Once upon a time the Texas Republican party produced conservatives who came to the Capitol to govern: Ed Emmett, Lee Jackson, Kenny Marchant, David Sibley, Bill Ratliff, Teel Bivins. That was before social conservatives like Christian took over. The president of the Texas Conservative Coalition, he is emblematic of the problems that have enveloped the party nationwide and have it teetering on the edge of irrelevance.
Christian’s legislative program could serve as the social conservatives’ playbook. No scholarships for illegal aliens. Drug testing for everyone who receives financial assistance from the state, such as Medicaid, with draconian penalties for those who test positive. Abolition of all property taxes. Restrictions on the teaching of evolution. None of these proposals stood a chance of becoming law, and so Christian’s defenders could say “no harm, no foul.” But there is harm: These litmus-test issues stir up ideological constituencies and fracture the GOP.
The strangest aspect of Christian’s program was his hostility to ethics reform. He unsuccessfully tried to cut all funding for the prosecutorial unit that oversees state ethics laws and shift the responsibility to the attorney general. Later, when a fellow Republican proposed to close a loophole that allows a shady campaign practice known as sham electioneering, Christian objected. “Have you seen the tea parties?” he asked his colleagues. “Have you seen the people rising up across the state saying they’re tired of doing things like Washington has been doing things and they want to do it like Texans do it?” Alas, we have.