Catching up, Part III

Last week, we saw the brief rise and spectacular fall of the self-aggrandizing Texan believing their own delusions of grandeur. Specifically, I’m talking about Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a Tea Party favorite who launched a last-minute challenge to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the two term incumbent. Gohmert, when all was said and done, received two other votes: Congressmen Randy Weber (R-Texas) and Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma). A grand total of 25 Republicans defected from team Boehner, allowing the speaker to still be easily re-elected.

The total shellacking of the right-wing by establishment Republicans lead Ross Ramsey at the Texas Tribune to openly wonder if it was a harbinger of things to come for the quixotic race to topple State House Speaker Joe Straus (R-Bexar County). State Representative Scott Turner (R-Rockwall County), a Tea Party favorite, is challenging Straus for the gavel but will likely only garner two dozen votes or fewer.

Meanwhile, a great deal of attention has been placed upon the prospective 2016 Presidential candidates. Former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) have already taken official steps toward running, making a mainstream victory in the Iowa Caucuses highly unlikely. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and the party’s 2012 nominee, has begun assembling a new campaign team. The Washington Post reports he is “almost certain” to run for president once more. This coming the same day that Romney’s running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), announced he would not run himself.

On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) continues making cacophonous rabble, but has done little to put together a real campaign. Grassroots activists continue pining for Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), no matter how many times she says, in no uncertain terms, that she will not run. That contest still looks like Hillary Clinton’s to win, lose or draw…almost certainly to win.

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The Speaker’s race that wasn’t

State Representative Joe Straus (R-Bexar County), the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, is a dying breed. A comparably moderate Republican, he runs the chamber based on the consent of its members (a novel concept). Instead of groveling to the whims and caprices of the majority of the majority, like Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) or soon-to-be-former Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)  in Congress, Straus actually gives a voice to all proposals with majority backing. Often times, these are red-meat conservative proposals, like solving the non-existent problems of voter fraud and unsafe abortion clinics, but they have sometimes been realistic and sensible ideas to solve the state’s problem.

Straus, of course, came to power by aligning himself with the Democratic caucus, and has remained in office largely through their toleration. In 2009, after three disastrously controversial sessions under the stewardship of Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland County), Straus overthrew the incumbent and has been distrusted by the most extreme factions of his party ever since. Some have a pathological hatred of anyone who work with Democrats and some are just anti-Semites (Straus is Jewish), but the main point is that the Tea Party and Straus go like water and oil.

A few names have popped up over the succeeding sessions to challenge Straus, but they have — without exception — dropped out before the actual vote came up. State Representative Scott Turner (R-Rockwall County), who is challenging Straus ahead of the 2015 session, says he will stay in until the bitter end to demand a vote.

However, the evidence is just not there that Turner can mount anything close to a credible campaign. If he gets more than 25 votes, I will legitimately be shocked.

First, let’s do some simple math. There are 150 members, meaning roughly 76 are needed to secure the gavel. We can put the 52 Democrats in as a given for Straus; they’ve supported him before and will be sure to do so again when the only other option is Turner, arguably too cozy with moneyed right-wing interests. Granted, one Democrat, State Representative Mike Villarreal (D-Bexar County), has resigned and his seat will not likely be filled by early January. Thus, for the sake of argument, there are 51 Democrats.

Then we can toss in 7 Tea Party-affiliated Representatives from the DFW portion of the state, who recently signed an open letter (Letter 1) stating their support for Straus. They are State Representatives Myra Crownover (R-Denton County), Giovanni Capriglione (R-Tarrant County), James Frank (R-Wichita County), Phil King (R-Parker County), Tan Parker (R-Denton County), Ron Simmons (R-Denton County) and Drew Springer (R-Cooke County). Capriglione, a true Tea Party darling, publicly announced and defended his support for Straus at the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party, one of the most infamously anti-Straus organization. It was quite the spectacle. Anyways, that brings the total up to 58.

Today, a further 7 State Representatives and State Representatives-elect publicly backed Straus, in yet another open letter (Letter 2). They are Trent Ashby (R-Angelina County), Cecil Bell (R-Montgomery County), Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches County), John Otto (R-Liberty County), Chris Paddie (R-Harrison County), Dade Phelan (R-Jefferson County) and Gary VanDeaver (R-Bowie County). The two open letters, respectively, touted Straus’ conservative credentials (first accessed via Quorum Report, though the letters themselves are open). This now brings the total up to 65.

Straus can be counted upon to vote for himself, as can be some of his closest lieutenants: State Representatives Byron Cook (R-Navarro County), Charlie Geren (R-Tarrant County), Jim Keffer (R-Eastland County) and Jason Villalba (R-Dallas County). That brings us to 70.

Now, I’m just spit-balling here, but if I had to name six more supporters, they would be State Representatives Drew Darby (R-Tom Green), Sarah Davis (R-Harris County), Kyle Kacal (R-Brazos County), J.M. Lozano (R-Kleberg County), J.D. Sheffield (R-Coryell County) and John Zerwas (R-Fort Bent County). They have not made official statements, but I would be very surprised if they voted the other way. Your mileage may vary.

That’s just math, folks. But the good news is that, at the end of the day, Straus will still be in charge for the 84th Legislature. In all likelihood, another faction of six or seven conservative Republicans will rally to Straus’ side tomorrow or the next day, and make my guesses moot. Scott Turner just will not win. Full stop.

I obviously think Straus is more moderate and pragmatic his opponent, but that is not really the reason I am supportive of him. Lest the liberals think he will secretly go along with their agenda, like many on the far-right believe, Straus will put up disastrously extreme pieces of legislation this next session, for the simple reason that they will pass easily in the heavily Republican chamber. But he will do so as a result of the consent of the members, not because of any despotic proclivities or loyalties to outside parties. By that standard alone, he is better than Craddick, Turner or anyone else Michael Quinn Sullivan might prop up next.

Cantor loses

The Washington Post reports that Rep. Eric Cantor, the US House Majority Leader, has lost the Republican primary for his seat, thus being denied re-election. Cantor, a Virginia Republican, widely presumed to be a future Speaker of the House, fell short to David Brat, a Tea Party backed right-winger. Arguably, Cantor ran to the right of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on many issues, though I had always seen him as more moderate, as I’m sure the Tea Party also thought.

Cantor had supported a limited version of the DREAM Act, and this ended up being an Achilles’ heel of sorts for him. Among other flash points in his primary fight were support for ending the government shutdown, votes to raise the debt ceiling and support for what was left of the Voting Rights Act. While he had stooped low in right-wing campaign tactics in previous weeks, most had not expected Cantor to lose out in tonight’s primary. In fact, the loss came as a devastating surprise for Democrats and Republicans alike. Most Democrats were excited that the renowned arch-conservative would be out of a job, though many of the more pragmatic liberals realize that this spells nothing but trouble, as it virtually guarantees that the Republican leadership will shift to the right.

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Horwitz on the Far-Right

As I have discussed previously, I identify myself with the Democratic Party because it is, in my opinion, the sole reasonable political party in this country. In any other civilized country on the planet, I would find myself as a moderate or even a mild conservative. I did not leave these political philosophies, to borrow from the cliche, but this country’s definition of them left me. In recent days, I have found more evidence of this phenomenon.

The United States is the only country in the civilized world without universal, government-provided healthcare. David Cameron, the Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, calls his country’s socialized medicine program a “great national treasurer.” Even Margaret Thatcher, the great right-wing crusader of Britain, understood the importance of the program and did not dare attempt to privatize the service such that Britons would be forced to pay for healthcare. Such a position is deemed barbaric today in the British Isles.

Bearing in mind that the Democratic Party is significantly more conservative on the issue of healthcare reform than Margaret Thatcher, we come to Obamacare. The healthcare reform package, which I have never been a fan of, uses convoluted tactics to continue inputting bureaucracy into an already over-tangled private healthcare market. However, all said and done, the law does expand Medicaid for those who need it and has been shown to drastically lower premiums. Accordingly, it is better than nothing; though the GOP certainly does not think that way.

But the Republican Party does not find issue with the law from the left, as I (and, I would suspect, Margaret Thatcher) do. While my critiques of the law revolve around continuing to accommodate a privatized healthcare market that has failed the average consumer, placing an emphasis on making profit above giving successful medical treatments. Unlike that position, the Republican Party believes that Obamacare’s limited subsidies into the still-privatized healthcare market constitute a “government takeover” on the level of a Stalinist dystopia.

Not only does the Republican Party believe that Obamacare will be the end of life as we know it for the American people, they are so loyal to the position that they are actually willing to end life as we know it for the American people in a futile attempt to rescind the progress of the law. Ted Cruz, my State’s lovably McCarthyesque Senator, has now made a name for himself in leading his self-culled lollipop guild in forcing a provision to completely defund Obamacare to be a part of any bill to keep the government open, or to raise the debt ceiling.

As I have recalled in previous statements, I have many close friends who much prefer to stick their heads in the sand when it comes to politics, and equivocate as to their political philosophy. In a lazy attempt to be evenhanded for evenhandedness’ sake, they confide that they see the merits of both political parties, while roundly criticizing the extremists like Cruz. However, to once again borrow the outdated colloquialism, the idiots have taken over the asylum. House Speaker John Boehner, arguably the most powerful Republican officeholder in the United States, thrust his support onto a now-passed bill that tethers the defunding of the healthcare reform measure to continued funding of the government. Cruz influenced Boehner, they are the mainstream of the Republican Party!

As I have said during both previous debt ceiling showdowns, when Republicans play tricks like this, they take the economy hostage. Unfortunately for them, the United States of America does not negotiate with terrorists.

So, in recap, for all who still decide to play the idiotic ruse of balance for balance’s sake, remember this. The Republican Party is operating two great leagues to the right of the most conservative leader modern Britain has ever had, and are willing to bring about a worldwide economic disaster in order to accomplish these far-right goals.

More attack ads in District D

I received this lovely message in my inbox at 11:53 this morning, from an organization labeled “Say No To Dwight Boykins“, complete with the email address of “SayNoToDwightBoykins@politician.com” The email contained another poorly created advertisement and went as follows:

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“Say No To Dwight Boykins

Fellow Democrats:

District D will be destroyed if Dwight Boykins is elected. Dwight Boykins and his City Hall Insider friends are only in it for themselves. Ask anyone who has talked with Republican Dwight and they will tell you that he is implying that once elected he will GIVE THEM CONTRACTS.  That sounds like a page out of the Book of Rick Perry and Tom Delay! J.R. “Bob” Jones donated THOUSANDS of Dollars to his fellow Republican. You remember Bob Jones don’t you?

Bob Jones’ disrespectful email to Council member Adams when she refused to support Double Taxing our community.

Now Republican Dwight is taking money from the same man who disrespected our Council member and Boykins was SILENT when this woman was attacked.TYPICAL REPUBLICAN!
 

District D can’t afford to elect a REPUBLICAN Insider. Dwight Boykins is BAD FOR OUR COMMUNITY BAD FOR OUR NEIGHBORHOODS Say No To Dwight Boykins!”

Notice the link about “Bob Jones’ disrespectful email” goes to a note by Jolanda Jones. It is about something the megadonor sent to Councilmember Wanda Adams in the aftermath of the Prop 1 kerfuffle. The astute will remember the previous attack ad against Dwight Boykins, which I wrote about at that time. Unlike this ad, the previous one was created on Facebook by an individual named “Dennis Glenn” and shared by another candidate, Larry McKinzie. This ad has not been connected with any individual, nonetheless any candidate, although they are remarkably similar in format and message.

Previously, Glenn had gone after Boykins for donating to the GOP and voting in a single Republican primary. These attacks were much less substance-based, although the previous advertisement contained mostly half-truths as far as substance goes.

I immediately noticed the difference in the token Republicans juxtaposed alongside Boykins in the advertisement, and how they differed from two weeks ago.  Originally, the photo included serious posed photos of Ronald Reagan, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, George W. Bush and Mitch McConnell, alongside a silly photo of Boykins that could easily have been photoshopped. This photo, however, includes a more serious photo of Boykins that I have seen before, along with sillier photos of the Republicans. This time it is Ronald Reagan, John Boehner, Rick Perry, Eric Cantor, Mitt Romney and Clarence Thomas. The presence of an African-American Republican in this ad immediately caught my eye.

The photo on the bottom, of course, in that infamous image from Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. An interesting jab against Republicans since the State of Alabama was run by the other party at that time. Yes, yes, I know they were Conservative Democrats and shortly thereafter they fled en masse to the GOP, but it would not have been my first suggestion for an image of why Republican politicians are bad.

No idea who is behind these, I will be conducting an investigation shortly if anyone has filed a d/b/a for “Say No to Dwight Boykins.” My hunch is that it is someone from the junior varsity squad (i.e., the fringe candidates).

Straus and the 83rd

Or is it the 84th? I don’t even remember anymore.

Anyways, David Simpson’s campaign to elect a “Christian Conservative” whimpered without a bang. In fact, he dropped it, so Joe Straus was re-elected by acclamation. Cheer up, it could be worse.

Now, everyone is talking about how Governor Perry has the unmitigated temerity to suggest we actually cut taxes and cut spending once again. Also on his priority list would be drug testing people on welfare and attempting to invalidate Roe v. Wade in the lone star state. Additionally, the Governor has strongly come out in favor of arming teachers.

Meanwhile, the Texas Tribune says that the State Senate will be maintaining the 2/3 rule, great news for the obstructing Democratic minority.

But the Straus news is what truly brings me to my key point: the paper tiger of the extreme Conservative. First, the far-right threatened to depose Straus in 2011, but no one even ran a feasible campaign against him. More recently, the Fiscal Cliff deal, in which a minority of House Republicans voted for Boehner’s deal, set off all the alarms on the Capitol Hill gossip rags about how Boehner’s speakership was doomed. In the end, only 12 Republicans defected, and none of them even voted for a legitimate candidate.

This brings us to what occurred yesterday in Austin. Joe Straus had been predicted by the ubiquitous prophets of doom to see some real challenging impediment to his speakership. First there was Bryan Hughes, then there was David Simpson. Both had something in common (besides the crazed Tea Party, theocratic ideologies): their campaigns self-aborted. This is similar to the Eric Cantor for Speaker campaigns (except that one never actually existed), just a bunch of hype by the media and pundits, myself included (for the record, I’m not comparing myself to the legitimate press).