Tag Archives: Texas GOP

Good luck, Speaker Phelan

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The Dade Phelan Era has commenced in the Texas House of Representatives and — wouldn’t you know it — he already is taking some incoming fire from those on the far right wing of his Republican Party.

Phelan is the newly elected speaker of the House. He is a Beaumont Republican who had the temerity to suggest he wants to work well with Democrats who comprise a substantial minority of the 150-member legislative body.

One of the two House members who voted against Phelan happens to be freshman GOP Rep. Bryan Slaton of Royse City, who said in a statement that he voted against Phelan because the new speaker is someone “who has refused to articulate to Republicans whether or not he believes we should have a true conservative session.”

Dade Phelan elected speaker of the Texas House | The Texas Tribune

What the hell does that mean? Is Slaton suggesting that Phelan’s more bipartisan approach will result in more dreaded “liberal policies” that Slaton and other right wingers cannot support? Slaton is parroting the language used by Texas GOP chairman Allen West, the transplanted Florida fire breather who moved to Texas and got elected party chairman this past year. West doesn’t much like Phelan’s approach, either.

I want to remind everyone here that bipartisanship has worked well for previous speakers of the Texas House. My favorite example of the success of that approach involves former Speaker Pete Laney, the Hale Center Democrat who hardly  legislated as a flaming liberal when he served as the Man of the House. He reached across the aisle frequently and governed on the policy of letting “the will of the House” do its job.

“We must all do our part — not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Texans and Americans,” Phelan said. “Let us unite in one common purpose to do what is right for the people of Texas.”

Wow. That’s hardly lifted from the Communist Manifesto.

I want to wish the new speaker well as he takes the gavel. It likely will be a difficult session that will demand that everyone search fervently for “one common purpose.”

Is right-wing wackiness returning?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The phone rang the other morning, so I answered it and it was someone I used to know a long time ago back when we both worked in the Texas Panhandle.

My friend worked for a prominent Amarillo politician and called to pick my (already picked-over) brain about the state of politics and the media that cover it in Panhandle.

She offered a chilling summation of what she believes is occurring there: a resurgence of the conspiracy theory, far-right-wing wackiness of the Republican Party. Bear mind, too, that the individual with whom I spoke worked for a doctrinaire, conservative Republican. She is concerned that the nut jobs who once belonged to the John Birch Society and hung signs calling for the United States to pull out of the United Nations are gaining traction once again in the Texas Panhandle.

Well …

After talking to my friend, who is an astute political observer, I am beginning to worry about the state of political play in the place I called home for more than 23 years.

Indeed, the region’s congressman, Republican Mac Thornberry, is retiring in just a few days. He will be succeeded by Ronny Jackson, the retired U.S. Navy admiral, one-time White House physician and current Donald Trump acolyte who adheres to the idiocy that President-elect Joe Biden “stole” the 2020 election from his man Trump.

Therein lies the apparent heart of what should concern true-blue Republicans who sit in power throughout the Panhandle. The Party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan has now become the Party of Donald Trump. Are you … kidding me?

Are they going to continue to allow their party to be hijacked by the likes of those who swill the Kool-Aid offered by the carnival barker/con man/charlatan Donald Trump?

If they do, then by golly we might be in even more trouble than my friend fears is headed this way.

Who is this Texas GOP chairman?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Who is Allen West?

I will answer the easy part. He is the current head of the Texas Republican Party. He’s also a one-term former congressman … from Florida! He moved to Texas a year or two ago I reckon to restart his political career.

He served in the U.S. Army, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was then discharged — I believe it was honorably — but only after facing a charge of “conduct unbecoming” an officer. He was involved in an incident involving an Iraqi prisoner who was treated harshly by U.S. service personnel.

West is a firebrand. While serving in the U.S. House, he accused his Democratic colleagues — all of them! — of being agents for communists around the world. Nice, eh? Hardly. It smacked to my ears of the kind of rhetorical crap spouted by the late, and infamous Sen. Joe McCarthy, the noted commie-hunter who became disgraced because of his witch hunting tactics.

West’s latest rhetorical barrage came at the expense of a young Texas legislator from Beaumont, Dade Phelan, who wants to become the next speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. It turns out that Phelan has been courting Democrats as well as his fellow Republicans, which according to West is a bridge too far. A GOP House speaker shouldn’t have to court the favor of Democrats, West said in criticizing Phelan.

Wait a second, dude. Texas has a long history of House speakers who have worked well across the aisle. Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican, was one; then we had Pete Laney, a Hale Center Democrat, who worked well with Republicans.

Indeed, governors of both parties have been known to reach across the aisle to seek favors from the other side.

So, what is this intruder trying to do?

I had thought that Texas had enough dedicated Republican political operatives of lengthy Lone Star State standing to lead the party. Instead, it has turned to this guy who knows practically nothing of this state’s unique political climate.


‘Blue wave’ fizzled out

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

BLOGGER’S NOTE: A version of this blog was published originally on KETR-FM public radio.

Did someone suggest that Texas would be inundated by a “blue wave” of Democratic politicians seek public office in the just completed 2020 presidential election?

Wasn’t there a huge surge of anticipation that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would win the state’s 38 electoral votes on his way to a landslide win over Donald J. Trump?

I believe that happened in the weeks running up to the election.

Hmm. It didn’t happen. Neither event occurred.

The president carried Texas by roughly 6 percentage points over Biden. To be sure, the Trump-Biden gap was narrower than the 8-point victory Trump scored over Hillary Clinton in 2016; what’s more, the most recent election was far tighter than the 16-point win that GOP nominee Mitt Romney scored over President Barack Obama in 2012.

But Texas Republicans no doubt can take heart in how solidly they held onto statewide and local offices when all the ballots were tallied.

I live in Collin County, long considered one of the state’s most reliable GOP bastions. The Trump-Biden gap was far narrower than the Trump-Clinton margin four years ago.

Congressional seats held by GOP members will remain in Republican hands. A key statewide race, for Railroad Commissioner, will stay in GOP hands. The Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals? They remain all-GOP judicial benches. Republicans will continue to control the Legislature.

Political pundits and analysts keep talking about the “changing demographics” that suggest an eventual swing from solid red to a much more competitive “purple” status for Texas. Indeed, it does appear that Texas might be turning into a more competitive state, with Republicans and Democrats competing harder for votes than they have done since the GOP took control of the state political structure more than 30 years ago.

Just how entrenched is the GOP in Northeast Texas. Consider this: The percentages that Donald Trump rang up against Biden in Hunt, Kaufman, Hopkins and Rains counties virtually mirror the margins he rolled up against Hillary Clinton four years ago. Interestingly, though, is what happened in Tarrant County, which is described colloquially as the state’s “largest conservative county.” It voted narrowly for Joe Biden over Donald Trump. Who knew?

So, whatever blue wave is set to wash over Texas – perhaps in the next election cycle of the one after that – seems to be a good bit away from soaking voters in Northeast Texas.

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.