Thursday, June 21, 2018

Politics of People, Ideas, and Minority Reports

I mentioned the other day that I prefer talking about ideas, and persuading people toward ideas, much more than persuading people toward people or groups of people—which is what people usually think of as politics.

There were some examples from last week’s Republican Party of Texas Convention in San Antonio.
There was a vote for the state party chair. A year ago James Dickey was appointed to replace the previous chair midterm, voted in by the SREC Committee (two representatives from each of the 31 state senatorial districts). He’s been big on transparency, to involve the grassroots. And his fundraising has gone fairly well too.

It’s an important year. After the US president is elected, the midterm election tends to lose seats in that party. We don’t want that to happen. Here in Harris County, despite the Republican win for president and every statewide race, the Democrats swept Harris County. That means every judge position that was on the ballot, the county tax assessor, the DA—all went Democrat. This election, all those positions that weren’t on the ballot in 2016 are on the ballot this time. With very few exceptions, that would mean judges who make law from the bench, build up a tremendous backlog of cases, and more voter fraud. Not good.

We’re doing what we can here in Harris County. But having a statewide party that runs well is important. We really would prefer to reclaim some of those losses, rather than have more. Life is just better that way—economically and socially.

The campaign literature was piling up.
So the question was, is James Dickey doing well enough? I thought so, but I was willing to hear from the challenger, Cindy Asche. I was unable to attend a forum where they both presented their views and took questions. But I watched two of those forums online. Asche seemed to be saying, “Sure, the numbers look like we’re breaking records, but they should be better.” That’s not a great argument for change. And then, when that didn’t work, “He’s the most corrupt we’ve ever seen,” without any evidence that I could take seriously. He quoted a data point wrong at one point, and then corrected it publicly as soon as he became aware of it.

So I had decided on Dickey before the convention. It helped that he and Alma Jackson, candidate for Vice-Chair, came and met us personally at our Tea Party meeting the Saturday before the convention. But, with as much advertising as there was, especially on Asche’s part, I couldn’t tell how close the race was going to be.

The caucus vote took place Friday morning. Each senatorial district held a vote, and then the Committee representative took that weighted result (based on size of the delegation, rather than single votes—SD 7, where I live, is I believe the biggest delegation in the state) to a committee meeting, where they tallied everything and presented a report to the body later that day.

This is a somewhat indirect process. The Nominations Committee Report tells what the caucuses voted, which is a recommendation. That means their recommended person’s name is automatically nominated on the floor for the whole body of delegates to approve. And the floor is open to any other nomination (depending on who met certain paperwork criteria by a set time). Because Cindy Asche was already running, she was eligible to be nominated from the floor.

That happened—but not until after a minority report form the Nominations Committee. A minimum of 9 of the 31 senatorial districts’ representatives is required to sign a minority report, which signifies that a significant minority felt different from the majority.

The weighted vote was shown on the big screen.
But, remember, the report was just what was recommended. It’s just a tally—which was, by the way, around 66% for Dickey and 34% for Asche, so not a close race. Anyway, to sign a minority report to the Nominations Committee Report means, essentially, that this minority feels strongly that the report is wrong—as in counted in error, or fraudulent. Of course they didn’t make that claim; they just wanted to say a significant minority had a different preference. So they really had no business making a minority report.

So there were objections on the floor. And then there was vote after vote on procedural issues. The acting chair for this set of procedures was Amy Clark, State Party Vice-Chair (up until the convention—she wasn’t running for reelection). There was a voice vote that appeared pretty clearly to me to go to the nays. But, if it isn’t clear on a voice vote, the Vice-chair has the prerogative of requesting an actual count—a paper vote handed in and counted.

She did this to avoid any appearance of preferential treatment for Chairman Dickey. But this was objected to, with a series of procedural things that failed. The objections took more time than simply taking the yea/nay vote by silent ballot would have taken.

During the shenanigans, someone yielded her time to another older woman who announced she was stepping down from her position as an accountant, which was clearly out of order and was halted immediately. But that was weird.

Then one signer of the minority report offered to remove his signature from the report, if it could be guaranteed that Asche’s name could be put into nomination from the floor—without his signature, there would be too few signatures, so it was a withdrawal of the minority report. That wasn’t actually a deal; her name could always have been placed into nomination from the floor. But people were glad to have the minority report taken off the table.

Eventually the two candidates got, I think it was 5 minutes each, to talk. When James Dickey came on stage, a large number of state representatives stood on stage behind him, backing him up. And his speech was upbeat and called attention to the good things underway.

Asche came up alone, and angry, and said, even though she’d been accused of mudslinging, etc., this was really about… after which came more mudslinging. She brought up the accountant who stepped down. She claimed that this woman thought Chairman Dickey was the most corrupt she’d ever worked with. The proof? He wanted the data in Excel, a spreadsheet, rather than a PDF format. She claimed this meant he could change the data at will.

But it would not change the report as sent in. That would be time stamped. There would be the original report, and copes would be made for working with. Chairman Dickey actually uses Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc., which automatically back up—and you can go back to each and every version. So, really all he was asking for was a format that would make the data more usable than in a PDF. He wouldn’t have to have staff retype the data into a spreadsheet, possibly incorporating typos. And that was the essence of Asche’s accusation. In other words, the older accountant woman had issues with modern technology, and I suspect she was taken advantage of.

Chairman Dickey handling convention
business the day after his reelection
So Asche used a full four hours of 8000+ people—time that had been intended for the Rules Committee Report and the beginning of platform debate. She thought her five minutes of accusation—following many weeks of campaigning and after all those hours of parliamentary procedure pain—would be enough to sway more than 16% of the voters to change their caucus-cast vote from Dickey to Asche.

It turned out she lost votes, even in districts she had carried. As a certain spouse of mine quipped, the delegates “kicked her in the Asche.”

The more we saw of her. The less we liked her. If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that we don’t want someone like her leading the party.

So what was that all about? Just extreme narcissism on her part? Probably partly that. But it was also a fight between the grassroots, transparent approach that Dickey has been championing and the older party boss type of GOP, as it was when Asche’s father, Bill Crocker, had been our national committeeman, in the early 2000s. There are some people who would rather have a party elite lead the party, rather than go the way of the grassroots. They didn’t say that outright in their campaigning, because of course that would fail. So they had to make other claims. But they just didn’t have much going for them.

So Friday afternoon at the convention was pretty much wasted on some unnecessary people politics.
I’d like to contrast that with the debates we had on the platform, which were about ideas rather than people. Some of the more heated topics were medical marijuana, school choice, and homosexuality along with what have become related First Amendment freedoms. And another minority report.

As with that Asche floor debate, this has already taken too long. So we’ll do the platform discussion as a part II another day.

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