The silent majority of Republican voters has allowed the most vocal, and the most radical, elements of the Republican party to take control of the primaries. But the problem isn’t with the voters–the problem is the candidates themselves. Think back to the Republican debates for lieutenant governor. Dewhurst was “me too” on just about every issue. He was desperate to prove himself a “real” conservative. The problem isn’t the conservatives. It’s the squishy moderates, and it always has been the squishy moderates. They’re scared to run as who they really are.
I remember the first ads that Dan Branch ran in his campaign for AG. He ran to the right, jumping hard on voter fraud. He didn’t run on what he really is: a moderate, sensible, smart, ethical Republican. Paxton has virtually no record of accomplishment in the Senate. He compares to Dewhurst as lead compares to platinum.
The fact is, Dewhurst has much more in common with the moderate Republicans than he has with the conservatives. But he desperately wants to pretend otherwise. He made the same mistake as Branch. He tried to prove to the far right that he was really one of them. It’s a waste of time and money to for a moderate R to posture as a zealot of the far right. The truth is that there is a huge constituency of moderate Republicans in this state, but when the moderates try to run for office, they run away from who they really are. Dewhurst cozied up to Dan Patrick during the 2013 session, and it got him nowhere except out of office.
The ground rules of Texas politics, at least for moderate Republicans, should be clear by now: Be yourself. Don’t try to ingratiate yourself with the far right. It’s a fool’s errand. When conservative Democrats ran the state and Republicans were gaining strength in Texas, John Connally used to warn conservative Democrats about consorting with the insurgent R’s. “The Republicans will invite you for the weekend,” he would counsel, “but they will never give you the keys to the house.” That’s a lesson the moderate R’s should take to heart.
(AP Image / Pat Sullivan )