The 2010 Texas Republican Platform
I just posted a rather lengthy review of the 2008 Texas Republican Platform. As I noted at the end of that entry, my procrastination in completing the review resulted in a newer platform being released before I posted that entry. Now that I've looked over the new 2010 Platform, I have a few comments on it.
For the most part, the new platform was very similar to the old platform, with some sections actually being verbatim matches. So, there's no need for me to repeat everything here that I wrote in the previous review. My comments in this review will be directed at new additions to the platform, or sections that I might have missed from the previous platform (it was 25 pages, and I only skimmed through the thing).
I think the thing that struck me the most this time was just how much the platform was influenced by nonsense. I mean, there are legitimate political debates - the balance of power between federal and state governments, the rights that should be granted to a developing fetus at different stages of development, the balance of personal freedom & privacy versus public safety, parental authority versus welfare of the children, etc. But many of the planks in this platform are the types of baseless arguments you'd normally expect to come in an e-mail forward or to hear from the lunatic fringe, such as the 'birther' nonsense, the support for alternative medicine, the paranoia of a one world government, and the questioning of evolution and global warming.
Before getting started with my own review, I'll note that there's a decent review at Capitol Annex, which gets a bit more into the motivation behind some of these planks, and points out some of the hypocrisy.
If It’s Good Enough For Us, It’s Good Enough for Them – The Government shall not, by rule or law, exempt any of its members from the provisions of such rule or law.
This sounds reasonable, but I've included it here because I recognize the source. I've received a few e-mail forwards recently with similar wording, and after a conversation with a co-worker, I learned that it's a relatively common belief that Congressmen and women don't have to pay into Social Security like the rest of the nation. While that may have been true decades ago, it hasn't been true since 1984 - 26 years ago. And even when members of Congress weren't paying into Social Security, it meant that they received no Social Security retirement credit for their time in office. Additionally, there aren't any laws the government members are exempt from following.
In other words, the Republicans of Texas have promoted a non-issue to the prominence of a plank in their platform.
Washington D.C. – We strongly oppose making the District of Columbia a state and adding unconstitutional voting Congressional members.
This is an interesting debate. There's currently proposed legislation in the form of House Resolution 5388, the D.C. Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act, that would give D.C. a voting representative in the House. Opponents cite Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, which uses the wording of 'states', and that since D.C. isn't a state, then this legislation would be unconstitutional. Others cite Article I, Section 8, and claim that gives Congress the right to grant D.C. a voting representative.
Legality of that particular bill aside, there's the question of whether D.C. should get a representative. Currently, residents of D.C. have no representation in the federal government, even though they're bound by federal laws. It's a situation very similar to the 'taxation without representation' that led to the Revolutionary War. A single House representative certainly wouldn't give D.C. undue weight. The average constituency for members of the house is currently around 650,000 people, while D.C. has a population of 600,000 - just about a perfect match. However, giving D.C. two senators would give D.C. a lot of power in the Senate. Some have proposed compromises, such as an amendment to the Constitution to give them a House representative but no senators.
Still, the Republicans managed to mangle the wording of this plank in their platform. If D.C. were to be made a state, then it wouldn't be unconstitutional for it to have voting members in Congress. I also find it odd that they would 'strongly' oppose giving representation to U.S. citizens.
Remedies to Activist Judiciary – We call Congress and the President to use their constitutional powers to restrain activist judges. We urge Congress to adopt the Judicial Conduct Act of 2005 and remove judges who abuse their authority. Further, we urge Congress to withhold Supreme Court jurisdiction in cases involving abortion, religious freedom, and the Bill of Rights.
I discussed this quite a bit in my review of the previous platform, but in the new platform, the Republicans have summarized it quite nicely. They are pushing for Congress to restrict the Supreme Court from hearing cases that would test the constitutionality of laws! Not only is that unconstitutional itself, it's such a clear break from the original intentions of the Founding Fathers, who set up a system of checks and balances to make sure that no branch could abuse its power. This is un-American.
Candidate Eligibility – A candidate running for office should be required to reside within the geographical boundaries of the office sought. A candidate must submit proof of qualifications for the office being sought, including proof of citizenship and in the case of a presidential candidate, an original or certified copy of a birth certificate, bearing names and signatures of parents, attendant(s), as well as date, time and location of birth for the purpose of satisfying the requirement of being a "natural born citizen".
This is another one I included not because it's too unreasonable on the face of it, but because of the source. I think it's pretty obvious that the source of this plank is the whole 'Birther' nonsense regarding President Obama's citizenship. That this nonsense would be promoted to a plank on the platform is a sign of either stupidity in the Texas Republican Party leadership, or shameless pandering to stupidity among their base.
Companion Animal Welfare – We support legislation to license and regulate large-scale commercial dog and cat breeding facilities to ensure the humane handling and care of dogs and cats in those facilities.
It's actually a bit of a nice surprise to see this plank.
ObamaCare – We urge the Congress to defund, repeal, and reject the national healthcare takeover, also known as “ObamaCare” or any similar legislation.
Calling health care reform 'ObamaCare' is nothing but political rhetoric. I wouldn't be too surprised to hear Republicans use the term in everyday conversation, but not the official party platform. It's also a stretch to call it "the national healthcare takeover".
Health Care and Nutritional Supplements – We deplore any efforts to mandate that vitamins and other natural supplements be on a prescription–only basis, and we oppose any efforts to remove vitamins and other nutritional supplements from public sale. We support the rights of all adults to their choice of nutritional products. We strongly favor legislation recognizing legitimate alternative health care choices.
I'd always thought of alternative medicine as being more in the realm of liberal new age types than right wing conservatives, but I guess I was wrong.
As Tim Minchin says, "Do you know what they call 'alternative medicine' that's been proved to work? Medicine." That's the problem with talking about "legitimate alternative health care choices". Once a treatment has gone through all the necessary clinical trials, compared to controls, checked for side effects, and still been demonstrated to be effective, it moves into the realm where all doctors will use it, and everybody quits referring to it as an 'alternative' treatment. For example, just look at willow bark. At one point in time, that was an herbal treatment used as a painkiller. Then some scientists decided to look into just how the willow bark was helping, and discovered that it was the salicylic acid that was the active ingredient. So, they isolated that chemical to better control the doses that people received. Not too long after, when acetylsalicylic acid was discovered, it was recognized to be very similar to salicylic acid, so researchers tried using it as a painkiller. Not only did it work, but it had less side effects than salicylic acid. So, from a precursor as an herbal remedy prepared from willow bark, researchers developed aspirin. But despite its herbal roots, I doubt anybody would call aspirin an alternative medicine.
There's also this weird mindset that 'natural' means healthy. Don't forget that cyanide is natural, and you wouldn't want to take that.
I do have some sympathy with this position, though, for the same reason that I think all drugs should be legalized. Adults should have the freedom to do whatever they want to their own bodies, without government interference, so long as they recognize the risks. If adults want to take herbal supplements instead of getting effective treatment, they should be allowed to. But, the companies selling those supplements should have to follow the same laws as all other companies, and not engage in false advertising. Specifically, they need to disclose the real, demonstrated efficacies and risks. It's just that I think that by the time they've gone through enough tests to determine the efficacy and risks, they'll either have a real medicine on their hands, or nothing but snake oil.
The sticky point in this whole issue comes in if parents decide to use these 'alternative' treatments on their children. As I've said before, children shouldn't have to suffer for the stupidity of their parents, and I think parents should be punished for using alternative treatments on their children in place of effective methods.
Unprocessed foods – We support the availability of natural, unprocessed foods, which should be encouraged, and that the right to access raw milk directly from the farmer be protected.
Wow, who'd have thought that the hippies would become Republicans? Do they want legislative support for granola, too?
Seriously, this is another one of those areas where I think people should be able to take whatever risks they want to. We let people rock climb, sky dive, bungee jump, base jump, drive race cars, and participate in other risky behaviors. Risky eating should be no different. If they want to drink milk potentially infected with pathogens, it's not up to the government to protect them from themselves. The government's main role should be to make sure that the risks are known, and not allow vendors to use false advertising (i.e. lying about risks) when selling the products. The only other place where the government should step in in cases like this is preventing parents from putting their children at risk. Pregnant women, especially, need to be careful, lest they end up with a Listeria infection which would have serious consequences for their baby.
But again, there's this Luddite attitude that 'natural' and 'unprocessed' are better. Look at it this way. If we only ate natural foods that haven't been modified by humans, we'd be stuck with teosinte instead of corn. And if we didn't process food, we'd be stuck eating whole corn kernels (and you know what happens to them), instead of much more nutritious corn products like corn flakes, corn bread or corn tortillas.
Americans with Disabilities Act – We support amendment of the Americans with Disabilities Act to exclude from its definition those persons with infectious diseases, substance addiction, learning disabilities, behavior disorders, homosexual practices and mental stress, thereby reducing abuse of the Act.
It seems odd to list actual disabilities, and then suggest that an act intended to protect opportunities for people with disabilities shouldn't include those particular disabilities.
And since when has homosexuality been considered a disability? In fact, TITLE 42, CHAPTER 126, SUBCHAPTER IV, § 12211 specifically states, "For purposes of the definition of “disability” in section 12102 (2)  of this title, homosexuality and bisexuality are not impairments and as such are not disabilities under this chapter." So, this Republican platform is calling for an amendment to exclude people who are already excluded. Perhaps a little more knowledge of the laws they want to criticize is in order?
Classroom Discipline –We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. We urge the Legislature, Governor, Commissioner of Education and State Board of Education to remind administrators and school boards that corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas.
Wow. I've heard stories from my dad of what the nuns used to do to him. I would be pissed off, to say the least, if any teacher used corporal punishment on my daughter. It's a bit hard to imagine that a main stream group would be promoting corporal punishment in schools in this day and age, but there it is.
Controversial Theories – Realizing that conflict and debate is a proven learning tool in classrooms, we support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories, including evolution, Intelligent Design, global warming, political philosophies, and others. We believe theories of life origins and environmental theories should be taught as challengeable scientific theory subject to change as new data is produced, not scientific law. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind.
I discussed this in my review of the previous platform, but since it's an issue I'm so interested in, I'm bringing it up again. Obviously, teachers should be able to openly discuss any subject. Evolution and global warming shouldn't be exempt. However, the Republicans have betrayed their motivations by mentioning Intelligent Design specifically by name (and by their mangled use of the terms theory and law). I'm going to be a bit rude here, but Intelligent Design is garbage. As I've said before, it's nothing more than creationism that refuses to unambiguously name God as the creator, and everybody who isn't lying knows that Intelligent Design really is religiously motivated. But even if you ignore the motivation, it's still garbage. We can say that evolution happened with about as much certainty as we can say anything. It's right up there with the heliocentric theory of the solar system, which I hope most people would consider a fact.
If a teacher was going to honestly discuss weaknesses in evolutionary theory (and some people would argue that these are just research opportunities, not weaknesses), they could discuss, to quote myself from a previous essay, things such as "which is more accurate - gradualism or punctuated equilibrium; what is the relative importance of natural selection versus genetic drift versus sexual selection versus other forms of genetic change; what are the relative importances of allopatric, peripatric, parapatric, and sympatric speciation; how do epigenetics contribute to evolution; etc." They would not bring up silly arguments like the second law of thermodynamics, the bacterial flagellum, or any other of the number of creationist arguments that have been refuted many times over (see the Index to Creationist Claims).
Early Childhood Development – We believe that parents are best suited to train their children in their early development and oppose mandatory pre-school and Kindergarten. We urge Congress to repeal government sponsored programs that deal with early childhood development.
It's one thing to say that preschool and kindergarten shouldn't be mandatory. It's quite another to urge Congress to take away funding for those programs.
Gambling and Education – We strongly oppose gambling or any other vice that tears at the fabric of society to fund public education.
I mentioned their opposition to the state lottery in my review of the last platform, but the wording hear was too good to pass up. They're calling the state lottery a "vice that tears at the fabric of society". So, when I buy a lottery ticket every other week, I'm tearing at the fabric of society.
This is just one more example of the Republicans trying to impose their brand of morality on everybody else.
Knowledge-Based Education – The primary purpose of public schools is to teach critical thinking skills, reading, writing, arithmetic, phonics, history, science, and character as well as knowledge-based education, not job training. We support knowledge-based curriculum standards and tests. We support successful career and technology programs, but oppose mandatory career training. We oppose Outcome-Based Education (OBE) and similar programs. Further, because of an aging U.S. population and global competition, and because much of today’s education teaches children to be employees or perhaps at best managers for employers, we encourage the teaching of entrepreneurial skills and investment skills.
I quoted this here because I ragged on the Republicans so much in my review of their last platform on this issue. In the previous platform, they specifically called for a return to the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and I criticized them for not including more advanced subjects and skills. They've remedied that in this platform, and made, for the most part, a statement that I can agree with.
Pledge of Allegiance in Public Schools – Students should be led daily in the Pledge of Allegiance, the Texas Pledge, the National Anthem, and be taught flag etiquette and patriotic songs to ensure that the loyal and patriotic spirit of Texan and American heritage is preserved.
This is similar to the wording from their previous platform, but now they've added "patriotic songs" into the mix.
Listen, if you want people to have a "loyal and patriotic spirit", the best way to do that is by building a country that people can be proud of (which, for the most part, America is). Indoctrination, brain-washing, and propaganda are what totalitarian and fascist governments use, and we don't need them here.
Private Education – Parents and legal guardians may choose to educate their children in private schools to include but not limited to, home school, parochial schools, without government interference, be it through definition, regulation, accreditation, licensing, or testing. We encourage competition and cooperation between public and private schools in academic and athletic extracurricular activities.
They've changed this plank from the previous platform in a very bad way. I don't have a problem with parents having options for their children's education. What's ludicrous, however, is to suggest that any of those options should be "without government interference, be it through definition, regulation, accreditation, licensing, or testing." That would open the door to all types of abuse. To be frank, most people in this country are pretty ignorant. The Newsweek article linked to below discusses just some of the stupid ideas that many Americans believe (for example, as I like to point out, around 1 in 4 Americans believes the Sun goes around the Earth). Imagine giving those ignoramuses free reign over their children's education. We'd be doing those children a deep disservice, and we'd end up with an entire generation of voters even more ignorant than this generation.
I wonder if this has anything to do with the Institute for Creation Research being denied accreditation?
Traditional Principles in Education – We support school subjects with emphasis on Judeo-Christian principles (including the Ten Commandments) upon which America was founded and which form the basis of America’s legal, political and economic systems. We support curricula that are heavily weighted on original founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and Founders’ writings.
First of all, let me once again dispel all that nonsense about America being founded on Judeo Christian principles and those being the basis of our legal, political and economic systems. As I've pointed out before, just the First Amendment is counter to several of the Commandments. A representative democracy is more of a Greco-Roman principle. And the Treaty of Tripoli and the actions around it make it quite clear that our country was not founded as a Christian nation.
The rewording of this plank does clarify a point I criticized from the last platform. It sounds like they want additional subjects to be taught in school that cover Judeo-Christian principles. In a perfect world, where we didn't have to worry about religiously biased teachers using such classes as a pulpit, I would be in favor of a class like this, as long as it was an elective, it was taught in an objective manner, and as long as similar classes were offered for other religions. Actually, a comparative religions class for high school students would be very informative.
Though I'm not sure in-depth study of the Bible would have the effect evangelicals wanted. I'm reminded of this story of Randolph Churchill (son of Winston) reading the Bible for the first time, as related by Evelyn Waugh, "In the hope of keeping him quiet for a few hours Freddy & I have bet Randolph 20 [pounds sterling] that he cannot read the whole Bible in a fortnight. It would have been worth it at the price. Unhappily it has not had the result we hoped. He has never read any of it before and is hideously excited; keeps reading quotations aloud `I say I bet you didn't know this came in the Bible "bring down my grey hairs in sorrow to the grave'" or merely slapping his side & chortling `God, isn't God a shit!' "
Tenure – We support the removal of the system of tenure in Texas state colleges and universities.
Wow. That's pretty anti-intellectual. The purpose of tenure is to ensure academic freedom. It allows professors to pursue unpopular ideas without fear of losing their jobs. A good example is Michael Behe. He's spent the past few years promoting Intelligent Design, which hasn't earned him any favor from his biologist colleagues, to say the least, but thanks to his tenure, he is free to do so. It's also one of the reasons why Richard Lindzen can be vocal about his skepticism of global climate change without fear of repercussion. Doing away with tenure would create an environment much more conducive to group think, where people were less likely to challenge the status quo.
State Militia – We support the establishment and maintenance of a volunteer Constitutional State Militia, with assistance from County Sheriffs.
Holy crap. We already have the Texas National Guard, which anybody who legitimately wanted to serve the state could join. What possible role could there be for a volunteer militia? We don't need a bunch of vigilantes running around pretending that they're John Wayne.
more info: http://www.agd.state.tx.us/
Capital Punishment – Properly applied capital punishment is legitimate, is an effective deterrent, and should be swift and unencumbered.
That "properly applied" makes all the difference, and really, is one of the main reasons I'm opposed to the death penalty. Just consider Cameron Willingham, a man who was executed for arson on very shaky evidence, and was most probably innocent, or the many people who have had their sentences overturned based on new DNA evidence. Our law system is pretty good, but mistakes are made, and there's no way to rectify those mistakes if the accused is dead. If the punishment were "swift and unencumbered", even more innocent people would be dead.
more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cameron_Todd_Willingham
more info: http://www.innocenceproject.org/
There's also the question of just how much of a deterrent capital punishment really is. The studies that support it are pretty weak, and in fact, around 90% of criminologists don't think it is a deterrent.
more info: http://www.law.columbia.edu/law_school/communications/reports/summer06/capitalpunish
more info: http://deathpenaltyinfo.org/study-88-criminologists-do-not-believe-death-penalty-effective-deterrent
Funding Special Interest Organizations – We oppose any government support of special interest organizations, such as ACORN and the ACLU.
Given the smear campaign against ACORN, I guess this platform just wouldn't be complete without calling them out. And while they were at it, the Republicans threw in an organization that defends our freedoms guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.
Birthright Citizenship – We call on the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of these United States to clarify Section 1 of the 14th amendment to limit citizenship by birth to those born to a citizen of the United States: with no exceptions.
The biggest problem is that once you have permanent residents, legal or not, who give birth to children in this country, those children grow up in America and know of no other home. Just imagine that birth right citizenship were revoked. What are you going to do to the people who grow up here once they're 'caught'. Are you going to send them back to their parents' country, where they don't speak the language and don't know the laws or even the culture?
Then there's the problem of enforcement. In Germany, where there is no birth right citizenship, there's a black market for imbissvaeter, or fast-food fathers, citizens who claim to be children's fathers in exchange for a fee. The only way around that type of fraud would be mandatory paternity tests, but I don't think anyone is ready for that type of invasion of privacy.
Nobody particularly likes that illegal immigration takes place, and something needs to be done about border security, but do they really want to go down this road?
Israel – We believe that the United States and Israel share a special long-standing relationship based on shared values, a mutual commitment to a republican form of government, and a strategic alliance that benefits both nations. Our foreign policy with Israel should reflect the special nature of this relationship through continued military and economic assistance and recognition that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths. We believe that the US Embassy should be located in Jerusalem. In our diplomatic dealings with Israel, we encourage the continuation of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but oppose pressuring Israel to make concessions it believes would jeopardize its security, including the trading of land for the recognition of its right to exist. We call on the U.S. to cease strong arming Israel through prior agreements with the understanding of delivering equipment to them to defend themselves in exchange for future diplomatic concessions, such as giving up land to the Palestinians on the West Bank. We support the continuation of non-recognition of terrorist nations and organizations. Our policy is based on God’s biblical promise to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel and we further invite other nations and organizations to enjoy the benefits of that promise. [emphasis mine]
I'll be honest. I haven't studied international politics enough to have an educated opinion on Israel. However, the Republican reasoning in this platform (which I've bolded) is breath taking. They're basing foreign policy on Bible verses!
One World Government Organizations – We oppose a one-world government in direct opposition to our basic principles and eroding our sovereignty. We oppose the implementation of one world currency.
I can't say that I've heard any mainstream politicians propose a one-world government, so I wondered if this was simply a non-issue being promoted to a plank on their platform. To find out, I googled 'one-world government'. As it turns out, this is a common worry among conspiracy theorists, with roots in, to quote from Wikipedia, "the militantly anti-government right, and secondarily fundamentalist Christians concerned with end-time emergence of the Antichrist." To quote from Wikipedia again, "The common theme in conspiracy theories about a New World Order is that a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, which replaces sovereign nation-states, and an all-embracing ideology, which indoctrinates cosmopolitanism. Significant occurrences in politics and finance are speculated to be orchestrated by an extremely influential cabal operating through many front organizations. Numerous historical and current events are seen as steps in an on-going plot to achieve world domination through secret political gatherings and decision-making processes."
Wow. Conspiracy nuts are influencing the writing of the Texas Republican Party Platform.
United Nations – We believe it is in the best interest of the citizens of the United States that we immediately rescind our membership in, as well as all financial and military contributions to, the United Nations.
1. support legislation similar to “The American Sovereignty Preservation Act”, which would remove the United States entirely from the control of the UN;
2. demand that Congress ratify no more, and rescind any existing treaties that compromise the United States Constitution;
3. support immediate recall of our military forces from UN initiated engagements, and restore them to their traditional mission of defending the liberty and freedom of the people of the United States of America;
4. support an amendment to the United States Constitution stating, “a treaty that conflicts with any provisions of the Constitution shall not be of any force or effect”;
5. urge our Texas Senators to unalterably oppose any agreement or treaty that seeks to establish an International Criminal Court (ICC), make the United States a participatory party to such a court; recognize the jurisdiction of such a court within the United States or upon any native-born or naturalized citizen of the United States;
and We oppose:
1. UN control of any United States land or natural resources;
2. the use of Presidential Executive Orders to implement UN treaties, thereby circumventing our elected Congress;
3. any attempt by the federal government, or the UN, to directly or indirectly tax United States citizens for UN support;
4. a UN resolution that would force the United States to adopt gun control measures by treaty;
5. the placement of the UN flag and emblem on public property or in government facilities;
6. payment of any debt allegedly owed to the UN;
7. Any attempt to grant veto power over the sovereignty of the United States to set national defense priorities, wage effective war, and negotiate peace in terms favorable to our vital interests; and
8. Ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST).
We urge Congress to evict the United Nations from the United States and eliminate any further participation.
I discussed this a bit in my previous review, but they've expanded this a bit in their new platform, so I included it just to show what they think. It's hard to believe that in a world of increasing globalization, the Republicans want the U.S. to leave the one organization that tries to make everybody work together.
My overall impression after reading the 2010 platform, to quote from my review of the 2008 platform, "simply reinforced what I already knew about the Republican Party - their mangling of history, the injection of religion into politics, their opposition to science, the suppression of free speech, their bigotry towards homosexuals, their isolationist views on international issues, their desire to impose their morality on everybody." There's also their disregard for the checks and balances in the federal government, with their desire to limit the judiciary's power. And, what really struck me after reading the 2010 platform, is that it wasn't simply that they had political views that I disagreed with, but that so much of the platform was based on utter nonsense.