Here are the roundtable participants:
- Rae Sinor, President, Bay Area Republican Women
- Dale Huls, Board Member, Clear Lake Tea Party
- Debra Risinger, President, San Jacinto Republican Women
- John LeCour, Chairman, Galveston County Republican Party
- Kathy Rogers, President, Friendswood Republican Women
- Sarah Von Dran, President, Clear Creek Republican Women
Ed asked each participant to give a brief history of their club, the size of the club, their goals for 2011 and 2012. Ms. Sinor started it off and followed the script, nothing controversial. Then during Dale’s turn, the meeting shifted a bit, with him saying that they had tried but failed to “oust Straus” but would be watching their reps through their Watchdog program (noted here). Mrs. Risinger went back to the script, then Mr. LeCour talked about turning Galveston red in the last election, and then…the meeting really soured or sweetened, again depending upon your point of view. Ms. Rogers picked up where Dale had left off, proceeding to bash all of the local Representatives except Randy Weber because “they didn’t do what we told them to do” in the Speaker’s race. It was noted that Rep. Weber also voted for Speaker Straus but she dismissed that because “at least at one point he pulled his pledge card”.
And she went on, completely distorting the truth about Speaker Straus’ first session, saying he was going to block bills like he did last time and that he was vindictive. That the opposite is true didn’t seem to bother Ms. Rogers at all, proceeding on to bash Rep. Davis, Rep. Larry Taylor, and Rep. Jim Murphy because none of them did “what we told them to do”. After Ms. Rogers was finished, Ms. Von Dran returned to the script and told us about her club and what they do.
Round two started with Ed asking about municipal elections. They went the opposite way around the table, with Ms. Von Dran following script, and then Ms. Rogers returned to bashing Republicans. As did Mr. LeCour, stating that he was “conservative” before he was Republican, which is truly odd for a chair of an organization to say. Mr. LeCour did talk about municipal elections and the difference between partisan races and non-partisan races – he appears quite knowledgeable in that area. Mrs. Risinger returned to script, then Dale returned to Straus bashing. At one point Dale said that tea parties weren’t there to get a seat at the table, they were going to come in and overturn the tables. Nice way to address the Presidents of Republican groups that turned Texas red after 150 years of Democratic rule, no? Sometimes, I think people forget that Republicans were nothing in Texas until just a few short years ago. After Dale, Ms. Sinor returned to script and talked about municipal elections.
Then it was time for questions from the crowd. One was for Dale, asking him if tea parties were going to field their own candidates. Dale said no, that third parties don’t work, the Democratic Party is too far left, and that while some tea parties initially said they were non-partisan, they aren’t because everyone is partisan and the Republican Party is where tea partiers belong. Which begs the question – why doth he protest so when I describe the Clear Lake Tea Party as a Republican club?
A questioner thanked the lame duck Republicans for helping raise President Obama’s approval rating by 10 points. And then the talk about Republican representatives hit a low note with this statement from one of the attendees:
These guys work for us! We are their employers! They are no better than the guy that mows my lawn or the woman that cleans my toilet!
That statement tells me that the person making the statement doesn’t value those occupations very much. This is very sad because the people that do my lawn are very nice people. I don’t have anyone scrubbing my toilet, so I do that myself and I must say that it isn’t the most pleasant work I do but I wouldn’t look down on someone that gets paid to do it.
As well, I wouldn’t bash my elected officials, be they Democratic or Republican, simply because “they didn’t do what I told them to do”. With about 150,000 other citizens in my district, I don’t think that is reasonable, especially before the legislative session has even started. We live in a representative republic; sometimes I think that people think we live or wish we lived in a mobocracy, where the largest and loudest mob rules.
The bashing was not without some pushback, which was nice to see. Several of the precinct chairs were aghast at the behavior; I’ll spare them the wrath of the mob by not listing their names. Most people in that room have been involved in Republican Party politics for decades and didn’t take kindly to the over-the-top criticism of their friends and neighbors, otherwise known as elected officials. Why do we think that we can insult someone simply because they chose to run for political office?
One of the worst things you can do to an elected official is cause them an “unnecessary” headache… some pain is inevitable, and we’re all adults, and politics is rough… but there is a sense of some things being simply obnoxious and not needed. Grab my hair in the pile to recover the fumble, but don’t stick your finger in my eye, etc. The over-the-top criticism of Speaker Straus and our local elected officials is an example of the finger in the eye approach.
Now that Speaker Straus has prevailed, Tea Parties have an opening (with some legislators, not all, not all to the same degree) to mend fences, at least a bit… ideally there would be a period of reflection and coming out and saying “You know what, we’re still relatively new at this, and we’re going to make mistakes. Probably our relative inexperience and enthusiasm led us overboard a bit. Our engagement is good, and we’re not going to apologize for our principles or willingness to fight… but as we go along, we’re going to make an effort to pick and engage our targets with a bit more precision.”
Probably some officials are open to strategically forgiving and warily forgetting (if only to avoid more headaches in the future), if Tea Parties will show the maturity to take the first step.
Can they take that step? If so, will they?
I’m sorry that Ed’s first meeting as President of the club took the direction that it did and look forward to seeing the club make a difference in the community under his watch.