Once upon a time, in the waning days of Democratic rule in Texas, a major warning sign of the party’s decline was when conservatives came to believe their party had drifted so far left that it no longer represented the state’s mainstream. When these conservatives eventually switched parties, the catchphrase was: I’m not leaving the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.
This year, I’ve heard from more than one fiscal conservative – a Ronald Reagan or a George W. Bush Republican – that their party has moved so far right that they feel shunned like liberals. As one Republican consultant lamented to me about the hard right, “They probably think I’m a RINO.” For those who don’t know, that means Republican in Name Only.
Perhaps nothing demonstrates how far to the right the evangelical tea party agenda has pushed the Legislature than the fact Bill Hammond stood up at a news conference today with Democrats and human rights activists to oppose a proposed religious freedom constitutional amendment that could be used to discriminate against gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual people.
Hammond, chief executive officer of the Texas Association of Business, is no liberal. Nor is Hammond a RINO. Not by any stretch of the imagination. He is a staunch conservative with the credentials to prove it.