Republicans: The Organized Party?

Texas Politics



“I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” – Will Rogers, humorist (1879-1935)

Will Rogers spent his life as a political humorist, including a syndicated weekly newspaper column.

Bob Bullock, the late Texas lieutenant governor, didn’t have much use for the likes of Rogers.

Bullock thought Rogers poking fun at politicians helped make it fashionable to be cynical about government, which basically was Bullock’s business.

Always elected as a Democrat, Bullock, late in his life, endorsed Republican Gov. George W. Bush for president.

But these days, Bullock might think Will Rogers’ poke at Democratic disorganization could easily apply to the party his buddy Bush helped gain unchallenged dominance in Texas.

As for the Republicans nationally, you could probably just tell the judge a couple stories about the food fight for the presidential nomination, led by clownmaster Donald Trump. And then say, “Your honor, I rest my case.” And sit down.

But besides several of the presidential candidates from Texas or who have Texas connections, Texas officials don’t seem immune to the national craziness.

There’s Gov. Greg Abbott, who runs off to Cuba on a trade mission to see about hawking Texas rice to that island country. While there’s an embargo on much trade between Cuba and the U.S., agricultural products aren’t included.

Abbott predicted big deals if the embargo is lifted. But he declined to say if he favored lifting the embargo, saying that wasn’t his job.

It was Democratic President Barack

Obama who moved to normalize relations with Cuba. He had become convinced that after a half-century of the embargo without any significant change in Cuba, it might be time to try something different.

The Texas business community is eager to drop the embargo, and get on with trading.

However, Abbott delighted while running for governor in saying his job as attorney general consisted of going to the office, suing the Obama administration, and going home.

If he endorsed lifting the overall embargo, that means he’d be agreeing that President Obama is doing the right thing.

That would rank about as high on Abbott’s dance card as hosting a welcome party for Syrian refugees.

Meanwhile, Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton, while fighting his own indictments for securities violations, has also joined Abbott and about 30 other governors – mostly Republicans – opposing re-settlement of Syrian refugees in their states.

Paxton has taken a page from predecessor Abbott’s playbook, and filed suit against the federal government’s plans to re-settle refugees from the Syrian civil war in Texas.

Abbott instructed Health and Human Services Commissioner Chris Traylor to warn re-settlement agencies that accepting the refugees could result in the state cutting off their funds.

Paxton filed in federal court for a temporary restraining order to block the re-settlement in Texas. But the feds made it clear the state is just a conduit for federal money going to the resettlement groups.

Language about consulting with the state on re-settlement is more a courtesy than a requirement, the feds say; Texas doesn’t have the veto power Abbott and Paxton have acted like they do.

Paxton, at least, apparently sensed he was about to be poured out in court, and withdrew his request for a temporary restraining order blocking resettlement of 21 Syrian refugees already on the way to Texas.

While this was going on, a married couple of Pakistani descent, who shot to death 14 people and wounded 21 in San Bernardino, CA, left a social media trail of contact with ISIS.

The federal government, however, says Texas officials have failed to provide any solid evidence that the 21 well-vetted refugees headed for Texas pose any particular threat to the Lone Star state.

They include three families and one individual.

Headed to Dallas are a couple and their children, 3 and 5, and the children’s grandparents. They will join relatives there who arrived in Texas earlier this year.

Headed to Houston are two families with children, and a 26-year-old single woman, who plans to join her mother already living there.

Paxton is still pursuing the legal challenge to re-settlement of Syrian refugees. Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch reiterated the governor’s “will to continue the lawsuit against the federal government.”

Bullock, who died in 1999, would agree with Will Rogers at least that the Texas Democrats of 2015 aren’t yet an “organized political party.”

But if he assessed the rightward lurch and fractionalization of the 2015 Republicans in Texas and elsewhere, plus what he’d consider their insufficient attention to things like education and health care, he might also apply the Will Rogers definition to the GOP.

And then the most forceful lieutenant governor in Texas history would turn the three words he used to end every speech from a benediction into a short but blunt prayer:

“God: Bless Texas.”

DAVE MCNEELY is a politial columnist. You may contact him at or (512) 458-2963.

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