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July 07, 2014 12:55 PM The Texas GOP Platform Challenge

By Ed Kilgore

Speaking of Iowa Republicans, I suppose I owe them an apology for mocking their recently adopted state party platform as a wingnut cornocopia. Compared to the latest statement of principles and policies by their counterparts in Texas, the Iowa document reads like it was developed by Jon Huntsman from an early draft by Arlen Specter. The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg gazes in awe:

[T]he platform demands, among other things:
* That the Texas Legislature should nullify—indeed, “ignore, oppose, refuse, and nullify”—federal laws it doesn’t like. (Unmentioned is the fact that, beginning in 1809, the Supreme Court has steadfastedly rejected state nullification of federal laws.)
* That when it comes to “unelected bureaucrats”—i.e., pretty much the entire federal work force above the janitorial level—Congress should “defund and abolish these positions.”
* That the Seventeenth Amendment, which was adopted in 1913, be repealed, so that “the appointment of United States Senators” can again be made by state legislators, not by voters. (Admittedly, the Texas Legislature could hardly do worse.)
* That all federal “enforcement activities” within the borders of Texas—including, presumably, the activities of F.B.I. agents, Justice Department prosecutors, air marshals, immigration officers, agricultural inspectors, and tax auditors—“must be conducted under the auspices of the county sheriff with jurisdiction in that county.”

That’s the less controversial stuff.

The pro-choice plank:
We strongly support a woman’s right to choose to devote her life to her family and children.
The on-the-one-hand plank:
We revere the sanctity of human life and therefore oppose genocide, euthanasia, and assisted suicide.
The on-the-other-hand plank:
Properly applied capital punishment is legitimate, is an effective deterrent, and should be swift and unencumbered.
Another on-the-one-hand plank:
We strongly oppose any constitutional convention to rewrite the United States Constitution.
Another on-the-other-hand plank:
We urge the Texas State Legislators to take the lead in calling for an Article V Amending Convention of States, for the specific purpose of reigning in the power of the federal government….
[T]heir views regarding their gay fellow-citizens? Don’t ask:
Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that have been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nation’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin.
Furthermore:
We recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.

But here’s my favorite, the plank on Middle Eastern policy:

Our policy is inspired by God’s biblical promise to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel and we further invite other nations and organizations to enjoy the benefits of that promise.

So much for a two-state solution.

The platform raves on and on, advancing the abolition of virtually all taxes, withdrawal from the UN, return to a gold standard, etc., etc. And that doesn’t even get into the abundant language on guns, which appears to oppose any regulation whatsoever by any level of government, even with respect to possession of shooting irons by certified violent psychotics and terrorists.

Hertzberg is so overwhelmed by the insane rhetoric that he’s a bit impatient with the to-be-sure disclaimer about party platforms being meaningless:

I am aware that American party platforms are not like the manifestoes of European parliamentary parties. They do not commit anyone to anything. It is considered impolite to hold actual candidates for office accountable for them….
But if you want a glimpse of what a nontrivial and apparently growing segment of one of America’s two great political parties believes in its heart of hearts, and what it says when it is essentially talking to itself—well, you’ve just been given one.

And Esquire’s Charlie Pierce makes the really key point:

It seems almost pointless to mention this but there is simply no state Democratic party in any of the 50 states that is so clearly, obviously demented. This is the Republican Party. Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru are not. In fact, I think all those bold conservative thinkers of whom the New York Times thinks so much should bring their Big Ideas down to the next Texas state Republican convention and see how far they get. John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell, and especially obvious anagram Reince Priebus, who nominally presides over Bedlam, need to be asked every day which parts of the Texas Republican platform they support and which parts they don’t. They don’t get to use the crazies to get elected and then hide behind fake Washington politesse when the howls from the hinterlands get too loud.

The Texas Platform Challenge is a very good idea. If this big ball of extremism in antithetical to the actual values and policies of the Republican Party, let’s hear some very specific denunciations of it, and by that I don’t mean blind quotes offered to Politico. If William F. Buckley could read the John Birch Society out of the conservative movement in the early 60s, surely Republican pols can read its ideological (and probably in some cases, literal) heirs out of state GOP platforms a half-century later.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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