"He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
We attended the Trib's event with Joe Straus this morning. You can watch the video below. Rather than summarize the event, however, we'd like to share some lessons we've learned about him over over the years.
For Your Consideration:
- The biggest lesson we've ever had to learn about Straus is that he's a symptom, not the disease. The real disease is the go-along-get-along good ol' boy insider culture of the legislature, especially on the House side. Straus is a product of that culture, and he certainly perpetuates it, but he didn't create that culture and it wouldn't go away overnight if he were to disappear.
- Ironically enough, when asked this morning about his proudest accomplishment as Speaker, Straus listed the "collaborative" culture of the Texas House.
- Author's Note: In this context, "collaborative" is a euphemism for "lobbyist dominated."
- Straus' policy agenda is popular in his district and with a critical mass of the members of the House.
- On the flip side, Straus' policy agenda is toxic in many of those members' districts.
- When Straus' defenders say "He just lets the will of the House be done" there's a lot of truth to that statement. In the Texas House, there is a gigantic disconnect between the will of the members and the will of the voters. The solution is for the voters to elect new members.
- The Straus family is DEEPLY embedded in the San Antonio establishment.
- Similarly, the Straus family and the Bush family go waaay back. In his appearance this morning Straus explained that his family and the Bush family have been active together in Republican politics in Texas for over 50 years. On that note, it's worth reminding that George Bush 41 was the Republican U.S. Senate nominee in 1964.
- Unlike the Federal level, where there have occasionally been periods of reform once people become sufficiently fed up, the lobbyist dominated insider culture of the Texas Legislature was never challenged until the Tea Party came along.
- A lot of the challenges we face derive from the institutional inertia of the legislature, rather than the personality of a particular leader.
- While it's a four year old incident, we ought to make a bigger deal than we have in recent years about the fact that Joe Straus and Barack Obama have used IDENTICAL language to describe economic policy.
- Joe Straus has a history of appointing "Republican" chairs to important committees that are more liberal than Wendy Davis.
- Author's Note: It's worth specifically pointing out the Chairs of the Appropriations committee the past two sessions each fall into this category.
- One area where we need to improve is our performance in open seat races. In 2014, we beat 5 incumbents with lousy records. Unfortunately, we left some races on the table where the terrible incumbent retired and was replaced by a lobby candidate who had yet to develop a record.
- Author's Note: That being said, that level of churn isn't sustainable over time.
- Unfortunately, a lot of the Republicans in the Texas House aren't particularly conservative.