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What To Make of Party Platforms?

Last week, remarks by the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis were reviewed and researched by PolitiFact.com, an organization that rates the truth or falsity of selected quotes by elected officials and candidates.

The gist of Senator Davis’s quote was that the Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott supported the wholesale repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As it turns out, the Texas GOP has adopted a party platform that includes the following statement:

We urge that the Voter [sic[ Rights Act of 1965, codified and updated in 1973, be repealed and not reauthorized.

While Greg Abbott isn’t the Texas GOP, and hasn’t explicitly said that he wants the Voting Rights Act to be repealed, his campaign has confirmed that he is in general agreement with the adopted party platform.

So Politifact ruled that with the caveat that it would be incorrect to assert that Greg Abbott has publicly called for the repeal of the single-most important piece of civil rights legislation enacted in the last 150 years, it is true that he generally supports and does not disavow any particular element of his political party’s formally adopted platform, including his party’s formal urging that the Voting Rights Act be repealed.

I suspect a fair number of people read this story and thought that it was a bit anticlimactic, because we all know that GOP policy expressions over the last decade or so have become unusually strident and extreme. It’s not as though anything about the platform is particularly surprising – the whole document reads as a wishlist of ideas for creating a nativist, self-contradictory, and intermittently theocratic state government.

As part of the process that goes into drafting a party platform, both Republican Party and Democratic Part precinct chairs across the state ask their party members to “dream big” and leave their censoring superegos at the door. Party platforms are, as a consequence, bizarre and slightly surreal documents. They are also fascinating cultural artifacts that are far removed from the carefully polished remarks of candidates.

The platform doesn’t hold a mirror up to the candidate’s agenda – it holds a mirror up to the desires of the party rank and file members. Sometimes the platform is embarrassingly far more revealing than even its drafters realize.

For instance, the membership of the Texas GOP would like it to be known that they are against homosexuality (on principal, as such an orientation is to their eyes unchristian) but do think that it’s curable. They are in favor of being able to take their guns to anti-abortion rallies, in favor of solving our water crisis with a desalination plant, (not that there’s anything wrong with the weather, given that climate change is just a socialist plot to redistribute wealth) opposed to Palestinian statehood (on Biblical grounds), in favor of the legal right to beat one’s own children, opposed to no-fault divorce, and in favor of returning to the gold standard.

They think Republicans should get kicked out of office if they turn out to be too moderate, they think the current Texas Speaker of the House Joe Strauss is too liberal, and that if the office were elected by the state voters, we’d get a Tea Party-vetted Speaker.

They also want to remind us that they still hate the defunct ACORN, don’t like the ACLU, and really have it in for the UN, especially over all that business about considering the Alamo to be a world heritage site or declaring that children have legal rights.

They support the freedom to worship Christ in any manner that one chooses (as long as it’s a sound, recognized Christian doctrine), but are dubious about those other religions, and want it to be known unequivocally (and wholly unironically) that they are opposed to the adoption of Sharia law. And no, they don’t get the joke, and they don’t appreciate my tone.

Immigrants, poor people, and minorities make them nervous, and they’d like all the foreigners coming in to switch over to just speaking English in about 3 years. Also, they think just a few more investigations of the death of an American ambassador in Benghazi are called for, although the connection to Texas is admittedly a bit tenuous.

Alright, so we’ve established that (hopefully) the GOP party platform was developed in order to mollify and occupy the less-helpful, less-focused, less-articulate party loyalists, while the real players presumably made deals in smoke-filled rooms. And having had some fun at the expense of the cave-dwelling, platform-writing wing of the Republican Party, I should allow a few good-natured jabs at the Texas Democratic Party platform.

But …, perhaps because the Democrats are the underdogs, they didn’t have the luxury of treating the development of their party platform as make-work for paranoid, anti-social extremists. So there isn’t really anything crazy or funny about the Democratic Party platform (unless perhaps one finds humor in the very notion that such things as public education, small business investment, or health care exist).

For those of you using web readers, the cited links are:






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