The Austin Chronicle

Point Austin: What the GOP Wants for You

The state Republican Party platform is a real nightmare

By Michael King, July 23, 2010, News

As we enter the summer doldrums and the rhythm of political life is suspended between the noisy spring primary season and the earnestness of the fall campaigns, the perennial Texas Republican Party platform can generally be relied upon to deliver a dour snapshot of the state's dominant political culture. Not too long ago, when the state GOP was still awkwardly split between the monied party elite, who decided all matters of importance, and the firebrand rank and file, the convention-adopted platform often became a fugitive document. Embarrassed party spokesmen did their best to ignore it, and media requests for a copy received some variation of the response, "It hasn't been printed up yet."

Now that the inmates have taken over the asylum, the document is proudly posted on the Web, just like many another exercise in fanaticism. But since the people who subscribe to GOP principles actually run state government, rational Texans should pay close attention to what they propose for the rest of us. In the main, it's not a reassuring catalogue.

The document begins with the declaration, "The embodiment of the conservative dream in America is Texas." That gives somewhat short shrift to Mis­sis­sip­pi, but a certain regionalism is to be expected. There are nods to "state sovereignty" (a hot button this year), the nuclear family, and, of course, the free market. The preamble is followed by a decalogue of principles, some curiously biological, among them "the sanctity of human life ... from fertilization to natural death," "the traditional marriage of a natural man and a natural woman," and "a free enterprise society unencumbered by government interference or subsidies." A prelapsarian Eden, this Republican Texas.

From that point, the full-throated anti-government document is thick with demands for government proscriptions of one sort or another: criminalization of homosexuality, the banning of abortions (a "Human Life Amendment"), abolition of all forms of gambling, no legally allowed variations on "traditional marriage," abolition of "no-fault divorce laws," stout defense of corporal punishment in public schools (a useful precursor to capital punishment, also firmly endorsed), abhorrence of "multiculturalism" and dual-language education, "dispelling the myth of separation of church and state." In other words, plenty of limits, to be harshly enforced by "limited government."

And should Texas teenagers in fact behave (as they inevitably do) like "natural" men and women, the answer is simple: Turn them into criminals. "We support raising the age of consent for consensual sex to 18 years."

Blessings and Curses

That litany delivers the overall cultural flavor of the 24-page document, but in fairness it's difficult to summarize the whole, brimming as it is with support for virtually every hard-right dogma of our era. Not all of these are without merit: The platform calls at least for "review" of the USA Patriot Act for constitutionality and opposes the Real ID Act (except, of course, for "non-citizens").

Of a cornucopia, some other lowlights:

• "We oppose affirmative action because ... it is simply racism disguised as a social value"

• Elimination of the Endangered Species Act

• Presidential candidates must provide birth certificates to confirm they're "natural born citizens"

• "We support adoption of American English as the official language"

• "The unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed"

• "We urge the Congress to defund, repeal, and reject the national healthcare takeover, also known as 'Obamacare'"

• "We favor ... a return to the traditional basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic with sufficient discipline to ensure learning"

• "We oppose any sex education other than abstinence until heterosexual marriage"

• "We support the Boy Scouts of America" (?)

• "We believe the Minimum Wage Law should be repealed"

• "One nation, one flag, one language, one loyalty"

• "Our military forces ... should not be prematurely withdrawn [from Iraq and Afghan­istan] until victory has been secured"

• "Our policy [toward Israel] is based on God's biblical promise to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel"

• "We [should] immediately rescind our membership in ... the United Nations"

Welcome to the Dream

There's plenty more where that came from, but that selection grimly reflects the overall context. The platform is a pastiche of cultural and religious paranoia (the imaginary threat of "Sharia law" is specifically targeted for prohibition, but Christian churches and schools should be free of any restrictions whatsoever), simmering hysteria over immigrants ("illegal aliens") and wage-earners (i.e., unions), and rabid promotion of "Americanism" in direct proportion to an abhorrence of "government."

That contradiction is also reflected in the platform's approach to taxation, which combines an embrace of worldwide U.S. militarism with no corresponding sense of a method, or even obligation, to pay for such an empire (a good long distance from what used to be known as "conservatism"). The income tax and the Internal Revenue Service should simply be abolished and replaced with a national sales tax, the state franchise tax and property taxes scuppered as well, and the platform writers firmly believe in the Internet fairy: "We oppose any taxation on use of the Internet." The wonders of the "free market" – for health care, for insurance, for water resources, for energy – will magically solve all economic problems, while the market's recent and spectacular failings in that regard receive not a nod.

It's a political commonplace that party platforms are written to be ignored and that candidates and elected officials – especially in the TV era – run more as personalities than party representatives. But the state GOP platform reflects not only the core beliefs of grassroots party activists but the animating principles of the state's current governors, as well as the legislative priorities we'll see once again next year: abortion restrictions (i.e., state control of women's health care), voter ID, school vouchers, more privatization, more power to the State Board of Education, less money for schools, and more money for prisons. For the last two provisions, of course, the latter grows inevitably out of the former.

Taken all together, consider the 2010 state GOP platform a reminder of what you are promised this November at the polls: "The embodiment of the conservative dream in America is Texas."

Download the 2010 platforms of the Texas Republican Party and the Texas Democratic Party.

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