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2016 Texas Republican Platform - Part 3, Politics & Government

Republican ElephantThis entry is part of a series taking a look at the latest Texas Republican Party Platform. For a list of all entries in this series, go to the Introduction. The title of this entry, Politics & Government, might seem awfully broad, since, after all, a political party platform is all about politics & government. These planks are mostly about the mechanics of politics & government itself.

Pursuant to Article 1 Section 1 of the Texas Constitution, the federal government has impaired our right of local self-government. Therefore, Federally mandated legislation, which infringes upon the 10th Amendment rights of Texas, should be ignored, opposed, refused, and nullified.

They had similar language in the last platform, and it's simply illegal barring a Constitutional amendment. As I've written previously, the Supremacy Clause makes it clear that federal laws are "the supreme law of the land", and states don't get to ignore them when they don't like them. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld this position (more info - Wikipedia).

And as I've also already written, there is a system in place to challenge laws that you think are unconstitutional - the Supreme Court. States don't get to willy-nilly ignore laws they don't like.

Term Limits: We support term limits for Federal Judicial and Congressional offices and statewide offices to three terms, or twelve years maximum for any single office.

As I've written before, people with experience at a job do better than inexperienced people, and legislating is no different. Here's a good article from the Washington Post, The folly of term limits, that echoes many of my thoughts on the matter. He used California's existing term limits as an example, noting "Virtually everyone I interviewed for that piece named term limits as a contributor to California's fiscal crisis." The people in office simply hadn't had enough time to learn how to effectively deal with statewide budgets, and by the time they finally did get that experience, they only had a few years before they were forced out of office because of their term limits.

We already have a process, voting, to get rid of the elected officials we don't think are doing a good job. There are several issues giving incumbents too much of an advantage that should be addressed, but a measure that guarantees inexperienced legislators isn't the solution.

Elimination of Executive Orders- We oppose the unconstitutional use of executive orders. All orders lacking Congressional approval become null and void after four months.

Do they understand what executive orders actually are or how they work? The president is the head of the executive branch of government. In effect, he's the boss. And as the boss, he issues directions, or orders, to his subordinates on what he expects them to do. So, when the head of the Executive branch issues Orders, they get called Executive Orders. Why should the president have to seek Congressional approval for each and every one of these executive orders? Doesn't that seem like way too much micromanagement from Congress, and an attempt to give Congress too much power in our nation's checks and balances system? Granted, presidents could screw up and issue unconstitutional executive orders, but that's what the Supreme Court is for. It just seems odd to actually want for Congress to interfere so heavily in a separate branch of government.

Census- We support an actual count of United States citizens only, and oppose Census Bureau estimates and the collection of all other data.

Because more data to help make more informed decisions is bad? This really seems like the anti-intellectualism that's become a stereotype of the Republican Party, or possibly the conspiracy theory paranoia that's become another of their stereotypes.

Preservation of Republican Form of Government- We support our republican form of government as set forth in the Texas Bill of Rights. We oppose initiative and referendum. We oppose socialism in any form. We support the Texas Legislature and the United States Congress in enacting legislation that prohibits any judicial jurisdiction from allowing any substitute or parallel system of law, specifically foreign law (including Sharia Law), which is not in accordance with the United States or Texas Constitutions.

This one's just all over the place. They start off talking about a 'Republican Form of Government', which is fair enough. If you don't like straight democracy, then you wouldn't like initiatives or referendums. Personally, I tend to prefer a republic myself, since the knowledge and skills for governing are a specialty that not everyone is qualified for, as I pointed out above in reference to term limits. Or, just look at the Brexit disaster in the UK.

But then it throws an economic system into the discussion, socialism, that's not at odds at all with a democratic republic. And they say the oppose it 'in any form', which seems pretty extreme. I mean, fire departments are a form of socialism, since they used to be private in their early days and don't strictly have to be public services. Are the Republicans saying they're against public fire departments? I don't think most of them are, but that illustrates that they don't actually understand what the term, socialism, means.

Then there's paranoia over Sharia Law. I mean, sure, just about everybody is opposed to Sharia Law being implemented in the U.S., Democrat and Republican alike, but we're also opposed to kicking puppies or stealing candy from babies. It's just not something that deserves mention in a serious public policy document since it's so far outside the realm of possibility.

Judicial Restraint- We support adopting the Constitutional Restoration Act and the principle of judicial restraint, which requires judges to interpret and apply, rather than make the law. We support judges who strictly interpret the law based on its original intent. We oppose judges who assume legislative powers.

This is one of those weird rallying cries of conservatives - that somehow judges are making the law. The buzzword used to be judicial activism, but I guess now it's evolved into it's counterpart, judicial restraint. But nearly all the cases I've seen cited as examples of judicial activism are simply judges doing their jobs as they should (more info - The Economist - Those "activist" judges).

Remedies to Activist Judiciary- We call on Congress and the President to restrain activist judges. Congress should 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. We support the repeal of all Federal statutes regarding lifetime judiciary appointments, and call for periodic reconfirmation of all Federal judges, including Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justices.

Ahh... Now we see why the Republicans are so against an 'Activist Judiciary'. It's because the Supreme Court justices made decisions that they didn't like. But that's the nature of the checks and balances of the U.S. government. How else are we supposed to reign in Congress or the states when they pass unconstitutional legislation?

Just for example, what if in the upcoming election, the Democrats take control of the House, Senate, and Presidency, and subsequently pass some very strict gun control laws. Would the Republicans be against someone taking that issue to the Supreme Court, even though it would be a case involving the Bill of Rights? Of course not, because that's the very function of the Supreme Court.

It's just absurd to try to carve out certain issues that are outside the jurisdiction of the highest court in the land.

It's also problematic to want periodic reconfirmation of all Federal judges. The judiciary is supposed to be independent from all the politics of the legislature, and pass judgment based solely on the law. That's the whole point of lifetime appointments, so that judges don't answer to the legislature. And there is a system in place to deal with judges who make egregiously bad decisions or overstep their bounds - they can be impeached. If judges were to face periodic reconfirmation hearings, they would lose their independence, and the judiciary would become even more politicized.

And as an aside, given Republican obstructionism in the Senate and how few federal judges they've confirmed under the Obama administration, just imagine how bad reconfirmation hearings would be in practice. More info: Washington Post - Waiting for next president, confirmations of federal trial judges stall

I'm going to deal with these next two together.

...assurance that each polling place has a distinctly marked, where possible, separate locations for Republican and Democrat primary voting.
Closed Primary- We support protecting the integrity of the Republican primary election by requiring a closed primary system in Texas.

I have mixed feelings about primary elections. In one sense, I find them objectionable. Political parties aren't official government entities. They're private organizations, basically clubs. They can choose which candidates to endorse in the same way that other clubs and private organizations can choose which candidates they want to endorse. But other organizations don't get the state to pay for an election to decide this for them. Why are my tax dollars going to support the process for these clubs that I don't belong to?

On the other hand, the reality is that political parties do have huge influence over politics, and one of the candidates that either the Republicans or Democrats endorse is more than likely going to end up winning whatever office they're running for, with near certainty for the presidency. So, having an open election is certainly better than the old days of party bosses picking the candidates in smoke filled back rooms.

The other issue is that political parties don't have to use the results from the state primary elections. They can hold a caucus and use those results, instead. The big difference, though, is that primaries are funded by the state (and my tax dollars), while caucuses are funded by the political parties' own funds.

So, I think open primaries are a reasonable compromise. It allows for an open democratic process to pick endorsements. And by leaving it an open primary, it allows independents, whose tax dollars are helping to support the primary election, to have a voice in this early stage of the process, rather than being completely at the whims of the major parties. And if the parties don't like the open primary system, they're free to fund their own caucuses to decide who they want to endorse.

More info: Washington Post - Everything you need to know about how the presidential primary works


So, these planks are a mix of bad ideas, attempts to wreck the checks and balances of government, conspiracy driven worries, and flat out unconstitutional ideas. And like I wrote in the introduction to this series, these planks were all voted on individually and approved by the majority of the state delegates. I know most of us have become jaded to bad politics, but it really should be mind-boggling that the most powerful political party in the state of Texas could hold such bad positions.

Continue to Part 4, Patriotism / Holidays


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