According to John Reynold of the Quorum Report, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee has suggested that the party create a “scorecard” to track how closely legislators voted inline with the state party platform. Jason Moore argued that voters are “tired of hearing people run for office saying one thing and going down (to Austin) and doing something else.”
Like most Texans, I’ve never heard a candidate read from their state party platform and the idea that the party’s platform is what candidates are “saying” to voters is laughable to everyone except those executive committee members silly enough to think anyone read those platforms.
Unlike most Texans, I have read the platforms of the two parties. The Republican platform is 25 pages and loaded with provisions that are out of line with mainstream Republicans.
For example: “We demand elimination of presidential authority to issue executive orders and other mandates lacking congressional approval, as well as repeal of all previous executive orders and mandates.” George W. Bush (Republican of Texas) violated this plank of the platform 284 during his presidency. I’m sure that Dick Cheney (Republican of Texas Wyoming) would tell you that if we limit presidential powers in this way that the terrorists win.
The platform opposes using eminent domain for private or public economic development. This would have precluded the Cowboys’ new stadium. Again, the terrorists (and worse, the Redskins) win.
Another planks calls for a Constitutional amendment creating a three-day session that would allow the governor’s veto to be over-ridden. Rick Perry (currently a high ranking Republican) opposes this.
The platform calls call No Child Left Behind a massive failure and calls for its repeal. (Another plank George W. Bush would not feel good about)
The platform committee is certainly entitled to their opinion. However, there are several problems with turning their work into a “test” of elected officials:
(1) The executive committee may claim that their platform is an authentic “grassroots” document. However, no one pays attention to the selection of the party leader who wrote the platform while many, many more people pay attention to the selection of Presidents, Governors, and legislators. Calling out elected Republicans for straying from the path of a document no one has read is not the best way to build a happy family. A little modesty from the party leader would be a good idea. After all, when you’re talking about Bush and Perry you’re talking about the guys who have led the party in Texas since 1994. They have a little credibility with Republican voters.
(2) A party platform scorecard would be used in Republican primaries. In fact, it would have no other use. Most state parties are not looking to take sides in these nominating contests. Further, giving Texas Republicans yet another excuse to ignore the state platform will embarrass the party’s executive committee much more than someone like Rick Perry.
(3) Who is going to measure whether or not legislation match the platform. The Texas Republican platform is a political campaign document. It makes strident arguments, complete with exclamation points (“No amnesty! No how. No way.”). That’s hard to match up with the sober, careful language of legislation. You want to stir up confusion and animosity? Start parsing words closely and then casting judgment based on that.
All this illustrates that you can’t really take a political party that seriously. These organizations play a role, but their authority comes from party members who generally play little attention to the organization itself. Ultmately, the power in the party will be in the hands of the candidates that win votes (and elections).