Texas Republicans met in Fort Worth last week for their biannual convention, approving a 2014 platform that moves the party further rightward. According to the platform’s draft language, delegates returned to a hardline anti-immigrant stance that rescinds a 2012 “Texas Solution” that had included a guest worker program, and endorsed “reparative” therapy for people “seeking escape from the homosexual lifestyle.” The platform draft also includes a “thank you” to Texas legislators for “passing strong women’s health and pro-life legislation,” a reference to the state’s new omnibus anti-abortion bill that in September is expected to shutter all but six of Texas’ legal abortion facilities.
Critics of the new platform worry that it moves the Texas Republican Party not only rightward but backward, and away from the interests of groups that the party will need on its side in the coming years as Texas becomes more and more racially and culturally diverse, and as more and more Texans, especially young people, come to support same-sex marriage.
A representative for Texans for Sensible Immigration Policy told TWC Austin News that the 2014 platform “will absolutely convince our Hispanic voters that we’re the party that wants to deport their mothers and their grandmothers.” And after the Republican delegates solidified language endorsing “reparative therapy,” a representative for the gay conservative organization Metroplex Republicans said that his group was “here today to try to pull the party into the future,” to no avail.
After the party delegates officially voted to rescind their “Texas Solution” to immigration reform in favor of a more militarized, Tea Party-style take on border security, one supporter cheered: “We won. They lost.”
That adversarial, us-versus-them mentality seems to pervade the entirety of the party’s 2014 platform, a document unabashed in its disdain for immigrants and gay and lesbian Texans, which has no room for advocates of increased gun regulation and which supports “a women’s [sic] right to choose” only those options which may be left after the wholesale “reversal of Roe v. Wade.”
The document’s message is clear: You’re either for the Texas Republican Party, or you’re against the Texas Republican Party. You win, or you lose. It is, in many ways, the perfect platform for a party that has nominated Tea Party darling state Sen. Dan Patrick as its candidate for Lt. Governor and Ted Nugent’s buddy, attorney general Greg Abbott, as its gubernatorial candidate.
Issue-by-issue, the platform leaves little room for debate or nuance on issues ranging from reproductive rights to economic policy to education.
On abortion: Texas Republicans “are resolute in our support of the reversal of Roe v. Wade,” and they call for complete fetal “personhood,” detailing steps toward their “final goal of total constitutional rights for the unborn child.” This line of legal thinking, which situates a fetus as a wholly separate entity from a pregnant person, can provide the “basis for arresting women, locking them up, and forcing them to submit to medical interventions, including surgery,” according to a 2013 study by National Advocates for Pregnant Women, published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.
On foster care: The platform is silent on the state’s tragically underfunded child welfare system, but for a call to end “bureaucratic prohibitions on corporal discipline” in foster homes. This despite the fact that, according to a Texas Observer investigation, “more than one in 20 children killed by abuse or neglect in Texas in the past five years died while in state custody.” In the 2012 fiscal year, 14 children died of abuse or neglect while in state custody—yet the Texas Republican Party believes foster parents are too limited in their legal ability to punish their wards with physical pain.
On LGBTQ rights: Gay Republicans won a small victory in this year’s platform, finally convincing their party to scratch decades-old language stating that “practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit.” But the 2014 platform replaces that language with equally discriminatory and damaging mandates: “Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples.” The 2014 platform also seeks to deny the ability of same-sex couples to adopt foster children, and recognizes “the legitimacy and value of counseling which offers reparative therapy and treatment to patients who are seeking to escape from the homosexual lifestyle.”
On climate change: The platform situates climate change not as a demonstrable reality—according to 97 percent of climate scientists—but as a vast liberal conspiracy, calling it a “political agenda which attempts to control every aspect of our lives.”
On education: The 2014 platform calls for “reducing taxpayer funding to all levels of education institutions” and makes clear its opposition to “national or international core curricula” like Common Core or CSCOPE. It also flip-flopped from its 2012 position opposing “the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs,” instead encouraging “the teaching of critical thinking skills, including logic, rhetoric and analytical sciences starting at an early age,” or at least the ones that don’t “have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”
On the federal government: Texas Republicans would like to see state senators elected not by Texas voters but by the state legislature, the Federal Reserve abolished, and the repeal of the federal hate-crimes law.
On the workplace: While the 2014 platform, like its precursors, calls for a total repeal of federal minimum wage laws and urges the state legislature to “resist making Workers’ Compensation mandatory for all Texas employers,” it’s notably silent on the issue of equal pay, despite the fact that the GOP gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott has, like Gov. Rick Perry, strongly opposed new legislation that would make it easier for Texans to bring suit against employers they say engage in gender-based pay discrimination.
On race: The Texas Republican Party opposes “any form of reparation,” as well as affirmative action, which it says “reintroduces race as a divisive force in American life.”
On immigration: Echoing Lt. Governor nominee Dan Patrick’s preferred “illegal invasion” language, and tying in with gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott’s perspective that Texas’ border region with Mexico is a “third world,” the 2014 GOP platform emphasizes that “the U.S. Border must be secured immediately!” It calls for Congress to develop a visa program that “does not provide amnesty, does not cause mass deportation and does not provide a pathway to citizenship but does not preclude existing pathways.” Visa applicants would also be required waive their rights to “apply for financial assistance from public entitlement programs.”
On international law: Just in case the federal government or the state legislature decides to throw out the constitution and/or the entirety of the American legal system: “We also urge the Texas Legislature and the U.S. Congress to enact legislation prohibiting 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 U.S. or Texas Constitutions.”
On Benghazi: Because of course: “We call for Congress to act on the Benghazi cover up and the failure to protect American Citizens including U.S. military personnel by the Obama Administration.”
The platform is not officially binding, but acts as a roadmap for Republican leaders to follow over the next two years. And while the platform covers a wide range of issues, it situates one in particular as taking precedence over all others: legislation aimed at the further deregulation of guns and gun ownership, according to a draft resolution “in support of prioritizing constitutional carry legislation” necessary to “remove restrictions on Texans’ right to own and bear arms.”
If Texas Republicans fare well at the polls this November, this is a roadmap that could make for one heck of a well-armed journey.