A conservative's view of the Republicans' problems
Tue November 18, 2008 11:55 am

This article appeared in the November 7 issue of The Lone Star Report. It was written by Will Lutz, who has covered state government for ten years. It is addressed, though not explicitly, to Republicans who are in denial about why they are losing ground in Texas and why they will continue to do so under the current leadership. It is reprinted with Mr. Lutz’s permission.

Since most Republican lawmakers go to church, they’ve probably sung the refrain, “On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.” It’s a hymn that kept going though my head as I watched the election results come in. The GOP has built its foundation on quicksand, and Tuesday, the voters told the GOP — nationally and in Texas — that they’ve had enough. The voters sent the same message in 2006 and it didn’t register with the GOP leadership. Perhaps the second time is the charm. The quicksand here is the Austin lobby, a handful of purely self-interested major campaign contributors, and large corporate bureaucracies.

They’re fair weather friends, many of whom backed the Democrats throughout the 1990s. Look at how much money business gave to the 20/20PAC—which is basically a conduit that allows elements within the business community to give money to moderate Democrats while having the outward appearance of being pro-GOP. And this cycle Texans for Lawsuit Reform also gave crucial support for Rep. Chuck Hopson (D-Jacksonville) in his 102-vote victory. In short, big money isn’t principled; it’s self-interested. And it will turn on Republicans whenever the political winds change. Pandering to big money is building a foundation on quicksand.

By contrast, conservative principles have stood the test of time. Low taxes, individual freedom, property rights, pro-life, pro-family, and personal responsibility combined with effective grassroots mobilizing is a solid foundation that will win every time.

Here are a few examples of quicksand:
* Talking about cutting spending, and then passing earmark-laden federal appropriations bills that benefit vendors with lobbyists, not average citizens.
* Making fighting illegal immigration a campaign issue,then having leadership scuttle any meaningful action on the topic because it means a few major donors might actually have to hire U.S. citizens and do things like pay them benefits so they aren’t a burden to taxpayer funded county hospital districts.
* Not doing anything meaningful to put the lid on local government property tax increases and pandering to the trade associations that represent cities and counties.
* Talking about personal responsibility for the poor on welfare all while passing bills that basically exempt big donors like homebuilder Bob Perry from paying fair compensation to homeowners who a jury finds were treated unreasonably by their builder.
* Pursuing higher education policies that prioritize the spending desires of liberal university bureaucrats and the donors that back them, all the while making a college education unaffordable and letting university administrators go on a massive, unjustified spending spree while asking for little or no meaningful accountability in return.
* Letting the same Wall Street crowd that have driven the economy into the ground run our transportation system. Texas transportation policy needs to benefit Texans, not merely a pretext for paying off Wall Street campaign contributors with big-government boondoggles like the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Yes, most Republicans would argue they’ve been treated unfairly by the Capitol press, and that their accomplishments have not been given the treatment they deserve. Yes, the GOP deserves some credit for balancing the 2003 budget without raising taxes and sweeping welfare reform as well as a solid-record on prolife, pro-family issues. But just because one has done some things right, doesn’t mean the press corps will or should let the GOP off the hook when Republicans misbehave.

Plus, a lot of the big accomplishments of the GOP came from 2003. Passing an eminent domain bill and real taxpayer protections would give GOP voters something to crow about again and generate more excitement for the party.

It’s also true that national trends affected the outcome of many of these urban races, and there may be some issues with the mechanics of how and where the GOP spent its money this cycle. That said, voters still respond to winning issues, convincingly stated, and that has been largely absent from both the state and federal GOP the last two cycles. Yes, the mischief at the national level played a role, but some of the problems the Texas GOP brought on itself.

Notice that there are no names of sitting legislators in this essay. That is deliberate. This isn’t personal.This is about enacting policies and running the House in a manner that is good for Texas. In my 10 years covering the Capitol, I have seen many lawmakers whom I used to write off grow and change into effective voices for their constituents.

In a decade of covering campaigns, I’ve heard a lot of GOP primary candidates talk about bringing Christian values to politics. Sure, all have sinned. But one shouldn’t champion bringing Christian values in politics and then condone legislation and actions that would make even the Money Changers in theTemple blush. Integrity and fair-play are as much Christian values as pro-life and pro-family.[bold face added]

In the next few days,Texas lawmakers will choose a leadership team for the 2009 session. The Republicans need to learn the lesson of the last two election cycles and ensure that, whatever leaders are chosen, the House will be run in a manner that makes Texas Republicans proud of the party once again.

Traditional values, individual freedom, politics run from the grassroots up. That’s a rock-solid foundation that really is truly of the party of Ronald Reagan.

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