vote on some issue—but no one can go home until this thing is done. (Well, people can go home, but they give up their opportunity to participate, and their obligation to do the job of a delegate.)
So, under the pressure of impatience, then there’s the rest of the platform, up for debate, a possible 200 or so more amendments to wade through. And everyone’s thinking, “Let’s just get this over with.” That happens every time. It is a strategy, so there is as little floor debate as possible.
One amendment got put forward by a congressman, who was also a delegate. Under the heading Promoting Individual Freedom and Personal Safety, in a section called Internet Access, the plank talks mainly about an open and free internet, uncensored by government. But hidden in there is the statement “We support Net Neutrality.”
The proposed amendment was to delete that statement. “Net Neutrality” is code for a government program in which individual websites, bloggers, and others, are required to give “equal” space to competing points of view. That would mean, on this Spherical Model blog and website, I would have to “lie” about my beliefs every other post, or maybe half of every post. That’s totally unacceptable.
In debate, someone argued that the phrase didn’t mean that, that it meant simply that government had to be neutral about what is on a website. But the capitalization in the phrase implies a specific program—a program we have heard of and strongly protest. Why put the phrase in, if it is supposed to mean something else? The amendment passed—which means the phrase was removed from the platform.
No other amendments were discussed. Let me repeat that: NO other amendments were discussed. At this point, around 4:30, the “question was called,” and debate ceased. This is a tactic to ask the ultimate question: pass the platform as is, or fail to pass a platform at all.
That means that those 200 or so amendments that were filed the night before did not get discussed, because they did not get recognition on the floor. We do not even get to see what they related to (although a good number probably related to immigration, so they were already more or less handled).
There are some questionable things in the platform. These are the things the media is having a field day with. But THEY DID NOT GET DISCUSSED AT THE CONVENTION.
One of these is related to “reparative therapy” for homosexuality. The platform says: “We recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.”
This is a freedom issue. The “gay mafia” would like to enforce—and has been pretty successful in doing so—the belief that homosexuality and its associated lifestyle (including promiscuity, sexual addiction, and failure to create committed or exclusive relationships) is normal and shall not be treated. Therapists can forfeit licensing for attempting to treat, or even suggesting that there could be treatment.* Nevertheless, data shows a fairly successful rate of behavioral help for those who seek it. This plank does nothing but state the obvious: freedom should be granted to those who seek treatment or offer it.
The plank itself is pretty mild, and supportable by data, regardless of what the media might say. But it was not discussed at the convention. Did delegates read and agree with it? I did. But I have no way of knowing whether it crossed the awareness of other delegates.
Just a humble delegate, right before the
Saturday afternoon platform debate
There are other things in there that are ripe for ridicule—but were not discussed. Among these is: “Full Repeal of the 17th Amendment of the United States Constitution—Return the appointment of United Sates Senators by the state legislatures.”
This issue actually came up in a lieutenant governor debate, with Jerry Patterson accusing Dan Patrick of approving of repeal and then denying it. Dan Patrick actually said he understood the question, the history, and that it was probably a bad change made back in 1913. But that’s different from pressing for a repeal of that amendment now, 100 years later. I’m with Dan Patrick. It meant a loss of state sovereignty, and state representation. But there has been a century of gerrymandering since then, and I can’t say my trust in state legislatures (especially other state legislatures) is such that I prefer going back to their influence. It’s an academic argument that doesn’t belong in our platform. But there it is—because some group with that issue on their agenda maneuvered to get it included in the platform, expecting, accurately, that we wouldn’t have any debate on it.
There are confusing, contradictory  calls in the platform concerning constitutional conventions: “We strongly oppose any constitutional convention to rewrite the United States Constitution.” But in the very next plank, “We urge the Texas State Legislators to take the lead in calling for an Article V Amending Convention of the States, for the specific purpose of reigning in the power of the federal government.” Such a convention supposedly would not rewrite the Constitution, but would clarify that the government must abide by the Constitution. But why have a constitutional convention to say that? I know this relates in some way to a recent book by Mark Levin, which I haven't read. Nevertheless, I’m not in favor of these contradictory planks—which, again, had no debate.
The platform says, “We believe the Environmental Protection Agency should be abolished.” Maybe it should—but we did not debate that, and it’s kind of ridiculous to assume that everyone running as a Republican invariably agrees with this.
There was this little plank: “Voting Rights—We support equal suffrage for all United States citizens of voting age who are not felons. We oppose any identification of citizens by race, origin, or creed and oppose use of any such identification for purposes of creating voting districts.” That makes so much more sense to me than assuming only people of a certain ethnic, gender, or racial group can represent others of that group. Ideas, beliefs, and convictions are what matter. Gerrymandering to have “black” or “Hispanic” representatives is anathema to freedom. But, again, this was not debated.
The first page of the platform has a preamble, and a list of 11 principles. I think these are the same as in the last platform, and maybe the one before that. That single page—without the following nearly 40 pages—would be a better total platform. Less for media to dig at and ridicule. Less disagreement among otherwise united conservative party members.
It may be helpful for grassroots to have some way for concerns to bubble up and get talked about; I’m in favor of that. The rest of the platform might prove informative prior to the next state legislative session, but it’s not really a statement of our beliefs.
But a platform ought to be solid, simple, and agreed on by practically everyone in the party. That single page would serve us well. Then we could boldly speak our clear message, as all those speakers encouraged us to go forth and do.
So, my advice, when the platform becomes available online (2012’s is here), check out the first page, learn to put those conservative concepts into your own words, and let people know that’s what we really believe.
* A good illustration is a seven-part piece in 2007 by Mike Adams, “Of Mice and Mormons,” about a family therapy master’s degree student who asked his program supervisor where to refer a client who was asking for help with unwanted same-sex attraction; for asking the question, the student was persecuted: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII.

1 comment:

  1. The platform became available today: