Tag Archives: Texas GOP

When will GOP pols abandon Trump?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

First, I must acknowledge the obvious, which is that I am far from the political action, as I am sitting in the peanut gallery with a lot of other Americans.

You know that already. My full-time journalism career ended more than eight years ago. However, I have remained friends with many politicians and political observers in Texas.

Which brings me to this point: I am wondering when the Texas Republican Party political apparatus ever is going to turn its back on Donald Trump.

The president appears headed to defeat. I won’t say it’s done deal. It is looking that way.

I am acquainted with a number of GOP pols in the Texas Panhandle, where my wife and I lived for 23 years before gravitating to the Metroplex. Truth be told, I consider a number of those pols to be friends. One of them, a fellow I have known for more than 25 years, has told me privately that Trump must be defeated, that he has been a disaster as president.

He hasn’t said a word publicly, at least nothing that I have heard.

Trump has built a cult of personality across the land. The GOP no longer is a party of principle. It is a party that centers on an individual who, ironically, had zero political cred prior to his become a presidential candidate in 2015. Trump had no public service on his record. He had never sought any public office prior to seeking the Big One.

Indeed, the Republican Party is strong in the Texas Panhandle. So I keep wondering why the GOP political hierarchy continues to stand with Trump. It might be that the Trump “base” that comprise such a large portion of the Republican voting public has threatened reprisal against any pol who dares to speak out against their guy.

I keep reading reports about Capitol Hill Republicans beginning to put distance between themselves and the president. Why? Because Trump has few personal friendships, or longstanding political alliances with members of the GOP caucus in Congress. Still, they remain quiet.

It’s a puzzle to me. Yes, I am far these days from the hustle and the tussle of politics. I do retain a keen interest in it all.

Eight days from Election Day gives these pols some time to collect themselves, muster up some courage and tell us publicly what they likely are thinking in private … which is that Donald Trump is a loser.

Wanting two parties to fight it out

I want Texas to become a two-party state.

It’s not enough to be dominated by a single political party. Not even the Democratic Party, which used to control everything in sight dating back to the period after the Civil War. They held onto power like a vise until the 1970s, when Republicans began picking off statewide elective offices and then started winning local races where Democrats once reigned supreme.

Now it’s all Republican all the time.

Democrats keep yapping about the next election cycle when they’ll turn the corner, when they’ll start winning back some of those seats. It hasn’t happened … yet!

Is this the year? Is this when Texas Democrats can start regaining some of the clout they gave away when the party leadership veered too far to the left to suit many millions of Texans?

We’ll have to wait. And see. And hope.

Why is a two-party state preferable to a one-party juggernaut? This comes from my own point of view, given that I consider myself to be a moderate, center-left Democratic-leaning voter.

Two viable political parties make them both more alert, more receptive to compromise, tacking more toward the middle. That has been the case in Texas, at least during my more than 36 years living here while reporting and commenting on Texas public policy.

My definition of good government combines the best of both major parties. It also compels them to work with each other, not against each other.

We have in Texas a Donald Trump version of the Republican Party, which is to say that it doesn’t hue to traditional GOP partisan principles. Low taxes? Government fiscal responsibility? Internationalism?

The Texas GOP follows Trump down some version of the Yellow Brick Road to, well, nowhere in particular. Meanwhile, Texas Democrats see this as their best opportunity to pick off a few GOP posts, playing to the anger and perhaps some disappointment among rank-and-file Texas Republicans. Take my word for it, there are a number of them out there wincing, grimacing and gnashing their teeth over the way Donald Trump has chosen to lead the nation.

Might all of this pave the way for a return to competitive political environment? My hope springs eternal.

Time to put country ahead of party

This is no great flash, but I want to share with you a conversation I had recently with a prominent West Texas politician.

I won’t divulge his name because he doesn’t know I am going public with this exchange. So, bear with me.

My friend is a Republican through and through. He also happens to believe that Donald J. “Republican In Name Only in Chief” Trump needs to lose the November presidential election.

Trump is a disaster, according to my friend. He has led the country since the very beginning of his time as president down the wrong path. I didn’t ask my friend this, but I should have asked him whether he considers Trump to be a real Republican or just someone who wears a partisan political label for reasons only he knows.

I told my friend that he was “preaching to the choir” in expressing his view of Donald Trump. What I didn’t tell him — but wish I would have done so — was that he needs to take his concerns to the public. He needs to say what he told me out loud, in the proverbial public square.

My friend needs to speak from the heart, tell his West Texas constituents — who likely are going to vote one more time for the carnival barker — that they would make the gravest mistake possible. They shouldn’t endorse Trump’s re-election.

Does this individual need to serve in the office he now serves? Oh, probably not. He is a man of means who doesn’t need the publicly funded salary he draws. Thus, this is my way of saying he shouldn’t care whether he angers his constituents enough for them to vote him out of office.

My friend is far from the only Republican officeholder who carries that belief about Donald Trump. I haven’t spoken to many of them. I just know that others are out there who share my friend’s belief that we cannot afford another four years of Donald Trump.

My friend is a patriot. He loves this country. It’s time for him to demonstrate his love of country by telling the world what he told me.

Texas GOP has gone ’round the bend

I can declare it loudly that the Texas Republican Party has gone bonkers, around the bend, it’s out to lunch … and dinner.

The party has just elected a former one-term congressman from Florida as its new chairman. He is Allen West, who “distinguished” himself in Congress by picking fights with President Obama and riling even his own colleagues with his fiery rhetoric.

West succeeds James Dickey as Texas GOP chair. The two of them have locked arms in solidarity, pledging to keep Texas solidly Republican in the upcoming presidential election.

Let’s look back at former Rep. West’s still-brief political history. The African-American former Army lieutenant colonel once said blacks were better off under segregation. He said that Islam is not a religion but is a “totalitarian, theocratic political ideology.” I think my favorite utterance came when he said that congressional Democrats were being controlled by communists and Marxists dedicated to the overthrow of the American political and economic system.

As the Texas Tribune reports: “We’re disgusted but not surprised that Texas Republicans chose a certified racist conservative hardliner like Allen West as their new chairman,” state Democratic Party spokesman Abhi Rahman said in a statement. “West is everything that is wrong with the Republican Party and brings to light their failures on building an inclusive, welcoming party that is deliberate and thoughtful in handling crisis situations.”

This is the guy who now is going to lead the Texas Republican Party?

Oh, brother.

All-GOP Texas Supreme Court follows the law!

A ruling by the Texas Supreme Court denying a Republican Party appeal over the cancellation of its state convention is a really big deal.

Here’s why.

The state’s highest civil appeals court, unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, comprises partisan politicians who run for election to the office on partisan ballots. That means they might be subject to intense political pressure to favor one party over the other.

The Texas Supreme Court, in a 7-1 ruling, said “no” to the Texas Republican Party’s appeal seeking to stage its convention in Houston.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner had canceled the convention, citing extreme risk caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The GOP wanted to meet in the George Brown Convention Center. Turner said that’s a non-starter, so he invoked his power as mayor to keep Texans safe from the killer virus.

The case went immediately to the Supreme Court of Texas, which has put the kibosh on the GOP’s appeal.

The state Supreme Court is made up entirely of Republican judges, which makes this decision damn near spectacular.

It goes to show that on occasion even partisan judges can do the right thing, which is what occurred with the Texas Supreme Court’s decision stiffing the Republican Party’s desire to expose thousands of convention attendees to a potentially deadly virus.

Texas GOP cancels in-person convention!

With apologies to Walter Winchell: Flash out there to Mr. and Mrs. North and South America and all the ships at sea!

The Texas Republican Party, apparently heeding the threat by the Democratic mayor of Houston, has canceled its in-person convention set for next week in Texas’s largest city.

Mayor Sylvester Turner had sought to quash the convention, fearing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The state GOP pushed back. Well, I guess the party thought differently.

There might be a “virtual” convention. I’m OK with that.

A gathering that would have brought thousands of attendees to the George Brown Convention Center — in this tenuous time — clearly was a non-starter.

Mayor Turner deserves a prize

Since politics has infected the discussion of public health and the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on human health and welfare, I want to offer a prize to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

The mayor has earned the prize for the most politically courageous act as Texas tries to reel in the impact of the pandemic.

Turner is a true-blue Democrat. He has just initiated a process he hopes will block the Texas Republican Party from staging its annual convention at the George Brown Center in Houston.

As you might expect, the Texas GOP has accused Turner of stepping on the party’s right of political expression. Turner, though, has put public health ahead of partisan point-scoring. The convention is expected to attract about 6,000 visitors to the Brown Center. They’ll be stuffed in there, exposing each other to potentially deadly viral germs.

Turner wants to prevent that from occurring in the city he leads. Can you blame him? I cannot.

The Texas Tribune reported this about the state GOP’s response:

Party Chair James Dickey responded later Wednesday, criticizing Turner for “seeking to deny a political Party’s critical electoral function” after the mayor recently allowed protesters to demonstrate there “without any of the safety precautions and measures we have taken.”

Dickey also said the party’s legal team was assessing the city’s ability to cancel the convention and weighing its legal options.

“We are prepared to take all necessary steps to proceed in the peaceable exercise of our constitutionally protected rights,” Dickey said in a statement.

I would expect the party leaders to invoke their “constitutionally protected rights.” Those rights, though, do not entitle them to put citizens in potentially dire harm if they attend this event, get sick and possibly die as a result.

Surely the state GOP deserves to have its voice heard. Why not do so during a “virtual” convention that doesn’t expose people to the effects of a potentially fatal viral infection?

Censure the governor? Are you serious?

I have to ask: What in the name of public safety has happened to the Texas Republican Party?

The Ector County GOP hierarchy has voted to censure their fellow Republican, Gov. Greg Abbott over Abbott’s executive order requiring Texans to wear masks in public places.

Why did Abbott do such a dastardly thing? Oh, he wants to stop the spread of a virus that has killed 130,000 Americans. For taking that action, the Texas Republican Party is launching a campaign to conduct a statewide censure movement ahead of its political convention scheduled soon.

This is utterly ridiculous! It’s insane! It’s certifiable lunacy!

Don’t get me wrong on this point: Greg Abbott is not my favorite Texas pol. He dilly-dallied on taking measures to stop the virus in Texas. He plunged full speed into reopening the state. The infection rate spiked as a result, along with the death rate from COVID-19. Abbott has hit the “pause” button on the restart.

I wish he had done so earlier … but he did and I am glad about that.

However, there’s a lot of bitching going on throughout the state among Republicans who’ve swallowed the Donald Trump Kool-Aid about the coronavirus. They want the state to continue to press ahead with reopening. I have a couple of friends in the Texas Panhandle — business owners, in fact — who complain openly about what they believe is some sort of communist plot within the GOP.

I am not kidding! These are dedicated Republicans who have swilled the concoction that makes ’em believe the coronavirus ain’t that big of a deal.

There’s talk now about a special legislative session that would seek to reel in what GOP loons say is Abbott’s executive overreach. Good grief! The man is seeking to stop the spread of a disease that is killing us.

Partisan justice is at work

Judicial rulings aren’t supposed to be tainted by partisan considerations, which is what the founders sought when they created an independent judicial branch of the federal government.

Then we have states such as Texas, which elects its judges on partisan ballots. You have to be either a Democrat or a Republican to run for a spot on any court in the state. That includes the state’s highest civil court of appeals, the Supreme Court.

So what does the all-GOP Supreme Court do? It halts any expansion of mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Texas Democrats want to ensure that more — not fewer — Texans vote in this year’s presidential election. They want the state to institute mail-in voting to allow greater participation among the state’s estimated 15 million eligible voters.

That’s a non-starter for Texas Republicans — and apparently their allies on the Texas Supreme Court. They have reeled in the reddest of herrings by alleging that all-mail-in voting invites rampant voter fraud.

No. It does nothing of the sort … provided that county election officials do their due diligence to ensure that every ballot cast is done by a legitimately registered voter.

My version of political perfection would rely solely on Election Day balloting. However, we cannot have everything we want. The pandemic has made polling-place voting a potentially life-threatening event, which is why mail-in voting is beginning to appeal more to me.

As for voter fraud, well, that is the serious non-starter. Five states have all-mail voting already. They all report without reservation that the incidents of fraudulent voting are rare. There is no such thing in any of those states of “rampant” voter fraud. Why is that? Because election officials take their tasks seriously and they all swear an oath to protect the sanctity of their political institutions.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argues that voter fraud is a major concern for him. Baloney! Paxton’s major concern is whether he is doing the bidding of Donald Trump, who has led the phony chorus of claims of voter fraud. He has actually griped out loud that mail-in voting would doom Republicans’ electoral chances in the future. Aww. Cry me a river.

“Among the State’s highest and most profound interests is protecting the integrity of its elections,” Paxton wrote. “To advance that interest, the … Legislature requires almost every voter to vote by personal appearance at a designated polling place, where trained poll workers confirm the voter’s identity before issuing him a ballot.”

I get that. Really. I do. However, mail-in voting as it has been done in a handful of states is just as secure as it is when it’s done the old-fashioned way.

The Supreme Court is going to hear oral arguments next week. Then it will make a final decision. Anyone want to bet how the all-GOP Supreme Court is going to go on that one?

Any chance Texas can restore sanity and reinstate helmet law?

I chatted the other day with a former colleague about someone else we both know, a woman whose son was grievously injured in a motorcycle wreck about a decade ago.

The young man was speeding along a street in Amarillo when he crashed his motorcycle. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. The young man suffered permanent brain damage.

The chat with my friend spurred a thought in my own brain: What was the Texas Legislature thinking in 1997 when it repealed the state’s mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists? I sniffed around a found an article that talked about how motorcycle wreck-related deaths have increased dramatically since the Legislature gave cyclists the option of endangering themselves.

Republicans took control of the Legislature and in 1997 took over as the majority party. The “limited government” crowd then saw fit to repeal a law that I always thought was a reasonable requirement for anyone who sat astride a “crotch rocket.” The motorcycle law is no more onerous that requiring every passenger in a car to buckle up for safety with a seat restraint.

Legislators saw the helmet law differently, I reckon. They made a mistake, in my humble view.

To be fair, children still must wear helmets if they’re riding a motorcycle with Mommy or Daddy.

What’s more, the state now requires motorcycle owners to have an accident insurance policy worth at least $10,000. That’s fine, I guess, except that one can go through 10 grand in about 10 minutes when you check into a hospital with a traumatic brain injury.

As we get through this coronavirus pandemic and the next Legislature convenes in January, I am somewhat hopeful that Democrats might retake control of at least the House of Representatives. Maybe a House chamber controlled by Democrats might seek to restore some sanity to our roads and highways by bringing back a helmet law. I know it still has to go through the Texas Senate and it still needs the signature of a Republican governor, Greg Abbott.

My hope does spring eternal.