Knowledgeable observers of the political scene are wondering what happened to the GOP base? Let's look at the symptoms: (1) GOP straight ticket voting in decline, (2) 2006 setback in elections generally around the country, (3) fundraising for state and local parties in Texas is in decline, and (4) GOP club interest and activism in decline.
So what has caused these danger signs? First and foremost is the abandonment of conservative principles by some GOP officials after running as conservatives. Second, is the perception that political involvement really doesn't matter because the only real political change that occurs is on the margins. Third, GOP competency in running government like a business has been punctured by Katrina, the Iraq war and some ineffective state agencies. Fourth, the GOP has come to stand for the party of corruption, the ethically challenged and insider deals. TCR agrees the Democrats have similar issues but the big media gives them a pass and our side a hard kick in the rear.
GOP Problems, If Not Righted, Will Pave The Way For State And National Setbacks In 2008
Including Loss Of The White House
So what should be done to right the ship? First, work needs to begin yesterday to grow the GOP. It is important to find ideological issue allies and bring them into the party and give them a seat at the table. Second, our base needs to KNOW they are important and are listened to. Now, the party is treated many times as a vehicle to be put in the garage after one is elected (only to be brought out for the next election). This can be remedied by the adoption of a short and understandable conservative state and local platform that candidates must pledge to support. Once in office, the party must hold those officials accountable. And for those who don't stand with the party on the core platform (a single page of 6-10 items), need to be separated from the party in the future. Third, we need to have zero tolerance for our candidates and officeholders when it comes to corruption and ethics. We can never again have on our ticket - the Neys, Foleys, Sherwoods and others who we wouldn't do business with in our private lives. Fourth, in Texas we need to take a hard look at adoption of a "Virginia type" convention-primary system where the grassroots party leadership is the entry door to be a candidate on the ticket. This also reduces the chance that big special interest money picks the candidates as opposed to the conservative GOP base. Under the present system, big money can buy nominations by TV, radio, and mail and can overwhelm a conservative candidate and ignore the party during the primary. Finally, we need to be effective in office. We need to demonstrate that we as conservatives can run a limited efficient government, which controls spending and reduces the out of control tax burden (or government mandatory fees which are in essence the same thing). Such wonderful conservative think tanks like Heritage Foundation and the Texas Public Policy Foundation have a plethora of great ideas in this area that are unfortunately followed by government all too infrequently.
It's clear our work is cut out for us as the GOP base can't be fooled by rhetoric anymore, actions speak louder than words.
Texas Spending Cap
CLOUT Lawsuit And Us
The Texas Constitution's cap on state spending is back in the news again following the decision of Speaker Craddick and Lt. Governor Dewhurst to delay a meeting of the Legislative Budget Board (LBB). This decision comes amidst projections from the Comptroller that show a record state budget surplus.
TCR readers may remember last summer when Edd Hendee of CLOUT sued the state for violating the same cap. Dewhurst and Craddick claimed at the time that the suit had no merit and showed little regard for compelling evidence that the legislature overspent its constitutionally mandated limit. CLOUT's case is still pending before the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin.
Meanwhile, TCR is intrigued by the cause of the legislature's newfound interest in the spending cap. They are afraid a tax cut package in the new session will put the budget over its constitutional limit, which is based on the growth of the state economy. TCR disagrees. Tax cuts are not expenditures - they are refunds. When the state collects too much money in taxes it should return that money to the taxpayers.
The current debate and the CLOUT suit that brought the cap to the forefront are lessons in conservative fiscal principles. Our officeholders seem to think they can ignore the cap when it comes to spending, but apply it to tax relief. This line of thinking turns the purpose of a spending cap on its head. The cap was adopted in 1978 to reign in big government programs and protect the taxpayers from being overcharged. Now that we're being overcharged and the state is overspending, conservatives will be watching the LBB meeting closely. Craddick and Dewhurst have the next move.
COMING (Friday, January 26, 2007 at 8 pm, repeats Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 5 pm) on Channel 8 PBS in Houston, Texas - The Connection - Red, White & Blue, featuring TCR Editor Gary Polland and liberal commentator David Jones.
About Your Editor
Gary Polland is a long-time conservative and Republican spokesman, fund-raiser, and leader who recently completed three terms as the Harris County Republican Chairman. During his three terms, Gary was described as the most successful county Chairman in America by Human Events - The National Conservative Weekly. He is in his tenth year of editing a newsletter dealing with key conservative and Republican issues. The last five years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant. He can be reached at (713) 621-6335.