Saturday, March 29, 2008

SD16 GOP Convention II

Today I attended, as a delegate, the Texas Senate District 16 GOP convention. I'm glad I participated because it helped me to better understand Dallas GOP politics and the way things are done. It also gave me the chance to meet a lot of fellow Republicans and to get a sense of what they were thinking.

Overall, I came away from the experience with mixed feelings. I was encouraged that many people I spoke with shared my concerns about the direction our party has taken over the past several years. They would like to see the GOP return to core conservative principles, especially around the proper role of government. Most people that I talked to want the government to just leave them alone. I couldn't agree more! There seems to be a real libertarian streak in my district, which was evident by all of the the Ron Paul supporters in attendance.

I don't support Ron Paul for three reasons: 1) his views on monetary policy 2) his isolationist foreign policy, including his position on withdrawing troops from Iraq and 3) his call for limited government goes a bit too far for my comfort level. That said, I think his supporters (and there are many) bring needed energy and debate to our party. I also sense that most of his supporters are tolerant of gays and lesbians, and that they'd like to see some of the divisive language removed from our state party platform.

I mentioned that I exited the SD16 GOP convention with mixed feelings. My biggest concern is that the folks who run the local party are completely out of touch with the citizens of Dallas County. In '06 the GOP got SWEPT out of office in Dallas County - we lost all 47 contested races to the Democrats! In response, every GOP candidate in Dallas county now goes around TALKING about how we need to grow the base and become more of a "big tent" party. I'm all in favor of that - but talk is cheap.

The sad reality is that the SD16 committees, esp. the SD16 Resolutions Committee, are still controlled by right wingers who have their collective heads buried in the sand. They seem oblivious to the sentiment within the party and throughout the city. These party "leaders" are making it very difficult for many moderates to vote Republican. They are also alienating many fiscal and national defense conservatives. This is based on a widespread feeling throughout Dallas that the Republican party has become too harsh and mean-spirited. As a result, I fear that we will face the same fate this year as in '06. Which brings me back to the SD16 Resolutions committee. First some background:

In '06 the state party adopted a platform that went out of its way to offend gays and lesbians. The platform contains multiple negative references to homosexuality. For example:
  • "Homosexuality: ...sodomy tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit..."

  • "Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country's founders, and shared by a majority of Texans."

  • "We are opposed to any granting of special legal entitlements, recognition, or privileges including but not limited to marriage between persons of the same sex, custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance or retirement benefits."

  • " homosexual or any individual convicted of child abuse or molestation should have the right to custody or adoption of a minor child" (notice how gays & lesbians are lumped together with child abusers).

  • "...the disqualification of homosexuals from military service."

This platform language is deeply offensive to gays and lesbians and our families. Murderers and rapists fare better in the Texas GOP platform than we do. It seems like special effort was made to single us out for condemnation and discrimination. It sends a very loud message that we are not welcome in the party.

As easy as it would be be, many of us refuse to leave the party. We are conservatives and we know that deep down the Republican party is where we belong. We will not back down to the "religious" zealots who are trying their best to drive us away. Further, we choose to stay in the GOP despite the ridicule and abuse we take from the gay community at large, which votes heavily Democrat.

Gay Republicans and our straight allies have tried in recent years to reclaim our party. This year, an effort was made to have the divisive language on homosexuality removed from the state party platform. The first step in this process is to pass resolutions at precinct conventions on the evening of the primary. This was accomplished in many precincts across Dallas.

The next step in the process is for the Resolutions Committees in each Senate District to review and vote on all of the resolutions that came out of the precincts. The SD16 Resolutions committee did this last week.

Today I attended the SD16 Resolutions committee meeting held simultaneously (in another room) as the convention. The committee met to issue their final report to be presented to convention delegates. It was in that meeting that I was informed that the committee voted to reject our resolution. When I pressed the committee for details I was told that the vote was unanimous. This meant that our resolution would not be presented to convention delegates for a vote.

This was a bitter disappointment. I don't know whether convention delegates would have passed our resolution or not. Unfortunately we will never know. I sense that the committee knows we would have either won, or gotten more support than they would have been comfortable with.

The fact that the committee vote was unanimous is revealing. It shows that we still have a long way to go before we are truly a big tent party. Anytime there is a unanimous committee vote against a resolution that has broad support among party members, it demonstrates that the committees are monopolized by one group of people.

So what next? That will be the topic for another discussion. What I will say for now is that I, and my fellow gay Republicans, WILL NOT back down nor will we run away. We will redouble our efforts and this temporary setback will only strengthen our resolve. Polls shows that younger voters are OVERWHELMINGLY on our side. Therefore we know that the question is not whether we will ultimately prevail but rather only a matter of when. Many of us are heading to the state convention in Houston as delegates or alternates and will continue to make our case for fairness.


Anonymous said...


Interesting post. I agree with you about the old guard being out of touch and monopolizing the conventions. Fortunately, it seems this is changing, however incrementally, in many districts and counties. I was at the SD 14 convention in Travis County, at which Ron Paul supporters comprised 40% of the voting strength. This was significant, because it meant that the establishment could not outright ignore them, or they would risk losing their own leadership positions. Leadership's response was to include token participants who supported Paul on each committee. They also had to give the Paulers airtime on the floor of the convention and at least pretend to play nice.

I believe, according to Robert's Rules, that you could have moved to include an amendment to the resolutions before everyone voted on them on the convention floor. As long as you had someone to second the motion, it could then be debated, and in the open forum of the convention, outside of the exclusive committee proceedings, you might have gotten a better response. The chairman at our convention did start to get picky with motions, requiring them in writing. So it would be important to be prepared for arbitrary requirements like that when making the motion. Also, the motion should vary enough from what was discussed at the resolutions committee so that the chair could not claim that it was already shot down earlier and was a moot point now. But with a little work to rephrase the changes, they could become unique enough to be heard on the floor.

Of course, Robert's Rules can be contorted one way or another to shut down people as needed, so they could have still tried to cut you off.

Anyway, I saw this happening some at our convention. A couple of modifications were made to the resolutions as a result of this method, so it can work.

R said...

Unfortunately since I'm not much of of a parliamentarian, I wasn't aware of what Anonymous describes. This is great to know...and worth checking out Robert's Rules. Thanks Anonymous!

Anonymous said...

Sure thing, r.

Hopefully it'll come in handy next time.

Perhaps in four years we can meet up at the state convention. If we do, I would be thrilled and honored to second your motion to get that crap out of the platform.

Your participation is really impressive. Many others have written off the party and have either become apathetic altogether or sympathetic to the other side. But to invoke change, people need to be willing to stick their neck out and call out what's wrong, why and what to do about it. I admire you tremendously for doing that. I don't know if I would have your courage by default, but seeing folks like you take a stand inspires me and gives me the confidence to do the same and to stand beside you. Thanks for that.