Ok, I have been refraining from discussing the “circular firing squad” that David Jennings has been reporting about since the election (though I have left a few Facebook comments about it), because I really meant what I said about all of us taking some time to rest and reflect before we charge into the issue about the future of the party. I also didn’t join in the specific debate David was discussing, because I think both sides—Judge Emmett and his critics—have valid points about the propriety of his criticism of a mailer just before the election (even though its claimed effect is ridiculously overblown). Moreover, I truly want to help our local GOP with growth over the next cycle, and to help our Republican legislators confront the most important issue this State will face between now and the 2014 election: Education reform—so I don’t want to be an agent of internal conflict.
Unfortunately, a certain local State Senator who controls a small AM radio station, and his cohorts, could not control themselves. So, they began shooting wildly at Judge Emmett with all of their pent-up rage over the results of Election Day. In the process they are hurting our party at a time when we need to heal and fight together.
Sometimes it seems like there are two men that simultaneously inhabit the body of our dear Senator from State Senate District 7: the passionate, competent Dan Patrick, who has worked very hard to educate himself on State Government and issues like Education, in order to apply our conservative principles to address real problems; and, his alter ego, the fearless RINO hunter, Senator Fosdick—as fearless, and as witless as the famous cartoon character—who leaves so much carnage within our party when he goes on one of his wild hunts to find characters that, in reality, are as elusive as Big Foot. Now Senator Fosdick has sucked into his orbit as his sidekick in party mayhem the man many of us used to know as Paul Bettencourt, our former Harris County Tax Assessor/Collector, but who now more resembles Barney Fife than the public official of prior years. It is even rumored that Fosdick is preparing Barney to run against Judge Emmett in the next primary, and that is why they are firing at him with every weapon at their disposal.
But this ceaseless (and largely baseless) criticism is, like the escapades of the old cartoon character, doing more harm than good to all involved. Not only is it dividing the party when what we need is unity, and it is attempting to destroy a man who represents good government and the best of our party to so many people in this county; but it now has taken a course that is simply wrong for our party’s future.
As David Jennings pointed out in his recent post, Barney and Fosdick are just wrong to say that growing this party into new neighborhoods will hurt this party and increase Democratic turnout. I mean, really … when you look at the actual facts that David has graphed (regardless of Barney’s brag that he knows more than anybody else about Harris County data), it is crystal clear to any objective observer that campaigning in new neighborhoods helps our ticket. More importantly, the benefits to all of us conservatives, and to the principles we care deeply about, are more than just the few percentages of votes we gain at this point—it truly involves the future of our principles, our communities, and our children. I have seen the hunger and appreciation for our message in the reaction of local leaders in these communities when we discuss our principles as they relate to their problems. They want and need the GOP in their communities, and it is simply immoral not to spread our party to reach them.
To use a metaphor that Fosdick and Barney seem to get, we need to stop hunting the illusive RINO and, instead, go into all of our neighborhoods to help the under-educated finish school, help the under-employed prepare for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and help the over-incarcerated stay in their communities and build productive families and businesses. In short, we need to build a Republican infrastructure in those precincts that we have ignored since at least the 1960s. If we do that, not only will we use our principles to help our neighbors, but the direct and indirect benefits from changing the hearts and minds of voting groups who now distrust us will be truly consequential in future elections.
By re-focusing on using our principles, not just blabbering about them to each other from a local AM radio station, we not only can re-build a competitive party and attract voters from those demographic groups who now don’t like or vote for us, but we can begin to finally fulfill the hope of Reagan’s vision for a New Republican Party that will get us closer to his dream of “a shining city on a hill.”
It is with that dream in my mind that I extend to all of you a Happy Thanksgiving—and that includes Barney and Paul, and Senators Fosdick and Patrick, too.