I posted this item, under the same headline, on January 8, five days before the start of the regular session. I am republishing it now because of the discussion that followed my post from earlier today: “Why are the Democrats Complaining?” I wonder if any Democrats are having second thoughts about supporting Joe Straus for speaker. Do they realize what they have done? They have removed from public visibility the number one villain in Texas politics, Tom Craddick, whose moss-draped political philosophy was out of touch with anything east, west, north, or south of Midland, and who was totally incapable of governing the House. Craddick was the Democrats’ meal ticket. The chaos he created fed the opposition party’s resurgence. It is no coincidence that the only footholds the Democrats have in Texas are urban courthouses and a near-majority of the House. In Craddick’s place, the Democrats have helped to install an intelligent, public spirited, moderate Republican aristocrat whose family has resources to use in political campaigns that dwarf Stars over Texas. Straus is perfectly positioned to build a mainstream Republican majority that can last for years. And who is upset about this? Not the Democrats. It’s the Republicans! He’s the best thing that could possibly happen to them, and yet even members I regard as top-drawer were telling me things like, “I can’t go with him” and “he’s going to be a one-term speaker.” No, you dummies, he’s going to be lieutenant governor. He’s going to be governor. If he wants to be. Here you have people in two political parties that worked assiduously against their own best interests. The Democrats can be excused. The Republicans can’t. I can understand why the Democrats supported Straus. They were tired of having Craddick kick sand in their faces and they wanted a chance to participate. They understand that their job is to help fashion good public policy for Texas, not to develop some grand political design for the future. But I can’t understand why the Republicans didn’t instantly rush to support Straus. They were so wrapped up in their internal debates over who is conservative and who isn’t, over whether Craddick could still win or couldn’t, and over whether they could stand the prospect of working with Jim Dunnam, that they missed obvious fact that Straus was the member of the House who could best protect their majority—and Craddick was the worst. You know who figured it out? Dan Branch. It’s easy to get so caught up in the maneuvering of the House that you miss the big picture. It happened to me; my first reaction to the naming of Straus was that the ABCs had blown it, because he didn’t have a following, while Burt Solomons did. That was stupid of me. I forgot to read my own writing. I had been saying for weeks that whoever the chosen one turned out to be had 64 Democrats and 11+ Republicans and there was nothing Craddick or any other Republican could do about it. A speaker’s race is like “Field of Dreams”: Build it [a winning candidacy] and they will come. The coalition was built; it just took awhile for the Republicans to come. The reaction to this post that I got from Democrats was that they wanted to be able to represent their constituents and help their districts. They couldn’t do that when they were fighting the speaker every day. I agree: That is exactly what they ought to do. My argument in “Why are the Democrats Complaining?” was that Straus has organized the House to allow them to do what they wanted to do, pass their bills and help their districts. He has structured committees that are centrist, for the most part. So, I ask again, why are they complaining? They got what they wanted. Craddick is gone and they have a chance to participate on equal terms. Some Republicans are complaining too. They didn’t get the committee assignments they asked for. All I can say is that it was obvious on the night of January 2 that Joe Straus was going to be speaker. Yet the Republicans remained mesmerized by Craddick, much as the Democrats in 2003 stayed with Laney too long. The R’s have no one to blame for their current predicament but themselves. They wanted to play both sides, Craddick and Straus. They didn’t want to commit. You can’t do that in a speaker’s race. Those who make good decisions survive. Note that Brandon Creighton is on Appropriations, Natural Resources, and Calendars. Do you think that this just happened by chance, that Straus decided to empower someone and threw a dart at the House seating chart? I don’t. I think Creighton figured out that Craddick was done.
Politics & Policy