Reflections on the Revolution in the House of Representatives
Mon May 28, 2007 4:41 pm

First my colleague, Patti Hart takes out after me for my post earlier today about the Haggerty walkout last night, and then my friend Glenn Smith does the same, in Burnt Orange Report:

Texas Monthly's Paul Burka is suddenly quoting Coleridge and Thomas Wolfe, so perhaps he won't mind me comparing him to the English reactionary Edmund Burke. Burke, of course, used the excesses of the French Revolution to justify his attacks on popular democracy. Authority and power were everything to Burke, as they are to my friend Paul Burka.

Burka hated Ardmore, he hates last night's walk out, I suspect he would have condemned Gandhi for his civil disobedience. Progressives often want to scream at Paul because of his longtime relationships with Bill Messer and other lobbyists. But that's not fair. Paul does a good job, as Edmund Burke did, advocating a kind of elite rule in which the mechanisms of popular democracy are there for show and not to be taken as true empowerment of the people.

Let me just say, criticizing anyone for getting in the face of Tom Craddick, who has now dismantled House rules and warped the Texas Constitution to suit his fantasies of power, betrays Paul's devotion to elite blocks of power. Burka is not alone in this conception of democracy, and I don't condone shrill, anti-Burka attacks that miss the point that his is not all that unusual a bias. He means well. So did Burke. They are just dreadfully wrong.

One of the job hazards that comes with writing about politics is that everybody feels free to speculate about the writer's political beliefs. I am amused to see Glenn's statement that "authority and power" are "everything" to me. In fact, the opposite is true. I believe in the diffusion of power. Within weeks after I first began to work in the Legislature, I came to realize that checks and balances, so boring when you read about them in textbooks, define everything that takes place in the Capitol. I have been extremely critical of Governor Perry's efforts to expand his power at the expense of the Legislature, as I have been of Speaker Craddick's efforts to centralize power in the speakers office at the expense of the members. I am for the legislature against the executive and for the members against the chairs of the House and Senate. The objective of legislative government is to allow the expression of the will of the body, not the will of the leader.

As for Craddick, my criticism of the walkout is milquetoast compared to what I have written about the speaker over the years--including his rule that handcuffs the members from challenging him. Authority can rage out of control, but so can popular democracy. I wouldn't compare Pat Haggerty, Jim Dunnam, et al, to Ghandi.

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