March 24, 2015

Starting A Conversation On The Platform Of The Republican Party Of Texas

Last summer, I wrote a draft proposal of a reformed platform for the Republican Party of Texas. There has been a lot of vocal discontent surrounding both the current platform and the process by which it has been created, and I thought I would take a shot at writing something that was shorter, clearer, and still reflective of the core values of Texas Republicans without being cluttered with some of the many planks that have been included over the years without being fully considered by the delegates to the State Convention.

Given that our new chairman has appointed a committee to review the process by which the platform has been written in recent years, I thought it might also be a good time to circulate my proposal from last summer, somewhat revised, to some 400 members of the State Republican Executive Committee, County Chairmen, Auxiliary leaders, and other party leaders around the state and in Harris County. My goal was not to hijack the process and get any body other than the 2016 RPT Convention to adopt a new platform in place of the one adopted in 2016. Rather, it is an effort to start a conversation about what a leaner platform that spoke to core principles might look like.

Here is the text of the email I sent.

* * *

My Fellow Republicans:

My name is Greg Aydt.  I am a life-long Republican, having cut my political teeth as a teenage volunteer for the 1980 Reagan campaign, before I was even old enough to vote.I have served as a precinct chair in two states -- first in Illinois, where I became the first precinct chair ever elected from one of the campus precincts at Illinois State University, and more recently as the precinct chair from Precinct 333 in Harris County.  After some three-and-a-half decades as a grassroots activist, much of it here in Texas, I believe the time has come for me to take a stand on a matter that I believe needs to be addressed by Texas Republicans -- the sad state of the platform of the Republican Party of Texas.

Let's consider some of the problems with that document.  

First, at around 40 pages, the platform is too long to be given the sort of scrutiny and debate it deserves at the state convention.  Brought to the floor at the last minute, parliamentary gamesmanship and the desire to adjourn results in little actual consideration of the document.  This past year there was only one significant area of debate on the floor, and the form it took brought little credit to our party.  The remaining couple hundred planks were not examined at all by the assembled delegates -- nor was there time for any sort of rigorous analysis of those planks to determine if they were well thought out or supported by a majority of the delegates in attendance.  

This leads to the second problem with the platform as it currently stands -- because it is a hodgepodge of old and new planks, the document contradicts itself at times.  Consider these two planks, right next to each other, as an example.

Constitutional Convention - We strongly oppose any constitutional convention to rewrite the United States Constitution. We encourage the Texas Legislature to rescind its 1977 call for such a convention. We call upon other states to rescind their votes for such a convention.

Article V Convention - Under no circumstances shall the Bill of Rights, the first 10 constitutional amendments, be changed in any manner. We urge the Texas State Legislators to take the lead in calling for an Article V Amending Convention of States, for the specific purpose of reigning in the power of the federal government. Any proposed amendments must be ratified by ¾ of the states to take effect.

Unfortunately for the drafters of our platform, an Article V convention is a Constitutional Convention with the power to rewrite the entire Constitution through the amendment process. The scope of its amendments likely cannot be limited (see the original Constitutional Convention for an example of how effective limits would be), and the requirement for ratification of amendments by ¾ of the states is already in the text of the Constitution itself -- for the purpose of making sure that any amendment has broad support nationally.  We therefore find ourselves in the position of being a party that is both in support of and opposed to a convention called under Article V of the United States Constitution.

Third, some platform planks are so obscure as to defy understanding by most delegates.  Consider this one.

Selection of Primary Candidates - The SREC should study the Utah model for selecting primary candidates.

Now this may be an excellent idea or it may be a horrible one.  The reality, though, is that there is not enough information here for delegates to make an informed decision on the advisability of making such an alteration in how candidates are selected.  What's more, since the platform is supposed to be our party's plan of action for the legislative and executive branch, does such a proposed rule change even belong in the document in the first place?

Needless to say, I could go on listing problems with our current platform -- but it is not my goal to engage in a plank-by-plank critique.  Rather, I'd like to propose to you that you lend your support to the notion of thoroughly revising the platform with the goal of making it significantly shorter.  This would be accomplished by making the platform a statement of broad Republican principles that we as a party can agree on without finding it necessary to wade through the minutiae that currently clogs our party platform.  Having spent significant time studying the platforms of other state Republican parties, I would like to offer for your consideration this document based upon the Utah Republican Party platform -- a version of which was adopted at last summer's Texas Young Republican convention.

We, the Republican Party of Texas, affirm our belief in nature's God and declare our support for government based upon a moral and spiritual foundation. We affirm freedom for every individual as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and protected by the Constitution. We believe that citizens' needs are best met through free enterprise, private initiative, and volunteerism. We support the “Rule of Law” and believe in upholding the law of the land.

We believe government exists by the consent of the governed and that it must be restrained from intruding into the freedoms of its citizens. The function of government is not to grant rights, but to protect the unalienable, God-given rights of life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

The 13 original Sovereign States in Constitutional Convention created the Constitution of the United States of America and subsequently ratified that document creating a Federal Government and granting to that Government limited and enumerated powers.  The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States defines Federal powers as those enumerated in the Constitution and reserves all other powers to the States and to the People.  We oppose congressional, judicial, and executive abrogation of the principle that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. We oppose unreasonable and intrusive federal mandates.

We recognize the rights of the individual to own property. We resist any effort by government to take private property without an overwhelming need for public use. We strongly oppose civil forfeiture of private property absent the conviction of its owners for a crime involving its acquisition or use.

We demand honesty, integrity, morality, and accountability of our public officials. We will work to expose and stop corruption. We reject the buying and selling of endorsements in all elections.

We support a military force of sufficient strength and readiness to deter any threat to our national sovereignty or to the safety and freedom of our citizens. We support the Constitutional mandate to protect and secure our national borders. We oppose placement of United States troops under any foreign command, including the United Nations. We support lawful efforts of local law enforcement agencies to protect citizens in their homes and in their communities. We urge reform of the legal system to accomplish a swift and balanced administration of justice, including consideration of rights of the victim. We support capital punishment when appropriate.

We support the individual constitutionally protected natural right of the people to keep and bear arms for security and defense of self, family, others, property, or the state, as well as for other lawful purposes. We encourage personal responsibility for the care and use of these firearms. We support the Castle Doctrine and the right of individuals to stand their ground when confronted with criminal violence, and reject the notion that law-abiding citizens have a duty to retreat rather than defend themselves from criminals.

We claim freedom of religion for every citizen and expect the protection of government in securing to us this unalienable right. We affirm the right to religious expression, including prayer, in both private and public.  We support the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

We recognize the traditional family as the fundamental unit of society. We affirm that parents have the fundamental right and primary responsibility to direct the upbringing of their children and to provide nurturing care, discipline and training in moral values.

We believe all human life is sacred regardless of age or infirmity, and therefore we oppose abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and the public funding of any of these abhorrent practices.  We reject government efforts to force employers to pay for these practices directly or indirectly under the guise of "health care benefits".

We believe that the primary responsibility for meeting basic human needs rests with the individual, the family, and the voluntary charitable organizations. We recognize, however, that there are special social needs that must be addressed through state human service programs. We support requiring welfare recipients to work towards self-sufficiency. We reject the notion that the federal government may mandate the purchase of any insurance product or penalize the failure to do so, as well as federal regulation of insurance products offered for sale.

We recognize the contributions made to our quality of life through ethnic diversity. We reject efforts to sanitize history because it offends some based upon race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

We believe that no individual is entitled to rights that exceed or supersede the natural rights of others guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Texas. There shall be no discrimination by government in favor of or against any individual due to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

We believe that all children should have access to quality education. Parents have the primary right and responsibility to educate their children, and we support their right to choose public, private, or home education. We support incentives to promote competitive excellence. We encourage cooperative initiatives to help all Texans become literate in English. We support the distribution of educational funds in a manner that they follow the student to any school, whether public private, or home school. We reject federal imposition of educational standards and the tying of federal education funding to adopting federally mandated standards.  We reject zero tolerance policies that mindlessly impose punishments that lack a rational relationship to the supposed offense.

We accept the necessity for limited taxation in order for government to perform and administer those services that meet essential public needs. However, we recognize that the power to tax is also the power to control, and believe that the best way to control government is to strictly control the amount of taxes imposed on the people. We encourage further simplification of tax systems, the elimination of the estate tax, and broad-based rate reduction where possible. We reject the imposition of a state income tax and support a meaningful cap on increasing property taxes so that homeowners need not fear being taxed out of their homes.

We recognize that government regulation can be a major impediment to productivity and to competition. We must rely more on market forces and less on government. Regulatory power now exercised by the federal government must be eliminated or returned to state and local governments to the degree that it is practical to do so.

We believe that a strong, diversified economy based on a positive work ethic, a well-trained and well-educated work force, a business-friendly environment, and safe work place will help Texas compete in a world market place. We believe that developing our human resources is essential to the future of Texas. We support the Texas Right to Work Law.

We appreciate the quality of our environment. Our air, water, and land are at the heart of our existence and must be protected through balanced management. We support reasonable laws and volunteer efforts to improve air and water quality. We continue to seek responsible solutions to controversies surrounding uses of our wilderness. We seek to preserve the environment while serving the best interests of our Texas citizens.  We oppose as unconstitutional the declaration by any President without approval from Congress of any large tract of land as a national monument. We call on the State of Texas to use the resources at its disposal to challenge any such declaration in the courts of the United States.

The jury is a fundamental institution of liberty, because it is the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution. The jury has the right and the authority to acquit if jurors feel justice will be served.

America is a stronger and better nation because of the hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of legal immigrants, and the Republican Party honors them. We believe that control of our borders is critical to both national security and national sovereignty.

We oppose illegal immigration and all forms of amnesty for illegal immigrants. We oppose granting government benefits to those illegally present in the US. We believe that current laws against employing illegal immigrants should be vigorously enforced, particularly to stem the now too common crime of identity theft in obtaining employment. We support the imposition of civil and criminal penalties for employers that knowingly employ illegal aliens.  We support the mandatory use of E-Verify so that employers can determine whether job applicants are legally entitled to employment in the United States.

The Republican Party is a party by the people and for the people. We appreciate the productivity of our citizens, affirm the infinite worth of all individuals, and seek the best possible quality of life for all. We invite all citizens to join us in working together for a better Texas.

As you can see, this proposed platform is much shorter than what we currently have.  It states principles which Republicans of all varieties can support.  It provides direction for our elected officials without tying their hands with too-specific planks.  And yes, it also removes some of the planks that have brought negative scrutiny to the RPT because they are poorly drafted or not given adequate consideration by delegates.

What am I asking of you?  A couple of things.  First, I would appreciate any feedback on what i have presented to you here.  Such feedback can only serve to strengthen this proposal.  Second, I would appreciate your sharing it with other Republicans -- county chairs and precinct chairs in particular -- for their consideration.  Lastly, I would appreciate your endorsement of this effort to fix our broken platform.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration in this matter.

* * *

Let's just say that I was amazed by the response to this email. Some individuals have been quite supportive of my draft, while others have viewed it negatively. Others have been taken a position somewhere in between, offering their support for the concept of creating a document that is more helpful to the grassroots, party officials, and elected officials while not necessarily endorsing the version I proposed. Some have agreed to share my proposal with others Republicans for purposes of discussion, while others have respectfully declined. The key thing is that it appears to have jump-started some discussion on the future of the RPT platform -- which was my goal when I began to circulate it this past weekend. I offer my sincere thanks and utmost respect to all who responded, whether positively or negatively -- the passion and insights expressed demonstrates that even when we disagree we are all animated by sincere belief and support for for the principles that make the GOP great.

I post this text here now in the hope of expanding the conversation beyond those I contacted over the weekend. Please feel free to offer your critique of the ideas here, and to make suggestions regarding other ways we might improve the platform and the process by which it is created. Most importantly, please feel free to share this with others, and encourage them to do the same. If you like what I have here, please feel free to submit it at your precinct conventions next March after primary voting concludes, or offer it at your County or Senatorial District convention. But most importantly, please keep the conversation going, because the RPT (and the GOP as a whole) can only be strengthened by the full, free, and open exchange of ideas at all levels of the party.

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Comments on Starting A Conversation On The Platform Of The Republican Party Of Texas

I appreciate the objective of shortening the platform. I have also been thinking of ways to do this for several election cycles. I have also had concerns that some items in the platform do not represent the majority of the party but a vocal minority. The purpose of the platform is to represent the common beliefs and legislative desires of the party to our elected officials and to the greater public.
Here is my proposal: 1) Take the Platform as produced by the Platform Committee and survey the delegates and alternates on every plank in the platform. Yes, there are some 300 to review. The survey questions for each issue are a) Is this issue important enough to be in the platform?, and b) Do you agree with the platform position on this issue? 2) Filter the platform planks based on the survey. a) Any plank with less than 50% indicating it's important to the platform is deleted. b) Any plank with less than 2/3 agreement with the platform position is deleted. 3) Grade the remaining planks based on agreement: >95% = Gold planks, >90% = Bronze planks, >85% = Silver planks. 4) Publish this condensed document as the RPT Delegate Platform Survey Report. Use this document, which represents the broad agreement of the party, to publish and promote. 5) Encourage the next SD conventions to use this document as the starting place for their next Resolutions Committee and for the next RPT Platform Committee.

|| Posted by Ed Sarlls, March 24, 2015 08:37 PM ||

I just wanted to add that in Chicago last summer, I had a conversation with Texas RNC Committeewoman Toni Anne Dashiell, and she was very in favor of shortening our current platform. I mentioned that the Republican National Party Platform of 1860 was only 2 and a half pages long formatted as a Microsoft Word document, and at her request, I provided her with a copy of that document.

Greg, good luck with this, I'm behind it all the way.

|| Posted by Jeff Larson, March 24, 2015 08:56 PM ||

Hope you'll share my proposal with friends.

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